Although still considered taboo and seldom spoken about, severe menstrual cramps are a real problem for the majority of women. They have taken the spotlight in the past couple of years, as employers everywhere are starting to advocate for period days to be considered a real issue. Women are closer than ever to having this problem recognized as a serious matter that affects their daily routine and their ability to work at full capacity.
The biggest problem regarding menstrual days are the cramps. While most women opt for painkillers when faced with this situation, others tend to turn to more natural solutions. In this spirit, we have put together for you a list of home remedies for severe menstrual cramps.
Causes of Menstrual Cramps –
Menstrual cramps are also called dysmenorrhea. There are two types:
• Primary dysmenorrhea – usually refers to the common pains women get as a side effect of their monthly cycle. They start after the first few years a girl gets her first period. Also, they are characterized by severe pain in the lower abdomen or the uterus and ovaries area or in the back. They can occur either before the actual menstrual days or during. As the woman ages, common cramps become less and less painful, and they last fewer days as well.
• Secondary dysmenorrhea – refers to chronic pain caused by diseases in the woman’s reproductive parts. They begin earlier in the menstrual cycle than the common ones and last longer as well.
Symptoms of menstrual cramps include:
• Severe pain in the abdomen
• Pressure in the same area
• Sudden pain felt in the hips, inner thighs, and lower back
• Upset stomach accompanied by vomiting or nausea
• Extremely loose stools
As far as causes go, modern medicine has come to the conclusion that the pain women feel is due to the uterus contracting in a very powerful way. The uterus is that part of the feminine reproductive system that is supposed to hold the baby during pregnancy. To prepare for said pregnancy, the uterus gets lined with a thick layer of cells every month, called the endometrium. This layer acts as a sort of cushion for the presumed baby.
Each month, the ovaries expel an egg that descends through the fallopian tubes into the uterus, preparing to be fertilized. When this doesn’t happen, the body reacts normally and begins to shed the endometrium, which it obviously no longer needed, since there is no baby. The shedding is basically the rupture of the endometrial tissue from the uterus. It’s accompanied by blood, which is expelled through the cervix and via the vagina.
For it to shed the unnecessary cells, the uterus contracts, which causes the pain. Some women experience more pain than others, for different reasons, which may include the following.
• Painful cycles that run in the family
• Being under 20 years of age
• Never having had a baby
• Heavy bleeding during the menstruation cycle
• Irregular cycles
• Having gone through precocious puberty (before the age of 11).
The home remedies for menstrual cramps —
As mentioned above, most women opt for painkillers when faced with this condition, seeing as it’s the easiest way to deal with pain on short notice. However, you should know that taking painkillers on a regular basis, meaning every month during your period is not a viable option. At some point, your body will get used to the pills, and you will have to slowly, but surely increase the dosage. Addiction to painkillers is not advisable, which is why you should try the following natural home remedies.
1. Heat –
Applying heat on the lower abdomen is the easiest way to control menstrual cramps. Heat helps relax the contracting muscles in the uterus.
• Place a heating pad over the lower part of your abdomen and lower back. You can even use a regular plastic bottle filled with hot water. Apply the heat until you feel more comfortable.
• Alternatively, soak a towel in water, wring out the excess water and then heat it in the microwave for one minute. Place it on the lower abdomen until the towel cools. Repeat every few minutes until the pain is gone.
• Even taking a hot shower may relieve pain and make you feel more relaxed.
2. Ginger –
Ginger is a wonder herb that can effectively ease menstrual cramps. This herb plays a key role in lowering the levels of the pain-causing prostaglandins. It also helps fight fatigue associated with premenstrual syndrome and can make irregular periods regular.
• Grate a small piece of ginger and boil it in a cup of water for five minutes. Strain it and add a little honey and lemon juice. Drink this tea three times a day during your menstrual cycle.
• You can also add ginger in your food while cooking or suck on some ginger candies.
3. Basil –
Basil is another very effective herb for reducing menstrual pain and cramps. The caffeic acid present in basil has analgesic, or pain-killing properties.
• Add one tablespoon of basil leaves to one cup of boiling water. Cover tightly and allow it to cool. Drink this every few hours to ease cramps.
