Do you still suffer from menstrual cramps, even though you eat real food now? Me too. I seem to have a cycle that has one painful month followed by a less painful month, and then they alternate. I am fortunate in that my cramps usually only last one day and then disappear completely.
But everyone’s body is different, and I think we all can use a list of home remedies to try out the next time we are suffering through this symptom!
First of all, I am a big believer in listening to your body’s food cravings. There is a reason you might be craving a steak, or chocolate when you are on your period. Maybe you need iron, or magnesium. There’s a reason you want to have more salt. You probably need those trace minerals. Or maybe you just need a certain food to trigger an anti-stress response in your body. The point? Eat what you crave!
Also make sure that you are eating a real foods diet generally. This means that you eat whole unprocessed foods: raw milk, pastured eggs, grass-fed meats, organic produce, plenty of unrefined sea salt, a variety of properly prepared grains (sourdoughed, sprouted, freshly ground), and as many traditional foods as you can get your hands on, including organ meats and cod liver oil!
Specific to female reproductive health, you may also want to incorporate maca root. I took maca for a while after I had my son E to balance my hormones. I noticed that it helped with my menstrual cramps in particular, and helped my period woes in general to be less severe. Maca is known as a supplement to help with male virility, but also as a help to women on many levels:
It doesn’t just help men, though. Maca doesn’t discriminate when it comes to talking both men and women’s endocrine systems into balancing hormones. Women use it to boost libido, ease the symptoms of menopause, enhance fertility, and (you’ll never believe this) slightly expand the size of their breasts and rears to achieve a more hourglass look. If you’re afraid that maca will make you fat, though, there’s some evidence to suggest maca actually helps you lose weight in the areas where you might need to (like your stomach), as it helps boost metabolism. (source)
There are also some menstrual benefits to consuming apple cider vinegar. Simply put a tablespoon of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a cup of water and drink it 1-3 times a day before and during your period. I have tried this and it really helps me!
Soothing Your Body
Use a heating pad! This helps your muscles relax, and your uterus is a muscle! Allowing the uterine muscles to relax can help with oxygen flow to that area as well. Between the relaxation and increased oxygen, your pain level can be relieved significantly. Plus, back to listening to your body, don’t you just want to curl up around something warm when you are crampy? There is a reason!
Take a hot bath, or at least have a lovely foot soak. The hot water itself will help your muscles unclench and soothe away feelings of stress. I also recommend using magnesium flakes, which can be particularly helpful in reducing stress and creating a relaxed state. Plus, we tend to be magnesium deficient these days due to our minerally-depleted soil here in the U.S., so getting more magnesium can be beneficial, not just for cramps but for many ailments.
If you haven’t already, switch from tampons and pads to at least an organic cotton version of both. But even better? Use a menstrual cup! And if you still need to use pads, consider using organic cotton cloth pads that come in all kinds of pretty patterns are so so soft!
Personally, I prefer a menstrual cup for ease of use and cleanup. It’s so easy to use, and I tend to do better with them in terms of bloating, cramps, and length of menstruating.
Herbs and Essential Oils
Red raspberry leaf tea is known for its benefits to female reproductive health. Folklore suggests that pregnant women should drink red raspberry leaf tea to aid in the delivery process. I drank several cups of the stuff before I had my little E, and while I can’t say definitively whether or not it aided me in my labor, it was definitely tasty!
But there is a cramping benefit to red raspberry leaf tea:
While there is no evidence that raspberry leaf tea can help bring on labor, its nutrients have been found to strengthen the uterine muscles which could make contractions more efficient. (source)
I love me a scientific study, so I was pretty excited to find that there was one done on the benefit of essential oils compared to Tylenol (acetaminophen) on reducing menstrual cramp pain in high school aged girls. The group given essential oils were massaged on the abdomen with:
clary sage, marjoram, cinnamon, ginger, and geranium in a base of almond oil…The reduction of menstrual pain was significantly higher in the aromatherapy group than in the acetaminophen group (source)
The essential oil blend I find that works best for me is PanAway, made from a blend of wintergreen, helichrysium, clove, and peppermint essential oils. PanAway was the first blend I ever used and was blown away; I used it for a painful cyst and it took the swelling away. Now I use it for my cramps and it works every time. You can find essential oils here.
I know, I know, nobody likes this one! It feels counterintuitive to get up and walk and even go to the gym when you feel crummy. But the truth is that exercise really does help alleviate cramps. The increased oxygen and warming up your body really helps the uterine muscles relax and you start to feel better.
Try doing something simple like going for a walk or a swim. Or if you really want to feel good, push through the pain and get yourself to the gym and lift some weights. The endorphins will help you feel much better!