Although still considered taboo and seldom spoken about, severe menstrual cramps are a real problem for the majority of women. They have taken the spotlight in the past couple of years, as employers everywhere are starting to advocate for period days to be considered a real issue. Women are closer than ever to having this problem recognized as a serious matter that affects their daily routine and their ability to work at full capacity.
The biggest problem regarding menstrual days are the cramps. While most women opt for painkillers when faced with this situation, others tend to turn to more natural solutions. In this spirit, we have put together for you a list of 10 home remedies for severe menstrual cramps.
What causes severe menstrual cramps?
Before plunging into remedies, it’s important to know what exactly causes menstrual cramps. Dividing the roots will make it a lot easier to find the suitable treatment and relieve the pain in record time, without the aid of medication.
Menstrual cramps are also called dysmenorrhea. There are two types:
- Primary dysmenorrhea – usually refers to the common pains women get as a side effect of their monthly cycle. They start after the first few years a girl gets her first period. Also, they are characterized by severe pain in the lower abdomen or the uterus and ovaries area or in the back. They can occur either before the actual menstrual days or during. As the woman ages, common cramps become less and less painful, and they last fewer days as well.
- Secondary dysmenorrhea – refers to chronic pain caused by diseases in the woman’s reproductive parts. They begin earlier in the menstrual cycle than the common ones and last longer as well.
Symptoms of menstrual cramps include:
- Severe pain in the abdomen
- Pressure in the same area
- Sudden pain felt in the hips, inner thighs, and lower back
- Upset stomach accompanied by vomiting or nausea
- Extremely loose stools
The last two symptoms occur when the cramps are severe.
As far as causes go, modern medicine has come to the conclusion that the pain women feel is due to the uterus contracting in a very powerful way. The uterus is that part of the feminine reproductive system that is supposed to hold the baby during pregnancy. To prepare for said pregnancy, the uterus gets lined with a thick layer of cells every month, called the endometrium. This layer acts as a sort of cushion for the presumed baby.
Each month, the ovaries expel an egg that descends through the fallopian tubes into the uterus, preparing to be fertilized. When this doesn’t happen, the body reacts normally and begins to shed the endometrium, which it obviously no longer needed, since there is no baby. The shedding is basically the rupture of the endometrial tissue from the uterus. It’s accompanied by blood, which is expelled through the cervix and via the vagina.
For it to shed the unnecessary cells, the uterus contracts, which causes the pain. Some women experience more pain than others, for different reasons, which may include the following.
- Painful cycles that run in the family
- Being under 20 years of age
- Never having had a baby
- Heavy bleeding during the menstruation cycle
- Irregular cycles
- Having gone through precocious puberty (before the age of 11).
The best home remedies for severe menstrual cramps
As mentioned above, most women opt for painkillers when faced with this condition, seeing as it’s the easiest way to deal with pain on short notice. However, you should know that taking painkillers on a regular basis, meaning every month during your period is not a viable option. At some point, your body will get used to the pills, and you will have to slowly, but surely increase the dosage. Addiction to painkillers is not advisable, which is why you should try the following natural home remedies.
#1. Exercise as much as you can
Indeed, this idea might sound a bit farfetched in the beginning. As most women will tell you, they can barely move with pain during those days, let alone exercise. However, studies have shown that engaging in mild sporting activities does indeed alleviate the pain. When exercising, your body releases endorphins, which counteract the prostaglandins, thusly reducing the pain.
To try out this remedy and ease cramping, you can jog for 15 minutes, walk briskly, roller blade or ride your bike.
#2. Apply heat to the area
Heat has a relaxing effect on the muscles. As shown above, the primary cause of menstrual pain is the uterus’ muscles contracting to shed the unnecessary cells. Help them along the process by applying some heating pads to your lower belly. You can buy them at any drug store as over-the-counter remedies. They are cheap and even reusable.
If you want to make this remedy even more homely, you can always heat some water, put it in a bottle and keep it close to your abdomen. Be careful not to heat the water up to scolding point and to get rid of the bottle after you’ve finished.
#3. Chamomile tea as method of relaxing
The Journal of Agriculture and Chemistry published a paper which shows that chamomile has pain alleviating properties. The study conducted encouraged the participants to drink chamomile tea and then present a urine sample. 14 of those samples had increased levels of hippurate, a natural anti-inflammatory. Just like exercising, these anti-inflammatory substances decrease the production of prostaglandins. In this way, they reduce the cramps and the pain.
#4. Increase your Vitamin D intake
Researchers discovered a previously unknown link between severe menstrual cramps and Vitamin D. When present in high doses in the body, this vitamin reduces pain significantly. The studies they performed on a group of Italian women show how the pain levels decreased a staggering 41% for those who were given Vitamin D.
You can find this natural ally in foods such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon, as far as fish are concerned, dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, liver, egg yolks, and cereals. You can also introduce it fast into your diet via supplements.
Although you might tend to place it in the physical activity division, intercourse helps as well. However, for it to have full effect on your severe menstrual cramps, doctors point out it needs to be followed by a climactic point. Prior to this moment, the uterus relaxes, and the blood flow increases a lot. This will relieve some of the pain. Apart from that, climactic moments release endorphins into the body, which counteract the pain you’re feeling. Thirdly, both the act in itself and the climactic moment relax the entire body and chemically induce sleep. This means you won’t feel the cramps at all.
#6. Try acupuncture
A traditional part of the Chinese medicine, acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years. The procedure involves small, sharp needles pinned into the skin in the major points of your body. The link between menstrual cramps and acupuncture has been studied as well, indicating the latter as a treatment. When all the correct pressure points were lightly pierced with the needles, the pain was relieved in most of the cases.
