By Robyn Srigley, BA, PTS, CNP, NNCP
Midol, Tylenol, Advil and Pamprin- which one are you using for menstrual cramp relief? We have all experienced cramps when Aunt Flo comes around. Our cramps can leave us feeling exhausted, nauseous, dizzy and sick. They can have us doubled over in pain and lying on the couch with a heating pad. And sometimes, not heating pad nor pill will help.
Those over-the-counter Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDS) can be a quick fix to grab from the medicine cabinet when the pain becomes too much. BUT- did you know that use of NSAIDs is linked to disease? Make an informed choice and find the best menstrual cramps remedy for you.
NSAIDS and Their Risks
Millions of people are using NSAIDs for pain management. Whether it be over-the-counter or prescription, everyone’s got some in their medicine cabinet. They seem harmless- pop a couple, get relief pretty quickly. But use of these little painkillers is on the rise- and poses some serious health risks. Read on and think twice before grabbing a bottle when you have menstrual cramps.
A study has shown that the use of non-aspirin NSAIDs in early pregnancy more than doubles your risk of miscarriage. And this is with any type or dosage of the popular painkillers. And don’t think you’re out of the water once you’re in the third trimester of pregnancy- use of NSAIDs during this time increases the risk of heart problems for the baby, as well as prolonging labour in the Mum.
2. Heart Problems
Any use of NSAIDs has also been linked with a variety of heart problems. Your risk for heart problems increases 40%-60% compared to non-users of NSAIDs. From atrial fibrillation (rapid and irregular heartbeat) to full on heart disease- NSAIDs should be avoided. And these studies were conducted on previously healthy participants- so even if you’re healthy, NSAIDs can be damaging.
3. Digestive Problems and Ulcers
Approximately 7,000 people are hospitalized each year due to digestive complications due to NSAIDs. This includes everything from GI bleeding, vomiting, heartburn, nausea and more. Still want to use NSAIDs? NSAIDs can also cause- and exacerbate- stomach ulcers. And ulcers mean saying goodbye to spicy food, dairy, wheat, sweets and sour foods.
Top 5 Natural Remedies for Menstrual Cramps
With all the extremely unhealthy reasons not to use Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories, you must be wondering how to cope with menstrual cramps naturally. There are many herbs, nutrients and antioxidants out there that can help with the body’s inflammatory response that leads to period cramps. I’m going to talk about my top 5- the ones that are safe for most women and easy to use.
If you’ve listened to my free “Learn to Ditch PMS Cravings” webinar [link to webinar sign up] you know that I LOVE magnesium. This is truly a wonder-mineral. It is used in over 300 ways in the body and is a cramps killer. Magnesium is essential in the body’s ability to contract and relax muscles. And guess what- our uterus is essentially a muscle! So relax those painful uterine contractions during your period with a dose of magnesium. Try magnesium bis glycinate or magnesium malate for best results. Start with 100mg 1-3x per day and work your way up from there.
Omega-3s, fish oil, oily and fatty fish. We’ve all heard of the benefits to eating more salmon and sardines, as well as getting Omega-3s in supplement form. Omega 3s are essentially components of fats that are extremely anti-inflammatory. They help to reduce the build-up of inflammation in the body- which is good news for Aunt Flo.
Your body will not go into such spasm when you’re menstruating when you have adequate Omega-3s in your system. Get more by eating those oily fish, or taking a supplement like fish oil or hemp oil. Aim for a supplement with approximately a 2:1 ratio of EPA:DHA content. Take 1-3 tsp of this every day- potentially increasing when you know you’re period is coming. BONUS- this will also help to reduce painful clotting, diarrhea and heavy flow.
This is a great herb for so many reasons. Chamomile is anti-spasmodic, meaning it will help to reduce spasms and excess muscle contraction happening in the body. A great way to reduce the pain of period cramps. Chamomile will also help improve your digestion- preventing bloating and other digestive discomfort that comes with PMS. Use this herb in liquid form for fast results. Sip 3-5 cups of chamomile tea during the day or take it by tincture (herb extracted with alcohol and/or glycerine). Use the tincture 3x per day before meals.
4. Black Cohosh
Black Cohosh is a wonderful herb for women’s health. It is both anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic- 2 things we need desperately to help with menstrual cramps. Although this herb is not indicated for use longer than 6 months, it can be extremely helpful. Start using it a few days before your period comes, and enjoy the benefits of decreased pain. It works best taken in tincture form, but capsules will work in a pinch.
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D, like Omega-3s, helps to reduce prostaglandin production in your body. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that cause pain and inflammation in the body. In studies linking Vitamin D to menstrual cramp relief, it was found that once a women’s blood levels of the vitamin increased, their pain levels went down several points (on a scale of 1-10)! If that isn’t enough reason to take this vitamin, then how about this? Vitamin D, sometimes called the sunshine vitamin, helps to improve our moods- banishing those PMS mood swings and depression! Get your vitamin D by spending 20 minutes in the sunshine each day, or try vitamin D drops, getting about 2,000IU per day.
Period cramps be gone! Simply increase your intake of base nutrients like Vitamin D, Magnesium and Omega-3s to dramatic relief of menstrual cramping. For a dual approach, add in some medicinal herbs like chamomile or black cohosh. And remember- nothing beats the advice of your natural healthcare practitioner.
Robyn Srigley, BA, PTS, CNP, NNCP is The Hormone Diva! Robyn helps women replace anxiety with joy to open possibility in their lives and to have a positive impact on the next generation. As a holistic nutritionist, Robyn helps women with a variety of struggles including PMS, menopause, PCOS and endometriosis in her coaching practice. You can connect with her on her website The Hormone Diva, or on Facebook or Twitter.
Mercola, J. (n.d.). Over-the-Counter Drugs May Double Your Risk of Miscarriage. Retrieved November 15, 2014, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/04/alert-these-overthecounter-drugs-double-the-risk-of-miscarriage.aspx
Mercola, J. (n.d.). NSAID Painkillers Linked to Irregular Heartbeat. Retrieved November 15, 2014, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/06/29/nsaid-painkillers-irregular-heartbeat.aspx
Mercola, J. (n.d.). NSAIDs: The Painful Truth Behind Painkillers Infographic. Retrieved November 15, 2014, from http://www.mercola.com/infographics/nsaids.htm
Potential Risks and Complications of NSAIDs. (n.d.). Retrieved November 15, 2014, from http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/pain-medication/potential-risks-and-complications-nsaids
Lasco A, Catalano A, Benvenga S. Improvement of primary dysmenorrheal caused by a single oral dose of vitamin D: Results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Archives of Internal Medicine. Feb 2012.
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