How to Get Rid of Menstrual Cramps, Fast!
This information is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. Please seek appropriate advice from your health-care provider.
I am constantly amazed at the number of women who have menstrual cramps that range from slightly annoying to debilitating. Women seem to think that cramps are just an inevitable part of hormones and cycles. They are often dumbfounded when I tell them I’ve never had a cramp and they don’t need to have cramps either.
My clinical experience has shown that cramps can manifest as lower abdominal pain, lower back pain, or pain in the thighs, and they can be made worse if endometriosis or fibroids are present. (Endometriosis and fibroids are topics for future blog posts.)
Cramps typically begin up to two or three days before the menstrual flow and continue a few days into the menstrual flow.
It’s interesting to note that for some women, giving birth resolves their cramps, as does getting older.
Menstrual cramps story - sound familiar?
A young woman, in her late teens, came to me. She had started out with cramps that she could ‘control’ with a heating pad and some ibuprofen.
But over a few years, she developed debilitating cramps. When she cramped up it was so severe that her entire body would go into tetanic-like contractions. Her hands would freeze into painful claws, her legs would totally seize up under her and she would sink to the floor, her torso would be completely rigid, she would be frightened and in amazing pain throughout her entire body.
She was very sloppy with her diet, in spite of the fact that her home was loaded with wholesome, nutritious foods. She would junk out at the convenience store and skip meals. As a result, she was about 20 pounds heavier than her optimal weight.
Finally, she left home and went to university. While there she did some serious growing up.
She started eating better - real meals with veggies and protein. She drank less pop, more water.
She started losing weight. She got a part-time job that was physically demanding.
The cramps lessened. There were no more ‘whole body’ cramps. They were simply pretty heavy uterine cramps.
Then she got committed to exercising consistently, five times per week for 30 minutes each time. She got a variety of workout videos. Not only did her weight settle where it belonged but her cramps disappeared.
Funny, when she would get busy and skip her workouts for a few weeks and get a little sloppy with her diet, the cramps would come back.
Here’s what I’ve found over the past four-plus decades of working with women and natural therapies.
Effects of poor diet on menstrual cramps
The modern diet, loaded with refined sugars and caffeine, is notorious for messing up hormones.
Here’s the short version of what happens. Refined sugar/carbohydrates are ingested, which spikes the blood sugars, which drives insulin up, which reduces sex hormone binding globulin, which triggers an increase in testosterone and a decrease in thyroid function. Additionally, refined sugars create inflammation, which renders cell walls less permeable to sugar-insulin molecules, which leads to sugars increasing in the bloodstream, which contributes to the part of the craziness I noted first, the spiking of blood sugars. When the sugars and testosterone are out of balance like this, cramps, acne, facial hair, and PMS are often the result.
Poor diet and lifestyle have been implicated in the formation of both endometriosis and fibroids. Both of these conditions often cause cramping.
Typically, diets that are high in refined sugars are also low in nutrients.
Exercise and menstrual cramps
Here’s why exercise helps. Doing good, hard, ‘get the heart rate up,’ ‘sweaty’ exercise helps the body burn off excess blood sugar. When the blood sugar levels come down to healthy levels the sex hormone-binding globulin can increase and the testosterone can decrease. This, in turn, leads to better hormonal balance and reduces the likelihood of cramping.
Nutritional deficiencies and menstrual cramps
Cramps are worse when mineral deficiencies are present. Of key importance here are calcium and magnesium. But before you run out to buy some kind of calcium-magnesium tablet or liquid, let me caution you. That is probably not the best answer. Not all calcium-magnesium tablets contain the minerals in forms the body can use. And not all cal-mag tablets contain the other vitamins and minerals that are needed to assimilate calcium and magnesium properly.
How to correct mineral deficiency
It might sound like a tall order to eliminate junk food, white flour, refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, soda, and coffee/tea. It does take effort to replace ‘instant consumables’ with more nutritious foods like vegetables, whole grains, and quality protein, but in the not-so-long-run, the benefits become obvious.
Herbs for reducing menstrual cramps
Herbal blends are often more efficient than single herbs due to the synergy of the ingredients.
A mineral-rich, calcium-rich blend I’ve used for decades (which includes alfalfa, horsetail plant, oat straw, plantain leaves, marshmallow root, wheatgrass, and hops) is also rich in magnesium, silicon, vitamin A and vitamin C.
Alfalfa, one of the key plants in this formula, is a nutrient-dense herb that sends its roots down 15 feet or more into soil that is not usually tapped into by other common crops.These deep soil levels often contain an abundance of trace minerals and soil biome that make minerals available to the plant. These minerals are naturally chelated which makes them bioavailable to your body.
Adding Red Raspberry leaves to the above-mentioned formula is a fabulous way to round out the nutritional profile. Red Raspberry leaves have been used traditionally for menstrual problems of every description. They are high in the most assimilable forms of iron, calcium, and magnesium, among other vitamins and minerals.
There you have it. Menstrual cramps are an indication of imbalances in blood sugar and deficiencies in physical activity and nutritional status, all of which can be easily corrected.