For some women, awaiting periods each month is like getting ready to go to war with their bodies. Period cramps and complications can be unbelievably painful and lead to days of painkillers and debilitation.
1 in 10 women suffer from endometriosis, commonly known as ‘endo’. It is caused when the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows on the outside. This leads to internal bleeding when it comes to period time, and because the tissue can’t leave the body, cysts can develop. Some symptoms of endo include very painful periods, bloating, nausea, chronic pain and more.
Even if (fortunately) you may not be diagnosed with endo, you may still suffer from cramps, bloating, PMS, headaches and other period-related issues. You may be thinking there is nothing you can do about it other than popping a pill to help ease the discomfort, but there are some natural remedies to reducing period pain during and before you start bleeding.
Foods to eat
Sweet potato is your friend! These orange root veggies are filled with natural sugars and fiber. Sweet potatoes have been known to help with PSM symptoms like irritability, so if you know you may take it out on your partner or roomy when they get home, make some homemade sweet potato fries or roast in for a salad with some kale and beets. Hopefully this dose of natural sugars helps calm your shitty mood.
Leafy greens will give your body a magnesium boost, which can help ease cramps and bloating. You could toss up a green salad, make some garlic morning glory or blend a nutritious green smoothie. If you need an iron boost due to blood loss, legumes and beans are a great way to restore the iron levels in the body if you want a veggie alternative. Nachos, minestrone soup and bean chilli are all great, wholesome meals to help your belly.
There are some really helpful poses you can put your body in to help give you some relief on your moon days. Not only do they feel amazing, but they help calm the mind and keep you feeling present and grounded.
Child’s pose is a lovely one to help relieve stomach pain. Relax the stomach and take big deep breaths, allow the head and neck to be heavy and gently stretch out the lower back and shoulders, and top of the thighs. Take your knees wider until you feel a subtle stretch and just release into the floor. Other beneficial poses include Supta Baddha Konasana (reclining bound angle pose), legs-up-the-wall, and Supta Virasana (laying down-hero pose). Use bolsters or pillows to support yourself in the poses and try to stay in them for at least 10 minutes while focusing on the breath.
Cool tip - Try poses with Yoni eggs to really strengthen your pelvic floor!
Hot water bottles, heat packs or cramp tens device
If you’ve never tried it before, applying warmth on a bloated, sore belly feels delicious. A scientist from University College London reported that, “The pain of colic, cystitis and period pain is caused by a temporary reduction in blood flow to, or over-distension of, hollow organs such as the bowel or uterus. The heat doesn’t just provide comfort and have a placebo effect - it actually deactivates the pain at a molecular level in much the same way as pharmaceutical painkillers work.”
The other (not natural) treatment is a small tens device, which works by sending small electronic signal to block the nerves around our lower abdomen and instantly relieve the pain.
So before you turn to your trusted pills, why not microwave a heat bag or place your tens machine on first, lay down with your favourite Netflix binge and let them work their magic.
Women lose blood during this time, we’re worn out and everything feels heavy and all too much. Our bodies are telling us something and we need to listen: Rest. In our western world, not many people are good at resting, or not doing much. We are constantly doing, planning, occupying our minds.
When we are ‘cleaning out the house’ on our periods, we should try to tap into listening to what we need. Spend an afternoon reading a book, have a warm bath with essential oils, don’t go to social things you don’t really want to, listen to music or take a nap. These things will help replenish our energy and fill us up again. If we keep pushing through, our symptoms may even worsen and we will feel depleted in all aspects of our lives. Focus on wholesome rest and make sure you give yourself the opportunity to refill.
You can help reduce period pain and PMS with special herb remedies that women have been using for hundreds of years. Taking them leading up to periods can help reduce the intensity of the discomfort, as herbs do not just work as a quick fix. Magnesium deficiency can be linked to PMS, so taking magnesium supplements can help manage your moods.
Chinese medicine such as corydalis is commonly used to reduce inflammation, along with ginger, fennel and chaste berry. Chaste berry comes from the chaste tree and has been used by women for centuries. Evening primrose oil is another supplement made from a North American plant, and is said to help with tenderness of the breast and to help boost a depressive mood. Marijuana is another natural supplement that is now widely used to help relieve cramps. There is a lot of evidence out there to support the use of cannabis to help manage pain.
These are alternatives to pharmaceuticals that may be helpful for you during your moon time.
There is support out there for women who really struggle and some medications that are necessary to help manage severe pain. We would recommend talking to an expert if you feel like you need some more advice.