Menstruating can be a tough time, exhausting, really! A woman’s uterus sheds its lining at fairly regular monthly intervals and that can be quite a tiring process to endure, as many of us can attest to. At the time of birth, there are approximately 1 million eggs, but by puberty, only several hundred thousand remain. Of those, approximately 350 eggs will be ovulated month after month during a woman’s most reproductive phase. After menopause, there are no more eggs.
It truly is quite a phenomenon. Each of us experiences this in our own way and it can be more unpleasant for some than others, especially if estrogen dominance is occurring. This condition is associated with uterine fibroids which a physician needs to evaluate and treat. I have an article that I wrote where you can learn more, Natural Strategies for Uterine Fibroids. You can also read 4 Foods You Can Eat For Breast Health to learn more about how you can change the way you break down estrogen in your own body by eating certain foods.
The periods are more painful, and bleeding is more prominent. In an attempt to help out my fellow friends, today’s article discusses very simple hacks to make that time of month a little bit less stressful and painful. If the menstrual cramping (termed dysmenorrhea) is severe of course, visit your gynecologist for professional advice. Before I get into the less conventional hacks, consider an over-the-counter (OTC) analgesic. If you’d like to take a few minutes to learn more, read my other article, Which is Better, Advil or Tylenol?
One more thing before getting started. An estimated 30 to 60 percent of women experience breast pain just before their period. If that’s you, I wrote an article that can help you HERE.
In the meantime, here are 7 proven PMS hacks for your consideration:
Obvious as it may seem, using a hot pack can be incredibly soothing during a menstrual cycle. The warmth that radiates into the abdominal muscles instantly eases superficial pain associated with PMS. Having a hot pack in your home that you can microwave when needed is a necessity. Hot packs can be used for a variety of other health matters including joint stiffness, muscle spasms, chronic injuries, arthritis, sprains, strains and much more! They are especially helpful when it comes to easing those deep cramps that seem to be burrowing in the small of your back or radiating throughout the pelvis area.
You might be surprised by how effective it can be to take just 10 minutes, lay down and let the warmth of a heating pad, or microwavable hot pack penetrate into your achy muscles. In the winter months, I recommend heating up your pack before bed and cuddling with it for a good nights’ sleep! Some hot packs contain lavender aroma which is released once warmed, adding another layer of calm. Now… a word to the wise: Be sure you invest in a high quality hot pack. Cheaper ones may heat poorly (or unevenly) and can hurt or burn your skin when applied. Get one that will last and I’m sure you will use it more often than you think!
A cliche, to be certain, but for good reason but the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao) is what ultimately brings us that luxury we know as chocolate. Perhaps, I don’t even need to expend much energy convincing you of this, but for arguments sake, let me just share the highlights of why eating dark chocolate is a tasty PMS relief hack.
For starters, dark chocolate contains magnesium. Magnesium is proven to naturally relax and calm the smooth muscles of the uterus. By the way, it also relaxes smooth muscles, that’s why it reduces blood pressure.
But back to the uterus, in doing so, this action alleviates cramping to some extent. You might have to eat a lot of chocolate though, so for that reason, consider a capsule or two of a dietary supplement of magnesium. If taken daily, it has been seen to reduce, and in some cases, completely prevent dysmenorrhea. Dark chocolate also contains copper, manganese and iron, all of which contain prebiotic fiber which feeds your healthy gut bacteria. Eating chocolate also releases endorphins, specifically dopamine, which in turn reduces the symptoms associated with monthly cramping. If you’re still not convinced, let me just say that chocolate, at the very least, can act as a comfort food during that joyous time of the month due to its sweet, but slightly bitter and rich flavor. It improves production of serotonin and dopamine which helps with anxiety during your cycle. If you have a lot of allergies, please read this article I wrote entitled, Dark Chocolate Might Cause Allergies Due to Hidden Compounds.
While we’re on the subject of endorphins, exercise has been scientifically proven to help alleviate aches associated with PMS over time. We also know it’s a stress-buster.
Endorphins during exercise are released from the hypothalamus in your brain. I hesitate to quote Elle Woods from the 2008 movie Legally Blonde, but she really did say it best! She expressed her reasoning to defend a woman suspected of murder and she said,”Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands! They just don’t.”
