Natural Treatments for Painful Periods

What causes painful periods?

Painful periods, also termed dysmenorrhea, can be due to endometriosis (which should always be considered), uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts; however for some women the primary cause of painful periods cannot be identified. For some women levels of prostaglandins will be elevated and lead to painful periods. Prostaglandin F2 alpha is produced by the uterus in the second half of the menstrual cycle (luteal phase) if no implantation has occurred. Higher levels of prostaglandin F2 alpha are found in women with severe menstrual cramps. Women with endometriosis also have high levels of a form of prostaglandin F2 alpha. High levels of prostaglandin F2 alpha lead to contractions of the uterus, along with inflammation; both of which lead to pelvic pain with menses. This pain may also be associated with back pain, leg pain and vulvar pain; along with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Pain may start 24 hours prior to the initiation of menses.

Medicinal Treatments

NSAID’s such as ibuprofen, naproxen and others continue to be the mainstays of treatment. Oral contraceptives and hormone containing IUDs may also be recommended.

Nutrition

  • An anti–inflammatory diet remains the mainstay of nutritional approaches to dysmenorrhea.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates.
  • Eat whole grains such as quinoa, oats, millet, brown rice and limit to three servings per day.
  • Avoid sugar.
  • Limit dairy, if dairy is necessary use organic products.
  • Limit red meats and animal products.
  • Limit egg consumption.
  • Consume vegetables and low sugar fruits.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

  • Calcium 1,000 mg per day
  • Vitamin D3 5,000 IU per day
  • Vitamin A
  • Magnesium
  • Omega 6, a good source is evening primrose oil along with borage oil.

Herbal Support

  • Cramp Bark and Black Haw can reduce uterine spasm. They can be used a few days prior to onset of menses.
  • Black Cohosh is anti-inflammatory and can reduce uterine spasms.
  • Dong Quai can help reduce uterine congestion. It may also help with anxiety and tension. It should not be used for women with heavy periods.
  • Wild Yam can help to reduce muscle spasms,
  • Ginger can help with digestion, vomiting and diarrhea. It is also anti-inflammatory.
  • Chamomile can help with spasms and is also anti-inflammatory. It can also help with relief of tensions and be calming for irritability.
  • Motherwort can help to reduce spasms and also can act a sedative and help with sleep and headache.

Other Supplements

  • Melatonin may help with endometriosis associated pain at 10 mg per day.
  • NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) is a naturally occurring substance which can be found in garlic, has been demonstrated to help with endometriosis associated pain at dosages of 600 mg three times per day.

Aromatherapy

Carrier oils combined with essential oils may also provide some relief.

  • German Chamomile may help to reduce inflammation, may help to calm nerves, reduce irritability and help with depression.
  • Sweet Marjoram can help with pain when used with compresses.
  • Sweet Fennel may help to reduce spasm.

Tea Preparations

  • Teas which may be helpful include: Ginger, Chamomile, Yarrow and Thyme.
  • A tea is an excellent way to prepare herbal additions to your regimen. A preparation which may be helpful includes Raspberry Leaf, Chamomile, Peppermint, Calendula, Motherwort, Cramp Bark, Marshmallow Root and Ginger powder.

 Mind Body

Meditation and stress management can also be helpful. An excellent resource is HeadSpace.com.