Whether you suffer extreme dysmenorrhea (horrifically painful cramps) like myself, or a mild cramping each month, menstrual cramps are at their best irritating and at their worst crippling. I rely heavily on prescribed medicine to get through each month but I don’t enjoy that reliance, whilst I know that the pills can make a big difference I don’t feel comfortable being so reliant on medication. And so I’m slowly trying to replace the meds with homoeopathic remedies. Over the years people have recommended all sort of different ointments and potions, tips and advice, so I’ve put together a list of those that have worked for me.
Keep it natural
Certain prescribed meds can leave me feeling groggy, irritate my stomach or bring on migraines, the great thing about natural remedies is that there are no side effects. Don’t get me wrong when a really nasty cramp comes my way I’m sure I’ll be screaming out for pain killers but where possible I want to try and compliment naturally. So, I’ve put together a list of ten tried and tested natural remedies for combating the dreaded cramps. I have personally tried out all of the remedies listed and find various combos do have a real affect on the pain.
Why does it hurt so much?
During your period your uterine muscles contract to help your body shed the lining built up during menstruation, these contractions are what cause the cramping. The experience is different for everyone but can be worse for those with a narrower cervix, heavy periods or those who started their periods at a young age. If you are suffering from particularly painful cramp you should visit your GP, the pain could be the result of an underlying issue such as endometriosis. Whatever your experiences there are ways to reduce your suffering and you should never feel it is something you are expected to endure.
1. Keep warm
The best thing you can do when your period is about to start is to keep yourself warm. Wrap yourself up in scarves and invest in a particularly thick pair of socks. Keeping yourself warm. Pour yourself a nice deep bath and keep the temperature hot! If you can avoid it, don’t wash your hair at least for the first day of your period. Fill up your hot water bottle and wrap it in a soft, fluffy towel and rest it on your abdomen. When Aunt Flo comes I wrap one of those microwavable bean-filled cushions over my shoulders to ease pain in my back and shoulder muscles and nurse a large mug of steaming chamomile tea.
2. Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)
The classic cramp reducer, taken by our mothers and grandmothers before us. Said to help with a myriad of hormonal symptoms such as acne, anxiety and PMS, it is the mother of all cramp reducers. I take two of these little wonder-capsules each day in the week running up to my period and in the week of my period. There have been a couple of instances when I have run out of EPO and each time I’ve noticed a big difference in pain and grumpiness levels. I now order in bulk!
OK, I’m not recommending you OD on caffeine here but if I’m out and about and suddenly that first wave of cramping pain hits me without warning the first thing I do is locate the nearest Starbucks. Caffeine is a potent pain reliever, it targets the pain and gets to work on controlling it fast. So while I’m not suggesting you use it as your go-to cramp reliever it can really sort you out when you’re not in the comfort of your own home.
4. Brown sugar and ginger tea
This one was recommended to me by my Chinese colleagues who bought me a ready made powder that you mix with hot water. If you can’t get hold of the ready made stuff it’s pretty easy to rustle some up yourself. Just add two teaspoons of muscavado sugar and three teaspoons of fresh grated ginger to a mug of hot water. The ginger warms up your body and helps improve blood circulation.
5. Light exercise (if you can)
Personally, even light exercise is out of the question during my period, especially during the first two days. However, the day before I’m due or in the final couple of days of bleeding I find that light exercise helps a lot. I joined a Tai Chi class and found this was my absolute favourite it was less demanding than Yoga or Pilates but just right for when I felt like I wanted to be active but was worried about over exerting myself.
Walnuts are one of my ultimate favourite snacks for the time of the month. They are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which mean they work as anti-inflammatory, doing their bit to ease the pain of menstrual cramps whilst giving you a burst of energy without adding to the dreaded bloat!
Another great anti-inflammatory. Sprinkle it on you porridge, coffee or morning bagel for a dose of natural pain relief.
Acupuncture is a treatment I have used only in desperate times, being a total needle-phobic! When the pain has accumulated month on month and even the strongest dose of medication barely makes an impact I’ve turned to acupuncture. I’ve visited practitioners in the UK and in Asia and can say that the treatment has made a big difference. The downside is that the effects don’t seem to be that long lasting, the pain usually reduces for the next couple of months and then starts to ramp up again. I guess this means I need to make more regular appointments, just need to get over my phobia first!
9. Lavender oil
I keep a little pot of lavender oil next to my bed and find it helps with a whole heap of ailments. It’s great for the headaches that come on during menstruation and also generally for relaxing your body when the pain kicks in. I like to burn lavender scented candles and add a few drops to my bath-water for an extra dose of relaxation.
10. Dark chocolate
The time of the month is the perfect excuse to treat yourself with a bar of extra luxurious dark chocolate. Keep it above 70% cacao for the optimum pain relief. Dark chocolate is an iron rich food that helps to boost our rapidly depleting iron levels which can leave us tired and irritable as well as helping to release more of those lovely little endorphins that help to balance our moods.
So next time the time of the month is upon you take some time to prep, stock up your cupboards with walnuts and dark chocolate, invest in some beautiful lavender scented candles and book yourself in for tai chi classes!
Lots of love,