Ugh, it’s that time of the month again when you are hunched over because of debilitating menstrual cramps. For period and PMS support, you grab the heating pad and Advil and head to the couch. I guess you’re calling off of work again. But what if you can’t call off work? What if you have to take care of the kids? What if you just have to buckle down and get through it. Can I tell you something? There are ways to get rid of menstrual cramps… and guess what? It doesn’t require birth control pills or popping Advil multiple times a month!
During menstruation, your uterus contracts to eliminate the extra lining of your uterus (endometrium)that has built up during your luteal phase. Prostaglandins trigger these contractions of your uterus, but they also can contribute to pain and inflammation. It’s even been shown that women who have higher levels of prostaglandins also have more severe cramping.
Imbalanced hormones could also be a reason why you’re experiencing pain around menstruation. So, while you are trying to get through your period cramps, you may also struggle with other symptoms of imbalanced hormones like bloating, headaches, pelvic pain or lower abdominal pain, possible heavy blood flow, loose stool, and even fatigue. Yay for womanhood! But on a serious note, natural PMS support is what you need.
When I talk about period and PMS support, I’m not talking about birth control. However, you may have been told that birth control is your only solution when you went to your conventional doctor.
While birth control pills can help some cases of menstrual cramps, they can also cause your body lots of damage at the same time. They can deplete your body of vital nutrients, wreck your gut health, mess with your mental health and even contribute to blood clots. So, if you’re thinking about getting on the pill, read this article first!
If you want to say bye-bye to the cramps forever, getting to the root cause of why you are experiencing them is key.
Did you know that painful period cramps are actually not normal even though they are super common? This is because most people live unhealthy lifestyles including not enough sleep, major stress, toxic environments, and poor diets, which all lead to hormone imbalances. Here’s what you should focus on if you want to say bye-bye to your menstrual cramps for good!
Many women’s hormones are out of balance. In fact, the most common hormone imbalance that I see with my health clients is estrogen dominance. This is where your estrogen levels are elevated compared to progesterone. When your estrogen levels are elevated, it can lead to heightened inflammation around your period, which may trigger certain symptoms you get leading up to your period and those first few days of your period.
Estrogen dominance alone can be the reason why you’re dealing with debilitating menstrual camps and a plethora of other symptoms. Most of the time, hormonal imbalances occur because of toxin exposures, loads of stress and processed foods, and super low fiber diets (along with many other lifestyle factors). You may have heard of endocrine disruptors, but they can be incredibly problematic and imbalance your hormones.
To get your hormones back on track, try these tips:
swap out any makeup and household products with non-toxic alternatives.
avoid plastic and other endocrine-disrupting products
focus on high-fiber whole foods
heal your gut
avoid conventionally raised meats
consider a magnesium supplement to get bowel movements regular (this helps eliminate excess estrogens from your body)
buy organic foods
take a moment to breathe! Reducing your stress can do wonders for your hormones and your cramps!
Most of us enjoy a good burger, french fries, or a pizza, which I’m all for…but in moderation (and healthy versions). But, the issue is that many people miss the word “moderation”. Most people consume the typical American diet day after day.
The typical American diet includes conventionally raised meats and a poor intake of greens, veggies, and fruits. In short, nutrient intake looks pretty sad for most.
AND even if you are eating an incredible, healthy diet, the soil composition has changed significantly over the past couple of decades. Vegetables now contain fewer nutrients than when our grandparents were young. So, even if you think your nutrient levels are fine, you may want to think again. Many Americans are deficient in vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, and vitamin D deficiencies
Low nutrient levels could contribute to your severe menstrual periods. Studies show that restoring these micronutrients, like Vitamin B12 and Magnesium could help with dysmenorrhoea (otherwise known as painful periods).
What you can do is first try to include as many whole organic foods into your diet as possible to up those macro and micronutrients. If you are new to this health journey and need some quick meal ideas, I love using Sun Basket. This has not only saved me tons of time but also gives me ideas I can incorporate into my own meals.
If you have a functional medicine provider you could also get functional lab testing performed to see exactly which nutrients you are deficient in. This way, you can invest in supplements that your body actually needs. Simply restoring your nutrient levels may be the key to PMS support and to experience less painful cramps every month.
Constipation is a sign that your gut is not functioning optimally and this can manifest into painful period cramps. Constipation is a red flag because if you’re not having daily bowel movements, your body won’t be able to eliminate toxins and excess estrogens. What happens is that they get reabsorbed back into circulation, causing elevated estrogen levels…. and as a result, you can experience estrogen dominance symptoms like severe period cramps! Impaired detoxification can also bombard your liver, making matters even worse by interfering with estrogen metabolism.
To help balance your estrogen levels and to find relief from menstrual cramps, it’s vital to encourage daily bowel movements. To do this, drink plenty of water, increase your fiber intake from whole foods, stay active, and consider taking a magnesium citrate supplement.
As I said earlier, women who have higher prostaglandin in their menstrual blood tend to have more severe menstrual cramps. These intense cramps are usually the first two days of their menstruation phase. To help lower these levels naturally, focus on getting enough anti-inflammatory foods in and reducing pro-inflammatory foods like sugar, conventional dairy products, gluten, artificial sweeteners and refined vegetable oils.
So, what can you do about menstrual cramps?
A combination of Magnesium and B6 has been shown to reduce prostaglandins in the blood and reduce cramp severity. The best type of magnesium supplement is magnesium glycinate or bisglycinate (which is the mineral joined to the amino acid glycine). It’s the type that is most absorbable and is also the least likely to cause diarrhea. However, if you struggle with constipation, magnesium citrate may be a good option for you. If you do not have regular bowel movements, it could contribute to excess estrogen build-up, known as estrogen dominance. And one of the symptoms of estrogen dominance is painful periods and PMS!
Thiamine (aka Vitamin B1) taken during the luteal phase may help with menstrual cramps and PMS symptoms.
Fish oil may also reduce pain because of its omega 3 fatty acids content. It actually may even be better than ibuprofen!
Essential oils topically
Epsom salt bath includes magnesium (plus a warm bath will feel good on your stomach!)
Easy exercises like yoga, or walking
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet, especially leading up to your period (no refined sugar, conventional dairy, or gluten)
Use a heating pad
Try Ovira, which uses transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation to ease pain
Don’t overwork yourself during your late luteal phase and during menstruation
Take time to relax. Don’t push yourself during this phase of your cycle.
Keep in mind that while heating pads and special devices, like Ovira, can help your cramps and offer you relief in the short term, these “Band-aids” don’t get to the root cause. That’s why I recommend that you focus on diet, stress management, and movement to get your body into balance and address those underlying issues to eliminate your menstrual cramps for good!
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