Cramps are the absolute worst, right?
If you have dull, aching, uncomfortable pain during your period, you may have just accepted that it’s a regular part of being a woman, and pull out the heating pad, ibuprofen, and chocolate once a month. But did you know that a healthy period can be pain-free?
Your menstrual cycle is the result of a complex interaction between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the ovaries, which all work together as a unit sending messages to each other via hormones. Your hormonal cycles connect your mind to your body, giving you signals from within to guide you. When you understand the strengths of each part of your cycle, you can respect them and use them to your best advantage.
In other words, if your hormones are balanced and your body and mind are in sync, you can eliminate period pain altogether.
Before we dive in to my recommendations, let’s talk about what’s actually happening during your period, and what’s going wrong when you experience painful cramping.
Your menstrual cycle is orchestrated by your endocrine system, and the duration of your cycle can be divided into four main phases:
Menstrual Phase: This phase begins on the first day of menstruation and continues until the last day of bleeding. The uterus contracts to shed its inner lining of soft tissue and blood vessels (endometrium), which exit your body from the vagina in the form of menstrual fluid.
Follicular Phase: This phase begins on the first day of menstruation, but it continues until just before ovulation. The hypothalamus secretes GnRH (Gonadotropin-releasing hormone), which signals the pituitary gland to release FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone), initiating follicular development in the ovary. While they are developing, the follicles produce estrogen, which stimulates the endometrium (uterine lining) to grow in preparation for the implantation of a fertilized egg.
Ovulation Phase: Near the 14th day of the cycle, the pituitary gland secretes GnRH from the hypothalamus, signaling a surge of LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH to trigger the release of the egg.
Luteal Phase: This phase begins after ovulation and continues until the first day of bleeding. The egg released during ovulation stays in the fallopian tube for 24 hours. The corpus luteum (a special hormone-secreting body that’s formed in the ovary during ovulation) begins to secrete progesterone and estrogen. If fertilization does not occur, the reduction of these hormones causes the endometrium to shed (menstruation). When estrogen reaches a low enough point, the hypothalamus releases GnRH and the cycle starts all over again.
Period pain happens during the shedding of the endometrium, when the uterus contracts to expel its lining. The contracting of the uterine muscles is triggered by hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. Instead of being released by a gland like other hormones, prostaglandins are created in a chemical process all over the body that is a result of injury or illness. Specifically, prostaglandins cause inflammation, pain, and even fever, all as part of the healing process. Prostaglandins involved in the female reproductive process are responsible not only for expelling the endometrium, but also for contractions during labor.
Because prostaglandins are an integral part of the delicate balance of hormones that ebb and flow during your cycle, the first and best way to eliminate period pain is to make sure your hormones are in balance.
Second, because prostaglandins cause inflammation, you can address period pain by naturally reducing inflammation in the body.
So how do you go about balancing hormones and reducing inflammation? There are plenty of changes you can make, starting today, in your eating habits and lifestyle that can make a dramatic difference in menstrual pain.
Begin by eliminating the foods that cause inflammation and increase estrogen in the body. Cut all of the following out of your diet:
You’ll also want to ADD IN lots of these anti-inflammatory & liver supporting foods:
Magnesium-rich foods also help soothe the uterus and reduce pain, so eat plenty of the following:
In addition, you can reduce inflammation and regulate hormone production with healthy fats, like:
A study by the University of Western Ontario found that fish oil containing two specific compounds, EPA, and DHA, can relieve pain by decreasing levels of prostaglandin E2.
This combination of calcium and magnesium helps the liver more efficiently metabolize hormones, and prevents spasms/tension in your muscles. Magnesium helps keep adrenal stress hormones under control too. Magnesium also helps keep the bowels regular by maintaining bowel muscle function, which can also ease menstrual pain.
DIM-Evail is a compound that helps to support healthy estrogen metabolism. DIM balances the hormones by breaking down estrogen and removing it from the body.
Inflammatone contains a blend of proteolytic enzymes that bring proper circulation to the reproductive system and get the “stagnant blood” cleared out, bringing fresh oxygenated blood to your uterus and ovaries which can be very helpful in reducing menstrual pain.
