Menstrual Cramps and its cause
Menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea refers to throbbing pain in the lower abdomen. During periods the uterus contracts to expel its lining. This is triggered by certain hormone-like molecules called prostaglandins which also cause pain and inflammation during this process. In other words, prostaglandins are pro-inflammatory chemical substances involved in triggering muscle contraction that help to shed uterus lining. Generally, the severity of the pain depends on the level of prostaglandins in the bloodstream.
Many women experience menstrual cramps just before the period which may last up to 2 to 3 days depending upon the severity. For some women, there might be mild discomfort while for others it can interfere with their routine life. It might also result in depression in severe cases. Doctors prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs in severe cases. But these drugs cause side effects like ulcers in the long run. Hence it is recommended to abstain from taking such drugs unless it is too much to bear. A variety of natural home remedies are available that can ease the pain and provide relief. Let’s list out the home remedies one by one. They are broadly divided into:-
- Heat therapy
- Herbal treatment
Almost all doctors recommend plenty of fluid intakes during periods. Drinking lots of water, about 6 to 8 glass of water per day helps ease the bloating of the stomach. According to doctors during periods drinking hot water reduces the intensity of pain. Staying hydrated is not only good for cramps but also good for the overall health of the body.
2. Heat therapy:
Placing heating pads or hot water bottles in the lower belly, soaking in a hot water bath can reduce the pain discomfort significantly. When heat is applied, the heat receptors in the skin get activated they in turn reduce the activity of prostaglandins thereby relaxing the uterus, dilating the blood vessels which increasing blood supply to the uterus. As a result, muscle cramps slowly subsides. This is one of the most effective ways of easing period pain. It is completely harmless and unwanted side effects by taking pain medication can be avoided.
How can one think of exercise during period cramps? You might be wondering how it is even possible to get up from bed during those days leave alone exercising. But my dear friend exercising should be a regular discipline to counteract the period pain. It is also the most common remedy often suggested by doctors is to exercise regularly. Regular exercise increases blood circulation in the pelvic region thereby relieving period pain. Endorphins are released which counteract the prostaglandins thereby providing relief from period pain. But exercises should be a regular practice rather than an onetime approach for complete relief. Usually, yoga asanas are not recommended during periods however doing pranayama, or simply lying in Shavasana mode helps immensely. Regular exercise not only relieves period pain but improves the overall health of the body significantly. Hence any unknown underlying condition resulting in period cramps would also be corrected if the emphasis is given on regular exercise.
Diet plays a major role in the overall well being of the body and mind. Especially unwanted muscle cramps can be avoided by consuming a diet rich in fiber, natural whole foods, and leafy veggies. Food rich in Vitamin B complex like brown rice, papaya, dry fruits rich in omega 3 fatty acids like walnuts, almonds containing essential minerals reduces inflammation. Green leafy veggies are rich sources of iron which is lost during menstruation. Fruits like banana, avocados, etc are rich in boron known to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Eating hydrating foods like cucumber, water melon, celery and lettuce etc also helps during those times.
5. Herbal treatment:
India is home to some magical herbs and spices that work wonders during stomach cramps. Most of the compounds are anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. They work by reducing the muscle contractions and swelling, the common cause for muscle cramps.
6. Herbal tea:
One can have different types of herbal tea like-ginger tea, chamomile tea. Chamomile tea has pain-relieving properties. According to research, it relaxes the uterus by reducing the prostaglandin level thereby relieving pain. Similarly, ginger and black pepper tea have anti-inflammatory properties. The level of prostaglandin is brought down relieving the pain. Ginger tea is also highly effective for irregular periods and is a refreshing drink for period-related fatigue conditions. Rich in antioxidants herbal teas also ease period discomfort and pain.
7. Spice effect:
Cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds have wonderful pain-relieving properties. Consuming fenugreek seeds soaked for 12 hrs or overnight in water works wonders. Similarly, cumin seeds soaked in water also serve as a pain reliever. A concoction of carom seeds and jaggery relieves muscle cramps; even drinking warm milk with turmeric provides relief in period pain. These are common spices available at home which are quite handy and are a great natural tonic for the overall fitness of the body. Consuming cinnamon is not only good for pain relief but also relieves period induced nausea, vomiting, and heavy bleeding. All the spices mentioned earlier have anti-inflammatory properties that work against prostaglandins and relax the uterus and its surrounding muscles providing relief. Our Indian diet naturally incorporates most of the spices; hence all we need to use them at the right time and manner to get maximum benefits.
8. Massage at home:
Massage therapy for at least 20 to 30 minutes is quite effective against menstrual cramps. Essential oils like lavender, clary sage oil can be massaged slowly in circular motions. If essential oils are not available then warm sesame oil, almond oil, and mustard oil, etc. can be used to massage the lower abdomen to relieve pain and discomfort.
The above mentioned natural remedies have nil or very little side effects that do not interfere with body metabolism, unlike allopathic medicines. The best part is they are available at the convenience of home. It is important to understand that any medication will be effective if we are tension free, stresses less, and dedicated enough to discipline the mind and body.