Here’s hoping that this isn’t you!
Question: Is there a more natural way to effectively deal with extreme cramps than the pill?
I want to state that I am not anti-birth control. And I do not shame people who use birth control. In fact, prior to moving to Toronto for the ND program, I volunteered as a birth control/unplanned pregnancy counsellor with the Women’s Health Clinic – and I loved educating women on their birth control options. Now that that’s out of the way –
Birth control is NOT the only option for painful (dysmenorrhea) and/or heavy periods (menorrhagia). And before jumping on a medication or supplement your HCP should always look into potential causes of extreme cramping – ie. endometriosis, fibroids, etc.
Prostaglandins are a major factor in menstrual cramps – once a month (when Aunt Flow comes to town) they cause uterine muscles to contract in order to release the uterine lining (endometrium). Prostaglandins aren’t bad (they are important for blood clots, inducing labour, etc.), but if certain prostaglandins are high in your cycle – this can predispose to more painful menstrual cramping.
To start, here’s a couple of questions I’d ask:
When did the painful periods begin? How long into the cycle does the pain last?
What other symptoms are experienced?
What has worked to relieve the pain?
Are you sexually active?
Do you smoke?
How much alcohol do you drink?
How are you managing stress?
What does your typical diet look like?
First, we need to focus on REGULATING hormones. In conjunction with doing so, there are other therapeutic options to consider in dysmenorrhea:
Diet (this is a big one – sorry ladies)
Herbal medicine: a number of herbs (including ginger, peppermint, curcumin) have been studied and compared to ibuprofen, mefenamic acid
Vitamins: depending on what symptoms are being experienced in conjunction with the painful period, magnesium, calcium and vitamin D may be considered useful
Now please, do not Dr. Google yourself or take supplement recommendations from a health food store associate. These are options that should be investigated and discussed with a regulated healthcare professional.