Women’s Pain: Who Can Relate? (Plus 7 Personal Tips to Naturally Reduce Severe Period Pain)
Since my first period, I have experienced the worst kind of period pain almost every month. The menstrual cramps would keep me incapacitated and unable to do anything. Once I even almost blackout on my way home from school because of the severe pain and dizziness.
I used to take pain killers for some relief. I thought it was natural and it is what every woman has to suffer. Indeed, half of the women population who are undergoing their periods have some degree of bearable pain for 1 or 2 days each cycle, and that’s considered normal.
But the other half of the women population have severe pain like myself which require pain medication and time off from daily activities, there is a medical term for it called Dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea means menstrual cramps caused by uterine contractions. It would cause pelvic pain, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, and headaches just before or during your period and it can last from a few hours to 1 to 2 days.
I felt so powerless, disturbed and frustrated that I am unable to control my own uterine and have to suffer so much pain every month. And as you can imagine, this really affects my work because I would be totally incapacitated during those 2 days. That kind of pain is the one which is extremely painful and make me sweat and curl up my body like a ball. My face would be so pale like the vampire. And I would be throwing up from the pain and menstrual cramps. Can you relate to this?
When I went to the doctor, the prescription is mainly some stomach pills and pain killers. So, I have done extensive research on my own on this subject. I also consulted my Chinese medical doctor friend and received some valuable advice on how to take care of the body throughout the month that can relieve the menstrual cramps and the pain. And being a yoga practitioner then and a yoga teacher now, I applied the holistic yogi principle to myself and found some natural ways that really help me to deal with the severe pain and discomfort associated with the period. So, I want to share them with you in W Attitude.
Causes of severe period pain
#1 Hormonal imbalance
We don’t want to get too medical here, so to put things in perspective: let’s say our body is a whole holistic machine and it has a control system for our hormones. When that control system is disturbed by stress, lack of sleep or unhealthy diet, it would cause hormonal imbalances. And hormonal imbalances are one of the causes that contribute to period pain.
#2 structural misalignment
The uterus is situated in the middle of the pelvis, between the symphysis pubis and the sacrum. If due to a reason, there is physical misalignment it could be the cause of more severe cramps or contraction during the period.
During our period, when the endometrial lining begins to shed, a large number of prostaglandins (a kind of hormone) are released which constricts blood vessels in the uterus and causes the uterus to contract. If too many prostaglandins are released, this will cause more severe uterine contractions which will lead to painful cramps. The root cause of overproduction of prostaglandins is the imbalance between Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. More specifically, when we have too much Omega-6 and too little Omega-3 in our body, it induces more prostaglandins to be released to help the uterus contract during our periods.
So, this is the comprehensive medical explanation behind this, but to put it simply, Omega 6 is pro-inflammatory and Omega-3 is anti-inflammatory. And inflammation in the body caused by stress or poor diet is related to our period pain. So, what happens is that our modern diets are so pro-Omega 6 that our bodies contain too much Omega-6 which is pro-inflammatory and very little Omega-3 which is anti-inflammatory. So based on this principle, some of the actionable will be working to bring back a more balanced ratio between Omega 6 and Omega-3.
#1 Cook with Omega-3 rich oils
High Omega-6 oils include canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, and peanut oil. So, all of these oils which are very commonly used in restaurants are basically high in Omega-6 which is pro-inflammatory.
Omega-3 rich oils are coconut oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, palm oil, grass-fed butter. Just by replacing those vegetable oils with Omega-3 rich oils in our diets can help reduce inflammation in our body and reduce the uterus contraction and hence reducing the period pain.
#2 Replace dairy milk with plant-based milk
When I was smaller, I used to vomit after drinking dairy milk at breakfast. In the dairy milk, there is a problematic protein (called A1 casein) that our body does not really know how to deal with and so it stimulates inflammation.
I switched from dairy milk to plant-based milk. Regardless of it is cow’s milk and goat’s milk, because it is animal milk, there is going to be hormones in it. And it may cause your body to think that the hormone level is unbalanced and therefore reacting to cause acne. By replacing dairy milks with plant-based milk, you can cut out the hormone issue and any fat that your body may have a reaction to it.
Having said that, if you switch to plant-based milk and choose the one with sugar, it is not going to clear the acne. In fact, it may cause more breakout. This is because sugar is something when you digest and it is going to give heat and more likely to cause your body to inflame and therefore cause more acne.
