Are you dreading the start of your period every month? Menstrual cramps are normal, but for some of us girls – normal is very painful! The good news is that there are many ways to make your period more comfortable and the pain manageable.
Too much inflammation in the body leads to menstrual cramps, excessive bleeding, irregular menses, PMS, and breast tenderness. The key to controlling the inflammation is through your diet, since more than 85% of your immune system is derived from your digestive tract. We’ve put together a guide to show you how you can lessen your menstrual symptoms.
Ways to Keep Menstrual Symptoms at Bay
- Stay hydrated. Drink lemon, ginger, and ½ teaspoon of turmeric mixed in warm water every thirty minutes throughout the day.
- Eat warm, cooked, whole foods throughout the day. These include a variety of dark leafy green vegetables, legumes (i.e. lentils, moong dal, and split peas), and unrefined whole grains (i.e. millet, buckwheat, quinoa, barley, and brown rice). Focus on having mostly plant protein (a.k.a., all whole foods except fruit) which are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, the real immune boosters.
- Sauté or steam food with a touch of olive, avocado, coconut, or flax oil. Alternatively, cover food with pre-soaked chia, hemp, or flax seeds, or add an avocado to your meal. These oils help you to absorb nutrients effectively.
- Eat a warm meal within one hour of awakening. Have lunch three to four hours later. Try to eat on a regular schedule and consume most of your day’s food before 6 p.m.
- Make sure you have prepared food available to you instead of waiting until you are hungry to search for food.
- Try to go to sleep before 10 p.m. To do so, relax and avoid electronics 2 hours before bedtime. Getting sufficient quality sleep every night, and going to bed and awakening at the same time every day is critical to maintaining a strong immune system.
- Be physically active for at least one hour each day. If you can’t find time to exercise, just focus on practicing deep breathing exercises for one minute every hour, along with 15 minutes upon awakening and before bedtime. Breathing deeply relaxes our body and mind and help keeping our immune system stronger.
- Place a hot water bottle on your abdomen or lower back where you experience pain. Alternatively, you can take a warm bath full of 2 cups of Epsom salt and a pinch of baking soda to relax the muscles and improve blood flow.
Foods Which Hurt the Immune System
Try to avoid the following foods:
Refined sugar and flour products such as baked goods, sweets, candy, chips, fruit juice, and Vitamin Water.
Processed foods, including dry cereal, granola or protein bars, chips, crackers, and ready-to-eat dry or frozen meals.
Caffeine such as coffee, black or iced tea, caffeinated green tea, chai, chocolate, hot chocolate, soda, and energy drinks.
Dairy products like milk, sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt, and ice cream.
Avoid animal protein and wheat at night.
Supplements to Reduce Menstrual Symptoms
Supplements may help relieve menstrual cramps. Here are some supplements you can try out:
- Drink herbal tea like raspberry, nettle leaf, and spearmint leaf throughout the day. In the evening, drink Chamomile, Valerian, or Lemon Balm tea mixed with magnesium powder 300 mg with Melatonin 0.5-1 mg two hours before bedtime.
- Take a refrigerated fish oil supplement with your largest meal. It should contain 800 mg to 1,200 mg of EPA, and 400 to 800 mg of DHA. Alternatively, take refrigerated flaxseed oil 2,000 mg per day.
- Try Chasteberry 500 mg to 1,000 mg daily for at least three months.
If these steps don’t relieve your pain, or you experience excessive cramps that last for more than two to three days, your menstrual cramps may not be normal, and it may be time to visit your healthcare provider.
About the Author
Payal Bhandari M.D. is a holistic family physician at her practice, Advanced Health. She provides personalized, comprehensive primary care to families and individuals of all ages in San Francisco since 2005. Her integrative style blends the best in western and eastern medicine to effectively transform health.