We women have this lovely thing we have to deal with once a month. I’ve told you about how I take advantage of my period for liver cleansing, but what about period pain? Is it normal? How can we deal with it naturally?
Because it’s a common occurrence we get used to dealing with from a young age until eternity (ok, it feels like it), we become desensitized to period pain. Pain can range from mild cramps to full on body aches, but whatever you may be dealing with, have you stopped to ask: is this even normal?
Is your period pain normal?
The average period includes mild cramping, fatigue, and crankiness, and lasts around 5 days. Because menstruation involves cleansing the uterus, the uterus must contract to eliminate unneeded nutrients that have accumulated in preparation for a baby. This is normal.
Most women lose a total of about 30-40 ml of blood during their cycle, or about 6-8 tsp. More than 60 ml, or 12 tsp, is considered excessive and may be cause for concern.
Other reasons to be concerned are:
- passing large clots
- your period lasting longer than a week
- severe pain or nausea
- extreme fatigue (I’m usually tired during my period, but abnormal fatigue may mean you can’t perform even small tasks)
- inability to function in a normal capacity.
Many of the hormone balancing tips below may help, but if your period makes your life miserable for a week out of every month (and odds are, if your period is bad, the week before your period includes bad PMS symptoms as well), it may be time to seek out a naturopath or other naturally-minded practitioner to help you get to the bottom of your painful period.
Natural remedies for period pain
1. Clary sage
Clary sage is helpful when it comes to hormones. It helps to balance estrogen levels because it contains natural phytoestrogens, which in turn can help relieve discomfort during your cycle.
Additionally, clary sage is anti-spasmodic, making it the perfect solution for relieving cramps.
I rub a few drops over my ovary where I’m feeling cramping pain as often as needed, though I typically only have to use it one or twice before cramps are relieved. Get clary sage essential oil here.
2. Try this DIY hormone support supplement
I created this unique “supplement” recipe with women’s health needs in mind. It’s designed especially for women and contains the ingredients needed to support hormones all month long. However, it’s especially helpful for period pain because it contains:
- Organic coconut milk powder- coconut contains the perfect balance of essential fatty acids as well as saturated fat, the building blocks of healthy hormones. You’ll also find electrolytes in coconut milk, which will help to replace fluids lost during your cycle, ease cramping, and restore energy levels.
- Grassfed hydrolyzed gelatin- gelatin is one of my favorite food-based supplements, and for good reason. It’s packed full of amino acids, which help to balance hormones, and, in turn, neurotransmitters (aka those little things that control your mood- hello PMS!). The easily-assimilated protein and other nutrients in gelatin are perfect for replacing nutrients lost during menstruation.
- Organic powdered greens- chock full of vitamins A, C, and K, greens are the bedrock of a healthy diet.
My favorite way to use this DIY supplement is by putting a tablespoon in a cup of my favorite organic chai tea.
3. Heating pad or sock
I don’t know if there’s anything more comforting than applying heat to my abdomen when it’s feeling all crampy. And there’s nothing less invasive, either.
- are inexpensive
- last a long time
- do not require anything to be taken internally
- give you a good excuse to lie down and relax 🙂
You can try this heating pad, or make your own rice sock.
To make your own rice sock, you’ll need:
- a large sock (your hubby’s tube sock will work perfectly. 😉 )
- 3-4 cups white rice
- dried lavender flowers (optional, but lovely)
- a microwave for warming
Fill the sock with the rice (combine with lavender flowers, if using) and tie a knot in the end. Heat for 30 seconds-minute in the microwave, then place on abdomen as needed. Make sure you store it in a dry place so that moisture doesn’t ruin the rice.
4. Red raspberry leaf
I was first introduced to red raspberry leaf when I was preparing for my first homebirth (with our third son). My midwife suggested it in the weeks leading up to labor in order to prepare my body for an easier labor.
I religiously drank red raspberry leaf tea several times a day towards the end of that pregnancy, and it was, indeed, my easiest labor.
Red raspberry leaf eases period pain for the same reason it eases labor: it contains a constituent called fragrine, a very potent alkaloid which helps to tone the uterus.
