What causes period pain?
Period pain can be called primary or secondary dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea is when you have period pain without any underlying cause or health condition. Secondary dysmenorrhea is period pain caused by an underlying condition such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease or fibroids.
Period pain happens because of natural chemicals called prostaglandins. Certain types of prostaglandins help the uterus (womb) to contract so it can shed the uterine lining. This is what causes you to bleed during your period. Many of the natural remedies below may reduce the level of prostaglandins that cause pain and hopefully lessen your period pain each month.
Why is my period pain so bad?
If you have secondary dysmenorrhea, caused by an underlying condition such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease or fibroids, you may have particularly bad period pain.
With secondary dysmenorrhea, you may have other symptoms alongside your period pain. And you may experience heavier than normal periods too.
What natural remedies help with period pain?
Currently, there is not enough evidence to show that changing your diet or lifestyle can definitely reduce your period pain. But there are some promising studies which suggest that it might be worth trying a few things below to see if they help.
Increase your omega 3 levels
Omega 3 is a type of essential fatty acid. It helps to keep your heart and brain healthy. Studies show it may also reduce the severity of period pain.
In one study, women taking omega 3 daily for three months noticed a reduction in their period pain. They also needed to take painkillers less frequently than those who took a placebo (empty pill).
Omega 3 may reduce period pain because it acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. In particular it helps to stop the production of the prostaglandins that cause inflammation and pain. Omega 3 works in a similar way to ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
To increase your omega 3 levels, try to have at least one portion of oily fish a week. While you can find omega 3 in chia seeds and walnuts, your body prefers the type of omega 3 which is found in oily fish. It struggles to use the form found in nuts and seeds as efficiently. If you don’t like eating fish, or taking fish oil capsules, you could take algae-based vegan supplements instead.
Get enough Magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral the body needs for health. It works with calcium to support your bones, and nervous system. There’s also evidence to suggest it may play a role in reducing period pain.
There appears to be a link between having low magnesium levels and higher levels of period pain. This could be because magnesium can reduce inflammatory prostaglandins. So, if you don’t have enough magnesium, you might have more pain during your period. But more studies are needed to confirm this.
Magnesium may also relax the muscles of the uterus – which can reduce cramp like feelings you get during menstruation.
Women need around 270g of magnesium a day, and many don’t meet this target in the UK. Magnesium rich foods include dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, and peanuts.
Go for ginger
You might usually associate ginger with travel sickness and cold remedies. But one study showed 245 women had significant reductions in period pain when they took ginger capsules.
It is thought that ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory. This is how many of the pain-relieving medications that are recommended for period pain also work. Ginger is also high in antioxidants which may help reduce excess inflammation in the body.
You could try grating fresh ginger into curries and stews. Or making fresh ginger tea with a little lemon juice. If you plan to take ginger supplements, then it’s best to check with a doctor first to make sure they are safe for you.