What is dysmenorrhea?
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for period pain. It is characterised by lower abdominal cramps accompanying the menstrual blood loss and may be associated with backache, pain in the thighs, vomiting and diarrhea.
Primary dysmenorrhea is due to the release of chemicals called series-2 prostaglandins (PG2) in the menstrual blood which cause painful contractions of the uterus. Most of the treatments outlined below aim to decrease the levels of PG2 whilst increasing the amounts of the anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic series-1 and -3 prostaglandins. This type of dysmenorrhea effects about 25% of women at some time and occurs most frequently in the 15 to 25 year age group. The pain usually begins with or just before the onset of the period and may persist for 24 to 36 hours.
Secondary dysmenorrhea refers to the type of period pain that is the result of some other underlying disease. Possibilities include endometriosis, ovarian cysts, pelvic infection and uterine fibroids. It occurs more commonly in older age groups ( 30 to 40 years). The pain may begin well before menstrual bleeding and persist through to the end of the period. Pain may also occur at other times in the cycle.
Treatment and general recommendations
Treatment for secondary dysmenorrhea should obviously be focused on the underlying cause. For primary dysmenorrhea the following options are very effective.
- Heat promotes blood flow and relaxes muscle spasm, so try a hot water bottle, a hot bath or sipping hot drinks such as herbal teas. Ginger herbal tea is particularly effective.
- Regular exercise improves the circulation and relieves pelvic congestion. Yoga, massage and relaxation exercises afford great relief.
- Smoking should be avoided.
- See my book "Magnesium - The Miracle Mineral".
Include often - fish and avocados - these contain essential fatty acids that are converted to the beneficial PG1 and PG3; foods high in calcium and magnesium such as nuts, seeds, vegetables and vegetable juices. Avoid - omega 6 rich vegetable oils and sugar, which increase inflammation in the body.
The following juice recipe is recommended from "Raw Juices Can Save Your Life" book.
Pain Relief Juice
This juice contains anti-inflammatory pain relieving ingredients. It also contains substances to build and repair the nervous system.
- 4.5 oz (125g) chopped broccoli
- 1 inch (2.5 cm) slice fresh ginger
- 1 orange
- 1 grapefruit - leave white pith on
- 6 strawberries
- 1 apple, skin on
- 1 tsp tahini
- Wash, trim and chop broccoli, ginger, orange and grapefruit and pass through the juicer.
- Pour the juice into a blender and add strawberries and tahini. Blend until smooth.
- If you are brave, you can add a small chilli pepper (or a small part thereof) to the juicer, as its contained capsaicin is a natural painkiller.
Orthodox medical treatments
Anti-prostaglandin drugs such as naproxen and mefenamic acid work well if taken at the very first sign of the period and will usually only be required for one or two days. The usual dose is two tablets every four to six hours as required with food, but always check with your own doctor. Avoid these drugs if you have a past history of stomach ulcers. Unfortunately, they wipe out the entire family of prostaglandins, not just the unwanted PG2.
The oral contraceptive pill is excellent in preventing primary dysmenorrhea and for those requiring contraception may be the ideal solution. An alternative is taking a progesterone alone such as dydrogesterone from day 5 to day 26 of the menstrual cycle, which is particularly useful to reduce the amount of menstrual blood flow. Some women find that an antispasmodic like hyoscine is very helpful.
Recommended supplements for dysmenorrhea
- Fish Oil
- Take 2 capsules twice daily immediately before meals. Essential fatty acids improve the balance of prostaglandins by being converted to the "good guys" PG1 and PG3, thereby inducing muscle relaxation and reducing cramps.
- Magnesium Tablets or Powder
- Take 2 tablets twice daily or one teaspoon daily. Magnesium is known as 'the great relaxer' and is very beneficial for relieving muscle pain and spasms, and improving sleep quality.
Take 2 capsules twice daily - to help balance the hormones naturally and provide relief for a variety of symptoms such as cramping.
- Fem Pro - Natural Progesterone Cream
Progesterone deficiency is a common contributor to heavy, painful menstruation.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.