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That doesn’t mean that painful cramps are normal. Although a normal, healthy period might cause some discomfort, hours or days of menstrual pain that disrupt your everyday activities is not normal. This is called dysmenorrhea. Some over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, may help with the cramp relief, but they don’t address the root cause of your pain.
What causes menstrual cramps? And how can you find menstrual cramp relief?
Histamine is a chemical messenger released by the body in response to inflammation (such as during menstruation!). However, histamine is an important chemical and we do need it to help regulate our gut and help us filter out pathogens. One of its many jobs is to help the uterus contract so it can empty. The problem is that too much histamine can cause intense and painful cramping.
Prostaglandins are chemical messengers found all over our bodies. They activate when we have an injury or inflammation (hello again, period!). High levels of inflammation cause high levels of prostaglandin. The more prostaglandins you have, the more intense your cramps can feel. (Did you know that prostaglandins are also responsible for period poops).
Having high levels of estrogen means the endometrium (lining of the uterus) will be thicker. When the endometrium is really full and thick, the uterus may have to work harder to expel it. This can cause very intense cramps.
4. Anatomical differences
The uterus is not in a fixed location for your whole life. Pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, or abdominal trauma can cause the uterus to tilt in one direction or another. When the uterus is tilted, it has to work really hard to empty itself (which means more cramping).
The good news is all four of the causes we’ve mentioned are treatable with simple nutrition changes to improve your gut health. Increasing your Omega 3s, taking magnesium supplements and increasing your intake of cruciferous vegetables all help relieve menstrual cramps and improve your gut. Tracking your menstrual cycle will also help you identify if there are any hormonal imbalances that are creating more issues.
Some practical steps to take to relieve menstrual cramps
- Get plenty of rest. Take time out to heal. Some people who menstruate find planning ahead for their period (such as having meals already prepped, chores under control etc.) can really help and allow time for yourself. Tempdrop enables you to plan for your period with its period predictions.
- Use heat to soothe. Most people have a positive response to period pain when using heat. A hot water bottle or a heating pad on your lower abdomen can be an effective home remedy for menstrual cramps. Or why not take a bath and add epsom salts for extra benefit?
By making improvements over time and managing pain using various strategies, we hope you can have a better period. And perhaps even become like one of the many women who experience little to no pain during menstruation.