Are you suffering from painful Menstrual Cramps? Finding a way out to deal with the pain? Here’s the answer to all your questions, why? how? when? what? and much more by Sports Nutritionist Krupali Shah
About half of women experience menstrual cramps, and about 15% describe the pain as severe. It has been shown that women who do not exercise experience more painful menstrual cramps.
Certain psychological factors such as emotional stress may also increase the likelihood of having uncomfortable menstrual cramps. Additional risk factors for these cramps include:
- Being younger than 20 years of age
- Starting puberty at age 11 or younger
- Menorrhagia – heavy bleeding during periods
- Never having delivered a baby
Menstrual cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea or period pains, are painful sensations felt in the lower abdomen that can occur both before and during a woman’s menstrual period. The pain ranges from dull and annoying to severe and extreme. Menstrual cramps tend to begin after an egg is released from the ovaries and travels down the fallopian tube (ovulation).
There are two primary types of these difficult or painful periods – primary and secondary dysmenorrhea:
[cro_callout text=”Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common type and is characterized by pain in the lower abdomen and lower back pain beginning 1-2 days before the period and lasting from 2 to 4 days. There is no underlying problem that is causing the pain” layout=”2″ color=”#52BFD3″]
[cro_callout text=”Secondary dysmenorrhea is characterized by cramping pains that are due to an identifiable medical problem such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or pelvic inflammatory disease.” layout=”3″ color=”#EB5777″]
Menstrual cramps are pains that begin in the lower abdomen and pelvis. The discomfort can extend to the lower back or legs. The cramps can be a quite painful or simply a dull ache. They can be periodic or continual.
Menstrual cramps usually start shortly before the menstrual period, peak within 24 hours after the onset of the bleeding, and subside again after a day or two.
Menstrual cramps may be accompanied by a headache and/or nausea, which can lead, although infrequently, to the point of vomiting. Menstrual cramps can also be accompanied by either constipation or diarrheabecause the prostaglandins which cause smooth muscles to contract are found in both the uterus and intestinal tract. Some women experience an urge to urinate more frequently.
[cro_callout text=”Diet” layout=”1″ color=”#886D64″]
- Calcium is known to relieve muscle tension, which triggers menstrual cramps. Eat plenty of dark, leafy greens such as kale and broccoli, and try incorporating low fat milk and yogurts into your diet. For food sources of calcium.
- High fiber vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, and other plant foods can reduce menstrual pain because they help to absorb and eliminate prostaglandins. Acting as a sponge, fiber soaks up these substances in the liver and carries them out with other waste. Good sources of fiber include brown rice, whole-grain bread, broccoli, spinach, carrots, kidney beans, peas, lentils, and assorted fruits.
- Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish (salmon, cod, and halibut), flaxseed, and walnuts, help to reduce the production of prostaglandins. This prevents hormone cycling, a major cause of menstrual cramp pain.
- Vitamin E may inhibit prostaglandin synthesis, thereby preventing inflammation and cramping. Good sources of Vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, and peanut butter.
- Vitamin B6 helps to reduce pain and is found in high concentrations in bananas, lentils, chickpeas, oatmeal, lean beef, and chicken breast.
- Zinc has been shown to reduce premenstrual pain and bloating and is found in oysters, red meat, and poultry.
- Magnesium deficiency can worsen menstrual cramps. The severity and duration of menstrual cramps can be reduced by restoring magnesium to normal levels via the consumption of cashews, wheat germ, and pinto beans.
- Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, was cited in one study as responsible for cramp reduction in 90 percent of symptomatic women by reducing uterine artery spasms. Good sources of niacin include bran, tuna, paprika, and sundried tomatoes.
[cro_callout text=”Foods to Avoid” layout=”1″ color=”#EB5777″]
- Salty foods:
The biggest culprit of water retention is salt and very salty foods are best avoided during the menstrual period, according to the Mayo Clinic. Among the biggest sources of sodium are frozen dinners, canned foods, fast food, and just about any prepackaged items. With a major effect on water retention, these are some of the most important foods to avoid during menstrual periods.
- High sugar foods:
According to the University of Virginia Health System, reducing intake of sugar during menstruation can to help alleviate pain, cramping, and other symptoms of dysmenorrhea. As can be seen in the caffeine and fat categories, there is significant overlap in many of these foods like chocolate which contains a number of components that promote menstrual pain.
- Fatty foods:
A research recommends avoiding fatty foods during menstrual periods, particularly those loaded with saturated fats and trans fats. Deep fried foods like French fries, onion rings, and other fast food products are among the worst in this category. Red meats, snacks like ice cream and chocolate, and butter are other major saturated fat culprits. Eating a low fat diet during a period can help relieve pain and cramping and reduce water retention.
- Caffeine and Alcohol:
Coffee, chocolate, tea, carbonated beverages, and other highly caffeinated products are foods to avoid during menstrual periods. Caffeine can exacerbate cramps, anxiety, and breast tenderness from menstruation. It can also interfere with the sleep cycle and cause night sweats, further aggravating menstrual symptoms.
[cro_callout text=”Is physical activity advisable at such times?” layout=”1″ color=”#BA265B”]
- Do some mild exercise. Walk around the neighborhood, run on the treadmill, go ride your bike, or any other exercises you enjoy. This will increase blood flow which will help the cramps go away.
- Engage in stress reduction activities such as yoga, massage and meditation as they may ease the pain of menstrual cramps.[/cro_accordionitem]
[cro_callout text=”Natural Remedies” layout=”1″ color=”#52BFD3″]
- Lie in different positions. Lying on your side with your knees tucked into your chest can temporarily reduce the pain. Some people say to lie face down on the bed, with your face in a pillow. Stick your butt up in the air. This will relieve gas and help you feel better. Also try lying on your back, keeping your feet elevated by pillows.
- Try placing a hot water bottle or heating pad on your abdomen. This helps ease your muscles. A hot wash cloth or even just a warm blanket can also help. According to the Mayo Clinic, this appears to be just as effective as over-the-counter pain killers. Also try taking a hot bath or shower. If you don’t have a heating pad, you can make one.
- Try acupuncture, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, may help to relieve pain associated with menstrual cramps. Acupuncture has been used as a pain relief method for over 2,000 years. Hair-thin needles are placed into the skin on specific locations on your body. The needles do not cause pain for most people.[/cro_accordionitem]
[cro_callout text=”Others” layout=”1″ color=”#DC042B”]
Try to wear clothing that doesn’t pressure your abdomen, such as all-in-ones. They are comfortable, warm, and help reduce period cramps caused by tight clothing. Dance Direct sell some good-quality ones.
Use the body’s own pain-killers. If you’re worried about over-use of traditional pain-killers, or they are not available, you may also wish to make use of the body’s own pain-management mechanisms.
- Distract yourself from the pain. Distraction is one of the most powerful and readily available painkillers. So if you have intense cramps, do something that normally totally absorbs you, such as socializing with good friends, reading a book, playing a computer game, or spending time on Facebook.
- Get regular exercise. Exercise increases your overall serotonin levels. Serotonin is the body’s own painkiller, and also makes us feel happier.
Make sure to have regular health check-ups to ensure health. Mention to doctors any menstrual problems you feel you might be having, and take into consideration how conditions such as IBS or anemia may make you feel during menstruation. In addition, menstrual cramps can be caused by an underlying disorder such as endometriosis or fibroids, in which case the surgical removal of tissue may be required to help alleviate your symptoms.
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