When we experience chronic period pain, we’re often told to take pain relief medication or (worse) advised that contraceptive methods are your only avenue for support. However, what about natural ways to manage your period pain— what options are out there, and can they offer real relief for your symptoms?
If you suffer regularly with menstrual cramps, you’re not alone; 80% of women experience period pain at some point in their lives. And most women accept it as their lot that just because its common, its therefore normal.
The medical name for period pain is dysmenorrhea, and there are two types - primary and secondary. We’ll get into what they mean later on.
Over the years its understandable that you may think that suffering with period pain is normal. Perhaps your doctor has told you to pop a couple of pain relief tablets and wait until the pain goes away—but what if I told you that there are natural ways to manage your period pain?
What's Normal and What's Not: What Does Period Pain Feel Like?
Period pain can feel different for different people, yet the most common symptoms include:
● Muscle cramps in your tummy or pelvic area
● A dull ache in your back and the tops of your legs
● Spasms or a heaviness in your tummy
As mentioned above, there are two types of period pain:
● Primary dysmenorrhea. Natural chemicals known as prostaglandins cause your blood vessels and the muscles of your uterus to tighten. This can then cause you to experience menstrual cramps. You may find that you experience more cramps just before and at the very start of your period.
● Secondary dysmenorrhea. Cramps may become more intense during your period. A health condition, such as endometriosis, fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, or adenomyosis, may cause your cramps.
Neither of these are 'normal' and by that, we mean whillst they are extrently common, this kind of pain should not be something you feel you must tolerate and accept. There are ways you can relieve your period pain without needing pills!
So, what is normal? It is expected to feel some sensations in your lower abdomen around the time of your period, but these should be limited to light contracting and tensing; this should not be painful, or require you to double over/lie down to get some relief!
Natural Treatment Options for Period Pain Relief
The good news is that there are so many natural period pain relief options that you can try to ease your period pain. These can include changes to your diet, supplements, exercise, and self-care practices. Try using a combination of these and see what works for you. Remember, we are all different :-)
Let’s take a closer look at each of these natural pain relief options.
If your oestrogen levels are high, this can cause you to have quite severe menstrual cramps. High oestrogen can be caused by many things (ie. endometriosis, being overweight, stress, or poor hormone detoxification). Eating a balanced and healthy diet that is rich in nutrients can:
● lower the amount of oestrogen in your body
● reduce inflammation
● ease your period cramps
A small study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that eating a low-fat, vegetarian diet can reduce inflammation in your body which can reduce period pain and also reduce other symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Anti-inflammatory foods are an absolute must when it comes to managing peroiod pain. Period pain is at its heart and inflammatory condition, so eating ant-inflammatory foods is a sure fire way to reduce your symptoms. The most powerful anti-inflammatory foods are:
● Whole grains. Wholegrain bread, brown rice, wholewheat pasta, quinoa, oatmeal
● Vegetables. Spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale
● Legumes: Lentils, beans, peas
● Fruits. Berries, oranges, apples, bananas, lemons
● Nuts and seeds. Walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, almonds
● Herbs & Spices. Cinnamon, garlic, turmeric, ginger
According to the results of a study published by Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, consuming 3 grams (g) a day of cinnamon may also improve your period pain.
Try to avoid or limit foods that are high in fat and sugar, refined grains, and processed foods. Milk and caffeine may also cause your cramps to become worse. If you’re unsure if foods are affecting your menstrual cramps, I'd recommend keeping a diary of the foods you’re eating to see if you notice any changes to your period pain.
Supplements can be a great way to naturally relieve your period pain. However, with so many supplement options out there, knowing which ones to take can be confusing! I am a big advocate of supplements, but only when they are used in a targeted way for a specific reason. We want to avoid relying on popping several different types of supplements and then crossing our fingers hoping they will work!
Supplements need to be in the right form and the right strength to have any effect, so its always best to seek advice before purchasing supplements.
Here’s a list of some of the supplements that may help ease your period pain.
Supplement How it may reduce period pain
Vitamin B6 & B1 Lowers cramps and pain
Vitamin E Reduces period pain and blood loss
Vitamin D Soothes muscle pain
Magnesium Improves period pain
Calcium Lowers menstrual pain and relieves bloating
Zinc Ease period pain and cramps
Fish oils Soothes period pain and cramps
Please speak to a qualified nutrition professional or your GP before taking supplements, especially if you are taking any form of medication as supplements might interact with these and reduce/increase their efficacy.
It can be hard to want to move off the sofa when your cramps really kick in, but exercise is one of the best tools you have in easing your period cramps. Its free, it makes you feel great, it can get you outside in the sun - there are so many benefits! There is no need to run a marathon; just any gentle exercise or movement that makes you feel good can help.
Exercise that you may wish to try:
● Light jogging
A review of four studies involving 230 participants shows that yoga can relieve menstrual pain for women who experience primary dysmenorrhea. So what are you waiting for, roll out your mat and practice your tree pose!
Here are some other pain relief options:
● place a hot water bottle over the area that is cramping
● take a warm bath or shower
● gently massage your tummy in circular motions
● wear comfy clothing
● get a good amount of sleep
● try meditation or listen to relaxation music
Take Steps Towards Natural Period Pain Relief
Making gentle changes to your diet and exercise routine, taking supplements, and practicing self-care can help you to reduce your period pain.
However, knowing where to start and what’s best for you can be overwhelming— that’s where I can help.
Why not hop on a free 30-minute Health Transformation Call to find out about my programmes and services, and how I can help you to manage your period pain naturally.
Barnard, N. D., et al. (2000). Diet and sex-hormone binding globulin, dysmenorrhea, and premenstrual symptoms. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10674588/
Dysmenorrhea: Painful periods. (2022). https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/dysmenorrhea-painful-periods
Exercise, diet, and periods. (n.d.). https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/periods/healthy-periods/exercise-diet-periods
Jahangirifar, M., et al. (2018). The effects of cinnamon on primary dysmenorrhea. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1744388118303475#preview-section-abstract
Kim, S-D. (2019). Yoga for menstrual pain in primary dysmenorrhea. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1744388119300945
Period pain. (2019). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/period-pain/
Using foods against menstrual pain. (n.d). https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/nutrition-information/using-foods-against-menstrual-pain