Most women know what it’s like to experience uncomfortable and painful periods. While most of the time this has us reaching for off-the-shelf painkillers, why not check out if there are any natural remedies to help alleviate the pain that are healthier for your body?
During our periods, the body goes through various changes in hormone levels – particularly a change in prostaglandins levels. This is the hormone that causes the debilitating cramping in the uterus which leads to decreased blood flow. The accompanying pain, known as ‘dysmenorrhoea’, causes the discomfort which has us combing the medicine cabinet looking for relief by taking a painkiller like Ibuprofen or paracetamol. However, research has found this might not be the healthiest option. In fact, these painkillers can cause some women to experience unpleasant side effects such as nausea, headaches and drowsiness. This is because painkillers have an impact on all the body and does not target specific areas.
So next time you’re in the grip of painful period pains, here are a few more natural ways to help get rid of the discomfort.
1) Apply heat:
Whether through a water bottle, microwaveable or electric heating pads, heat applied to your lower abdomen helps relax the muscles of the uterus. It also helps boost blood circulation. Blood vessels will start to dilate which helps increase blood flow and as a result alleviate painful cramping.
Recently, technologies have helped create more efficient ways of using heat to fight period cramps. Such as, the Artemis bodysuit – the first bodysuit aimed at preventing period cramps. The garment helps ease period cramping through “built-in heat panels and tens (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) gel pads”. Electrical pulses stop pain signals from reaching the brain while at the same time, the heat panels “soothe the uterus and surrounding muscles”. The bodysuit can be adjusted through a small device which you clip to your body. It’s not yet on the market but should be available later in the year.
Another new technology, you will soon see hitting the streets is the Yoovie machine. This is a strap-on-machine you attach to the lower belly or back. Unlike the bodysuit, which is completely washable, the Yoovie can only be used a maximum of 20 to 30 times before it needs to be replaced. It comes equipped with a “c-shaped central unit” that contains a tens gel pad, USB charged battery and control buttons. Similar to the bodysuit, Yoovie emits electrical pulses that stop pain signals from reaching the brain.
2) Gentle Yoga:
We all know the benefits of practising yoga on a regular basis including the effects on overall relaxation. But this is especially important during your time of the month. If you are looking to relieve pain, one of the best things you can do is combine a mixture of exercise and relaxation. Focusing on your breathing is a powerful tool as it helps bring oxygen to the uterus. This in turn, lessens the cramping. Practising yoga regularly can help with painful cramping over a long period of time, as it can change how we perceive pain. Yoga is also a useful tool to help with PMS and other illnesses such as polycystic ovary syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
We all know how it feels to be on our period – you’re not up to doing much. But forcing yourself to get out of bed and do some gentle exercise could be just the thing to make you feel better. During your menstrual cycle, hormone levels are deeply impacted. Progesterone and oestrogen levels are at their lowest which may lead to low energy levels and an overall feeling of fatigue. Light exercise such as walking and other light cardio exercises help diminish feelings of cramping and mood swings. When you workout, your body releases endorphins. These act as a barrier to pain by blocking signals from reaching your brain and as a result stopping any cramps. Remember to be kind to your body and not push it beyond what feels comfortable at this time of the month.
4) Food supplements:
The food you eat can play a role in your general feeling of wellbeing during your period. Food affects hormones which then impact your menstrual cycle. Adding foods that are rich in fibre and antioxidants help maintain a regular menstrual cycle as well as reduce pain. Omega-3 is found in oily fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds or vegetables like Brussel sprouts. It can also be taken as a supplement. Incorporating herbal supplements into a normal diet is said to have a beneficial effect when dealing with painful cramping.
But the list doesn’t there. Chamomile’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antispasmodic properties makes it a commonly used remedy against period pain. It helps relieve cramps by relaxing muscles. Evening primrose oil reduces prostaglandins, the hormone behind cramping. It also has natural anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger, and Fennel also provide pain relief. They are even described as being as effective as Ibuprofen. If taken on a regular basis, they help alleviate period cramps as well as boost digestion and reduce bloating.