Menstruation or period cramps are something the majority of people who menstruate can relate to. They can literally be a pain in your back. You may even experience dysmenorrhea, which is severe pain related to period cramps. Regardless of how intense your period cramps are, there are some natural ways that may help to improve your experience. Let's explore some movements, body positions, breathing techniques and nutrition remedies for cramps.
What Causes Period Cramps?
During your menstruation phase of your period cycle, a hormone like (substance) is release called Prostaglandins, which trigger the muscle of the uterus to contract and relax to help release the lining. These involuntary muscle contractions of the abdominal wall create the cramping sensation. Higher levels of prostaglandins have been associated with more severe cramping. Normally period cramps start 1-2 days before starting your period. With this in mind, it can be helpful to track your cycle so you can be proactive with some of these natural remedies for reducing cramps before you reach the few days before you predict those cramps will occur.
Proactive Planning For Periods
When it comes to optimizing your health, getting ahead of the problem with natural wellness practice can help decrease discomfort during your time of the month. Some ways to be proactive with natural remedies include:
- Movement- practicing specific positions before you get your period have been linked with less painful periods
- Nutrition - Seeds and micronutrients, magnesium, and foods that promote a healthy uterus lining.
- Self-care - more fun, more endorphins, and positive prescription can flip the script on your period cramps.
Yoga Positions for Better Periods
You don’t have to be a master yogi to get the period benefits of these positions. One research study found, doing 20 minutes of yoga per day during the luteal phase of your menstruation cycle (14 days after the first day of your period) may help reduce pain during your next period. These specific positions that the participants performed to get these benefits included:
If adding 20 minutes of yoga into your routine doesn’t feel realistic right now, start with blocking off 5 minutes and trying out some of these poses. You can only benefit from stretching and moving your body into these positions which lengthen your abdominal and back muscles to help increase blood flow and decrease build up of prostaglandins.
Movements for Mild Cramps
Yoga is not the only form of movement that is recommended during your menstruation phase. Other forms of movement to prioritize during this phase of your cycle includes; pilates, low intensity cardio, swimming, slow bike ride.
If you are interested in learning more about the best types of exercise to do based on your current phase in your cycle, check out this blog article. Pairing your workouts based on the fluctuating hormones and energy levels may also help with decreasing cramps during your menstruation cramps. Yes, this is also your reason for taking it easy during your luteal phase!
Is it possible to eat foods to help reduce period cramps? Foods that increase inflammation may increase the release of that period pain hormone prostaglandins. Remember, higher levels of prostaglandins may be correlated with more severe period cramps. While there may not be foods you can eat in the moment that make period cramps disappear, there may be foods you want to be mindful of that could be increasing overall inflammation. Good news is there are foods you can increase in your diet that have anti-inflammatory properties.
Did you know your nutrition and health habits can impact your cycle 3 months later. So the foods you eat now, the exercise you perform now, is helping your future self in the next season. Take a peak at these inflammatory and anti-inflammatory food list to help with your meal planning and next grocery trip!
Foods to Boost for Better Period
The nutrients that may have anti-inflammatory properties and the ones you definitely want to include in your food choices as a period cramp remedy and everyday staples include:
- Omega-3’s = olive oils, fatty fish (sardines, anchovies, mackerel), walnuts
- Legumes = lentils, garbanzo beans
- Herbs/Spices = Turmeric, Chamomile, Dill
- GG = fresh ginger and garlic
Along with these anti-inflammatory foods, there are other micronutrients that you can focus on including to help reduce other muscle cramps you may experience during your period.
Potassium for Positive Period
Since the pain from period cramps is coming from the contracting of the uterus lining. Just like other muscle cramps, adequate intake of potassium may help to reduce the strain on your other muscles that are connected to the abdominal wall, such as lower back muscles. If you notice your lower back also leaves strained and tense during your period days, this is not uncommon. Along with those yoga poses that help to relive, make sure you are including potassium rich foods such as Avocado, Dates, Bananas, Spinach, Beans, and Broccoli!
Foods Adding to Cramp Pain
Some high inflammatory nutrients and foods that increase bloating may be linked with severe period cramps include:
- Highly processed foods with refined oils and added sugar
- Caffeine (coffee may be a culprit of cramps)
- Meat (low quality, fried, meat byproducts)
These foods are not bad foods, however if you are looking for a holistic approach to decreasing severity of period cramps you may want to test out reducing portions of these foods to see if you notice a difference in period cramp pain during your next cycle. Chat with Vessel’s Nutritionist's for some period boosting and cramp reducing recipes!
Along with certain foods, there many be specific nutrients that help to support hormonal balance for a healthier period. This practice involves eating specific seeds that support the nutritional needs you need the most during different phases of your period. You consume one tablespoon of each seed, the first half of your cycle (days 1-14), include ground flax seed and pumpkin seeds. Then the last half of your cycle (days 15 - 28) include raw ground sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. The specific nutrients these seeds provide and how they may help reduce period symptoms include:
- Flax Seed
- Pumpkin Seed
- Sesame Seed
- Sunflower Seed
Best practices to get the most out of your seeds, quality and form matters, to get the most benefits of these seeds, grind fresh as needed, store in the refrigerator/freeze to prevent oxidation, and find a quality source for your seeds! To learn more on seed cycling, check out this resource.
Caring for your mental health and doing things for yourself that bring you joy during the most intense days of your period cramps may help to decrease perception of period cramp severity. Positivity and expecting a positive outcome, may actually reduce the amount of pain you experience. What brings you joy? What makes you laugh? Plan a self care day and make time for that stress relieving morning or evening routine. Journal some things you're grateful for to promote the sense of gratitude. Anything that works to increase your positivity and shift your perception so you're not dreading your period, might be the most accessible and easiest remedy for period cramps.
Conclusion on Cramps
The conclusion is you don’t have to suffer each month due to period cramps! The burden of period cramps can impact your whole day or even a few days each month. Test out these different holistic remedies for reducing menstruation cramps to find what works best for you. If you are looking for further help with creating a plan to start incorporating these foods into your meal plan or making time for movement to support your cycle, Vessel has live chat with their team of nutrition coaches included with your wellness card subscription. Improving your health and wellness can be a confusing landscape to navigate, however you don’t have to do it alone or without helpful tools like Vessel’s urinary wellness test. Start with Vessel today!
Sydney Mulroy See all the author’s articles