Therefore, I always go for the unsweetened version of the plant-based milk. If you really want to sweeten it, add a little maple syrup. Maple syrup is full of antioxidants and probably the best sweetener that you can put into your body because it is natural sugar, not processed ones, your body already knew what to do with it.
#3 Replace sugar with honey
Just before and during the period, we would have a sudden crave for high sugar food such as chocolate. And lower tummy would be bloated and perhaps hands and feet start swelling as well, especially the calves. These are all because of the hormonal change.
Sugar is directly linked to the inflammatory response of our body. Being a chocolate addict myself, I know it can be really challenging for a lot of people to completely cut sugar out. It is ultimately a decision we have to make but we can do it gradually and find some healthy alternatives such as Manuka Honey and dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao and less sugar.
I have advised these to friends who suffer period pain as well and they told me the situation has really improved when they follow these basic diet guides.
#4 Ginger water or ginger tea
Ginger can warm the body and promote good blood circulation. You can get raw ginger from your local market. To make your own ginger water, simply wash it clean, cut it into thin slices, then boil for 10–15 minutes in water. If you want to sweeten it, you can add some honey or maple syrup to improve the taste.
Or if you want something more convenient, there are many organic ginger teas on the market and they may have added other beneficial ingredients to go with ginger as well. Simply put the tea bag into lukewarm water for 5–8 minutes.
I drink 1–2 glasses a day after meals a few days before the period and I also drink this throughout the period and throughout the month. Ginger is a natural and gentle ingredient that is really good for women.
#5 Magnesium supplements
Supplements are just that — supplements. They should only come into the picture when we cannot get enough of a particular essential nutrient from our diet. So, the priority should be placed on improving our diet. Then where needed, we complement with supplements.
We can absorb magnesium from leafy greens. But usually, we won’t be able to eat enough leafy greens daily to intake a good amount of magnesium. So, I would say magnesium supplement is almost necessary but you can adapt this according to your diet that day. Say if you have some leafy greens that day, you may only take half a tablet.
#6 Omega-3 supplements
To deal with the root cause of overproduction of prostaglandins, we have to balance the ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 in our body. Because our modern diets already contain a lot of Omega-6, we need to add more Omega-3 to balance it out.
We can absorb more Omega-3 from oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines or leafy greens like spinach and kale, avocados, walnuts, and seeds like flax and chia.
When we cannot absorb enough Omega-3 in our diet, we need to consider Omega-3 supplements to help with balancing the ratio between Omega-6 and Omega-3 to scale down the inflammation of our body. You can choose straightforward Omega-3 or Cod liver oil which may be better because it is packed with Omega-3 plus Vitamin A and Vitamin D.
Yoga blankets are thick and cozy. I found that child pose with my stomach lying on top of the pile of blankets with my face facing the ground looking either to right or left. This is the ultimate restful post to alleviate the pain. With the support of the blankets, it is more comfortable than curling up sideways.
What is more, the blankets physically keep my uterine warm. This calms the uterine and reduces the intensity of its contraction which relieves the cramps. And because the head is horizontally placed on the blankets, it helps with dizziness because the blood flows better to the head.
#8 Steamed foot bath
Ancient wisdom tells us that the emperors and the royal families used to maintain health and detox with a steamed foot bath. This is especially so for the royal women — the steamed foot bath can help with alleviating the pain during menstruation period. Also, it helps to reduce swelling of the feet to achieve the effect of slimming the legs!
Within 10–15 minutes of putting my feet into the foot bath barrel, I started sweating. It facilitates blood circulation and helps with full body metabolism. And I sleep really really well after having steamed foot bath every night. I recommended this to a friend with acne skin and she came back to me within a month and said that this steamed foot bath detox method helps her clear the majority of her acne fast!
Once I had a fever and I took a day off work and stayed at home with nothing to do. So I decided to take a steamed foot bath while watching a TV drama. And the foot bath and sweating out, I was already feeling a lot better without taking any medication.
I have spoken with a Chinese medical doctor friend who advised me that this detoxing method is actually based on the acupuncture theory. The sole of the feet has a number of acupuncture points and by steaming the feet, it stimulates those acupuncture points which helps full body blood circulation and increases metabolism to boost the healing process and helps to get rid of toxins in the body.
This is a totally natural way to detox with ease at home while we can be reading books or just sitting on the sofa after work. And it is doable even during pregnancy, or illness or for different skin conditions so definitely try it out.
Menstrual cramps and period pain can be insufferable and incapacitating. And if you experience severe pain like me, we need to take better care of ourselves and our bodies. There are natural ways to reduce inflammation and promote healthy circulation so do try them out.
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