The pain of period cramps is one of those things that you just can’t understand until you have them. This is what I always say to my husband every time they come on. Not only do period cramps cause debilitating pain in your uterus but that pain radiates down to your legs and feet, and your low back. On top of that, the pain is so intense that it leads to the fantastic phenomena of what I like to call dishwasher stomach. That uneasiness that causes your stomach to feel as though it is twisting and turning, unable to just settle down. If you have experienced this type of period cramps, then this post is for you. If you have had to stay home from work or school, or have had to trade in a day of vacation or social plans for a day spent with your best fried called the heating pad and a bottle of Aleve, then again, this post is for you. After so much trial and error, I have finally cracked the code to a painless period, free of period cramps – yes, salvation is possible! Here are my top ways to get rid of period cramps that work!
Note: this post is intended to help those who suffer from period cramps that are not associated with a more advanced medical problem such as infection, fibroids, endometriosis, or ovarian cysts.
By the way, I must mention that while period cramps are extremely common, that does not mean that they are normal. Your period should come each month without pain, heavy blood loss, mood disturbances, acne and other PMS symptoms. If you are experiencing PMS symptoms, that means that something is out of balance in the body. Most of us are put on Birth Control Pills to manage period cramps and other PMS symptoms, but this is not the answer. Birth control pills simply mask an underlying issue. Birth control pills can lead to a host of other issues that are serious. Learn more about the risks of the birth control pill here. If you are on birth control and want to safely get off of it, head on over to my post “Getting off Birth Control, Now What?”
How to use this guide “ways to get rid of period cramps that work:”
One size does not fit all. This is true with clothes, and this is true with natural treatments for the body. Each person is highly individualized. Although we might share the same symptom, we might not share the same solution. Therefore, some of the following ways to get rid of period cramps might work for someone, but not for someone else. That is why there is a whole list for you to try. Start from the beginning and work down from there. Give each solution two to three period cycles to take effect. If no effect is seen, move down to the next one.
Note: many of these solutions build on each other. Even if one does not seem to eliminate your painful period cramps, it may still be an important piece of the puzzle. Therefore, consider sticking with it but simply adding another solution to the program. This is especially true with the therapeutic nutrients and anti-inflammatory diet.
1. Foundational Therapeutic Nutrients
The body needs a basic foundation of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats in order to function properly. This is especially important for hormone production and balance. If you are deficient in certain nutrients, this can lead to hormone imbalance and the manifestation of PMS. Even if you are eating a healthy diet, many of us can be deficient. This is due to lower nutrition in our produce, a stressful lifestyle and living in a more toxic environment. That is why I suggest taking the following therapeutic supplements to fill the gaps of the diet, and to ease period cramps. This is the first of the ways to get rid of period cramps because it is always important to rule out nutritional deficiency before moving to more elaborate solutions.
Essential nutrients to stop painful period cramps:
Magnesium – magnesium is both a preventative measure and acute care for painful periods. It works by inhibiting prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are what stimulate the uterus to contract, thereby shedding your lining. Too many prostaglandins cause pain.
Dosage: Take 300 mg of Magnesium Glycinate daily. Increase to 2x/day during period.
Omega 3 fatty acids – omega 3 fatty acids are an essential fatty acid found in fish oil. They are a powerful anti-inflammatory shown to reduce the pain from period cramps by 30% in two months time. Being a precursor to prostaglandins, they help to balance out prostaglandins and prevent painful inflammatory levels.
Dosage: 2,000 mg of Omega 3 Fatty Acids (EPA/DHA) daily. *make sure this is of high quality. Some fish oils can contain harmful levels of PCBs and heavy metals. If you are vegetarian, try this supplement.
Zinc – zinc is a very important mineral for the body, especially for hormones and sex organs. It improves blood circulation in the uterus and helps to reduce inflammation. When taken for the four days leading up to the period, a study proved that it eliminated period pain in the vast majority of test patients. Zinc is also an essential nutrient for those who suffer from endometriosis.
Dosage: 30 mg of Zinc daily
Fun fact: zinc deficiency can lead to low sperm count in men. The simple act of increasing zinc can drastically increase fertility in men.
2. Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The basic fact is that high levels of inflammation (prostaglandins) brought on by the shedding of the uterus causes painful period cramps. Therefore, the goal is to lower inflammation. This is why medications such as Ibuprofen work. They block prostaglandins.
