First, let’s talk about what exactly is happening in our bodies that causes cramps. Here’s the simplified science: our “periods” are the lining of our uterus shedding. This happens typically once a month when a fertilized egg does not attach to that uterine lining (AKA we aren’t pregnant.) Our uterus contracts to help shed that lining (yep, just like it does when we’re in labor,) and that can be painful. Basically, our uterus, which is a muscular organ, is working really hard to shed its lining and what happens when our muscles strain or are overworked? We get cramps.
Now that we know what’s happening and why, we know how we can help improve our cramps, reduce pain and maybe even prevent them altogether.
How to Make Cramps Go Away
Our uterine lining is pretty thick, so the more we can help our muscles relax and reduce inflammation, the more painless the process will be.
- Make sure you’re getting your magnesium, Vitamin D, Vitamin E & Omega-3’s.
- These essential nutrients help reduce inflammation in the body, regulate muscle function and can lessen period cramps. You can get these nutrients naturally through your food, but they’re also available in supplement form. Always check with your doctor before taking supplements, but in the meantime, make sure you’re eating plenty of nuts and seeds, eggs and oily fish like salmon. This works best if you’re getting these nutrients in all the time, not just on your period.
- Apply heat
- Ever wonder why heating pads work? Heat boosts circulation, allowing nutrients and oxygen to travel to your muscles. If you don’t have a heating pad, a hot shower or bath can provide the same relief.
- Decrease stress
- The more relaxed you are, the more your body and muscles feel safe to relax, too. That’s because stress isn’t just a mind issue. When we’re stressed, our bodies release cortisol into our bloodstream causing that fight-or-flight mode that can worsen cramps. Need quick ways to decrease stress? Find them here.
- Avoid caffeine and that delicious chocolate cake
- Unfortunately, some of the things we tend to crave most during our periods can worsen cramps. Caffeine narrows our blood vessels which can constrict the uterus. But hey, unlike a lot of other blogs out there, we’re not about to tell you to avoid all of your desires. But knowing that sugar, salt and trans fat found in sweets can increase inflammation and increase muscle pain may help you decide when the risk is worth the reward. If it’s a high pain day or you have a big presentation at work, it might be best to reach for a banana for your sugar fix and start your morning with decaf.
- Drink anti-inflammatory teas
- Even if you don’t have fibroids, fibroid tea can help your cramps by reducing inflammation in the body. A lot of foods can do this, too like berries, broccoli and avocado.
- It’s true. Using your muscles can relax them. Plus, happy endorphins! There are many benefits to exercising on your period. You can’t go wrong here. But, we know the couch usually sounds more appealing. It’s okay to take it easy with active stretching or light yoga. The benefits will happen all the same!
These tips can help in both preventing cramps from happening (or at least from becoming too painful) and help reduce your pain level during cramps. As always, it’s important to note that if your cramps are debilitating or feel unbearable, it could be due to a greater issue like endometriosis, fibroids, PCOS or a hormonal imbalance. Severe pain is not and shouldn’t be a normal part of periods. Talk to your doctor if you feel your cramps are overwhelming.
The key takeaway? Try to keep your body relaxed, hydrated and keep inflammation down during your period. This will set your uterus up to be in its best position for doing its job painlessly, and that’s a win/win!