I suffered from debilitating menstrual cramps, or ‘dysmenorrhea’, ever since I can remember. For a day, sometimes two, each month, I stayed home doubled over in pain and forced to lie down as I wasn’t able to function, even vomiting from pain on a couple of occasions. Swallowing pain killer after pain killer (including specially prescribed super-turbo-strength) only gave me minimal relief, if any. I viewed this natural, monthly event as an invasion disrupting my daily life, as something to be rejected. It was so uncomfortable in every way that I was not able to embrace it for the wondrous life-giving role it has, instead rejecting it both physically and mentally, month after month, year on year.
This continued until last year when, after having tried everything possible (or so I thought), I made some very simple changes which brought my body back into balance, almost totally eliminating the pain and with it the emotional stress attached to my monthly periods. Although I still think that it is important to take a little down time in the first day or two of our period, treating ourselves gently, I am now able to function every day of the month. Any discomfort that I do experience is minimal (almost imperceptible at times) and very manageable. I experience only slight body aches or tenderness commonly associated with menstrual pain (we are still meant to notice we have periods) and no longer suffer from uncomfortable water retention.
Having debilitating, extremely painful periods is common but not ‘normal’. You can make changes to bring your hormones and menstrual cycle into balance. Remember that as well as playing a big part in your daily health and happiness, this is an essential part of fertility and reproductive health.
Here are some simple changes that will really contribute to lasting relief from menstrual pain.
Regular yoga sessions to help relax the entire body and open the pelvic region. Any other mild form of exercise such as walking, swimming, simple stretches is helpful.
Breathing out with each cramping, therefore working with it instead of against it by releasing muscle contractions which cause more tension.
Eat more protein. As a vegetarian, this for me meant lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, green vegetables, organic eggs, full fat organic butter. Non-vegetarians can include small amounts of high quality organic, grass fed meat.
Adding omega 3 essential fatty acids to your diet in the form of flaxseed oil with evening primrose oil makes a huge difference. Non-vegetarians can also choose to supplement with fish oil or krill. Although omega 3 is found in food, supplementing is necessary as we do not get enough from our food (fish, seafood, walnuts, chia seeds).
Eat regular helpings of healthy fats such as coconut oil, organic full fat butter, ghee, avocado, nuts, olive oil.
Magnesium supplements are essential to help muscles to relax, therefore easing cramping and reduce water retention.
Have a homeopathic remedy on hand to use instead of chemical pain killers. I found ‘Menstrusan’ to be very effective.
If you have not already, cut out all fried foods, processed sugars, refined carbohydrates, caffeine.
Eat a diet rich in whole grains, legumes and lentils, vegetables for fiber and eat more leafy greens for calcium which also helps reduce muscle cramping.
Herbal teas such as chamomile and diuretic dandelion to reduce water retention.
The liver is an important hormone balancer and detoxifier. Doing regular cleanses such as juice fasting for 1-3 days (or a longer detox ), caster oil liver packing, dry skin brushing will give it a much needed helping hand. I incorporate some of these techniques into my weekly routine and try to do a 1 day juice fast every now and then on a Sunday.
Ditch the tampons as these can increase menstrual pain. Use either sanitary towels or the Diva Cup which is said to actually reduce cramps (often entirely).
It is important to mentally welcome your monthly menstruation as a natural and vital part of life and femininity. Become friends with it and your body and mind will find it easier to accept and deal with.
Natural therapies such as Reflexology and Acupuncture offer fantastic support for women’s health. I have great success helping my clients to heal from various menstrual complaints with Reflexology.
Take control of your menstrual cycle so that you can get on with living a happy life every day! Simple lifestyle choices can bring about major and lasting results.