Here’s a fact that has a high chance of making you hiss, “What?!”: Some women experience pain-free periods.
What top-secret tricks do they know? Probably what we’re about to lay out in this article. By focusing on lifestyle, diet, and specific supplements, this guide can help you to seriously curb pain, period. While some women will continue to have mild cramping, it is possible to eliminate most of that monthly agony.
Common but concerning
Abdominal cramps, low back pain, pain in the inner thighs, headaches, and fatigue: Up to 90 percent of women experience these symptoms during their period, with up to one-quarter having symptoms severe enough to miss work.
The medical term for painful periods is “dysmenorrhea,” and there are two types: primary and secondary.
Primary dysmenorrhea is due to the production of inflammatory compounds called prostaglandins in your uterus. It often starts in your teens and lessens with age.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is the result of an underlying condition that causes period pain, such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids. It often starts later in life and doesn’t get better with age.
Why are periods painful?
Just before the start of your period flow, the blood supply and oxygen delivery to your uterus is reduced. To shed its lining, your uterus produces those inflammatory prostaglandins, which cause contractions. This combination of low oxygen, prostaglandins, and contractions (cramps) causes period pain.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that women who experience period pain are more sensitive to pain in general, not just during their periods. Women who have heavier periods are also more likely to have more pain.
Soothing strategies for pain-free periods
Tweak your lifestyle
Studies have found that lifestyle factors contribute to painful periods. Women who are underweight or overweight are more likely to have painful periods, as are heavy smokers.
Eat more fruit and veg
Women who eat more fruits and vegetables have less menstrual pain, while those who consume more sugar, more salt, and more caffeine have more pain. So cut back on the latter foods and bump up your produce intake—you already know you should!
Women who report more work or life stress experience more painful periods. Reduce stress by staying active—both physically and socially—and taking control of your busy schedule by learning to prioritize.
This can reduce pain by improving blood flow to the uterus and altering production of pain-promoting prostaglandins in the uterus. Regular exercise is best, but exercising just before and during your period can also help, especially if you have a sedentary job.
Know your nutrients
Nutrient deficiencies have been found to increase period pain for women; focusing on a few key nutrients can help you be a lot more comfortable.
Alone or with omega-3-rich fish oils, vitamin B1 can reduce cramps and mood changes during your period.
Approximately 40 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient, according to recent estimates; supplementing may diminish period pain in women who are deficient.
Often combined with fish oils, which are also helpful, vitamin E may be as effective as pain medications for dampening period pain.
Magnesium deficiency is thought to contribute to painful periods. In fact, magnesium may be the most impactful nutrient for period pain. It can help relax the uterus, enhance your ability to cope with stress, reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms (especially when combined with vitamin B6), and both prevent and treat painful periods. Win-win!
Choose soothing botanicals
If changing your diet, improving your lifestyle, and making sure you get your nutrients doesn’t result in better periods, there are still some natural options to relieve your pain.
Known to reduce prostaglandin production, ginger is fab for easing period pain. Taken for five days, beginning just before your period, it has been shown to be effective and have minimal side effects.
Other spicy options
Cinnamon—potentially as effective as ibuprofen—and fenugreek are typically taken as supplements, but using these spices in food and tea could possibly reduce period pain as well.
Best known for its impact on sleep, valerian may also soothe period pain.
This herb is often prescribed for its benefits in relieving PMS.
To reduce period pain, avoid these
- salty snacks
- cookies, cakes, and baked goods
- skipped meals
- sedentary lifestyle
Achieving pain-free periods is possible, but it won’t happen overnight. Use the recommendations here, and you’ll be on track to live your best life every day of the month.
CBD for period pain?
Is cannabidiol (CBD)—the therapeutic, non-psychoactive, typically hemp-derived compound that’s everywhere right now—another possible tool for managing painful periods? Anecdotes about CBD soothing cramps abound … but there haven’t been studies on CBD for menstrual pain specifically. Still, there have been promising studies on CBD for other types of pain and inflammation. And at least one observational study is in the works to get a better handle on whether CBD can help us attain the dream of pain-free periods.