8. Eat herbs and spices
Herbs and spices are so much part of our everyday lives in that we are consuming more and more of them in our food. As we experience the food of cultures that might be different from our own, we learn how herbs and spices can make magic in our mouths when we eat. But we tend to forget that many people around the world rely on herbs and spices rather than pharmaceuticals to treat their ailments.
Around the Mediterranean, women have been using fennel seeds to relieve period cramps. Although we call them seeds, they’re actually tiny little fruits. In a study, 52% of women who took fennel seeds for painful period cramps reported that their pain had lessened. Another study showed that fennel seeds work as well as a prescription-only pharmaceutical product. The benefit of choosing fennel seeds over painkillers is that the seeds don’t cause any of the side effects of these pharmaceuticals. Such side effects can include rashes, diarrhea, autoimmune anemia, and kidney toxicity.
One study showed that these power-packed little fruits could actually fight period cramps, and work within just an hour. The only problem is that fennel can cause more severe bleeding. With this in mind, it would be best to take fennel seeds in the morning and not at night. Ginger, however, can actually reduce bleeding.
Apart from working to relieve any gastrointestinal problems you might have, ginger can also improve your mood and reduce the severity of any physical symptoms you have. Another spicy pain reliever is cinnamon. This delicious spice, which is actually the bark of a particular tree, can make you lose less blood and help to get rid of nausea.
9. Remember your vitamins and minerals
We all know that our bodies require a whole host of vitamins and minerals to work at their best. It turns out that various minerals and vitamins can also help with menstrual cramps. We know that calcium is vital for strong bones and teeth, but did you know that calcium also maintains muscle tone?
Some experts advise consuming 1,000 mg of calcium per day to relieve menstrual cramps. This could come in tablet form, but you can also up your intake of calcium in your diet. Adding broccoli and almonds to your daily menu will help you get the calcium that you need. To help the body absorb calcium, we need vitamin D. A large number of people across the world are said to be Vitamin D-deficient. This vital vitamin can be found in various foods such as red meat, egg yolk, liver, and yogurt, but also in many plant-based foods.
These include mushrooms. In fact, scientists have shown that mushrooms can provide as much vitamin D as a supplement. Button mushrooms are high in vitamin, as are the shiitake, morel, maitake, and portobello varieties. And the good news is that you can boost their vitamin D content even further by placing them in the sun for a while. Apparently, even 20 seconds of sun exposure can make a big difference.
Also recommended for reducing inflammation are omega-3 fatty acids. These are found in fatty fish such as mackerel and sardines, but can also be consumed as a supplement. Fish oil and krill oil supplements can be taken, but also flaxseed oil capsules. Magnesium can reduce our perceptions of pain, but people with heart disease should consult their doctors before taking a magnesium supplement.
You’ve heard it before, and we’re telling you again. Exercise is essential for everybody’s general health, and it turns out that exercise helps with period pain too. While some women believe that working out during their period will be harmful, the opposite is true. In fact, exercise raises the level of endorphins in the body. These hormones dull pain and improve your mood. They also speed up the burning of prostaglandins, which makes you more susceptible to pain.
But what exercise should we be doing, how often and for how long? It seems that just about every week another study comes out telling us what we should be doing to keep our body in top shape. The trouble is, some of the information seems contradictory. The one thing that experts agree on is the importance of exercise in everybody’s lives. Not everyone likes to work out, but exercise is an essential part of keeping healthy. If you don’t want to hit the gym, there are plenty of other alternatives.
Try walking for 30 minutes, and try to increase this to an hour, three times a week. Don’t walk the same route every day. Try different places such as parks or roads. Remember to add in hills to give your heart a good workout. Cycling and skating are also very good exercise.
Yoga is brilliant for keeping your body in tip-top shape. Take a yoga class to get a feel for it. The beauty of it is that you can do yoga in the privacy of your own home and still reap the benefits of this ancient practice. Not only will exercise help with period cramps, but you will become fitter and stronger with regular workouts. You will also develop a healthier cardiovascular system to boot.
11. Cut out some foods for a while
As we’ve said, there are plenty of ways to make yourself feel better at that time of the month. But there are also some foods and additives that are best avoided during this time. One example is caffeine. If you need a cup of coffee to get out of bed in the morning, this might seem like the end of the world. But the truth is that the caffeine in coffee can make your PMS worse by increasing mood swings, bloating, aching and cramps. Caffeine also raises your anxiety levels so that you feel more stressed. Amazingly, coffee can also cause your menstrual cycle to become irregular.
Other foods to avoid are those that are high in fat and/or salt. This, sadly, includes the good old cheeseburger, fries, chips, pretzels and any other particularly salty or fatty foods. These increase bloating and cause water retention, effectively worsening your period-related symptoms. Although drinking alcohol can temporarily reduce period cramps, it increases estrogen levels, which in turn makes period symptoms worse. Try a virgin mojito instead, or coconut water, both of which are great for keeping you hydrated.
You might be surprised to learn that dairy products should be avoided during menstruation. This is because dairy products such as butter, cheese, cream, and milk are all high in arachidonic acid. This acid can trigger menstrual cramps. Instead, try some of the many plant-based, dairy-free products on the market these days.
Also to be avoided are products that contain refined flour. These include things like cereals, tortillas, bread, and pizza, which can all lead to constipation and bloating. Instead, choose whole grains with a low GI index to keep you fuller for longer. Items like brown rice and whole-grain bread are excellent.
