By Annabel Adanna Anita
Drink More Water
Menstrual cramps, or primary dysmenorrhea, are an uncomfortable part of life for many women on a monthly basis. Drinking more water may help ease bloating, which makes symptoms worse. Get in the habit of drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water per day, especially during your period. Add some mint or a lemon wedge to make it more palatable. While you’re at it, back off of the salt, which encourages fluid retention and bloating. Avoid alcohol, which promotes dehydration. Some women experience diarrhea or vomiting in conjunction with menstrual cramps. It’s important to replace lost fluids by drinking plenty of water.
Easy Ways to Get More Fluids
If you don’t like the taste of plain water, there are many things you can do to increase fluid intake. Start by drinking a glass of fruit-infused water the first thing after you get up in the morning. Sip chamomile or ginger tea. Drink flavored mineral water for a new twist on hydration. Make a pitcher of cucumber, mint, or lemon water to drink throughout the day for a spa-like treat. Sip a cup of low sodium broth to increase your fluid intake. Staying well hydrated isn’t just good for cramps, it’s good for your overall health.
Eat to Reduce Pain
Diet Is Key
You may be craving fatty, sugary, or salty foods when you have your period, but these foods are not your friends. Skip the doughnuts and potato chips. Some women find that eating the right kinds of foods may help ease menstrual pain. Anti-inflammatory foods like cherries, blueberries, squash, tomatoes, and bell peppers are good choices. Coldwater fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids are also healthy choices. Eat more calcium-rich beans, almonds, and dark leafy greens. These foods contain compounds that combat inflammation. Some women report that eating this way can help ease menstrual pain and boost health. It’s best to eat a healthy, balanced diet year round, not just for a few days a month during your period.
Your dietary and lifestyle habits can either help or hurt period cramps. If you experience monthly menstrual discomfort, some women find it helpful to avoid certain foods. Skip white, refined foods including sugar, bread, and pasta. Avoid trans-fatty acids that are found most often in commercially-prepared foods like French fries, cookies, onion rings, crackers, and margarine. Ditch alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. All of these things increase inflammation and may encourage period pain. There is some evidence to show that reducing harmful fat intake may also help relieve painful periods.
Sip Chamomile Tea
Sipping chamomile tea may help reduce cramps when you menstruate. Chamomile tea is full of anti-inflammatory substances that inhibit prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are made by cells in the endometrium of the uterus. These cells release prostaglandins during a woman’s period, provoking muscle contractions of the uterus, pain, and cramps. Prostaglandins in the bloodstream are responsible for nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and headache during the menstrual period. NSAIDs like naproxen and ibuprofen reduce prostaglandin production. Sipping chamomile tea inhibits pain-causing prostaglandins and enhances menstrual flow to ease period symptoms.
In one study, approximately 80 percent of young women who took capsules containing 30 milligrams of fennel extract 4 times a day for 3 days prior to the start of their menstrual period experienced less pain than those who took a placebo. Researchers believe fennel inhibits uterine contractions that are stimulated by prostaglandins. Fennel extract may be a good option for the approximately 10 percent of women who can’t do their normal activities for 1 to 3 days during their periods due to severe menstrual cramps.
A Sprinkle of Cinnamon
In a study of young women, those who took capsules containing 420 milligrams of cinnamon 3 times a day for the first 3 days of their menstrual cycle had less menstrual bleeding, less pain, and reductions in nausea and frequency of vomiting compared to those who took a placebo. The women didn’t report any side effects associated with taking cinnamon pills. Try a sprinkle of cinnamon on your cereal or cup of hot cocoa. It can’t hurt and it might help your cramps and other period symptoms.
Go for Ginger
A study of young women found that ginger capsules relieved symptoms of primary dysmenorrhoea including painful periods as well as NSAIDs like ibuprofen and mefenamic acid. Women in the ginger group took 250 milligram capsules of ginger 4 times a day for the first 3 days of their periods. Women in the mefanamic acid group took 250 milligram capsules 4 times per day while those in the ibuprofen group took 400 milligrams per day 4 times per day. Women in each of the 3 treatment groups reported similar pain relief, satisfaction with treatment, and reductions in severity of dysmenorrhea regardless of which treatment they took. None of the women in the study reported severe side effects with any treatment. Try a little ginger if you’d like a drug-free alternative for period pain relief.
Reach for Heat
Easy At Home Treatment
Applying a heating pad, heat wrap, or hot water bottle to your abdomen works wonders for relieving menstrual cramps. You can find these items in the drugstore or online. The continuous application of heat may work as well as ibuprofen for the relief of dysmenorrhea pain. Heat helps muscles relax.
One study of women between the ages of 18 and 30 who had primary dysmenorrhea found that those who applied a heat patch that heated to 104 degrees Fahrenheit experienced similar pain relief benefits from the patch as those who relied on ibuprofen for cramps. If you don’t have a heating pad, heat wrap, hot water bottle, or heat patch handy, a hot shower or warm towel can be used instead.
Get Moving to Relieve Symptoms
Many women find that exercising helps relieve menstrual cramps. Exercise releases endorphins, brain chemicals that promote well-being. Whether you enjoy walking, running, or swimming, it’s safe to participate in all of these activities during your menstrual period. Yoga and tai chi are gentler forms of exercise that may be easier to do if you experience fatigue.
Touch Brings Relief
Massaging your abdomen for as little as 5 minutes a day may be able to help relieve menstrual cramps. Massage encourages blood flow. Massing cream containing essential oils like clary sage, lavender, and marjoram has additional benefits for the body. These oils contain compounds that have been reported by many to help relieve pain and soothe dysmenorrhea.