Period pain might be a common occurrence, but that does not mean it’s normal. It's your body's way of telling you there is something going on behind the scenes.
Whether it’s as simple as daily stress, or something more complicated like endometriosis, in almost all instances, it is treatable. I know because I address these issues every day.
If you’re reading this, thinking This is me, know that there are probably a host of symptoms that go with it that you accept as being you!
These could be headaches with menstruation or mid-monthly pain – whatever your unique body is telling you, it’s time to listen to its call. Chinese medicine recognizes that your period pain and its bag of symptoms will vary among women, because we are all unique beings.
And remember, if you are using the Pill as a means to treat period pain, you should know that it isn't actually treating it at all - it's just masking the problem.
So here are my top 5 tips toward having a pain-free period:
1. Get the blood flowing – find your stride.
You need to be gentle at period time – and you need to exercise appropriately. Low impact exercises like walking or other light cardio can be helpful. And yes, it is okay to do yoga on your period. For many, exercise treats period pain wonderfully as it helps blood to flow through the reproductive organs. People who are (what Chinese Medicine diagnose as) "blood deficient" (meaning that they don't have adequate blood stores – think low Iron, low blood pressure types) may benefit most from this. These people are more likely to complain of draggy or dull pain, they can be dizzy or faint, cold and look pale. They may also find their menstrual blood looks pale and diluted.
2. Ease pain with tea.
The heat from the tea will help increase blood flow and alleviate pain but more than that, there are many teas that are specifically therapeutic. Chamomile is mildly sedative which helps to relax the body and ease pain. Raspberry leaf tea can also be useful to relax the uterus. Making a brew with ginger can also be soothing. Studies show that ginger lowers pain-causing1 prostaglandins.
3. Cut the cold cuisine.
While it has not been studied, Traditional Chinese Medicine considers cold and raw foods as a contributor to menstrual cramping. This information has not been studied, but TCM recognizes cramping pain to be a result of blood not flowing freely that is there is either a blockage or something (tissue, scarring, etc) disrupting the flow.
Intense period pain sometimes responds well to warmth and light pressure. People with darker clotted blood flow are generally cold, especially in the lower abdomen at the period time. Switching to warmer foods in the premenstrual window is a great way to help keep symptoms under control—but remember, if it's bad, it's time to get it looked at by your natural fertility specialist or OB-GYN.
4. Sleep to cope.
Schedule in a little extra sleep around the period time. When we are tired, we experience increased sensitivity, and we cope much better when well rested. Plus, a lack of sleep can lead to mad cravings (very often cold and sugary foods), which, as we’ve seen, contribute to pain.
5. Eat for relief.
Foods can contribute to pain. Generally, whole foods are always going to make your body happy.
Foods that are high in fiber and good fats keep the bowels functioning properly, which supports proper hormone balance and can decrease menstrual pain. If the bowel is strained, the pain can be worse as both the uterus and bowel receive the same nerve innervation and can restrict the blood flow. So keeping it regular helps to ease pain. The top few include:
- Olive Oil
- Nuts and seeds (soaked is best)
- Green leafy veggies
- Aromatic spices - think turmeric, ginger, ground mustard, pepper
Treatments like acupuncture, reiki, osteopathy, and more can also help reduce pain. If the pain is severe, you might need to visit your OB-GYN. Remember to be kind to your body in the menstrual window: slow and gentle is key!
Natalie Kringoudis is a Doctor of Chinese Medicine, Acupuncturist, Speaker, Author and Producer.
She is also the owner of The Pagoda Tree a hub for natural fertility & women’s health in Australia.
Nat is on a crusade to share her knowledge to women and open their hearts to the possibilities that arrive when taking control of their health and fertility. Her dream is for all young women to understand how important their fertility is - to understand fertility isn't just about babies. Nat's released her e-course Debunking Ovulation and shares via her site through her books and videos reaching out to thousands of women in the quest to equip them with an abundance of information to allow them to make their own well informed health decisions.