Nutrition & Health

The Cycle

The Menstrual Cycle & How to Reduce the Dreaded Pain

I can speak for most of us ladies when I say “that time of the month” is one of the most dreaded days of our year. The menstrual cycle. Many women experience menstrual cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea, and those can be painful. The pain is often felt in the lower abdomen and can range from dull to severe. Some women may experience no pain during their menstrual cycle, but for those of us that do there are natural, organic, drug free remedies that you can make for yourself at home. Many drugs and pharmaceuticals oftentimes have side effects. We should always be cautious of what we consume, and if we can effectively minimize our pain during times of need with natural remedies, then that should always be our go to option!

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, for a few days every month, menstrual pain can be debilitating, making it difficult to go about daily activities like chores, jobs, and school related responsibilities. It’s the leading cause of lost time from work and school among women in their teens and 20s. Yes, menstrual pain is that serious! But what actually causes the pain of a menstrual cramp?

How Does a Menstrual Cycle Work

First it is important to understand how the menstrual cycle works. Every month a woman’s body prepares itself for the possibility of creating a baby. The menstrual cycle is centered around the release of an egg from the ovaries about every 28 days (National Health Service, NHS). The eggs are developed inside the ovaries and due to messengers or hormones sending signals in the body, the eggs are released into the fallopian tubes (which are connected to the ovaries). The ovaries release the hormone estrogen, which causes the lining of the uterus to thicken in preparation to receive an egg.

This egg has traveled from the ovaries to the fallopian tubes and ends up in the uterus. If the egg is fertilized then it will embed itself into the thickened lining of the uterus and grow and develop, eventually becoming a baby. If the egg is not fertilized it will still end up in the uterus but it will break down and the level of hormones produced by the ovaries will begin to decline. This enables the lining of the uterus to also break down and both the lining and the egg are then shed from the body in what we know to be the menstrual cycle.

Causes of Menstrual Pain

There are a few factors that contribute to the pain of a menstrual cramp. As we know now, during a woman’s period the walls of the uterus contract and expand in order to expel its lining and the unfertilized egg. That’s right, the inside lining of your uterus is being shed and released from your body once a month. Therefore, if the egg is not fertilized the uterus will produce a hormone called prostaglandin, which causes the wall of the uterus to contract and expand (expelling the egg and lining). The Mayo Clinic states that the “hormone-like substances (prostaglandins) involved in pain and inflammation trigger the uterine muscle contractions” and increased levels of prostaglandins are linked to more-severe cramps.

Running through the muscular walls of the uterus are small blood vessels and their job is to supply oxygen and essential nutrients to the muscle tissue. When the muscles in the uterus contract during menstruation these blood vessels constrict, which reduces the amount of oxygen in the muscle tissue. These muscles become starved of oxygen and this insufficiency is another factor that contributes to the pain of a period cycle. So first, your muscle is expanding and contracting to expel the lining of your uterus then your muscles are starved of oxygen. Ouch! You may be skeptical that home remedies will even work but don’t underestimate the power of mother nature and her healing natural remedies.

How to Prevent or Reduce Cramp Pain

Most women are aware of when they are going to get their period and know the time and severity of their cramps. This would be the best time to prepare for the pain. Some steps you can take are quick and simple. Oftentimes women use heating pads and apply it to the lower abdomen area to relax the contracting muscles. Other steps may include preparing remedies or are steps to be taken over a course of time that will eventually reduce the pain of a menstrual cycle. I’ve listed three effective steps and remedies below that will hopefully work wonders for you!

1. Chamomile tea
Avoid caffeinated drinks! Caffeine can restrict blood vessels which we now know is a contributing factor to menstrual pain. Drink herbal teas. An effective tea to drink is chamomile tea. A study published in the journal of Agricultural and Chemistry stated that, “this is one of a growing number of studies that provide evidence that commonly used natural products really do contain chemicals that may be of medicinal value.” When participants were given chamomile tea their urine samples contained hippurate, a natural anti-inflammatory. Anti-inflammatories help reduce the hormone prostaglandins which ultimately reduces cramp pain. Chamomile is also antispasmodic, which is an agent that suppresses muscle spasms. Drink one to two cups for the most effective benefits.

*If pregnant and experiencing pregnancy cramps chamomile should be avoided. Because of its effect on the uterine muscles it is thought to increase the risk of miscarriage or spontaneous abortion. Consult a professional or doctor.*

2. Turmeric Milk Tea
Oftentimes when women experience menstrual cramps we are prescribed high doses of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen. Turmeric however works in a similar way by reducing prostaglandins which promote uterine contractions and stimulate pain and inflammation. So turmeric’s ability to decrease prostaglandins allows it to be an effective agent in cramp and pain reduction. I’ve linked a simple recipe for Turmeric Milk Tea that you can try at home. Aim to prepare this tea when you know you’re period is coming or when you just get it.

3. Exercise
I know! I’m telling you to exercise and you can barely move from the pain. However, brisk walking or any type of physical activity can help reduce lower abdomen pain. When you’re exercising and doing cardio or aerobics, your body begins to work and benefit you in many ways. Your body begins to pump more blood which helps to release endorphins which counteracts with prostaglandins thus reducing your cramps. If you’re prone to painful periods than being active at least 3 to 4 times a week for 30 minutes can help reduce the pain every month. This is a progressive method to abide by that will provide you benefits in the future, including reduced menstrual pain. Having overall good health is beneficial for your body in numerous ways.

Final Thoughts

These are three simple steps and remedies you can take to prevent and reduce period pain. Overall a good diet and exercise can reduce the pain of cramps. Make sure you are eating sufficient foods and drinking adequate amounts of water. Everyone’s body is different and different methods will work better for various people. Experiment and see what works best for you. If you find which method works well for you allow it to be a part of your monthly routine. Make lifestyle changes and watch the benefits pour. Hopefully you can get rid of the pharmaceutical drugs that may help you reduce period pain and replace them with the best method that will contribute to the promotion of good health and overall wellness.

– Alaa Al-Shujairi

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