How To Treat Menstrual Cramps with Food and Herbs
Many women experience the painful reality of monthly menstrual cramping. Research from the International Association for the Study of Pain shows that up to 90% of women are afflicted with this disabling condition during their monthly cycle.
The source of dysmenorrhea, the term for menstrual cramping, is still unknown to medical science. Menstrual cramps affect every woman differently, and physicians are still at a loss to explain the reason why some women experience greater intensity of pain than others.
Conventional treatments for dysmenorrhea include painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. However, some women prefer to seek out natural alternatives to drug treatments. Natural remedies for menstrual cramps include Chinese medicine, supplements, herbal therapies, changes in diet and stretching.
If you’re searching for pain relief from menstrual cramps, try these herbs, foods, and exercises to help you cope.
Herbal Preparations for Relief
Herbs offer therapeutic value to the treatment of dysmenorrhea. Specific plant and herbal preparations such as raspberry leaf, chaste berry, black cohosh, cramp bark, and Angelica have potent anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects that combat dysmenorrhea.
Search for products online containing these valuable natural treatments; they’re readily available in the form of capsules, powders, or tinctures. Cramp bark is a popular choice for an herbal remedy. The bark contains valerianic acid, which has relaxant properties that specifically target the reproductive system.
Try Traditional Chinese Medicine and Herbs
Chinese medicinal herbs and acupuncture therapy have an extensive legacy in Eastern medicine for curing menstrual pain. These treatments focus on restoring the body’s balance of “Qi,” or life energy. The Chinese believe that disruption in the flow of biological energy is responsible for all ailments and disease.
Acupuncture combined with herbal therapy restores the normal flow of Qi, unblocking the channels that cause menstrual pain. There are no studies by Western medicine to validate these claims. However, women who regularly undertake acupuncture therapy combined with herbal treatment experience relief from dysmenorrhea.
Exercise and Heat
During your next bout of menstrual cramps, try heat therapy instead of drugs. The application of a heating pad or hot water bottle to your reproductive area may help keep the symptoms of dysmenorrhea at bay.
Combine the heat pack with light stretching of your hips. Lower back, and abdomen for relief. Practicing yoga poses in the weeks leading up to menstruation could lessen the severity of cramps as well. For best results try a combination of yoga, acupuncture and herbal treatments.
The Effect of Diet and Supplementation
The foods you eat play a significant role in the intensity and duration of dysmenorrhea. Diets that contain refined carbohydrates create high levels of systemic inflammation in the body. Since cramping is mostly an inflammatory response, it’s a prudent strategy to reduce your consumption of inflammatory foods like sugar and white flour.
Swap the carbs for healthy fats instead. Foods such as avocados, deep-water fish like bluefin tuna, and a wide variety of nuts contain high levels of Omega-3 essential fatty acids. EFA’s reduce systemic inflammation and curb the cramps.
Supplement your diet with nutrients that support reproductive health. Adding 100 milligrams of vitamin B1 to your daily diet will support your immune system and lessen the symptoms of dysmenorrhea. Magnesium and calcium reduce the intensity of muscular spasms, which will help reduce the symptoms of dysmenorrhea during your next menstrual cycle.
Many women take natural muscle relaxantsto relieve the pain associated with menstrual cramping. Muscle relaxants keep the pelvic muscles supple and allow you to stretch to ease the pain.
Before undertaking any supplement or herbal therapy, visit your doctor for a consultation. Some of the herbs and vitamins mentioned in this article may have adverse reactions to certain chronic medications.
After years of distance running, Andee turned to yoga to quiet her angry hamstrings. She’s since broken up with running and now devotes her time to her vinyasa flow practice and shares her story on somuchyoga.com. She especially loves arm balances, yin classes, and every kind of yoga pants on the market.