Natural Relief for Painful Periods

By Dr. Jessica McGuire, ND

  • Roughly 10% of women experience severe period pain that can last anywhere from 1-24 hours
  • What’s causing this: when your uterine lining begins to shed its cells begin release a chemical known as ‘prostaglandins’, which tells the uterus to contract.
    • During painful periods, unhealthy (or ‘bad’) prostaglandins are released, causing more intense uterine contractions, leading to what is known as ‘dysmenorrhea’ (aka abnormally painful periods)
  • A bit of cramping is normal, as your uterine muscles are contracting in order to expel the uterus lining, however, it should not be debilitating, or prevent you from your activities of daily living
  • Severe cramping can also be a sign of endometriosis or uterine fibroids. If you experience heavy or prolonged bleeding it is important to see a health care practitioner to have those conditions ruled out

At Home Treatments

  • Diet: cut down on caffeine and saturated fats, (saturated fats encourage the body to make bad prostaglandins). Saturated fat sources: dairy and animal products
    • Some women find eating heavy or spicy foods in the week leading up to their period increases cramping.
    • If you can get your hands on good fats: nuts and seeds, fish (canned or fresh)
  • Heat: apply heat to the area (hot bath, hot towel, heating pad, etc) for 30-45 min
  • Exercise: 30 min of gentle exercise per day (yoga, walking, etc) Releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers
  • Pelvic rocking: Relieves pressure on the blood vessels around the uterus
    • On hands and knees, take a deep breath and while exhaling slowly flex the abs, tighten buttocks and pull up pelvic floor muscles
      • (lifts spine to form a C shape)
    • Release, return to starting position, then repeat (at least 10 times)
  • Abdominal massage: If you have peppermint oil mix it with a bit of whatever oil you have on hand (olive, coconut, canola, etc)
    • Place one hand on top of the other just above the belly button and move hands clockwise around the middle of the abdomen with gentle pressure (about 20 circles)
    • Then place hands on either side of abdomen just under rib cage with fingers pointing towards the centre. Massage by sweeping hand down towards pelvis (about 5 passes)
    • Then using finger tips and thumbs knead your abdomen in a clockwise direction around the belly button (3 revolutions)
  • Acupressure: On the first day of menses, apply pressure on hold for 30-45 seconds, repeat 2-3 times
    • LI4, SP6, SP8, ST36, LV3, REN3, BL32 (see below)