Instead of using medications such as Ibuprofen, we can use nutrition to lower inflammation. This is where the anti-inflammatory diet comes in. When used in conjunction with the essential therapeutic nutritional supplements listed above, eating an anti-inflammatory diet can be very effective. Plus, an anti-inflammatory diet is also beneficial for heart health, anti-aging, preventing and addressing cancer and inflammatory conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, cognitive disorders, Chron’s, eczema, and psoriasis.
The goal of an anti-inflammatory diet is to eliminate foods that cause inflammation in the body and to fill your plate with foods that decrease inflammation instead. This will look like a plant-based diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, gluten-free whole grains, beans, raw nuts and seeds, healthy fats like wild salmon and olive oil, fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut, and dairy-free alternatives such as almond milk, coconut yogurt and seed cheese.
Top Inflammatory foods to Avoid
– Dairy ex. Ice cream, yogurt, cheese, milk. Switch to dairy-free alternatives such as almond, coconut, rice, hemp and oat.
– Wheat (gluten) ex. Bagels, bread, muffins, pastries, crackers, pizza dough, donuts. Switch to gluten-free options.
– Red Meat
– Vegetable oil such as soy, cottonseed and corn oil
– Trans fats (read label for partially hydrogenated oils) this includes many packaged desserts, dough, pie crusts, stuffings, milk creamers and processed foods
– Fried foods ex. French fries, potato chips, tempura, fried chicken
– Processed foods ex. fast food, packaged foods
– White sugar ex. desserts, soda, sweetened tea, candy, coffee drinks. Switch to natural sweeteners such as honey, molasses, maple syrup, coconut sugar
Top Anti-inflammatory foods to Eat
– Vegetables esp. green leafy veggies ex. kale, chard, arugula, mustard greens, collard greens, bok choy, celery, beets and Cruciferous veggies ex. broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts
– Fresh fruit esp. Berries
– Cold water fish like Wild salmon, sardines, anchovies
– Raw nuts and seeds ex. walnuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds
– Superfoods: Hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds and their oils
– Olives and olive oil
– Herbs and spices esp. turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, onion, ginger
– Bean and legumes
– Whole grains (gluten-free) such oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice
3. The Miracle Supplement: Vitex Agnus-Castus (chaste tree)
Vitex is an herb that has become quite famous for its ability to successfully address a multitude of hormone-related conditions. It is highly effective for PMS symptoms, especially painful period cramps, fluid retention and breast tenderness. It works by inhibiting the pituitary hormone prolactin. It enhances ovulation and progesterone production, elongating the luteal phase. This makes it effective for fertility and those wanting to get pregnant.
Vitex has been a truly effective treatment for many women dealing with hormone imbalances and has been a life savor in helping ease my period cramps. This was a make or break deal for me personally.
Note: If you are currently dealing with PCOS, consult with your physician before taking vitex.
Dosage: 200 – 400 mg of Vitex (Chaste Tree) daily. Best taken first thing in the morning.
4. Acupuncture Treatments
Acupuncture is one of those miracle treatments that has profound effects on the body. Postulated to have been in existence for over 2,500 years, acupuncture is based on the idea that the body is made up of energetic pathways called meridians. It is through the meridians that Qi, or energy, flows. When the pathway is blocked, which happens regularly, the disruptions can lead to reduced blood and energetic flow. As a result imbalances in the body occur leading to inhibited neurotransmitter and neurohormone function, pain and chronic disease.
Acupuncture is an amazing and effective way to treat PMS and to get rid of painful period cramps. Acupuncture can help to remove blockages, restore normal hormone release, reduce inflammation and improve blood flow to the uterus. In my personal experience, it took only one month of vitex and acupuncture to completely get rid of my period cramps. Please do not dismiss acupuncture. For so many women, this is the missing piece to menstrual cramp relief.
5. Increase your Iron Levels
Iron is a very essential mineral. 70% of iron is found in the red blood cells of your blood called hemoglobin and in muscle cells called myoglobin. Hemoglobin is essential for transferring oxygen in your blood from the lungs to the tissues. Myoglobin, in muscle cells, accepts, stores, transports and releases oxygen.
Iron is also a component of certain proteins, essential for respiration and energy metabolism, and as a component of enzymes involved in the synthesis of collagen and some neurotransmitters. Iron also is needed for proper immune function.
Many of us are iron deficient, especially if you are plant-based, vegetarian or vegan. Iron deficiency is also commonly found in women with heavy periods, since the increased loss of blood leads demands high levels of iron that most of us do not have. The problem is that iron deficiency can be a root cause of PMS. A study done by University of Massachusetts, Amherst found that women who eat diets rich in iron are 30 to 40 percent less likely to develop pre-menstrual syndrome, or PMS, than women who consume lower amounts. Therefore, I have found that the simple act of increasing your iron intake can offer relief from painful period cramps.
