Author: Maria Kuzmiak, Wellness Writer
Most women have experienced menstrual cramps at some point during their reproductive years, though the pain and severity of cramps varies from woman to woman. Cramps are caused by muscle contractions that occur as the uterus works to dispel menstrual blood. These contractions occur when substances called prostaglandins send signals that cause the process of menstruation to begin.
Prostaglandins are hormones, and some women have higher levels than others. If you have very high levels of prostaglandins, you’re more likely to suffer from painful cramping. In addition, stress, being inactive and eating poorly can contribute to the severity of menstrual cramps.
If menstrual cramps are a problem for you, there are some natural remedies you can try that may help to reduce the pain and discomfort you experience.
Calcium and Magnesium
These two minerals work together to help reduce the severity of menstrual cramps. Many women lose calcium in the days before their periods begin, and calcium deficiency can cause muscle spasms and cramping.
Magnesium is a muscle relaxer that helps the body to absorb calcium properly, so you need to take these two minerals together. Take about 1500 mg of calcium and 1000 mg of magnesium to alleviate menstrual cramps.
Eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and high protein snacks. These foods will help ensure that you are getting important vitamins and minerals that can minimize menstrual discomfort. Avoid alcohol and sugary foods, which can cause you to lose minerals, especially magnesium. Also avoid caffeine, which acts as a diuretic and can further deplete minerals.
Certain yoga poses can help reduce menstrual cramps by stretching the back and abdominal muscles. Some effective poses include cobra pose, cat/cow and seated forward bend. Remember to breathe deeply while performing the poses. This will help blood circulate through your blood stream, which can alleviate cramps by helping muscles to relax.
Several herbs have unique properties that can help reduce cramping. Cramp bark, for example, is an herb that works as a muscle relaxant. Dong Quai is a tonic that benefits the entire female reproductive system and has properties that can relax the uterus. In addition, herbs like kava kava and lemon balm can promote overall feelings of calm that aid in reducing the pain of menstrual cramps.
Herbal formulas can also provide relief from menstrual cramps by providing a combination of ingredients that are known to be effective in alleviating pain and uterine spasms. For example, Femalite combines three active ingredients: sweet fennel to promote water balance, pasque flower, a reproductive system tonic, and lemon balm, which can help boost the mood and calm the mind.