#7. Herbs, seeds, and spices
There are certain herbs, seeds, and spices which you can include in your diet that will alleviate the pain you feel during those severe menstrual cramps.
- Ginger – helps fatigue, usually paired with menstrual cramps and can turn your irregular cycle into a regular one. Make some tea out of fresh ginger, by grating a small piece and boiling it. For a better taste, you can add some lemon and/or some honey. Sucking ginger candies or adding it to food while cooking also helps.
- Basil – is very rich in caffeic acid, which is a known analgesic. Add a tablespoon of leaves to one cup of hot water, cover and let it infuse until it has cooled down. Drink the concoction every few hours and watch your cramps disappear as by magic.
You can also crush some green basil leaves to extract its juices. Add the resulting juice to some warm water and drink it.
- Cinnamon – is antispasmodic, which is exactly what happens to your uterus during menstruation. It also has an anticlotting effect, which means it will dilute the blood so that it’s easier for your organism to expel. You can make some tea out of it, by adding a pinch of cinnamon to a cup of boiling water. Add some honey as well and drink three cups every day.
Apart from that, you can choose the easy way and chew on a cinnamon stick while you go through your daily routine. It’s delicious.
- Fennel – it relaxes the muscles, seeing as it has antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and phytoestrogenic properties. Add a teaspoon of seeds to one cup of boiling water let it simmer for 5 minutes, strain, and add a bit of honey. You need to start drinking it some three days before your menstruation begins. If the pain doesn’t stop, continue drinking it as needed.
#8. Blackstrap molasses
This is an ancient remedy for severe menstrual cramps, being used by generations of women. It’s rich in all sorts of nutrients, such as iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, selenium, vitamin B6, and, as if that wasn’t enough, it fights against blood clots and calms the uterus’ muscles.
You can consume it by adding one teaspoon to a cup of warm milk. The drink is absolutely delicious, making it a favorite among natural remedies for cramps. You can start on it as soon as you feel the cramps coming on and continue as needed.
#9. Foods to introduce in your diet
Apart from exercise, spices, herbs, heating the area, and other localized remedies, you can also eat specific things during those days in which severe menstrual cramps are bothering you immensly. They have calming properties which will help with the pain.
- Milk – you can include a glass of cold or lukewarm milk into your breakfast as it has calcium. It’s a good way to deal with the painful cramps. If you don’t like to drink milk or are lactose intolerant, you can also take a few calcium tablets every day as long as your period lasts.
- Papaya – this delicious and fragrant fruit is rich in an enzyme named after it – ‘papain’. It both regulates the blood flow and eases the pain during menstruation.
- Carrots – they will help you as well during those difficult days, as long as you drink a tall glass of fresh juice every day
- Aloe Vera – it reduces the pain and soothes the aching. If you don’t like the way it naturally tastes, you can mix it with a little bit of lemon.
- Lavender – is an ages old remedy for pain and calming the nerves. It will help all your muscles, your brain, and your heart beat relax and induce a peaceful state.
- Green tea – another great soothing agent for pain and discomfort, green tea mixed with some raspberry or jasmine will work wonders on your body.
#10. Things to avoid
Apart from all the things you need to do and eat during the painful menstrual days, there are also a few things you should avoid doing at any cost, as they will only increase the level of pain and discomfort and cause your severe menstrual cramps to flare.
- Stay away from tight clothes – try wearing loose and light clothes made from soothing fabrics, such as cotton or silk. The idea is to leave your belly alone and not strap it in tight pants, leggings or belts.
- Don’t lose any sleep – during the menstruation days, your body goes through a great deal of effort to keep up with all that blood loss. Think of it in a simple way – if you cut your hand and were bleeding for 3 to 5 days straight, you would surely stay in bed so as to get better, so why not do it now too?
- Don’t take cold or lukewarm showers – when menstruating, always go for hot showers or even baths. The hot water will calm your muscles, and you will feel less pain.
- Don’t treat yourself poorly – this means trying not to stress out over everything, don’t deny yourself things you want to eat, like a cookie or a slice of pizza, and simply relax.
#11. Self-Care Things to Do
Period days are all about self care. If you have done any kind of research on the entire menstrual cycle, you will know that your body, as a woman, is always in a constant state of change all month long. Constantly cycling through the changes of having high energy and motivation, low energy and sadness, and everything in between. The lunar phases of the cycle are part of all this, and it is a good idea to recognize the point sin time where you need to be a bit easier on yourself. If there is ever time for self care, it is during your period days. You will likely feel sluggish, tired, and maybe even sad and upset. Give yourself grace for this. We have already given you things to avoid, but now it is time to get some ideas for self-care things to do.
- Go outside. I remember as a kids, my mom's solution to sickness was always drinking a glass of water, taking a nap, and getting out of the house and into the sun. This is all GREAT advice for period sickness, too! Getting outside will help you to soak up that vitamin D and you will notice that you'll feel more energized, healthier, and excited about life during this exhausting time of the month.
- Pamper yourself. Taking a nice long bath (maybe with some homemade bath bombs), or doing a face mask, can really get you feeling better about yourself. Painting your nails, doing a hair mask whatever makes you feel good about yourself is really the answer to feeling sluggish and gross. Combat those feelings of disgust caused by bloating and general gross feelings by pampering and gently caring for yourself during these days of pain.
Final Thoughts & Words
Menstruating is a difficult period through which all women go every month. Even if it happens with such a tremendous recurrence, that doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. These home remedies for severe menstrual cramps are designed to relax and bring you comfort in a time of distress, so why not try them out the next time you get your period?
Georgia has graduated from a nutrition expert degree and her work involves some freelance blogging on the side of her main part time job in a doctor’s office. She doesn’t travel a lot due to work constraints, but she likes going out as often as she can to compensate.