First off, try to increase your iron by consuming iron rich foods daily. If that does not work, supplementation may be needed. You are more prone to need iron supplementation if you do not eat meat. This is because the form of iron that comes from animal meat (heme) is easier to absorb by the body than plant-based iron (non-heme).
– red meat (organic bison and beef)
– navy, kidney and black beans
– swiss chard
- Check out my Plant-based Iron Chart for other vegetarian options
Best Iron Supplement: Iron-C by Pure Encapsulations
Note: Make sure to eat your plant-based (non-heme) iron-rich foods or supplement with Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron. That is why I recommend the supplement Iron-C.
Taking iron supplements will often darken stool color. Do not be alarmed, this is normal.
* If you are taking medication make sure to consult with physician before taking iron. It does interact with some medications (including birth control) and conditions.
6. Mayan Abdominal Massage
Mayan abdominal massage is a newer treatment that I have begun to get involved with and have absolutely loved. It is a massage technique that focuses on your intestines, uterus, ovaries, lower pelvis, sacrum, glutes and hips. It uses massage as a non-invasive manipulation that repositions internal organs that have shifted, thereby restoring the flow of blood, lymph, nerve and chi. In addition, it releases any tight muscles or tendons that are restricting blood flow, and strengthens the muscles and tendons to properly support the uterus and ovaries.
Mayan abdominal massage is one of my favorite ways to get rid of period cramps. This is because it helps to the body restore normal function, all the while providing numerous other health benefits.
Conditions that benefit from Mayan Abdominal Massage:
– period cramps
– abnormal menstrual flow (too heavy or too light)
– prolapsed or tipped uterus
– bladder issues (frequent urination or incontinence)
– poor digestion
– low back pain
– premature ejaculation
I would suggest receiving at least three Mayan Abdominal Massage treatments (along with self care daily at home) to begin. This is a good place to begin as the treatments take time to deliver results. The good news is that you will be so in love with this treatment you won’t mind getting them at all. I know its hard to imagine the pleasure that can come from an abdominal massage, but just try it, I promise you will love it!
7. Mud Packing Treatment (Pelotherapy)
Mud packing is the therapeutic, hard-core version of the mud treatments that you receive at a high-end spa. Rather than covering your whole body with mud, you concentrate the mud on the uterus and ovaries. Mud has the ability to pull toxins from an area, thereby reducing overall toxin load. This helps to reduce inflammation in an area while increasing blood flow, which is exactly what we need to get rid of period cramps. I have found this treatment be highly effective in certain cases for clearing menstrual cramps, and have done it a couple times before my period with great results.
All mud (or clay) is not created equal. The one that I personally recommend is called Medi-Body Pack. The reason being is that it is paired with other botanicals to help not only detoxify an area, but also replenish it with key minerals.
Product recommendation: Medi Body Pack by Premier Research Labs
8. Chinese Herbs for Balancing Hormones, Blood Flow and Pain
In some cases where the body has become so stressed, so depleted and so drained, we have entered a process of jing depletion. For many of us, this is the root cause of the hormone imbalance that leads to painful periods.
In Chinese Medicine, Jing is the primal energy of life, the very substance that gives us life. The quantity of Jing determines both our lifespan and the ultimate vitality of our life. The more jing we have, the more vibrancy and energy we have, the healthier we are, and the more youthful we look. When we are born we have a finite amount of jing. Therefore, the goal is to avoid activities that deplete our jing, and perform activities that replenish. Unfortunately, most things we do in today’s work deplete it – stress, late nights working, poor sleep, drinking alcohol, eating fast food, using drugs, emotional turmoil, pushing ourselves to the limits. When our jing starts to deplete, the aging process advances and we begin to witness health problems, aches and pain. Just like painful periods.
The goal then is to replenish our jing in order to rebalance the body, bring back vitality and get rid of painful periods. The best way to do this is with two products, Eternal Jing and Adaptogen Energizer. Eternal Jing is designed to tonify and restore jing, while Adaptogen Energizer helps to minimize the effects of stress on the body. The combination together is profound, and was the first way that I was able to get rid of period cramps. The best part is that these herbs have far reaching effects on the body. They can help rebalance hormones, improve energy and sex drive, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, address insomnia, and improve focus and athletic performance.