That time of the month is here again, and you’ve been dreading it. Like clockwork, the menstrual cramps rack your whole body with pain, making you wish you could spend every moment curled up in bed. To cope with everyday life, you immediately turn to pain relievers, but what if you could relieve period cramps naturally? Some of these remedies might even help you conquer the cramps once and for all.
1. Fish Oil and Vitamin B-12
Many women in the U.S. are lacking in omega-3s and B vitamins. Besides their benefits for disease prevention and general health, these nutrients can also reduce period pain, according to one Danish study.
This study dove into several options for cramps, researching the effects of seal oil, fish oil, fish oil with vitamin B-12, and a placebo. Researchers assigned each of the women to one of these groups at random and studied the effects for 6 months.
Each woman took 5 capsules per day throughout 3 monthly cycles, rating their pain each month. Then, they stopped taking the vitamins for 3 months to see the effects.
Interestingly, the researchers found that women taking any of the oils had reduced their pain versus the placebo group. However, the fish oil and vitamin B-12 group had the best results with effects that lasted even when they stopped taking the vitamins. For now, the researchers recommend increasing fish intake for general health, but you could run into a few other benefits along the way.
2. More Vegetables, Less Fat
Many Americans today don’t eat the minimum recommended fruits and vegetables every day. The processed foods they do choose are usually high in carbs, fat, and salt, making the perfect combination for painful periods.
For instance, period cramps happen because of mini uterus contractions that also cause blood vessels to constrict around the abdomen. Lots of salt and caffeine in the diet will further restrict these blood vessels, magnifying the pain. Getting more fruits and vegetables, though, will support hydration and nutrient balance while lowering inflammation exacerbated by unhealthy fats.
At the same time, you should make sure that you’re getting plenty of water and hydrating fluids. Water will actually lessen fluid retention, reducing the pain associated with bloating.
In addition, hot liquids can increase the blood flow in your body to ease cramping, but you should choose your hot drinks carefully. A decaffeinated tea might do the trick.
3. Magnesium Balance
Getting enough magnesium in your diet is essential. Magnesium regulates the function of nerves and muscles, both of which are involved in the menstrual cycle. It also helps in preventing water retention, a common complaint for many women during their periods.
Several small studies on magnesium have shown promise, including one performed by the NIH. Researchers studied 50 women, putting half on a regimen of increased magnesium. After 6 months, 21 of the 25 women reported lessened PMS.
To make sure you’re getting enough magnesium, eat foods such as leafy greens, bananas, pumpkin seeds, avocados, and dark chocolate. Consult your doctor before taking magnesium supplements, or any other supplement, for that matter.
4. Heat Therapy
For a more immediate relief of period pain, try applying heat to your abdomen or soaking in a hot bath. While these methods might make you relax and smile, they do actually help the pain.
According to Brian King from the University College London, the heat application triggers heat receptors in your body. These receptors actually block the chemical messages which cause pain. Although short-lived, this method may help relieve your symptoms while other methods take effect.
Can health experts ever find a reason not to engage in some level of exercise? Regular exercise will simply have many benefits for your health, including pain relief. During a good workout, your body will improve blood flow while relieving stress and releasing endorphins.
One Iranian study in 2006 showed that high school girls were able to reduce medications for PMS through exercise. During your period, opt for gentle exercises like walking or yoga.
Thousands of women go through painful period cramps every month, turning to painkillers or just pushing through it. However, you can make some lifestyle changes to reduce the cramps, including exercising, increasing your vegetables, and taking fish oil with vitamin B-12. These options can help you cope with your monthly cycle better and might just get rid of the pain for good. As always, consult your doctor before changing your diet or exercise regimen.
This article first appeared on AskDrManny.com.