What can you do if you have painful menstrual cramps, other than taking over the counter painkillers? There actually are some great home remedies for menstrual cramps that can help! I’ve been suffering with painful menstrual cramps ever since high school! Many times, I had to take two sick days off every month because they were so bad! The doctor’s only suggestions were pain medications or birth control pills. I wasn’t happy with these answers, I wanted to get to the root of my problem and find a natural alternative solution!
So I began searching for home remedies for menstrual cramps. Over the past few years I have been trying all sorts of natural remedies. Some remedies helped me and some didn’t really do much; however, I found that the more natural remedies I used, the better results I had.
But, before I tell you my list of home remedies for menstrual cramps, I’ll go over some basics, the common root cause for painful periods and how I found out I am one of the people affected by this common cause.
Basics – Causes of Painful Menstrual Cramps
According to Science Daily, painful periods are common affecting nearly 90% of women at various times of their life. The medical term for menstrual cramps is dysmenorrhea, which is classified as either primary, not associated with a physical abnormality, or secondary, due to a physical cause such as endometroiosis (1). Common cramping is the result of contractions in the uterus and one of the major factors is the release of the chemical prostaglandin. During menstruation prostaglandins are released and uterus contractions increase. The contractions press on the blood vessels resulting in decreasing oxygen to the muscle tissues. When oxygen is lost, pain ensues. There are several home remedies for menstrual cramps that can help increase the oxygen, such as deep breathing during yoga.
The Common Root of the Problem
When I finally went to my naturopath doctor he told me that I had a hormonal imbalance, specifically, estrogen dominance. In my case, it wasn’t that I had too much estrogen (this was normal), but that my progesterone level was low. Hormonal imbalance is a problem for many women today according to Dr. Mercola, who states that women in our culture have insufficient levels of progesterone to offset excessive estrogen and that this imbalance is increased by chronic stress (physical and mental). What can you do about a hormonal imbalance? You can get a blood test from a naturopathic doctor and check your levels, make sure to check progesterone and estrogen. Many people report that dietary changes and exercise can help to restore balance. Herbal supplements or a natural progesterone supplement, in addition to other natural home remedies for menstrual cramps can help increase your level of progesterone.
13 Home Remedies for Menstrual Cramps:
1. Diet Changes – Make sure you are getting enough Omega 3’s and avoid Polyunsaturated Omega-6 fats in large amounts. Many people report improvement on a Paleo diet (2) . Also, avoid sugar, caffeine, salty foods, inflammatory foods, cold foods (especially a day or two before). Eat enough of the good fats, such as; avocados and coconut oil.
*Stay away from soy or other foods that mimic estrogen.
2. Supplement with Magnesium – Many people are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is vital and it can aid in relaxing muscles. Preliminary studies have found that magnesium may aid in reducing menstrual pain. You can easily increase your level of magnesium by using Epsom salts or magnesium oil.
3. Exercise – You should exercise at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes. Exercise helps your body release endorphins that counter act the cramp-producing chemicals involved in the menstrual cycle (3). Yoga is great because it uses deep breathing and this helps get oxygen to the muscle tissues. This site shows you some good yoga exercises to ease cramps.
4. Daily Bowel Movements – Make sure you go every day (magnesium helps with this), otherwise excess estrogen can be released back in to the body and cause cramps.
5. Get Rid of Toxic Tampons – Many see improvement when they stop using tampons and use pads instead. These organic cotton pads are a great option. I haven’t used it yet, but some people like using the moon cup.
6. Reduce Stress/Anxiety – High levels can cause progesterone levels to drop. Try to minimize your exposure to stress. If you reduce stress, both emotional and physiological (eliminating toxins and improving blood sugar balance) you can improve your hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, which will aide in keeping progesterone levels up (2).
7. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea – This tea contains many vitamins and nutrients and is known for helping to calm the uterus. It has been used by pregnant women as a remedy during labor (4).
8. Chamomile Tea – This tea is one of the best home remedies for menstrual cramps not only because it is anti-spasmodic, but because it is a muscle relaxant. The amino acid glycine helps the contractions and relaxes the uterus (5). As an added bonus, it helps boost your mood and calms nerves. Want something to help you sleep? Chamomile tea promotes sleep. This is my favorite tea, I use it often, especially to help with menstrual cramps.
9. Evening Primrose Oil – This is well known for reducing menstrual cramp pain. It is high in the fatty acid amma linolenic acid (GLA). Evening Primrose Oil is beneficial in fighting inflammation. It is classified as an Omega-6 fatty acid so remember to consider your intake of omega-3s. It is important to consider your optimum balance of Omega-3s and Omega-6s.
10. Blackstrap Molasses- This is one of the more common home remedies for menstrual cramps. I haven’t tried it yet, but many people say it really works. It aids in reducing cramps because of its high content of iron, magnesium, and potassium.
11. Cod Liver Oil – Contains vitamin D which helps decrease prostaglandins. I decided to include this one even though it is not one of the common home remedies for menstrual cramps. Since I started taking cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon a day, my cramps have improved more than ever!
12. Heating Pad-This is one of my go to home remedies for menstrual cramps. Applying a heating pad to your abdominal area will provide instant relief from cramps. The heat aids in relaxing muscles.
13. Vitex/Chaste Tree Berry –Used to help balance hormones and treat menstrual cycle irregularities (6). However, you may want to have your hormone levels tested prior to using this supplement.
14. Natural Progesterone- A supplement can be used to boost your level of progesterone. The natural supplement is made from wild yam extract. I was taking this supplement to increase my progesterone for several months and it did help with my symptoms. My blood test also showed that it increased my progesterone. A progesterone supplement may be a good option; however, long term, it would be best to try and determine the cause of low progesterone and treat it directly if possible, such as decreasing stress.
Have you tried any of these home remedies for menstrual cramps? Which ones have helped you?