The most common treatment for menstrual pain is the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Although these drugs can be effective for many women at reducing pain, they come with a number of side effects. This is why more and more women are looking for safe and effective natural treatments to help relieve painful periods.
Diet and nutrition
A healthy diet is essential in the treatment of dysmenorrhea. Many women experience relief from menstrual cramps just by switching to healthier nutritional habits. Firstly, it is important to decrease the intake of foods that may be contributing to the actual condition.
Reduce omega-6 fatty acids
In the case of dysmenorrhea, eliminating foods high in arachidonic acid is often the key to dealing with the pain. Arachidonic acid is derived from omega-6 fatty acids and is used to synthesize pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (specifically PGE2), which increase inflammation within the body.
Menstrual pain is believed to be associated with an elevated level of PGE2 prostaglandins, especially within the uterine wall. Animal products such as dairy, pork, beef, chicken, turkey, and lamb are all high in arachidonic acid, so try to limit intake of these foods, especially around the time of menstruation.
Increase omega-3 fatty acids
Another way to decrease PGE2 prostaglandins is by increasing intake of foods high in omega-3 such as salmon, sardines, tuna, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids are used to synthesize “good” prostaglandins (PGE1 and PGE3), which are anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic.
A fish oil supplement high in omega-3 would be a good addition along with dietary changes to decrease menstrual pain. Studies have found that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids can be effective in alleviating symptoms of dysmenorrhea such as abdominal pain and low back pain.
An important mineral, magnesium has also been shown to be effective in reducing menstrual pain. This is most likely due to its ability to act as a muscle relaxant, thereby relieving the spasms of the uterine muscles which can lead to menstrual cramps.
Stay tuned next week when I will discuss how different naturopathic modaltties can help with painful periods!
- Dr. Lesley