Not long ago I would have answered no to this question. Not long ago, the only sign I had that I was getting my period, was getting my period. The last two tho have been different. The night before my last two periods, I’ve had terrible period pain, felt entirely in my thighs. Both nights I spent lying awake in bed tossing and turning, trying to find a position my legs didn’t hurt. This was so unfamiliar to me. So much so I didn’t have any drugs in my medicine cabinet that could help. It was terrible. Thankfully, the pain only lasted one night. Even so, I’m not happy about it. Something is obviously different for me to suddenly have horrible period pain. At first, I thought it was the fact I’m getting older and probably perimenopausal. It’s not unusual for periods to get a little worse at this time, but be damned if I’m gonna go thru nights like that every time my body decides to expel its uterine lining!! There are many causes of period pain. Conditions like endometriosis, fibroids, and pelvic inflammatory disease can make menstruation unbearable. Dysmenorrhea is period pain in the absence of an underlying causative condition. This is suddenly me.
Why do we bleed at menstruation? A period is the shedding of the uterine lining that has been preparing for implantation of a fertilised egg. Just before bleeding begins, cells in the uterus lining (endometrial cells) release hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are released as the endometrial cells break down during menstruation. This, in turn, results in blood vessels in the uterus constricting and muscle cells in the same area contracting, causing the terrible ‘period cramps’. This pain can also be referred to the back and thighs, and, because some prostaglandins leak into the bloodstream, symptoms like nausea, headache, diarrhea, and vomiting sometimes occur.
What’s the go with prostaglandins? Studies have shown that women who experience period pain (dysmenorrhea) have higher levels of prostaglandins than women without painful periods. It seems these little hormone-like suckers could be causing my new found period pain! This got me thinking, why have my pre period prostaglandin levels suddenly increased to the point where I’m writhering in pain the night before my period?
Supplements to the rescue! Usually I take a bunch of what I call wellness supplements. These are nutrients that help keep me well. I’ve become a bit lazy lately tho and stopped taking everything. I thought it probably wouldn’t hurt me to have a break seeing as I wasn’t really treating anything, plus I got so sick of swallowing tablets every day! Two of the supplements I was taking (and had been for years) was omega 3 and magnesium. Guess what?! Both help reduce prostaglandin levels and thus help reduce period pain!! Every now and then I’d throw some turmeric tablets down my throat too. Again, great for reducing inflammation and pain during menstruation cuz it helps reduce prostaglandins! No wonder my last two periods have been so awful. My prostaglandin levels have been high cuz I’ve been neglecting my omega 3 and magnesium! My wellness protocol was keeping me well and I didn’t even realise until I stopped. It all makes sense to me now. So back on the omega 3 and magnesium, I go...
Period pain can have many causes so it’s best not to try to treat it without the help of a qualified health care practitioner. Being aware of prostaglandins and what increases and decrease them tho can help reduce the number of sleepless nights and pain-filled days you might be having every month.
What we eat plays a massive role in how we feel. There are certain foods which can be contributing to painful periods and some that can be relieving them.
There’s a common theme when it comes to food and periods. Foods that promote vasoconstriction (tightening of the blood vessels) and inflammation will potentially make period pain worse. Foods that have anti-inflammatory properties and help reduce prostaglandin levels will potentially relieve period pain.
Foods that make the let’s not eating this type of stuff if we want less painful periods list include coffee and other caffeine-containing drinks because these encourage vasoconstriction. Pro-inflammatory foods like refined carbohydrates and sugar, fatty foods, dairy, and processed foods are also best reduced or avoided. The bad news item on this list is chocolate. If you’re anything like me, chocolate is a must premenstrually. Unfortunately, chocolate also increases prostaglandin levels. I know!! Terrible right?!!
So what can you eat you might be asking? Heaps!! Foods that contain essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatory
. These include oily fish, nuts and seeds and avocados. Hooray!! Leafy greens and dark chocolate (did someone say chocolate?) are full of magnesium which helps relieve cramps. Fresh ginger is also great at helping to relieve period pain.
As for most conditions, the healthier we eat the healthier we feel.
For support and advice on how to manage your periods see a qualified health care professional. To book a initial comprehensive naturopath consults with me, click on the link below.