How to stop period cramps without pills is what this post all about! If you have been looking for solutions to find relief from excruciating period pain and cramps during menstruation, then you are not alone.
Period cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea is one of the biggest menstrual problems faced by young women and adolescent girls. And period pain can get really bad!
In fact, Prof. John Guillebaud (Reproductive health in London’s University College), once quoted that the period pain due to menstrual cramps can be as bad as having a heart attack!
Now, this is neither an exaggeration and nor does it show the full picture. While as many as 90% of the women experience period pain in some or all of their menstrual cycle; the intensity of pain varies in women.
For some, period cramps could be as bad as an heart attack and for others, it could be a mild throbbing sensation or discomfort. Yet, period pain doesn’t indicate a normal period!
Now first things first; if you experience severe period pain that limits your ability to function, then you need to get in touch with your doctor. This is because extreme pain during menstruation is totally not normal. It may indicate serious health conditions such as endometriosis and pelvic inflammation, which may need further investigation by an expert.
But, you will still gain a lot from this post as we will discuss natural ways aka improving your diet and lifestyle to achieve pain free and healthy periods. So, read on!
Now, if you experience mild to moderate period cramps, then you need to work on improving your menstrual health. And in this post, I’ll show you how to stop period cramps with Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle. Let’s get started!
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Symptoms and Types of Period Cramps
Menstrual cramps usually cause severe cramping or spasmodic pain in the pelvic region just before or during menstruation.
It is one of the most common reasons for non-attendance at school or work among young women. Although it is not life-threatening, menstrual cramps can have a considerable impact on a woman’s life and comfort.
Here are some of the most common health symptoms experienced during period cramps:
- Usually cramping pain begins few hours before menstruation and subsides after regular menstrual flow is established.
- The first 24 hours of menstruation is usually the most painful time.
- Severe pain in lower abdomen region.
- Pain that spreads to lower back, hips and inner thighs.
- Sharp, throbbing, or dull pain experienced in pelvic region.
- Diarrhea and constipation.
- Loss of Appetite.
- Migraine Headaches, Nausea, and Dizziness.
- Swollen and painful breasts.
- Bloating and swollen abdomen.
- Extreme fatigue
Symptoms of period cramps and period pain may or may not continue throughout the period.
Is it ok to take painkiller for period pain?
Most of the over the counter (OTC) pain measurements for menstrual cramps are usually non-addictive analgesic and antispasmodics drugs.
However, for long term use, these medications are not good for health of the patient. Painkillers make the gastrointestinal symptoms of menstrual cramps worse, leading to either diarrhea or constipation, loss of appetite, and bloating.
Painkillers poorly affect the gut health in the long term. They also lead to headache, dizziness, drowsiness and blurred vision. Learn here about the side-effects of taking painkillers for period cramps.
Is it Normal to have Period Cramps?
While the prevalence of menstrual cramps is very high, it is NOT normal to have painful periods. In Ayurveda, period pain or any symptom related with menstruation is considered to be a sign of health imbalances.
A recent study reported that between 17% and 80% of the menstruating women go through menstrual cramps. Although the level of severity varies, period pain is a common problem faced by women of all age groups.
- Period cramps is very frequent amongst teenagers and young women who have just attained menarche or recently started their periods.
- It is most common in women between the ages of 20 and 24 years.
- Most of the severe episodes of menstrual cramps usually occur before 25 years of age.
- More than 50% of teenagers are affected by moderate to severe period cramps.
- About 10 – 12% of the teenager girls having severe menstrual cramps that lead to missed college and inability to carry out routine tasks for at least 1-3 days each month.
What is the main cause of Period Cramps?
Period cramps or dysmenorrhea can happen due to inherent health imbalances, which we will talk about later in the post. Also, it can happen due to existing health conditions such as Endometriosis.
Period cramps is not a disease, but in fact a symptom that something is not right. That’s why, you need to pay attention to how your health is during menstruation and through the rest of your cycle.
Here’s how period cramps are classified depending on the origin:
This type of period cramps is termed as spasmodic (which comes in spasms or rhythms like labor pain) or true dysmenorrhea. That means, there is no existing health condition or pelvic abnormality due to which such kind of period cramps are happening.
Primary dysmenorrhea tends to occur in younger women or teenagers in the first few years after menarche. It affects more than 50% of women and quite severe in about 10%.
This type of period cramps happens due to underlying health conditions. It usually begins in middle aged women, who are in their thirties or forties. Secondary Dysmenorrhea may be caused by a number of conditions including:
- Fibroids (benign tumors within the uterine wall).
- Endometriosis (gynecological disorders)
- Sexually transmitted infections.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Ovarian cyst or tumor.
