Are Menstrual Cramps Getting The Better Of You?
Menstrual cramps are one of the most common problems that women face. About 50% of menstruating women experience menstrual cramping, sometimes rendering them completely incapacitated.
The pain associated with menstrual cramps usually begins several hours before or just after the onset of menstruation. Many women experience other symptoms along with the cramps such as back pain, bloating, nausea, fatigue and diarrhea. This discomfort usually last anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days. Seldom does it carry on past 2 days.
There are many different factors associated with menstrual cramps. Increased inflammatory mediators, lower levels of progesterone, food sensitivities, lack of exercise, decreased blood flow to the uterus and some nutritional deficiencies can all contribute to menstrual cramps.
So What Can You Do?
1. Food sensitivity testing and elimination
Food sensitivities can increase the presence of inflammatory chemicals in our bodies. These higher levels are associated with increased uterine contractions and menstrual cramping. Food sensitivities also activate our immune system and can cause gas, bloating, fatigue and an overall feeling of unease. I recommend everyone find out their food sensitivities and avoid them as much as possible.
2. Avoid foods that are known to increase inflammatory mediators in the body
Some foods that contribute to an increase in inflammatory mediators include dairy products, red meats, eggs, deep fried foods, poultry, trans fats found in foods like potato chips, fries, and anything processed or packaged. Sugar and sugar containing foods also increases inflammatory mediators and should be avoided.
3. Support progesterone production
Progesterone is a natural uterine relaxant and lower progesterone levels have been associated with uterine contractions and menstrual cramps. I highly recommend having your progesterone levels tested and supported if your levels are on the low end.
4. Ensure sufficient iron levels
A large majority of menstruating women are iron deficient. Once iron levels are restored to normal many women notice a significant improvement in their menstrual cramps. Ferritin levels below 40 are indicative of iron deficiency.
5. 30 minutes of exercise daily
Exercise will increase blood flow to the uterus and strengthen pelvic musculature. Both of these decrease the severity and frequency of menstrual cramps. Try to get in at least 30 minutes a day – walking, yoga, strength straining and pilates are all great options.
6. Stress reduction
Stress reduction will promote optimal hormone production and balance as well as a decrease inflammatory mediators. Meditation, yoga, and doing something fun significantly decreases stress leading to a healthier balance throughout the entire body and mind.
7. Stop smoking
Smoking directly increases inflammatory markers. Once women stop smoking they notice an improvement in their menstrual cramps as well as many other symptoms.
8. Maintain a healthy body weight
Maintaining a healthy body weight is super important for our overall health. Healthy body weight is associated with a decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease, asthma and hormonal imbalances. Estrogen is stored in our fat cells so if we are overweight we have an increased risk of estrogen dominance and relative progesterone deficiency. This imbalance is strongly correlated with PMS and menstrual cramps.
9. Hot water bottle
Placing a hot water bottle on your lower abdomen during your menstrual cramps will help increase blood flow to the area and reduce the cramping.
These are just a few simple tips to help decrease your menstrual cramps. If you think you need additional support please contact my practice for an appointment.
Dr. Kristy Vermeulen, ND