Article for Painful Period Relief at Sarasota Healing Arts
Qi Gong and New Beginnings
Put Painful Periods in your Past

Dr. Jessica Lipham, DOM

The idea of a pain free period is rare, what with our society bombarding us with stories of severe PMS, intense cramps, and untimely cycles. Examples of this can be found in sitcom jokes, movie by-lines, advertisements, and of course personal horror stories. This is not natural, however. A woman’s menstrual cycle does not have to be painful nor does it have to be preceded by a syndrome with the menacing three letter acronym PMS. Why is it that most women don’t have a pain-free cycle?

The answer is quite simple. Even though we are all different and unique in our own ways, we are all living in the same modern, industrial environment. We have limited access to clean air and water, our food sources are often questionable, and the amount of stress that we place upon ourselves is beyond what our coping mechanisms can handle. Instead of properly supporting our bodies, things like coffee, alcohol, and sugar are often used to temporarily ease the discomfort of “life”. The end result of this process is dis-ease or dysfunction that can manifest in women as dysmenorrhea (painful periods).

There are four basic areas where simple changes can get you onto a regular menstrual cycle that is pain and PMS free. They are: diet and nutrition, exercise, home remedies, and, of course, treatment from knowledgeable physicians.

Diet and nutrition includes the foods you choose to eat as well as the foods you choose not to eat. Depending upon the eating choices you make, the latter may be more important than the former. The aptly named, S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) is composed of mainly starches and meat with small side dishes of vegetables and fruits. This diet promotes inflammation in the body due to the large amount of omega-6 oils found in industrially raised animals and processed foods. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are anti-inflammatory foods and decrease the inflammatory mediators in the body and the blood. Cold water fish, such as salmon and herring, are high in Omega-3 oils which are anti-inflammatory and can offset inflammatory Omega-6 oils. Supplementation can include using 1-2 Tablespoons of ground Flax per day which provides an excellent source of fiber for the colon as well as EFAs. Fish oil can also be used, but be aware that some may be contaminated with high levels of heavy metals. One interesting new source of Omega-3 oils is krill oil, which contains a potent blend of phospholipids coupled with extremely low levels of contaminants. An aspect of nutrition that is often overlooked is the digestive system. Without large numbers of friendly bacteria in our gut, we would not be able to utilize our food at all. Supplementing with a capsule of Acidophilus every day protects the stomach and intestines from overgrowth of harmful bacteria by supplying a steady source of “friendly bugs”.

Exercise should be a regular part of our everyday living. This is especially true for a woman with dysmenorrhea; it is imperative to get out, get moving, and to get the blood flowing! Regular cardiovascular exercise, strengthening exercises like pilates, along with internal meditative practices such as yoga or qi gong are the key to a balanced body and mind.

Home remedies such as sitz baths, Epsom salt baths, and hot vinegar packs are easy to do and greatly enhance circulation. Castor oil packs are a common treatment used for pain and discomfort, however, they are contraindicated during menses. The use of herbal medicines have been around for centuries and are a gentle, safe, and effective way to see results without debilitating side effects. The herb Vitex, berry of the Chaste tree, is one of the oldest and most powerful female botanicals. Vitex may be found in combination with other female tonic herbs or it may be taken singularly or as a standardized extract.

Last, but not least, a knowledgeable health practitioner may educate and offer treatments to eliminate dysmenorrhea. Most over-the-counter menstrual “medicine” is useful only for relief from some of the symptoms; it does not treat the underlying cause and may have unwanted side-effects. Estrogen and progesterone levels are central to a woman’s cycle and along with other hormones can greatly affect the regularity and severity of PMS symptoms. Baseline testing should be run to rule out any of these hormone imbalances. Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas, can also be used to support the root cause of a woman’s dysmenorrhea. Be sure to get a treatment plan designed for you specifically, from a licensed and certified physician.

Painful periods do not have to be the norm in your life. There are many natural health options that can drastically alter your monthly cycle, and the experience of those who share your life.