These Remedies Are The Ultimate In All-Natural Period Pain Relief

Photo: Cameron Whitman

We’ve been sold a bill of goods, namely that periods are something that we're stuck suffering through. Menstrual pain is generally due to the overproduction of inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins, which cause your uterus to get all up in a bunch with spasms and pain. Sadly, we’re pretty much all living in a sea of inflammatory triggers. One of the biggest sources is EDCs (endocrine-disrupting chemicals) and processed foods; added sugars, poor-quality oils, artificial ingredients, artificial sweeteners (and much more) also cause excess inflammation. Not getting enough of the nutrients your body needs to support detoxification and elimination, fatigue, and stress can also contribute to inflammation and the painful periods many of us have been experiencing for years.

But periods don’t have to be painful; in fact, they can actually be totally pain-free. I’m not saying you’re going to enjoy your period, but it can become a normal part of your life that doesn’t leave you curled up with a bottle of Midol, a heating pad, and the TV remote; you can live entirely sans ibuprofen and other pain meds that run the risk of wrecking your gut. Here's how:

1. Eat a primarily organic, plant-based diet.

Going on a mostly plant-based diet can help you to get period-pain-free in just two or three months. In one study, going vegetarian for just two months significantly improved period pain and led to a little bit of weight loss, too. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat meat; just make it more of a condiment or complement than the main course. At each meal, your plate should be half-covered in vegetables, and you should be consuming about eight servings of veggies and fruits daily. I recommend including legumes in your diet four to five times each week.

Dairy can be a healthy part of the diet for many women, but I often recommend pressing the pause button on dairy for three months because for some women, it' an inflammatory trigger, and even good-quality organic dairy does deliver some extra hormones. You don’t have to go organic on everything, but make sure your meats are hormone- and antibiotic-free and ideally free-range and grass-fed. Remember that plastic food packaging and storage containers act as EDCs, so use only glass or stainless steel for your water bottles and glass storage containers for foods.

2. Boot out sugar and processed foods.

Here’s the reality: Sugar, processed white flour products, and poor-quality oils stoke inflammation. So rip off the Band-Aid and pass on the sugar and junk when it's offered to you. You’re going to have more energy, clearer skin, and better moods—and your cramps will be a thing of the past!

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3. Tend to your gut.

Support natural estrogen detoxification by keeping your gut happy and healthy with a daily dose of lacto-fermented veggies (sauerkraut, kimchi, or naturally pickled vegetables), or a probiotic.

4. Supplement wisely.

Fish or omega-3s:

Add oil-rich salmon to your diet (about 4 to 6 ounces, two to three times per week) or take a daily supplement with omega-3 fats (about 1,000 mg EPA and 700 mg DHA). Several research studies have found that fish oil at this dose leads to a reduction in menstrual pain and also the need for ibuprofen within just three months.

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Magnesium:

Several studies have found that supplementing with magnesium can reduce menstrual cramps and aching. It’s my first go-to in my practice and can improve a number of symptoms including depression and sleep. Dose: Up to 500 mg magnesium citrate for the first three days of your period, or daily for all-month support.

Vitamin D:

Boosting vitamin D levels to a healthy range of 50 to 70 ng/mL can also help improve period pain. This can usually be achieved with a dose of 2,000 to 4,000 IUs daily. Your primary care provider can check your levels and help you supplement to the optimal range.

Thiamine:

Taking 100 mg of thiamine (vitamin B1) daily has been shown to improve even severe menstrual pain. Try it for three months to see if there is improvement, and if there is and you wish to continue, take a complete vitamin B complex, with enough thiamine to achieve this dose, so that you don’t knock your other B vitamins out of balance.

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5. Tap into the power of herbal medicine.

Try these remedies alone or together for at least two to three consecutive menstrual cycles, ideally taken with the supplements above. The two herbal remedies that rise to the top for period pain are ginger root and cinnamon bark, both of which are anti-inflammatory and pain relieving and also relieve heavy bleeding. The dose for ginger is 500 mg three times/day in capsules, though up to 3,000 mg/day is considered safe. It can also help with nausea, vomiting, bloating, and headaches that sometimes come along with crampy, painful periods. Cinnamon dosing is 420 mg of cinnamon bark powder in capsules with two capsules taken three times each day for the first three days of the period. Fenugreek seed also reduces period pain at a dose of 900 mg of ground fenugreek seed in capsules three times daily for the first three days of your period.

6. Sleep more, stress less.

Having insomnia leads to more severe period pain, probably due to inflammation from the disruption to the circadian rhythm and cortisol cycles. Similarly, stress can have a negative impact on our hormone balance and cortisol levels. Yoga, meditation, dancing, a hot bath or shower, time in nature, reading a book curled up in a chair, and having an evening wind-down practice to ease you into sleep can help support your body and mind and reduce inflammation. Lavender, clary sage, and rose essential oils have been shown to improve period pain when used as aromatherapy (not to be taken internally) and can help with stress and sleep.

7. Clean up your beauty routine.

Going clean and green with your cosmetics and beauty products does take a little more work and can be pricey in the beginning. But when it comes to your long-term health, chemical-free and natural products are something you want to invest in.

In addition to these suggestions, consider the following tips:

  • Switch from tampons to pads and see if this doesn’t bring huge pain relief.
  • Try Arvigo pelvic massage with a certified practitioner.
  • For some women, the first few days of their period are the only time they feel they can hit the pause button. Here’s a radical thought. Ask yourself this powerful question: "Is there another way I can get my needs met without having a symptom that gives me permission to pause?" and see what answer you get. You might find some surprising insights that help you transform period pain into period wisdom!

Here's what an acupuncturist tells her patients with painful periods.

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