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My toolkit for coping with menstrual pain, naturally.

January 8, 2018

 

 

 

Urgh, is this not the worst thing? Every month we women spend one week leading into our periods feeling bloated, lethargic, unattractive, swollen and moody. Only to roll into the next week with a day (or more) of severe pain, cramping and discomfort and then five or so days of feeling like we’d prefer to hibernate than be in public while our bodies ‘do their thing’ aka bleed.

 

This is not the most delightful topic for many, but I think we need to open the dialogue about female menstruation and all the issues that can come along with it! I hope some men will take the time to read this too, in order to better understand their partners, sisters, mothers and the women in their workplace. As a naturopath but more so as a woman, I understand the difficulties for women who suffer from dysmenorrhea (extremely painful periods) because I am one of them.

 

Yes, a naturopath who experiences pain too. I get it. It’s awful… but over the last 2-3 years I have managed to develop my very own toolkit of amazing products, practices and supplements that have helped me manage my symptoms while I get to the bottom of what the real cause is (more on this later).  

 

Symptoms of dysmenorrhea include but are not limited to:

  • Cramping and spasming of the pelvis

  • Cyclic pain (pain that is synced with your bleed)

  • Sharp or throbbing lower pelvic pain

  • Nausea associated with the pain

  • Vomiting associated with the pain

  • Diarrhea or IBS before or after the cramping

  • Back aches associated with the pain

  • Throbbing or tingling legs

 

Dysmenorrhea can be caused by a multitude of conditions many of which are linked to one another, including:

 

If you experience some, or all of these symptoms and you’re not currently seeing someone, know that you can absolutely remedy this situation. If you’d like to book in a face-to-face or skype consultation with me go here. Alternatively find a great naturopath near you to help alleviate your pain and discomfort.  

 

Now onto the good stuff.

 

THE REMEDY KITCHEN PERIOD PAIN TOOLKIT

 

I really encourage you to try this plan out for a minimum of TWO cycles and see if you notice any changes. I certainly did.

 

Lifestyle tips:

  • Eliminate coffee. Either completely or if that’s too hard eliminate opt for seven seven days leading up to your bleed. Many symptoms related to dysmenorrhea stem from hormonal imbalances. Our liver is the superpower of the body. When we overload it with toxins like coffee, alcohol, pesticides etc it is unable to efficiently eliminate excess hormones, and instead recycles them back into the bloodstream. This is where things get a bit wobbly.

 

  • Eliminate refined carbohydrates and sugar. Aim for a minimum of seven days leading up to your bleed. PCOS is a hormonal and insulin related condition. Through eliminating foods that can spike insulin and affect blood sugar you’re giving your body a better chance of managing your mood and hormones.

 

  • Eat organic foods wherever possible. This may not be entirely achievable for many, but know that pesticides and herbicides are proven to be endocrine disruptors when ingested. Eliminating these chemicals will allow your liver to focus on the important stuff - clearing excess hormones. If you can’t go organic, thoroughly wash your vegetables and/or soak in water with apple cider vinegar before storing in the fridge.

 

  • Exercise daily whether it be a light walk/jog, yoga or a cardio class prior to your bleed. Listen to what works for you. Studies have shown that exercise is a great tool for managing dysmenorrhea but not in all cases. My message here is not to push your body beyond your limits. Go gently and treat it as a period management tool not a weight loss tool.

 

  • Get out that heat pack: This might be obvious but resting a heat pack or hot water bottle on the painful areas often relieves symptoms as it allows your spasming muscles to relax.

 

  • Drink herbals teas: While in the thick of the pain I highly recommend you take your mind off it with a steeped herbal tea. Opt for warming and calming blends with chamomile, ginger, cramp bark and valerian.

 

Dose up on the good stuff:

  • Magnesium: Take 800-1200 mg magnesium glycinate daily for 2-4 days before your period starts, and for the first 1-2 days of your period then drop back to 400mg. Magnesium is required for over 300 reactions in the body, it’s especially brilliant as a muscle relaxant and a cofactor in the production of glutathione (needed for liver detoxification).

 

  • B-Vitamins: Take an activated B-Vitamin complex. Studies have found that B6 significantly reduces symptoms of dysmenorrhoea especially when taken in conjunction with magnesium.

 

  • Make an essential oil rub: Try rubbing clary sage essential oil (mixed with fractionated coconut oil) over the crampy areas of your body.  

 

  • Take a bath:  Place clary sage, lavender and roman chamomile (in essential oil form) in a tablespoon of coconut oil and mix into a cup of Epsom salts and tip into the bath. Soak for up to 40 minutes to get the full effects. Do this daily if desired. Blame it on me if need be!

 

Check out these resources:

  • Lara Briden: She’s an absolute expert in period management and all conditions associated with female hormone health. I’ve learnt a lot from her!

 

  • Dr Libby Weaver: Another incredible resource, not just for female hormone health but also for conditions and lifestyle issues related to women with chronic stress, weight management, sleep and much more.

 

  • Claire Baker: I came across this gem when she was on my friend’s podcast and boy was I impressed. I have never heard a woman talk so candidly and comfortably about her period. She’s really doing something differently and opening up the dialogue, which is exactly what we need! I recommend you find her on instagram and follow her journey. She gives regular updates on her cycle (the good and the bad). It’s a great way to understand and connect with your own cycle.

 

Track your symptoms:

  • This one’s a biggie and one we often miss. So many women are unaware of their cycles. Whenever I have a client or friend tell me about their menstrual pain or general period issues I always tell them to start tracking it. Using an app like Clue or Period Tracker allows you to find patterns in your cycle like the duration, the onset and types of pain, PMS, ovulation, fertility, methods of contraception and even the days you’ve had intercourse. After 3-4 months you’ll be able to identify key issues and your practitioner will have a much better indication of what may be happening for you hormonally.

 

So there we go my friends. While this list is extensive, there is so much more you can do! My advice is to give these suggestions a go for 2-3 months a look for any changes. If you need any help don’t hesitate to book in an appointment or contact me in the comments below.

 

Steph x

 

 

 

 

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