Skip to the bottom for the research round-up on help for painful periods.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was on the birth control pill continuously for a few years as a way to manage such severe dysmenorrhea that my body would go into shock (so explained the ER doc) and vasovagal collapse. It didn’t happen every month by any any means, but, when it did happen, it was much worse that a mere “faint” and my OBGYN said that she would be comfortable if I remained on the pill without a period for the next 20 years.
I will say, if you can tolerate the pill, it is pure bliss in terms of skin, mood, bloating etc. Often, you don’t know how well something is working until it goes away and, for me, this was the case with the pill in certain aspects. God, why is my belly so distended when I haven’t eaten anything? Ugh, why does my skin look like I’m a 14-year old? Why can’t I stop eating today? Don’t talk to me. Don’t even LOOK at me! AHH! I’M SO HOT AND BOTHERED! I’ve had three periods since coming off the pill and I am still taken aback by these symptoms, none of which I noticed when I was on the pill.
Having said that, I am still thrilled to be pill-free. My headaches eased up after Christmas and, although I can’t 100% attribute that to coming off the pill, it is encouraging. But, the most exciting thing is that I’ve had very little cramping. This last week, the pain in my lower back was excruciating and the the increase in ME/CFS symptoms was obvious, but the cramps themselves did not even warrant a painkiller. For someone who has spent years living in fear of that time of the month ~ who has planned work and social events around the first day and made sure I was prepared for an ER visit ~ this is MIRACULOUS. I’ll take all the PMS symptoms any day over the pain.
This post so far is probably only interesting to my Mother who has heard my complaints for years and was visiting once when the pain took over, the syncope hit and the ambulance took me away, but for all the ladies out there with painful periods, here’s what I want you to know: I absolutely believe that the pain is better because of the supplements I’m taking. Last year I had researched things that could help painful periods and my doctor had also sent me some research articles, but, of course, I never really believed they could make a difference, so I never did anything with that info. Now, I know they work, although I don’t know which supplements are contributing the most. SO, here is a round-up of the research I did (from different websites and my doctor). Try some of these ideas if you suffer every month ~ it could actually eliminate pain killers!
These are the things that I take/eat/drink every day that I believe reduced my cramps:
- Fiber supplement
- Borage Oil
- Fish oil
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B-complex
- Vitamin E
- Using healthy cooking oils, such as olive oil or coconut oil.
- Eat antioxidants, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries and bananas) and brightly-coloured vegetables.
- Eat almonds and dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and kale).
- Eliminate trans-fatty acids found in commercially baked goods, such as cookies, crackers, cakes, fried foods, processed foods and margarine.
- Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas and sugar.
- Avoid caffeine(ish), alcohol and tobacco.
- Use turmeric.
- Drink tart cherry juice, ginger tea, 6 – 8 glasses of filtered water daily.
And here are all the other tips I gathered:
- Take daily multi-vitamin
- Calcium citrate, anywhere from 500mg-2,000mg daily, depending on the source.
- Magnesium, 250mg-800mg daily, depending on the source (I take 400mg)
- Vitamin B6, 50mg-200 mg depending on the source (the week before my period, I add 100mg on top of my B-complex)
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- vitamin B3 (also called niacin; 500 mg twice daily)
- fish oil supplement containing omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids and DHA, EPA, and GLA to inhibit the production of certain prostaglandins 1,000mg-6,000mg daily, depending on the source (I take 2,000mg + 1,000mg Borage oil)
- Black current oil, borage oil, or evening primrose oil.
- Vitamin E 400-500 IU daily
- Vitamin D
- Avoid Xenoestrogens and Phytoestrogens. Xenoestrogens lotions, shampoos, and laundry detergent. Phytoestrogens are plant estrogen’s that can be found in some herbs.
- Engage in stress reduction activities such as yoga, massage and meditation.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes daily, 5 days a week.
- Chaste tree or chaste berry (Vitex agnus castus) standardized extract, 20 – 40 mg daily before breakfast.
- Cramp bark (Viburnum opulus), taken as a tea. Boil 2 tsp. dried bark in 1 cup water then simmer for 15 minutes; drink 3 times per day.
- Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) standardized extract, 20 – 40 mg two times a day.
- Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis) standardized extract, 500 – 1000 mg daily, as a source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA). Evening primrose pills have to be taken everyday maybe 1-2 pills daily after food. During the period, double up the intake to 3-4 pills a day after food.
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa) standardized extract, 300 mg three times a day, for inflammation.
- Ginger root powder in capsules
- Diet and vitamins — A variety of dietary changes and vitamin therapies has been reported to reduce the severity of menstrual pain, but data are limited to a few small studies. Although the limited available data appear promising, we would like to see confirmatory data from additional trials before suggesting these interventions for our patients.
- In one clinical trial, 33 women with primary dysmenorrhea and premenstrual symptoms were randomly assigned, in a crossover design, to receive a low fat-vegetarian diet for two months or a placebo dietary supplement pill . While on the vegetarian diet, the women noted a statistically significant decrease in menstrual pain intensity and duration, and they had a mean weight loss of 1.8 kg.
- A self-report study of dietary dairy intake in 127 female university students indicated that women who consumed three or four servings of dairy products per day had lower rates of dysmenorrhea than women who consumed no dairy products.
- Two randomized trials reported that vitamin E alone (500 units per day or 200 units twice per day, beginning two days before menses and continuing through the first three days of bleeding) was more effective than placebo for relieving dysmenorrhea in adolescents randomly assigned to either therapy, although both active drug and placebo reduced pain.
- In a systematic review including mostly single small trials, vitamin B1 (100 mg daily), vitamin B6 (200 mg daily), and fish oil supplement (1080 mg eicosapentaenoic acid, 720 mg docosahexaenoic acid, and 1.5 mg vitamin E) were each more effective for reducing pain than placebo.
I don’t have links to these studies because they were sent to me by my doctor and I’m too tired to google them. Good luck, all!