- Women's Health
Easy, Natural Remedies for Menstrual Cramps
It happens every 28 days, and I don't think it's a coincidence a certain zombie horror movie has taken that title: menstruating can make you feel like the walking dead. Between the fatigue, bloating, irritability and painful--for some, excruciating--menstrual cramps, it's 5-7 days of pure torture. You don't feel like yourself, and all you want to do is curl up in bed and wait for the cycle to end. Been there.
But, as the strong, resourceful women that we are, we know a way or two to ease what can be the most interfering aspect of our week with Aunt Flo: cramps. While treating that pack of Midol like M&Ms is an easy solution, there are more natural ways to ease menstrual cramps. Trying these easy tips out can make your period feel less like a horror movie.
Cinnamon is a badass spice. It boasts numerous health benefits, such as being a good source of fiber, iron and calcium, and is also a good home remedy for menstrual cramps. You can sprinkle it on a salad, cereal, oatmeal or yogurt to help keep those muscles relaxed. But using cinnamon in hot (decaffeinated) tea is the best way to reduce menstrual cramps.
So, I was cleaning out my closet a few weeks ago and stumbled upon a CosmoGirl! magazine from 2004 that I thought was useless. Wrong. I found in its colorful pages a very useful tip for alleviating cramps: steep raspberry leaves and tea bag in boiling water and drink up! Apparently, raspberry leaves have been used for years to alleviate painful menstrual contractions, though doctors aren't sure why this plant is so soothing. Remember, though, to use decaffeinated tea; caffeine will only worsen your cramps.
In 1996, the Iowa Women's Health Study found that women who ate nuts 4 times a week were 40% (wow!) less likely to die of heart disease. Who knew these little health powerhouses were also good for period pain relief? Almonds, peanuts, pistachios and walnuts are what you should seek out when dealing with menstrual cramps.
Personally, the thought of downing a cup of pickle juice makes me wince. But for those of us who like pickles (like my pickle-crazy sister who is suffering right now because neither of us can open the pickle jar) this is an easy peasy solution. You could also make the juice into popsicles to eat when you feel the cramps coming on.
Like a warm bath (which I also suggest) heat packs work wonders on putting those menstrual cramps in check. The heat relaxes the muscles that contract during the menstrual cycle, so it doesn't feel like they're spazzing out of control and trying to kill you. For a triple whammy, take a calming bath, then put on the heat pack while sipping hot tea. You'll feel better before you know it.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose is a plant native to North America, but it can also be found in Europe and parts of the Southerin hemisphere. People have sought this plant out for treatment of eczema and rhuematoid arthritis, but it's also supposed to help with menstrual cramps. It also appears to ease breast tenderness that some women experience just before their periods, which is another crappy aspect of surfing the crimson waves.
Before your period drives you bananas, go ahead and eat some! (Bad joke, I know.) The potassium in bananas is believed to help relieve menstrual cramps. There's plenty of ways to eat them, like with yogurt or in a smoothie. Why not add some cinnamon and a ripe banana to a smoothie to help kick those cramps' butt? You'll be drinking fruity deliciousness all the way to feeling on top of your game again.
Women are no strangers to the intense food cravings that come with their time of the month. My mouth waters for ice-cream, peanut butter, cookies, and pie. My favorite is pumpkin pie. But, while that may not always be a viable option (or conducive to my diet), pumpkin seeds are a good bet. Start eating a quarter of a cup of pumpkin seeds a day 1 week before your period is due. Continue to eat them through your period and you will be pain free.
Don't think this means sweating bullets trying to keep up with a Jillian Michaels workout DVD. (Just the thought of that scares me.) But regular exercise is considered to be a natural way to reduce muscle tension and elevate one's mood. Something as simple as walking for just 20 minutes a day can help reduce the severity of menstrual cramps. Who can't spare 20 minutes? Also try light cardio exercises, stretching exercises and yoga to strengthen muscles and help you to deal with all kinds of pain more effectively and easily.
While I may not as lucky as my mother--who didn't experience bad cramps until her 30s or 40s--now I know alternatives to dragging myself to the medicine cabinet, groping for the bottle of Aspirin.