Published on March 2nd, 2015 | by Andrea Bertoli0
Home Remedies for Menstrual Cramps: Food, Herbs, and Lifestyle Tweaks for a Smoother Cycle
Do you suffer with monthly bouts of pain and discomfort due to your menstrual cramps? Unfortunately, most of us do suffer at some point (or all the time) with our monthly visitor, but the ladies here at VWJ have gathered a collection of natural home remedies for menstrual cramps to help you make peace with your period once and for all.
There are lots of ways that you can feel reduce the discomfort related to cramps, and this post is divided into three sections with information gleaned from various sources, include Naturopathic doctors, wellness writers, and other reputable sources. But of course, we’re bloggers, not doctors, so please see your medical practitioner before beginning any new regime or supplement. Thanks! Onwards to healing…
Food as a Natural Remedy for Cramps
As I’ve written about in our (most popular) post, Balance the Reproductive Cycle Naturally, food can be a huge benefit for relieving menstrual cramps naturally. As recommended by the acupuncturist that co-wrote the post, foods that can help during your premenstrual phase include warming spices, beets, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnip root, onion family, and kale (because kale helps everything, right?). These foods nourish the body, supply it with good vitamins and minerals and can keep your chi (or Qi) moving. During the premenstrual phase it’s important to avoid cold foods, raw foods, excessive consumption of fruits, all shellfish, coffee, stimulants, sugar and dairy products.
Overall, I also had *amazing* results by kicking caffeine from my diet. I would always get painful breasts right before my period (and sometimes throughout the month), but kicking my daily tea habit eliminated it entirely. I recently introduced caffeine into my diet again (coffee is just so dang good!), and immediately my pain came back. Here are my favorite caffeine-free alternatives to coffee if you too have breast pain associated with your monthly visit from Aunt Flo.
And finally, we must discuss the wonder of seeds: there is a really cool seed cycling protocol that can really help balance your hormones. Seems weird, but here’s how it works according to Dr. Kristy, a Naturopath in San Francisco, “Different seeds contain different types and amounts lignans and essential fatty acids. Lignans help our body bind up excess hormones, whereas fatty acids help with our hormone production. Together they work on balancing hormones throughout the entire menstrual cycle. This is a great first step for natural relief of menstrual cramps because is super cheap (if you choose the whole seeds) and it’s totally delicious. Add the seeds to oatmeal, smoothies, salads or enjoy as snacks and know that you’re helping your body heal with each bite.
Herbs as Home Remedies for Menstrual Cramps
There are so many ways to help alleviate menstrual cramps naturally. Why would you want to choose herbs? Ibubrofren, though a common response to menstrual pain, is linked with dangerous heart conditions for a percentage of users. Other menstrual cramp relief pills like Midol or Tylenol can be helpful, but with ingredients like caffeine (something to be avoided during premenstrual phase!) and food coloring in both and GMO corn starch in Tylenol, they are probably best avoided.
An alternative is herbs, because sometimes the most gentle healers can be the most helpful. Herbal teas like chamomile, licorice, raspberry, and ginger can be healthful and relaxing. A natural homemade herbal chai would do wonders for comfort and joy of your body and your uterus.
For more herbal remedies, Wellness Mama has a great list of supplements that can help alleviate cramps and pain. One of those on her list is actually my favorite supplement for overall wellness- maca. Maca is a root from the Andes that helps with energy, stress, and adrenal health, which can also help us deal with our lady hormones in a more controlled, constructive way. I enjoy maca almost everyday (blended into my herbal coffee or mixed into smoothies) and I’ve noticed a really serious decrease in my cramping over the past year. Sometimes my period even surprises me, as there are not any cramps to announce it in the days and hours leading up to it.
Lifestyle Tweaks to Relieve Menstrual Cramps
When talking about lifestyle, it’s impossible not to talk about the birth control pill, and it’s a hard question to tackle. I’ve known many women who have relied on the Pill for decades and had reduced cramps, happy periods, and no unintended pregnancies. But I’ve known others (including myself) that react very badly to the Pill, and have had negative long-term issues.If you’re on the pill and you love it, great! For many women it can help reduce the duration and severity of menstrual cramps. If you are on the Pill and hate it, you can check out some natural fertility options and ways to green your birth control from the Red Tent Sisters.
If you have gotten off the pill and are having cramps, hormone issues or other lady problems, visiting with a Naturopathic doctor or herbalist can help balance out any issues that remain after getting off the Pill.
Overall, some simple and healthy lifestyle changes can bring natural relief to menstrual cramps, and luckily these are the things that make us feel better throughout the rest of the month too: rest, stress reduction and exercise. Rest is essential to letting our body and mind reconnect, helping to process our emotions, balance our hormones (especially those related to digestion). Sleep might be disturbed by your cramps or related to PMS, so here’s some tips to make sure you get rest. Better sleep can also help reduce stress, which Mayo Clinic says can increase the severity of cramp symptoms.
Having a more active lifestyle can help us sleep better too, but can also keep our bodies functioning better by improving energy flow and ensuring that we feel our best. Whether you walk, run, practice yoga or any other activities, you might want to (and need to) slow down during your premenstrual week. These yoga poses can help relieve cramps, and so can walking and other gentle exercises. Ensuring you’re following a healthy diet, choosing herbs, and finding gentle, healthy physical exercise can make you feel better everyday, and help with our monthly pains too.