12. Give yourself an acupressure massage
Acupressure has been used for centuries to relieve pain and treat a variety of conditions. By applying pressure to certain points in the body, you could normalize your periods, and relieve cramps and PMS at the same time. Some points to press are as follows: the Sea of Energy is the point located the width of 2 fingers below your belly button. Two fingers’ width below that is situated the Gate Origin. Press both of these points for relief.
Mansion Cottage and Rushing Door are points that are found next to each other in the middle of the creases where your legs attach to your torso. The Sacral points are found on the lower back, just over the coccyx. Apply 2 minutes of firm, steady pressure to these points by lying on your back with your hands placed under the base of the spine. Place your hands on top of each other when applying pressure. This will help to relax the uterus and relieve period cramps.
Halfway between the base of your buttocks and your hipbone are the Womb and Vitals points, found just outside the Sacral points. Applying steady pressure to these points for about 2 minutes will help to relieve menstrual cramps, PMS, and pelvic tension.
You can find Three Ying Crossing on your leg, four fingers above your ankle. The final point to press is called Grandfather Grandson, which can be found on the upper arch of the foot, one finger-width from the ball. Not all points need to be pressed. Choose a couple to find relief. Should you prefer, you could go for professional acupressure to try to relieve your period cramps.
13. Consume blackstrap molasses
Another one of the remedies for menstrual cramps that has stood the test of time is blackstrap molasses. This amazing, sweet substance is a byproduct of the sugarcane refining process. To create blackstrap molasses, manufacturers first mash sugar cane to obtain juice. This juice is then boiled to form cane syrup. After a second boiling, the result is molasses. When it is boiled a third time, the resulting dark and viscous liquid is what is known as blackstrap molasses. Interestingly, it has the lowest sugar content of any of the sugar cane products.
Unlike refined sugar, which is of no nutritional value whatsoever, blackstrap molasses is full of nutrients. It contains crucial vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, potassium and vitamin B6, and has been hailed as a so-called âsuperfood.’ Although it’s not a miracle cure for anything, blackstrap molasses can help with a number of conditions, including period pain. It helps to reduce the blood clots associated with menstruation and also soothes the muscles of the uterine wall. This reduces cramps during menstruation.
There are a number of delicious ways of taking blackstrap molasses. For example, you can add 1 or 2 teaspoons of it to a cup of warm milk to soothe and nourish you during that time of the month. Drink as soon as you start getting cramps, and keep drinking it a few times a day until your symptoms subside. Not only will it help with cramping, but it will provide many other benefits to your body. For example, by providing both calcium and potassium, blackstrap molasses can contribute to healthy bones and help to prevent osteoporosis.
It also makes a diabetic-friendly sweetener. Blackstrap molasses is also a great source of iron. In fact, approximately five tablespoons of it contain up to 95% of your recommended daily allowance of iron.
14. Use birth control
If none of these methods works to relieve your period-related symptoms, you might want to talk to your doctor about going on birth control. Scientific studies have shown that both low-dose and medium-dose estrogen contraceptive pills can provide pain relief for period cramps. The good news is that all the hormonal birth control methods available are even better than over-the-counter medications at reducing period pain.
These methods, including the pill, the patch, the shot, the implant and the hormonal IUD also all make your period lighter. This is because these hormonal methods all cause the lining of the uterus to become thinner. This means that during menstruation, there is less tissue to shed, resulting in a lighter period. One thing to note is that the implant and the shot increase the number of days of spotting or bleeding in some women. Nevertheless, periods become lighter and less painful in general.
Another way of experiencing fewer period-related symptoms is to have fewer periods. This can be achieved by having a hormonal UID Mirena fitted. While this also makes your period lighter and shorter, it can also stop your periods after a year of use. The longer you use it, the better your chances that your period will stop or become very light. You can use this device for up to 6 years.
Some pills are also designed to make you have a period only every three months. The normal monophasic pill, which includes placebo pills for taking while you have a period, can also be used to cut down on the number of periods you have. Simply skip the placebo pills, and go directly to the next pack. Note that it is perfectly safe to skip periods in this way, but it is a good idea to speak to your healthcare provider before using this method.
15. Take a safe painkiller
Although many of us would like to avoid taking medication, sometimes it’s necessary. If none of the above methods work for you, you might like to consider taking a safe painkiller to cut the inflammation and relieve pain. You can try a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) like Advil, Motrin IB or others (ibuprofen) or naproxen sodium (Aleve). The way these drugs work is to reduce the number of prostaglandins that are produced. Prostaglandins are the cause of menstrual cramps and inflammation. Prescription NSAIDs are also available, including mefenamic acid (Ponstel).
Before taking any drugs, talk to your doctor to see if NSAIDs are suitable for you. If you have a history of kidney problems or of bleeding, they might not be a good choice for you. There are other pain relievers on the market which might be better suited to you.
Always read the label on the package, as well as the dosing instruction leaflet to make sure that you don’t take too many painkillers. Overdosing on painkillers can be extremely dangerous and harmful to various systems of the body. For example, too much ibuprofen can damage your gastrointestinal system. It is advisable to use the minimum dose to get relief from your pain. The maximum dosage of ibuprofen for adults is four doses of 800 mg per day. Do not exceed this amount.
Begin taking the medication the day before you expect your period to start. If your period catches you unawares, start taking the medication as soon as you begin to experience symptoms. Keep taking it as directed for 2 or 3 days, or until your symptoms have disappeared. If you can’t take NSAIDs for whatever reason, there are other pain relievers available such as acetaminophen (Tylenol and others). Ask your doctor for advice.