- Use of an intrauterine device.
How to Stop Period Cramps with Ayurveda?
In Ayurveda, period cramps can be considered as one of Kashtartava symptoms. Kashta means painful, while Artava refers to menstrual blood.Period cramps is considered to be an imbalance in the reproductive tract (Yoni Roga) situated in the pelvic region.
Now, pelvic region consider is the residing place of Vata Dosha. That’s why any imbalance in Vata Dosha, mainly Apana vayu leads to period problems including menstrual cramps.
Also, some of the signature health symptoms of Vata Imbalance are spasmodic pain, irregular appetite, constipation, dizziness and dryness.
And that’s what leads to the corresponding health symptoms of severe period cramps.
That’s why to know on how to stop period cramps with Ayurveda, you will also need to master a Vata balancing diet and lifestyle. We will discuss that in here.
Also, we will check out yoga poses and herbal remedies that can help you to relieve period pain fast. Let’s check it out!
1. Your Diet and Foods (Ahara) for Menstrual Cramps
Vata Balancing Diet
The Vata dosha controls movements, and so is much involved in your menstrual cycle. The flow of blood is under the control of Vata. The best foods to suit the Vata dosha include:
- Consume healthy, warm and fresh foods.
- Eat 5-6 small meals. However, avoid snacks and constant grazing.
- Take more cooked green leafy vegetables, gourds, squashes and root vegetables.
- Regularly use herbs and spices such as ginger, cumin seeds, coriander, turmeric, rosemary and basil.
- Take foods rich in calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Some examples are beets, banana, millets, beans, lentils, carrots and sprouts.
- Consume healthy whole grains such as Mung beans, Wheat, Rice, barley and quinoa.
- Take healthy fats in the form of nuts, seeds, ghee and pure oils
- Have fresh fruits like plums, dark grapes, apples, and pomegranate.
Foods to Avoid for Pain Free Periods
As a rule, only take foods that are light to digest, and avoid the heavier ones (like the Satvik diet).
- Spicy, sour, salty and sugary foods
- Limit fermented foods such as pickles, cheese, curds
- Avoid foods such as tender mango and tamarind
- Oily, deep fried and burnt foodstuffs
- Heavy foods such as meat, cheese and fish
- Excessively cold, stale and refrigerated foods
2. Yoga for Period Pain Relief
Regular yoga practice leads to strength, stability, and suppleness in the body. Yoga is specifically beneficial for women’s health and matters of reproductive system.
In Yoga, various types of Asanas have been mentioned. Among them Ushtrasana, Bhadrasana, Gomukhasana, and Vajrasana have a pain relieving effect.
Yoga is a reparative technique with breathing for improving the health, control, prevention, and curing of diseases.
Benefits of Yoga Practice for Healthy Periods
- Yoga significantly improves PMS and problems of irregular menstruation like pain stress, anxiety, depression, lack of concentration, tension, and irritation.
- Pranayama and breathing exercises provide extra oxygen to the blood. It helps the body to release endorphins, which are naturally occurring neurochemicals that re-energize and promote relaxation.
- Yoga practice helps to stretch and relax the muscles in lower abdomen. This relieves pain and provides comfort in cases where severe period cramps are observed.
- Also, yoga helps to increase the threshold of pain.
- Yoga promotes physical relaxation by decreasing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. This lowers the heart rate and increases the breathing volume, thus supplying extra oxygen to the yogi.
Yoga Routine to Relieve Menstrual Cramps During Menstruation
- Sukshama vyayama (12 mins) – Yoga warm up exercises
- Bhujanagasana (2 mins)- Stretches abdominal muscles, tones uterus and ovaries, reduces stress
- Matsyasana (2 mins) – Increases circulation to pelvic organs, improves spine flexibility
- Vajrasana (2 mins) – Relaxes pelvic floor muscles and reduces period pain intensity
- Dhanurasana (2 mins) – Stimulates uterus, improves circulation, stretches back muscles
- Apanasana (2 mins) – Stimulates nervous system and relaxes the mind
- Shavasana (up to 5 mins) – Improves circulation, relaxes muscles and mind
- Anuloma Viloma Pranayama (5-10 rounds) – Improves circulation, releases endorphins
- Bhramari Pranayama (2-3 mins) – Relaxes nervous system and reduces pain intensity
3. Regular Exercise
Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. Make sure you practice gentle exercises.
You will find that exercise improves symptoms like bloating, flushing, breast swelling and tenderness, diarrhea, etc. You will notice an increase in your appetite too.
Do note that you should not carry out excessive or strenuous exercise during menstruation. Take ample of rest and only practice light physical activity such as walk or gentle yoga.
