Those pesky menstrual cramps! I'm not going to tell you to just take Tylenol and all will be good. That certainly wasn't my case. I use to get cramps so bad they felt like labor-like contractions and hindered me from going to work.
The good thing about our hormonal health is once you know WHY something is happening, you're empowered to know you can find a solution. Menstrual cramps fall in this category. And if you're experiencing them, it's your body's way of trying to communicate with you that something is off.
Getting rid of cramps is a lifestyle approach, which means there is not just one thing you can do to get rid of them. You may need to make changes to your diet, fitness, and lifestyle in order to see results.
Here are four causes to your menstrual cramps and my top tips on what to do:
1. Stagnant blood in your uterus
Blood builds up before your period and can become stagnant in your uterus.
This lack of blood flow can lower oxygen, and then cause cramps and pain.
Emotionally, you might start to feel frustrated and agitated the days leading up to your period. Then once your period starts, you feel calmer and more relaxed. This has to do with the blood flow when your period begins. But even though it's started flowing so you can have your period, it can still be restricted and cause cramps.
With this stagnation though, it can cause inflammation to increase, which can lead to more painful periods.
The best thing you can do to avoid painful periods is to prep your body the week before.
The more you can get blood flowing before your period starts, the less pain you'll feel.
My top tips to get the blood flowing:
cardo - schedule a cardio session at least three days before your period starts. Then do another one the day before. It can be anything from running, biking, swimming, HIIT, etc. Do something that will get your heart rate up.
acupuncture - schedule an acupuncture appointment a week before your period starts and let the acupuncturist know you get menstrual cramps. They'll be able to use needles on your belly in the right places to promote more blood flow.
eat or juice beets - for one week before your period, eat or juice beets. Continue for the first three days of your period. Beets increase blood circulation (I swear by this for cramps!) while also targeting your liver. You may notice you feel less bloated and blocked up too 😊
2. High levels of inflammation
The more inflammation you have, the more likely you are to have menstrual cramps. Cramps have a lot to do with hidden inflammation and blood flow.
In my experience, food caused higher levels of inflammation and compromised my gut health, and uterus. For me it was unidentified food sensitivities from glute, dairy, and soy. And sugar is highly inflammatory. Since many women crave sugar before and during their periods, those sweet treats can cause more cramps. I found eliminating foods I was allergic to and cutting sugar really helped ease cramps.
My top tips to lower inflammation:
Look for food sensitivities - the biggest food culprits that can cause inflammation are gluten, dairy and soy. While others can't tolerate eggs, nuts, chocolate and certain fruits or vegetables. Try an elimination diet for two weeks on the food(s) you suspect and see how you feel.
Get your gut health tested - I love using Ombre's at home gut testing kit (you can save $30 off!). Your results will come with a tailored list of foods you can and can not tolerate based on the bacteria in your stomach, along with other helpful tips to lower inflammation. I also swear by their personalized probiotics, which you can order based on your results.
As an Ombre affiliate, Balanced Bombshells, LLC may receive compensation from Ombre if you purchase products or services through the links provided, at no additional cost to you.
Ditch sugar as much as possible - you'll never look back, I swear. If you can't fully give it up, I get it (I eat super dark chocolate every day that has a little sugar in it). Try cutting it the week before your period and when your period first starts. It can make a big difference to your mood, bloating and cramps.
Cycle sync your cocktails - I love a cocktail like the next girl and you don't have to give it up completely. Pair your cocktails to your follicular and ovulation phases, and avoid them the week before and during your period, if you get cramps. It'll improve your mood too.
Lower your stress levels - higher levels of cortisol (one of your stress hormones) can lead to increased inflammation. Try relaxing workouts like walking and yoga, setting boundaries, and improving your sleep.
3. High levels of prostaglandins
It's been researched that women who struggle with more severe menstrual cramps may also have high levels of the hormone, prostaglandins or P2. This can cause you to feel pain.
One of the best ways to lower your prostaglandin levels is to focus on lowering inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory medicine like aspirin and ibuprofen can help, which many of us have tried.
Personally, I needed to do a lot more for my menstrual cramps than just take Tylenol. It certainly helped, but didn't 100% get rid of them. You'll love the extra help in #4!
4. Low levels of zinc
In one of the best research studies I've ever read, it stated that women who struggle with dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) can feel relief with using zinc treatment. Most multivitamins contain about 15mg of zinc, which is considered too low for women who have cramps.
The study suggests to use 1-3, 30mg doses of zinc for one to four days leading up to your period to stop menstrual cramps.
I've personally tried this and found it worked wonderfully! I was pretty amazed actually 😊
Zinc is a powerful anti-inflammatory and if we experience cramps because of higher inflammation before our period, you can see why this can be beneficial.
Looking to master your cycle and get rid of annoying symptoms like menstrual cramps? Take my free course - Cycle Syncing Made Easy!