8 Tips for Easing Period Pain Naturally
Period pain is something that unfortunately all too many of us can relate to. Many of us struggle through each month putting up with pain that can range from nagging discomfort to downright debilitating. Many of us also end up resorting to pharmaceutical options to suppress our experience of pain and help us to get through the day. While in some cases this may be necessary as an emergency measure, the regular masking of period pain with pharmaceuticals each month is problematic. By habitually turning to pharmaceutical drugs we end up ignoring important signs of imbalance that need to be addressed, missing out on the opportunity to balance our hormones and health for long-term gain helping to prevent us from running into deeper issues further down the line.
(Photograph by Ava Sol www.avasol.live, instagram @Avasol144)
Sadly, our society so often deems our experience of pain as a ‘normal’ part of the female experience. We are told that our only option is to take oral contraceptives, replacing our bodies natural cyclical rhythms with synthetic hormones which prevent us from having a true period each month and further mask any underlying issues, only to be dealt with later. In general, the pace of modern life just isn’t set up so that we can take time out to nurture ourselves and build in rest (throughout the WHOLE month) in order to sustain greater balance in our health and lives. The way that we care for (or neglect) ourselves during the entire monthly cycle can have a knock-on impact on how we experience our bleed each month.
As someone who has experienced the debilitating end of the period pain spectrum, I’ve learnt first-hand that it is possible to transform period pain through building some of the following practices into our lives. I’ve seen many of my clients benefit from the advice outlined below and I know that it’s possible to transform our experience of our monthly bleed, experiencing a sense of ease rather than agony!
The following tips are designed to support general period pain (also termed 'dysmenorrhea') without any known underlying medical condition. If you have, or suspect you may have, an underlying medical condition causing your pain then please do see your GP to ensure you obtain any tests you may need. You can also reach out to your local Herbalist, Naturopath or Nutritionist to receive the best possible support and advice, tailored to you.
Period pain is our bodies way of communicating with us and letting us know that something isn’t right! Often this is a simple case of re-balancing through nutrition, addressing nutrient deficiencies, making lifestyle adjustments, or the addition of supportive herbs to promote healthy circulation and blood flow to the uterus. By tuning in and listening to this communication we can ask what it is our body is trying to tell us, empowering ourselves and taking action to make changes towards better health.
1. Try to eliminate/reduce caffeine and alcohol. I know this can be a tough one! Aim to consume these only in moderation and to eliminate these completely during the week prior to and during your bleed if pain is an issue for you. I’m a coffee lover myself however I’ve found that reducing this to 1-2 cups per week and cutting it out completely during my bleed is often enough to help me have a pain-free period.
Both coffee and alcohol are extremely dehydrating, leading to reduced fluids in the body, creating stagnation and reducing blood flow. In addition, the stimulating effect of caffeine can worsen PMS by interfering with hormone production, stimulating the sympathetic nervous system; increasing cortisol and our stress response, depleting vital nutrients and interfering with sleep. All of this is a recipe for increasing inflammation within the body and worsening cramps and pain.
Alternative options include barley cup, chicory root or (my favourite) dandelion root ‘coffee’. This is a wonderful option for your liver as dandelion root promotes effective detoxification and elimination, supporting hormone balance, preventing issues such as hormone re-circulation caused by constipation and poor bowel habits.
2. Focus on warming foods and spices to promote healthy circulation. Eating a diet with too many cold/raw foods promotes stagnation and can worsen period pain. Around the time of your bleed focus on warming, circulation-enhancing herbs such as ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and rosemary. Try drinking warm turmeric, ginger and cinnamon lattes as a nourishing treat while also adding these herbs into meals such as soups, stews and curries. Build a habit of including these in your diet on a regular basis throughout the month.
3. Include plenty of healthy fats; add oily fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines), avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, macadamia oil and nuts such as brazil nuts into your diet on a regular basis. These support hormone balance and help fight inflammation.
4. Eat a rainbow! We’ve all heard this one before, that’s because it’s literally one of the most important things you can do for your health. By eating a wide-variety of different coloured vegetables and fruits we’re continuously supplying our bodies with an abundance of beneficial anti-oxidant plant compounds, helping to lower inflammation and reduce pain. Vegetables are also an important source of fibre which supports hormone balance by helping to transport excess oestrogen out of the digestive tract.
5. Cut out processed foods and focus on a wholefood diet. Processed food is full of a lot of trash that our body doesn’t recognise as food (because it isn’t!). This places an extra strain on our detoxification processes, increases inflammation and robs our body of vital nutrients needed for health because we’re filling up on cardboard rather than quality nutrients. Be aware of packaged products, especially those marketed nowadays as ‘healthy, gluten free, vegan’ etc. These often contain a lot of additives and are just a marketing gimmick…be a label reader, just because it’s advertised as healthy doesn’t mean it is!
6. Move your body. Daily movement benefits every aspect of our physical and emotional well-being. This doesn’t need to be an intense workout, just do what you love and make it fun! Yoga, walks in nature, stretching, dancing, swimming or jogging with friends are all great ways to prevent stagnation in the body which is a key cause of period pain.
7. Practice self-care throughout the WHOLE month! Looking after ourselves during every phase of our monthly cycle helps to prevent a build up of stress and tension, which can lead to more pain when our period arrives, often resulting in us having to drop everything and dreading our period week! Try to build even the smallest acts of self-care into your daily life. Try a yoga nidra or meditation before bed, go to bed a little earlier, watch a movie, spend time with people who make you feel good and build you up.
8. Consider supplementation. My top supplements for preventing period pain are Magnesium, fish oils and B-vitamins. If you’re considering supplementation I would recommend working with a Naturopath or Nutritionist to help you figure out the best quality supplement regime for you alongside dosing requirements for your unique needs.