PMS symptoms often arrive with creeping exhaustion, a dull feeling that can progress into painful cramps for 1, 2 or even 5 days. If you’re a woman to suffer from strong menstrual cramps, you know the shocking agony of their onset.
For most women menstrual cramps are simply a nuisance, for some they require planning, and for almost all, they are a sign of a hormonal imbalance. Your doctor will call this dysmenorrhea, which literally means ‘difficult menstruation’. The pain might come and go, extend to the legs and lower back, and is often accompanied by bowel changes, headache, and nausea. Ah… hormones.
Am I right?
Imbalanced hormones create an excessive amount of inflammation and can be debilitating, forcing a menstruating woman into bed for several days. Pain medications will suppress the pain, oral contraceptives may change the hormone balance, but neither will ever correct the problem.
As a naturopath, I’m often awed by the effectiveness of herbal and nutritional medicine, and it’s in women’s health that it shows the most magic and the most need. We may imagine that in ancient times women didn’t suffer from menstrual cramps, ovarian cysts or endometriosis, but this isn’t true.
Although modern lifestyles can suppress our reproductive health, naturopathy has been used for centuries to treat these same conditions with great efficacy.
Most of us have heard that diet and exercise will benefit our hormone balance and inflammatory response, and I agree – sugar balance, low caffeine, and routine exercise are the three most important things to consider for wellness in general. Today, I wanted to share strategies that I use for dysmenorrhea once they are actively making diet and lifestyle changes.
The key to really solving the issue is to:
- Moderate hormone levels,
- Reduce muscular tension
- Ensure each menstruation is effective
Here are my three
1. Take a daily herbal tincture
Tinctures are alcoholic extracts of single or multiple herbs. They are typically sold in dilutions of 1 part herb to 4 parts alcohol, and they almost always taste terrible. But just like
This combination below contains 4 tinctures that are easy to find in a good health food store, from a naturopathic doctor, herbalist or online. Just be sure to select the exact herb and the right herb parts.
- 2 part Motherwort (Leonorus
cardiaca, leaf), tones muscles of the uterus, relieves spasms and relaxes the nervous system.
- 2 part licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra, root) increases vitality
- 2 part dong
quai(Angelica sinensis, root) balances sex hormones, relieves spasms
- 1 part
oregongrape (Mahonia aquifolium, bark) hepatic bitter to promote liver detox of hormones and choleretic to increase hormonal excretion via bile bowel axis
- Take 3ml up to three times daily. Tinctures keep very well on the shelf, although some people prefer them cold. Keep them away from the light by storing them in an amber glass bottle.
2. Take a calcium & magnesium supplement.
These two minerals determine how strong a muscle can contract and how much it will extend at rest. When they are out of balance, the uterus struggles to control the strength and length of contractions that expel menstrual blood.
The level of calcium in the blood drops for more than a week before menses, and low levels can contribute to muscle cramps, headaches, and mood changes with PMS. So all month long, make sure you’re diet includes sources of calcium and magnesium like dark green veggies, sesame seeds, tahini, and yogurt.
Supplementing is generally considered safe, although I would recommend taking these minerals with a stomach full of food. C
Your grocery store likely carries one that’s perfectly fine, and I recommend choosing a capsule or a liquid to avoid the fillers, dyes, and binders that tablets contain. You’ll notice that the dosage of calcium will likely be twice the dosage of magnesium, which matches the bodies needs. My favorite brands use the citrate form of both minerals – so the ingredients will read ‘calcium citrate’ and ‘magnesium citrate’.