Are you one of the 60% of Canadian women that experience menstrual cramps? That means more than half of us women will experience period pain at some point in our life! While common, experiencing pain with your period is not “normal”.
Here I am referring to primary dysmenorrhea, which are cramps that generally start on the first day of your period and last for a few days. It is important to get a proper diagnosis, as symptoms can be caused by different underlying factors. For example, in the case of period pain, it could be endometriosis or an underlying digestive or gynecological issue. Endometriosis is a complex condition that causes severe menstrual cramping in addition to other symptoms. The tips that I provide below will be beneficial if you experience endometriosis as well, but I do always recommend getting a proper diagnosis.
So what causes painful periods? In a word – inflammation. Cramps are usually caused by an increase in inflammatory chemicals in our bodies called prostaglandins. These cause the uterus to cramp during our period, which results in pain. Another factor is having an excess of estrogen in relation to progesterone, as estrogen stimulates the endometrial lining to thicken, and one of progesterone’s roles is to balance out the effects of estrogen. Therefore, too much estrogen relative to progesterone can result in a heavier uterine lining and contribute to menstrual cramps.
Here are steps that you can take today to reduce menstrual cramps:
- Get rid of the environmental toxins in your home and food. These endocrine disruptors act on estrogen receptors and can potentiate its effects on the body, and more specifically, the uterus. Avoid drinking out of plastic containers, using plastic storage containers, drinking and eating food out of cans, etc. Eating organic food wherever possible will also decrease your exposure to these endocrine disrupting chemicals.
- Reduce the amount of inflammatory foods in your diet. This includes refined sugars, heavily processed foods, foods that have been cooked in processed vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, etc. It’s really important to read labels and to make sure that you understand all of the ingredients in your food.
- Increase your consumption of anti-inflammatory foods. Hormone loving foods include ample vegetables and fruit, and healthy fats like olive oil, fish, nuts and seeds. Make sure you are getting enough fiber throughout the day. Great sources include fibrous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts as well as flax and chia seeds that can be easily added to smoothies.
- There are many great supplements and herbs that can help reduce menstrual cramps. Things like a fish oil supplement, magnesium, ginger, vitex or chaste berry, etc. can be a great addition to a treatment plan. I always recommend working with a health practitioner to determine which supplements and herbs will be safest and most effective for your unique health situation.
I hope that you find these tips helpful! If you would like to do a deep dive into your hormonal concerns to discover the root cause of what is stopping you from feeling your best every month, then consider a free 15 minute consultation with me to find out more about how Naturopathic Medicine can help. See the link below to find out more!