Vitamin D has been found in studies to help reduce menstrual pain, and because many women have a Vitamin D deficiency, this is an important supplement to take for overall wellness.
Remember how we talked about your mind and body being in sync? When your menstrual cycle is out of balance and you’re experiencing menstrual cramps, your body is trying to tell you something, and there’s a good chance it’s telling you it’s stressed out!
The truth is that there’s no way to eliminate stress from your life completely, but there are ways to manage it. The best method is to indulge in healthy activities that relax you and bring your unique soul pleasure. Some of my personal favorite tools are restorative yoga, long slow walks in nature, biofeedback, hot baths, and massage, but you will need to find the best techniques that work for you. Commit to doing one thing every day that makes you feel calm and content, even if it’s just for ten or fifteen minutes.
Filter Your Water
Tap water contains a high amount of residual estrogens from all the millions of women on hormonal birth control, so it’s important to make sure you’re using a high quality water filter that gets rid of fluoride, estrogens, dioxins (chemicals that act as xenoestrogens in the body), heavy metals and pesticides. The AquaCera HCP Countertop Filter System is one of my favorites! It mounts directly to your kitchen faucet and the filter lasts a family of four an entire year. If your kitchen faucet is not compatible, the Berkey Countertop Filter is the best.
Avoid Xenoestrogens (Estrogen-Mimicking Chemicals)
Toxic hormone-disrupting chemicals are everywhere. A key to eliminating period pain is to reduce your exposure as much as possible. Check out this blog post and my Shop My Home page to find the cleanest cosmetics, sunscreens, personal care products, house cleaners, and everything else. Here are some other tips to reduce xenoestrogen exposure:
Exercise boosts production of endorphins, anti-inflammatory chemicals, improves estrogen metabolism via the liver, and burns fat. Less fat = less estrogen = less pain! Thirty to sixty minutes of daily, low impact movement like yoga, swimming, hiking, etc. will increase circulation to your reproductive organs, help rid your body of toxins, and improve your overall physical and mental health.
A Castor Oil Pack is a cloth soaked in castor oil which is placed on the skin to enhance circulation and promote healing of the tissues and organs underneath the skin.
To make a castor oil pack, you’ll need unrefined castor oil, plastic wrap (a piece large enough to wrap around your entire abdomen), an old white cotton t-shirt, pillowcase or piece of flannel fabric (preferably organic and large enough to cover your abdomen), a hot water bottle, an old sheet or towel, and lavender essential oil (optional).
Here’s what to do:
Store the pack in your fridge in an air-tight container. Reuse the oil and pack several times. Add more oil as needed to keep the pack well saturated. Replace the pack after it begins to change color. This may occur in days, weeks, or months. The castor oil pack will be most effective when left on for 60-90 minutes and done for 4 or 5 consecutive days per week. Don’t use castor oil therapy while menstruating, and if you’re actively trying to conceive, wait until after ovulation to resume therapy.
It’s no coincidence that the length of our menstrual cycles are about the same as the waxing and waning of the moon, occurring every 28 days on average. Before industrialism, light pollution, and processed foods disrupted traditional cultures, women ovulated at the full moon and menstruated at the new moon. This is every woman’s intrinsic default setting. Lunaception is the act of syncing your cycle to the moon, therefore encouraging regular menstrual cycles. I believe every woman should align her cycle with the moon, but it can be particularly helpful if you have irregular and/or painful cycles.
So how do you sync your cycle to the moon? You’ll sleep in complete darkness from the beginning of your cycle until day 12. On days 13, 14 and 15, use a dim night-light to sleep, or even better, google the moon cycles and base your “nightlight” nights on the day before, the day of, and the day after the full moon. If you have a bedroom window that faces the full moon, you can open your curtains to experience natural moonlight. The rest of the month, sleep in total darkness (use an eye mask if necessary!) After a few cycles, you should find that you ovulate at the full moon and menstruate at the new moon.
I want to hear from you—leave me a comment below and we can continue the conversation!
What natural remedies have you tried for cramps? What’s worked for you?
How has menstrual pain affected your lifestyle?
Spread some positive period lovin’! I bet you have some friends who would love to read this too :).
Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about how to achieve pain-free periods? Schedule a consultation with me!