It’s coming. That inevitable morning each month when you awaken with a dull ache in the pit of your stomach. Soon the achiness has increased and spread to your lower back. All you had for dinner last night was a salad and glass of wine yet ironically, your stomach feels hard and bloated. You’re lethargic, ravenous, and ready to either scream or cry at the drop of a hat. (And if your mate asks you one more time why you’re so moody, you may do both just to jolt him into silence).
While there are a number of effective over-the-counter medications to combat the agony we feel as the lining of our uteruses literally digesting themselves, many savvy women are choosing to use those sparingly and instead opt for other, natural forms of treatment for period pain.
14 Ways to Ease Period Pain
1. Heating Pad – If this seems obvious, well, it is. You’re a sharp, intelligent chick and this is not your first rodeo; you know heat is one of the easiest ways to ease muscle cramps. Sadly, many women don’t realise how effective it can be at soothing period cramps as well. Period cramps are the sensation you experience as your uterine muscles shed the unfertilised lining of your uterus, and not surprisingly, heat helps those muscles to relax.
2. Herbal teas – Sipping warm tea is not only a relaxing experience, it has true medical benefits as well. Research has shown that teas such as raspberry leaf, chamomile and ginger contain anti-inflammatory properties and work as gentle, holistic muscle and nerve relaxants. An added benefit of drinking herbal teas regularly is that beyond soothing period pain, they contain a number of antibacterial qualities and antioxidants which promote overall health.
3. Water – Put down the coffee, sweetheart, and save the wine for another night because right now, your body needs good old H2O. We cannot stress enough how important it is for women to stay properly hydrated, especially during their periods. Not only will dehydration cause you to feel even more run down and lethargic, it will intensify your cramps too. The good news is that water is a natural diuretic and even though it may sound counterintuitive, drinking more of it will ease period bloat.
4. Avoid coffee – And (gasp!) wine – We know, we know. This is not a popular sentiment to express. But trust us when we say that caffeine and alcohol are not your friends this week. Don’t worry though; you can go back to being BFFs as soon as your period ends.
5. Dietary supplements – As women, we need more of nutrients such as calcium and magnesium than we may be getting from our diet alone. By taking additional supplements throughout the month (not just during your period) you will be promoting overall muscle and bone health. The healthier your muscles are, the more relaxed they will stay during your period.
6. Yoga – If you’ve never practiced yoga before, you’ll find the benefits extend far beyond just making your period more bearable. As your body becomes stronger and your muscles more flexible, you will notice how much less painful you period becomes. Not to mention, yoga helps promote an overall sense of relaxation both physically and mentally.
7. Exercise – Curling up in bed sounds inviting – we get it. But actually, doing just the opposite will likely make you feel much better in the long run. Engaging in some form of exercise, even if it’s at a lighter pace than normal, will still help your brain to release powerful endorphins such as serotonin, which act as your body’s natural pain relievers.
8. Acupuncture – The ancient practice of acupuncture has been around for thousands of years and is becoming an increasingly mainstream staple among women who seek to combat extreme menstrual pain. This alternative medicine of having hair-thin needles stuck all over your body may sound torturous, but most claim the needles cause no pain and instead significantly reduce the symptoms of periods.
9. Sex – Ironically, many women tend to shy away from love-making during their period, which is unfortunate as the chemicals your brain releases during orgasm (much like other forms of exercise) are natural pain relievers. Your period is a great excuse to drag your mate into the shower with you; and the heat will aid in muscle relaxation. Talk about a win-win!
10. Watch what you eat – Excessively salty or sugary foods (now how badly you crave them) will only cause your body to retain more fluid and you to feel that much more bloated. Stick to a high fiber and high protein diet (which will help your body rid itself of extra estrogen) and avoid greasy, salty foods.
11. Rest – It sounds obvious but women today are so busy and on the go they often forget just how hard their bodies really are working during their periods. Your period makes you feel tired and run down for a reason and it’s ok to listen to your body and take it a little easier for a few days.
12. Stomach massage – Who doesn’t love a good massage anyway? With your period in town, take a few minutes to indulge in a soothing stomach massage. Lying on your back, gently massage the muscles of your abdomen and pelvic area in long, smooth strokes.
13. Aloe vera – NOT the electric green goo that comes in a bottle and is used to treat sunburns but rather, if you can get your hands on a true aloe vera plant, the juices squeezed from it’s leaves are another known muscle relaxer. Taking a teaspoon of the juice with a cup of warm tea will soothe your cramps surprisingly well.
14. Hormonal birth control – This is admittedly a less holistic option than some of the others but if taken properly can still be a safe, healthy and extremely effective way of mitigating menstrual pain. Contraceptive pills can help your body regulate hormone levels over time, which will often lead to much lighter periods in general, as well as noticeably lighter PMS and period side effects. If you are already taking contraceptive pills, talk to your doctor about which brand can help ease period pain.