It’s that time of the month again, and all you feel like doing is taking to your bed with a hot water bottle and some ibuprofen. Instead of (or as well as!) painkillers, here are 10 natural remedies for period pain every women deserves to know.
1) Natural diuretics
When you’re on your period raised levels of sex hormone cause your cells to retain fluid, resulting in that sore, bloated feeling we all know and hate. Natural diuretics like pineapples, peaches and ginger encourage water to pass smoothly through the body, and can help ease painful bloating. Plus, they’re delicious. Make sure you don’t dehydrate yourself though, because…
That’s right — staying hydrated on your period is one of the more vital natural remedies for period pain. The less you drink the more water your cells retain, worsening bloating, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. This is especially crucial if you’re eating salty foods, because sodium can make cramps worse.
3) Leafy greens
There is no end to the ways in which eating leafy greens can do you good. Aside from all their other health benefits they’re rich in calcium and magnesium, which relax your muscles and provide a natural cure for cramping. If you’re not a fan of greens, whip up a spinach and kale smoothie — adding strongly flavoured fruit juices (like those pineapples I mentioned earlier!) will mask the taste. And while we’re talking fruit…
Papaya contains a wonder enzyme called papain, which helps with period pain in three different ways. Firstly, it breaks down proteins, thus easing your menstrual flow. Secondly, it boosts digestion — another way of targeting bloat. And finally, its powerful anti-inflammatory effects make it a brilliant natural painkiller. Basically, this fruit is God’s gift to menstruating women!
When you’re PMSing, there’s often nothing more tempting than starch. Unfortunately most carbs increase oestrogen by raising your blood sugar levels, which can make cramps much worse. Swap the white bread and pasta for wholegrain carbs — a big bowl of porridge will satisfy those cravings while giving your digestive system a helping hand!
6) Nuts and seeds
Omega 3 and manganese are natural painkillers, and walnuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds are full of them. Snacking on a handful of nuts and seeds while you’re on your period will do you the world of good. Their ability to get rid of sugar cravings mean that, like wholegrains, they’re good substitutes for oestrogen-raising sugars and starches.
7) Almond milk
Dairy is one of those food groups that you should avoid at all costs while menstruating — it makes digestion difficult, increasing bloating, and if you already suffer from constipation or diarrhoea on your period, milk will make it worse. Having already discussed the benefits of almonds as a natural remedy for period pain, it makes sense to substitute cow’s milk for almond milk during your period.
8) Dark chocolate
Ordinary chocolate (with its high levels of sugar and hard-to-digest milk) is a no-no, but dark chocolate will raise your serotonin levels, which helps with pain and also has the pleasant side effect of improving your mood. The more cocoa, the better — make sure it’s at least 80%, ideally even stronger.
Exercise releases endorphins, which are great at reducing period pain, and some postures (like the Bow) actively help to relax cramping muscles. Most yoga teachers advise against doing strenuous practice for the first three days of your cycle, but a gentle workout will give you all these benefits and increase blood flow as well. It’s best to avoid inversions, though.
Swimming is another one of the great natural remedies for period pain because like yoga, it works to relax all the muscles that cause cramps. For those who are self-conscious about swimming while on your period — don’t worry! Swimming in cold water is also known to reduce your flow, as blood vessels narrow in response to lower temperatures. Water pressure also helps to prevent blood from escaping, so provided you’re wearing a tampon or menstrual cup, you’ll be fine.