Additionally, red raspberry leaf is a rich source of vital minerals needed during menstruation.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea is full of a naturally occurring calcium that is easily absorbed by the body. In the smooth muscle of the uterus, calcium controls the depolarization of the cells. That in turn, allows the uterine muscle to receive oxygen and work efficiently. In other words, without a sufficient supply of calcium, only part of the uterine muscle will work as it should. This will strain the rest of the uterine muscle beyond reason, generating heat and stress on an already taxed body.
Getting enough calcium also eases the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Calcium helps to regulate the hormones your body is flooded with every month. If your calcium supplies are adequate your body will not have to release as many of the hormones that cause PMS . Women who suffer from PMS have elevated levels of these hormones during their menstrual cycle, and the symptoms of PMS, like cramping, irritability, and depression are all very similar to other calcium-deficient symptoms. (source)
To make a tea from red raspberry leaf (which I suggest doing 1-3 times per day during menstruation), place one-two teaspoons loose red raspberry leaf in a tea cup and pour boiling water over it. Allow it to steep for about 10 minutes before filtering and drinking. Buy it in bulk for making tea here.
5. Loving your liver
A toxic liver can result in unpleasant menstrual and pre-menstrual symptoms.
Your body naturally detoxifies during your period, and that includes your liver. Menstruation signals your body to dump unneeded nutrients, as well as waste during this time, so if your liver is over-taxed and bogged down with toxins, you’re more likely to have a painful period as your body struggles to cleanse.
To love your liver and ease period pain:
- keep bowels moving regularly, by eating well and taking a good probiotic
- do coffee enemas, which cleanse the blood and liver
- juice fresh vegetables like carrots and beets
- do an herbal liver cleanse (read how to make your own here, get liver cleansing herbs here) during your period
- avoid sugar, alcohol, gluten, and processed foods
6. Avoid hormone disruptors
Hormone disruptors, also known as endocrine distruptors, disrupt normal hormone production in the body, either by causing over creation of certain hormones, or restricting needed hormone production.
A wide range of substances, both natural and man-made, are thought to cause endocrine disruption, including pharmaceuticals, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides, and plasticizers such as bisphenol A. Endocrine disruptors may be found in many everyday products– including plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides. (source)
This is why I don’t use plastics or canned foods in my kitchen or harmful chemical cleaners or personal care products. We also avoid flame retardents by buying our kids cotton pajamas and being mindful about the furniture we purchase. Additionally, we buy as much organic produce as we can.
Not only is magnesium needed to help your body absorb calcium, but it’s got lots of great medicinal properties on its own.
It helps to control the frequency of contractions by mitigating the repolarization of the muscle cells and slowing down the absorption of certain hormones. (source)
Magnesium is most well-known for its ability to soothe and relax muscles, which can be particularly helpful for easing painful cramping.
Good sources of magnesium include:
- red raspberry leaf tea (perfect for combining needed calcium and magnesium)
- Wake Up Maggie energizing magnesium supplement
- transdermal magnesium spray or magnesium lotion
8. Restore iron levels
Iron is lost anytime blood is lost. To ease fatigue and weakness during your period, replace and restore iron levels by:
- eating iron-rich foods like red meat, egg yolks, liver, and properly soaked beans
- taking liquid chlorophyll (I like these liquid chlorophyll capsules.)
- taking dehydrated liver capsules (the easy way to eat liver if you don’t like it!) Learn how to make them yourself here, or buy them here.
9. Cod liver oil
Cod liver oil is a good source of hormone balancing omega fatty acids, as well as vitamins A, K, and D. Vitamin A is needed for balanced estrogen and normal menstrual bleeding and vitamin K helps blood clot, which can prevent excessive bleeding.
Because of the nutrients found in cod liver oil, it has been purported to help with heavy bleeding and abnormal menstruation.
You may need to work with a practitioner or play around with the dose, but it’s been reported that high doses of cod liver oil can correct menstrual problems due to the high content and bioavailability of vitamins. Extra virgin cod liver oil is the only one I trust. Get it here.
10. Eat well & get plenty of rest
Finally, and most importantly: take care of yourself. Avoid processed foods and focus on good fats for hormone balance, good proteins for iron, and plenty of fresh, organic produce for vitamins and minerals. Steer clear of sugar and processed grains that will increase the burden on your liver and detox mechanisms.
Make sure to sleep at least 8 hours a night, and take a rest during the day if you’re able and feel the need to. Honor your body’s needs while it performs the tasks it was created to and don’t push yourself to accomplish more than you’re physically able. Your period should be a time to relax.