Each month the body of a menstruating woman expels the lining of her uterus, which amounts to an average of six teaspoons of blood. While that’s about the same quantity of liquid in a shot of espresso, the process can be painful thanks to period cramps. If you feel the pain every month, you might want to explore holistic cures for period cramps.
Typically, period cramps occur right before menstruation starts. During this time, the level of a natural chemical, called prostaglandins, builds up in the uterus and causes the discomfort. These chemical levels are still high on the first day of your period and then decrease over the week. Conditions like endometriosis or fibroids can also cause extremely painful periods. If you think you have those underlying conditions, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Pain from typical period cramps caused by prostaglandins, however, are a common occurrence and can be treated with various natural remedies, as well as over-the-counter medication.
I got in touch with Dr. Prudence Hall of The Hall Center to find out the best cures for period cramps. Hall often employs natural means of healing and suggested trying these solutions when you start feeling that familiar twinge.
How to Help Ease Period Cramps and Find Relief
Magnesium levels can explain painful menstrual cramps
Low levels of magnesium may explain painful menstrual cramps, as the deficiency leads to an increase in prostaglandins and muscle contractions. “A magnesium supplement at night can help,” Hall explained. You might also want to try magnesium-rich foods, like spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds, dark chocolate, and bananas.
Omega-3s can help relieve severe period cramps
Omega-3 fatty acids relieve overall inflammation in the body, Hall noted. Fish like salmon, halibut, sardines, and fresh tuna are the best source. Research has also shown that consuming fish oil might actually work better at relieving severe period cramps than Ibuprofen.
Sex is associated with decreased period pain
Your body releases oxytocin when you have sex, and the natural hormone has been associated with decreased period pain. In addition, Hall told me: “orgasms can help relieve cramps because they release pelvic congestion and improve blood flow in the pelvis.” Here’s a reason to make period sex part of your monthly routine. Masturbation is also an option.
Exercise can improve menstrual symptoms
“If someone is more active and exercises, it might help alleviate their cramps more than someone who is sedentary,” Hall said. Research suggests that performing regular aerobic exercise can improve menstrual symptoms because it causes mental and physical relaxation and improves blood flow. Anything that encourages mindfulness, like meditation, can help, too.
Ibuprofen can help alleviate cramping
If you’re going to turn to medication, Hall told me that Ibuprofen can help alleviate cramping because it is anti-inflammatory. Ibuprofen is the active ingredient in Advil, Motrin, and Nuprin. So reach for those, instead of Tylenol.
When you’re having painful period cramps, going for a run or having sex might be the last thing you want to do. So try your best to build these healthy habits throughout the month. And you can always reach for magnesium-rich dark chocolate when you just want to sit on the couch and watch Netflix.