How to Deal with Menstrual Cramps
When it comes to mitigating the effects of menstrual cramps, you can never have too many tricks up your sleeve. Let's take a look into some preventive measures you can take to reduce how bad your cramps will be, and how you can reduce the pain once the cramps do start. Let's start with the preventive measures.
Inflammation is a major factor in why menstrual cramps hurt so much, and certain vitamin deficiencies can make inflammations worse. Vitamin D, in particular, plays a major role in how our body handles inflammation, and Vitamin D deficiencies are relatively common. You can prevent these and other issues by taking vitamin supplements regularly.
Just make sure you stick to the daily recommended doses of each vitamin. There is no indication that any additional benefits can be obtained by going over that recommended amount, and some vitamins - such as Vitamin A - can become toxic in large doses.
Watch your diet
Vitamin deficiencies aren't the only thing that can make inflammation worse. Foods rich in sugar, salt, and fats can all boost the body's inflammatory response. Eating large amounts of these during or right before your period can make the cramps worse. On top of that, certain foods can also increase bloating, which is another factor that adds to the pain associated with menstrual cramps.
This doesn't mean that you have to restrict your diet all month. If you can track when your period is about to start, you can just watch what you eat on the days leading up to it. A diet that is low in fat and rich in antioxidants will be ideal - eat plenty of fruit and whole grains. Gluten can also make period cramps worse, especially in women who suffer from celiac disease. If you've never done it, try going gluten-free for a month to see if you feel a difference.
That's it for preventive measures. Now let's look at how to treat period cramps.
Pain meds can help alleviate the discomfort caused by cramps. If you have a regular cycle, you can start taking the medication at regular intervals a day before the cramps start, which should help reduce discomfort from the get-go. It's a good idea to talk to a doctor to figure out which medication is best for you, and what dosage you should use. Be honest about your pain level - what you consider a "normal" amount of pain may also be out of the ordinary and require further investigation.
Heat can increase blood flow and reduce inflammation, both of which can help alleviate period cramps. So soaking in a nice warm bath or taking a long hot shower can both help with the pain, but these are not the only options. Heating pads are a popular solution for dealing with menstrual cramps, and they have the advantage of allowing you to do stuff while sitting on one and benefiting from the heat.
There are also portable heating pads out there. Some stick to you like a band-aid, others tie around your waist like a belt. All provide heating while allowing for more mobility, and they can be easily hidden under your clothes.
Finally, even warm beverages like a cup of hot tea can provide some benefit by dilating blood vessels and increasing blood flow. Although the scope of the benefit is more limited compared to the alternatives mentioned before.
Manage your stress levels
Stress has a whole constellation of nasty side effects, which only get worse the more stressed you are. Stress hormones increase your pain sensitivity, for example, which makes all pains - including menstrual pains - hurt more. Stress also limits your body's ability to respond to inflammations, which will also make menstrual pains worse.
The more you can do to avoid stress during this period - such as getting a good pair of period panties to avoid accidents and taking some time off from work - can also help with the pain. It's also good to engage in relaxing activities, such as meditation, yoga, and whatever else keeps you calm. Chocolate, for example, has very little proven benefit in dealing with menstrual cramps, but it can help with stress, which ends up being helpful.
Anything that improves your circulation can be beneficial in helping to reduce the bloating and inflammation that is causing your period cramps. This is something you can achieve by stretching, doing yoga, exercising, and finding other ways to engage in aerobic activity. Remember: you don't have to do a heavy workout or lift weights, just increase your heart rate.