As common as it may be, there still aren’t many well-known natural fixes for period pain.
Sure we talk about diet and exercise (and we’re going to talk about them here too), but what about the natural medicines? Sometimes eating well and working out just don’t cut it; the herbal cures and supplements mentioned below can help. Important disclaimer: just because these medicines are “natural” doesn’t mean you should take them without letting your doctor know. If your doctor asks if you are taking any medication, mention everything, herbal or otherwise.
Supplements and Herbal Remedies
If you, like me, get sick of having to re-up on Advil every time your period comes around, you may want to look into supplements and herbal remedies. Calcium, as mentioned below, is proven to help reduce the physical discomfort and emotional symptoms associated with PMS. Vitamin E and essential fatty acids are also key. Both work with prostaglandins, which are the hormones that may cause cramps and other forms of period pain. You can get your Vitamin E through most multivitamins, and a fish-oil capsule will provide you those essential fatty acids.
A lesser-known herbal remedy is chasteberry extract. Chasteberry is a plant found in southern Europe and central Asia that allegedly helps ease cramping and breast pain. Chasteberry soothes breast pain by preventing the release of prolactin, a hormone in breast milk. It is also thought to aid in reducing depressive symptoms during PMS when used in conjunction with St. John’s wort. St. John’s wort is often heralded as a natural remedy for non-PMS-related depression, but its effects are similar in aiding menstrual symptoms.
Evening primrose oil is another natural treatment for PMS woes. While its efficacy has not been medically proven, some say it decreases breast pain, cramps, and anxiety. Gingko biloba, taken in the form of gingko supplements, can also help fight cramps and PMS-related mood swings.
As easy it is to fall down a slippery slope of binge-eating chocolate (and chips, and salt, and candy, and…), turns out those things aren’t very good for you during your period. It’s fine to indulge in some cravings — you’re shedding your uterine lining; you deserve a treat. However, if you really want to ease PMS and menstrual symptoms, try to incorporate complex carbohydrates, “such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains” into your diet. It’s also important to get your calcium, whether through supplements or regular dairy products. Now that you know the foods you should be eating before and during your period, let’s talk about the foods that can worsen PMS symptoms. If you typically feel bloated before or during your period, try to cut down your salt intake at least a week before your period is expected to begin. It’s also best to avoid processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
While working out may be the last thing on your mind when cramps strike, exercise is a proven mood booster. If emotional symptoms are what usually get you down before and during your period, try incorporating “at least 30 minutes” of exercise into your daily routine.
Those of us who suffer from bad PMS symptoms shouldn’t have to dread our periods every single month. These natural treatments can work well alone or in conjunction with over-the-counter pain relief medicine to help make a monthly occurrence significantly more bearable.