It’s that time of the month again, period, and oh, menstrual cramps are the worst, they hurt like hell: much worse than someone who doesn’t get bad cramps (your annoyingly lucky friend, every guy you will ever meet for the rest of your life as long as you live) can truly understand. The pain can be so debilitating that sometimes you end up missing school, work, or fun social activities in favor of lying miserably on your bed, wishing you could cut out your own uterus.
There are a variety of menstrual cramp remedies that can help reduce menstrual pain from certain foods to various exercises. However, it’s important to diagnose the cause of menstrual pain in order to find the best treatment.
These strategies can help bring relief:
This might sound a little crazy and you might be thinking to yourself, I can barely move, let alone exercise. However, brisk walking, or any type of physical activity, can help to ease your belly pain. When you’re doing any type of aerobic exercise, your body is pumping more blood; this helps to release endorphins to counteract the prostaglandins and reduce your cramps. Exercising three to four times a week is good for the overall health of your body, but it is especially important if you’re prone to painful menstrual cramps.
Heat helps to relax the contracting muscles in your uterus, which is the cause for your pain. There are many over-the-counter heating patches and pads, such as ThermaCare, Bengay, or electric, reusable ones. Or, even taking a regular plastic bottle with hot water and applying it to your abdomen is an alternative when you don’t have access to a heating pad.
It sounds odd, but drinking water keeps your body from retaining water and helps to avoid painful bloating during menstruation. Warm or hot water is usually better for cramps, as hot liquids increase blood flow to the skin and may relax cramped muscles. You can also eat water-based foods to increase your hydration, including:
- berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
Drink chamomile tea
A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Chemistry found that there might be pain-relieving properties in this fragrant tea. “This is one of a growing number of studies that provide evidence that commonly used natural products really do contain chemicals that may be of medicinal value,” said Elaine Holmes, Ph.D., a chemist with the Imperial College of London. The research found that when 14 participants were given urine samples, their urinary levels had a significant increase in hippurate, which is a natural anti-inflammatory. Anti-inflammatory drugs help to decrease the prostaglandin production, thus relieving menstrual cramps.
Cut the Caffeine
Reducing or cutting caffeine can alleviate cramps and decrease tension. Rethink your morning cup of coffee or tea and forgo consuming chocolate and soda during menstruation. Instead, try soothing (caffeine-free) ginger or mint teas or hot water flavored with lemon. If you need a sugar fix, snack on some strawberries or raspberries.
More Foods to Eat
Poor nutrition can lead to deficiencies that can worsen menstruation symptoms, so stock up on foods packed with essential vitamins and nutrients, including the following:
- brown rice (contains vitamin B6, which may reduce bloating)
- walnuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds (rich in manganese, which eases cramps)
- olive oil and broccoli (contain vitamin E)
- chicken, fish, and leafy green vegetables (contain iron, which is lost during menstruation)
Foods to Avoid
During menstruation, it’s a good idea to avoid foods that cause bloating and water retention. Some of the biggest culprits include:
- fatty foods
- carbonated beverages
Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D
Prevention is always better than the cure, which is why making sure your body has enough vitamin D is important in preventing menstrual cramps. A study found that high doses of vitamin D3 led to a significant decrease in menstrual cramps. As reported by Health.com, “40 Italian women were split into two groups: one receiving a single oral dose of 300,000 IUs of vitamin D3 and the other getting a placebo five days before the expected start of their menstrual periods.” Their pain scored dropped by 41 percent, while those in the placebo group saw no change in their pain scale.
Have an orgasm
Yes, that’s right orgasms help to relieve all kinds of pain, including menstrual cramps. Before an orgasm, the uterus is more relaxed, and at the moment of climax, blood flow increases, helping to relieve the cramps. Orgasms relieve the pain through the release of endorphins, which help you to feel instantly better. They also help to relax your whole body and induce sleep so you won’t feel any cramping at all.
Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese medicine, which involves sticking the skin with small needles to stimulate the body at certain points. Researchers from the Oriental Hospital at Kyung Hee University Medical Center in South Korea found that acupuncture might have positive effects on menstrual cramps. The study was based on 10 trials with 944 participants. “There was an improvement in pain relief from acupressure compared with a placebo control,” according to the study.