The opiate receptors in the brain interact with the released endorphins and through this process, we then perceive pain in a different, lesser way. I know that when we are cramping or menstruating, the last thing most of us want to do is work out, or lift kettle bells, or go to a hot, sweaty yoga class… but the truth of it is that your body will respond positively and you’ll walk away feeling much better than when you started. You can do something gentle too, it doesn’t have to be full-on heart-stopping aerobics, just move.
4. Oogasma. Orgasmo. Orgasme.
In whatever language, the blessed orgasm is sure to be a hit! Similar to the previous section regarding the release of endorphins and the immediate after-effect (a reduction in perceived pain), the Big O serves as an analgesic. You can’t feel pain when you feel pleasure, it’s pretty simple.
Scientifically speaking, following an orgasm, release of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and other feel-good chemicals work to immediately reduce pain in the body. If you have any kind of pain in the body, like a backache or headache, the pain will lessen temporarily.
You may also find that you can sleep better as a result. Studies suggest that post-orgasm (and perhaps during), the female threshold for pain increases quite dramatically and can even jump to over 105%. It may also please you to know that because of the increase in blood flow during menstruation, one might also experience a higher intensity, or prolonged orgasm as well. Self-induced or partner-provided does not appear make a difference from a biochemical standpoint. The body’s immediate and heightened response to pleasure (of any sort, including sex) reduces cytokines that cause pain, while simultaneously increases pain-relieving hormones that last much longer than the moment itself.
There is almost no limit to the uses for essential oils (EOs) and PMS is no exception. Lavender oil is an easy way to make your home smell fresh while also reducing anxiety, pain, bloating and even depression.
Peppermint improves oxygen flow to the muscles. It’s most famous use is for a tension headache, but it also helps to reduce pain in general. To use peppermint, try applying a few drops to your belly and massage it in with cream. Or sniff it, or use in a diffuser if you have one.
Helichrysum or Frankincense are two other essential oils to consider. A drop or two rubbed into the bottom of your feet makes for a convenient way to take care of yourself because you will get the benefits as these go into your blood stream, long after you’ve put your socks on and gone about your day. As with most things, essential oils are not meant to cure a disease, but they’re easy to keep in your purse and apply (or sniff) during the day. The aromatic oils go into your blood stream instantly so do not underestimate the power of EOs.
6. Chaste tree Berry (Vitex agnus-castus).
Chasteberry is also called Monk’s Pepper, and it comes from the Mediterranean. Dietary supplements are available in the U.S. and have long been prized to help with female complaints, both for PMS and post-menopausal issues. It stimulates progesterone and therefore, helps balance high estrogen. There is some limited data to suggest this herbal extract may also be helpful in reducing calcium (serum), and supporting healthy parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take this herb. Chasteberry has a widespread effect on prolactin and other hormones, so ask your practitioner if it’s right for you. The image at the top of the beautiful flowers is a photo of Chaste tree, (Vitex agnus-castus) a.k.a. vitex, lilac chastetree, chasteberry, Abraham’s balm, and monk’s pepper.
7. Raspberry Leaf tea.
You may not expect much from a tea made of fruit, but you’d be wrong. This little hack is among the fastest (and best) ones I had ever tried. Raspberries are known botanically as Rubus idaeus L. and belong to the rose family!
If raspberry leaf tea doesn’t completely cure your monthly issues, just a cup should take down severe cramp pain to a dull roar! For decades, women have known that raspberries will help with lady problems! The extracts and phytochemical in this fruit help because they are antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory in nature. Just a note of caution, raspberries contain some natural salicylates and you should know this in case you are allergic to aspirin.
To see what your hormone levels are take The DUTCH Complete Hormone Test and that way you can make adjustments to your vitamin regimen to improve the ratios of your hormones. In doing so, you can ease your monthly cycle problems, and reduce risk for cancer. The DUTCH test is normally sold through physicians, but because I am a Provider for the company, I can sell it directly to you. CLICK HERE to learn more.
If you’ve seen any herbs or EOs here that you want to try, please be sure to check with your practitioner before adding to your drug regimen. Use common sense and caution if you are pregnant, nursing or have young ones nearby.
Final two thoughts:
Men can experience symptoms of estrogen/testosterone imbalance and since they don’t have a monthly menstrual period, it impacts their prostate gland instead. So if this is of concern to someone you live, CLICK HERE to read.
Hormonal imbalances can be detrimental to the skin and lead to oily skin, blemishes, cystic acne and more. If dermatological issues are at play, along with monthly cycle irregularities, consider DermaScript.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.