• Alternatively, crush a handful of basil leaves to extract the juice. Add two teaspoons of the juice to one cup of warm water. Drink this three times daily while having pain.
• You can also add fresh basil leaves to your food.
4. Cinnamon –
Cinnamon has antispasmodic, anticlotting and anti-inflammatory properties that can relieve menstrual pain. Plus, cinnamon is an excellent source of dietary fiber, calcium, iron and manganese.
• Make cinnamon tea by stirring one-fourth teaspoon of cinnamon powder into a cup of hot water. Let it sit for up to five minutes, add a little honey and then sip it slowly. Drink two to three cups of cinnamon tea one to two days before your period starts to prevent cramps.
• Add one-half teaspoon of cinnamon powder and one tablespoon of honey to a glass of warm water. Drink it three times during the first day of your period to relieve pain.
5. Fennel —
The antispasmodic, phytoestrogenic and anti-inflammatory properties of fennel can help relax the muscles in the uterus, which in turn relieves cramping and discomfort.
• Add one teaspoon of fennel seeds to a cup of boiling water.
• Simmer the mixture on low heat for five minutes.
• Remove from heat and strain the tea.
• Add one teaspoon of honey and mix well.
• Drink this herbal tea two times daily beginning three days before the expected start date of your cycle. Continue drinking it as needed for pain. Drink it hot for best results.
6. Coriander –
Coriander contains two compounds, apiol and myristicin, that are highly effective at stimulating the menstrual process and relieving cramps. Plus, it can help regulate irregular cycles.
• Put one-fourth cup of fresh parsley in a mug. Pour in one cup of boiling water.
• Let it steep for five minutes.
• Strain the solution and drink the tea immediately.
• Drink this tea twice a day during periods to minimize pain.
7. Flax seed –
Flax seed is great for reducing the intensity of menstrual cramps. The essential fatty acids in flaxseed help stabilize the production of progesterone. Plus, flaxseed can improve uterine function and help treat fertility problems.
When suffering from menstrual cramps, consume one to two tablespoons of flaxseed daily. You can sprinkle ground flaxseed over a salad, cereal and yogurt or put it in a smoothie.
8. Papaya –
A potent anti-inflammatory agent, papaya is very helpful in treating menstrual cramps. Also, it has nutrients like carotene, iron, calcium and vitamins A and C that help soothe the uterine walls and ease muscle contractions.
Just before and during your period, include papaya in your diet to minimize or eliminate pain.
9. Increase your Vitamin D intake —
Researchers discovered a previously unknown link between severe menstrual cramps and Vitamin D. When present in high doses in the body, this vitamin reduces pain significantly. The studies they performed on a group of Italian women show how the pain levels decreased a staggering 41% for those who were given Vitamin D.
You can find this naturally in foods such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon, as far as fish are concerned, dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, liver, egg yolks, and cereals. You can also introduce it fast into your diet via supplements.
10. Some foods to introduce into your diet —
Apart from exercise, spices, herbs, heating the area, and other localized remedies, you can also eat specific things during those days in which severe menstrual cramps are bothering you immensly. They have calming properties which will help with the pain.
• Milk – you can include a glass of cold or lukewarm milk into your breakfast as it has calcium. It’s a good way to deal with the painful cramps. If you don’t like to drink milk or are lactose intolerant, you can also take a few calcium tablets every day as long as your period lasts.
• Carrots – they will help you as well during those difficult days, as long as you drink a tall glass of fresh juice every day
• Aloe Vera – it reduces the pain and soothes the aching. If you don’t like the way it naturally tastes, you can mix it with a little bit of lemon.
• Green tea – another great soothing agent for pain and discomfort, green tea mixed with some raspberry or jasmine will work wonders on your body.
Along with these remedies, you can do yoga and cardiovascular exercises to help get rid of menstrual cramps. Also, do not forget to drink plenty of water. If you experience severe menstrual cramps on a regular basis, consult a doctor.
I’m Dr. Malini Bhat MD (Ayu); an Ayurvedic Doctor and a health blogger. Follow me on social media to get daily health tips which you can easily adapt to a healthy lifestyle.