Painful periods, also called dysmenorrhea (“dis-men-oh-ree-ah”), are a common concern for people who have menstrual cycles. While roughly 80% of period experiencers report discomfort during bleeding days, it is important to know that just because something is common doesn’t mean it's normal!
Naturopathic Medicine, along with several other traditional systems, is rooted in the belief that the body is more than the sum of its parts and that symptoms are signals of imbalance that need attention, not suppression. In restoring balance, we must consider the needs of the whole body, not just the area exhibiting a symptom. In the case of painful periods, it's not unusual to consider gut health/diet, mental health, the impact of stress, inflammation, and more.
So, if you’re ready to work towards milder menstrual days by making choices that support the body overall, consider the following “whole-health/whole-month” strategies of healthy fueling, healthy movement, and healthy habits:
Healthy Fueling: Eating to Reduce Inflammation
Part of what makes periods hurt is the increase in inflammatory molecules that are produced by the body to cause the shedding of the uterine lining. This is a normal process, but if a body is already inflamed, this increase in inflammation can become painful and disruptive.
To help keep inflammation in check:
Healthy Movement: Exercise and Mobility
We all know the importance of exercise and moving our bodies for heart, mental, and bone health. What about menstrual health? Like my chiropractor friend who has a sign in his office that says “exercise is nature’s ibuprofen,” I find regular, consistent (all month long) exercise to be a reliable strategy to ease menstrual pain over time. Other healthy movement and mobility strategies that may be beneficial, include:
Along with healthy fueling and movement, other day-to-day habits will also influence how balanced, or out of balance, the system is. Adequate sleep is irreplaceable. Regardless of gender, most adults are not getting enough sleep at night. However, current research suggests that women do need MORE sleep than men, so if you’re working towards better overall health, prioritize sleep!
Other healthy habits of leaning into include:
While working towards a lifestyle that lends to easier, less painful periods, enjoy botanicals that have properties that support menstrual health:
Remember, you should NOT have to suffer month after month with painful periods. It is important to visit with a healthcare provider if:
• Pelvic or lower abdominal pain occurs throughout the month, not just during periods.