Here are some exercises that you should engage on daily basis:
- Surya Namaskar – 12 rounds (6 on each side)
- Tai Chi
4. Easy Home Remedies to Reduce Period Pain
While we are still on the subject of how to relieve menstrual cramps naturally, it will be good to be armed with some home remedies. They will come in handy in emergencies.
- Use heating pads: These provide relief from cramps by relaxing uterine muscles.
- Drink hot teas and lots of water. Herbal teas are a good choice. For example, chamomile tea, peppermint tea, lemongrass tea, ginger tea, etc, are beneficial.
- Perform light exercises. The above section on yoga can guide you. You should also make exercising a habit throughout the month.
5. Ayurvedic Herbs to Relieve Menstrual Cramps
What does ginger do to help ease period cramps? It lowers prostaglandins!
Prostaglandins are hormones that cause contraction, and these contractions induce painful cramping in menstruation. When the levels of prostaglandins are reduced, contractions are reduced and there is less cramping.
In a study, women were given ginger capsules four times a day, three days before their period was to began. The results showed that these women had as much relief from menstrual pain as those who took ibuprofen.
So, why take that drug if the natural ginger can do you as much good? You can take ginger as capsules, or as ginger tea, whichever suits you.
Fennel contains a compound called anethole. This compound has anti-spasmodic effects. Thus, it prevents and reduces cramping in some women. This is backed by research also.
Fenugreek, or methi seeds, is a common kitchen herb. It is also shown to be capable of relieving period pain.
Soak a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in water overnight and drink in the morning. You can even the seeds if you are comfortable with.
Kachur is an emmenagogue. Emmenagogues are substances that promote menstrual discharge.
Therefore, kachur prevents any blockage that can cause pains and cramping during your period. It moves things along and prevents vata blockade.
You can take 1-3 grams of the herb with lukewarm water. Alternatively, capsules are available.
5. Jaggery (Gud)
Jaggery has a great soothing effect on the Vata dosha. It is a sweetener made from sugarcane juice and is a rich source of minerals, specially iron and magnesium. Replace sugar with jaggery.
6. Sesame oil
Perform abhyanga (gentle massage) on your lower abdomen with sesame oil. You might get better results by warming the sesame oil first.
7. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a wonderful herb with a lot of benefits. It comes in to save the day again with menstrual cramps.
Drink a glass of aloe vera juice on an empty stomach every morning. You can take it before your periods, however avoid it during menstruation.
Shatavari strengthens the reproductive system and also balances hormone production. Furthermore, it increases blood circulation and vitality. Specifically, for menstrual cramps, Shatavari reduces pain and inflammation.
This herb reduces stress levels and strengthens the entire body.
The bark of the Ashoka tree is a uterine sedative. It also comes in handy in cases where bleeding continues for more than a week.
6. Your Lifestyle to Stop Period Cramps
- Follow a balanced routine that includes sleeping early (before 10 PM) and getting up early (before 6 AM). This will keep your natural Circadian rhythm to be in balance and also keep your Dosha in check.
- Eat at consistent times during menstruation (although this holds true for most the days, but more during periods). Do not suppress hunger and do not overeat.
- Avoid excessive exercise and physical work. Too much physical activity vitiates Vata Dosha. It is the primary reason behind delayed and painful periods for athletes.
- Do not suppress natural urges such as urination, defecation, and sneezing. This is to avoid change in the direction flow of Vata Dosha from downward to upward.
- No alcohol should be consumed during menstruation. Alcohol increases both Vata and Pitta Dosha, leading to excessive dryness, pain, excessive bleeding, and burning sensation.
Takeaway before you go
- First, you need to change that mindset that menstruation is a curse. No, it is not. It is part of what makes you a woman. Begin to consider it as a natural detoxification system that you have. Really, menstruation does clean you out.
- Don’t wait till you start experiencing the symptoms before you practice these natural remedies for period cramps. You should take good care of yourself round the month. Exercise, eat healthily, and you will have less struggle with premenstrual syndrome.
- Avoid Vata disturbing activities in the week before your menstruation. You have learned that Vata is in control of menstruation and is the primarily disturbed dosha. Ensure that the Vata dosha is well balanced before your period in which you experience the symptoms.
Now we want to hear from you. Have you tried any of these natural solutions for period cramps? How was your experience? What worked and what didn’t? Do let us know your questions and suggestions in comments. We will get back to you the soonest
Wishing you vibrant heatlh!
- Dysmenorrhoea (Kashtartava): An Ayurvedic Perspective
- Ayurvedic Way Out to Udaavartini (Primary Dysmenorrhoea)
- THE MANAGEMENT OF PRIMARY DYSMENORRHOEA (KASHTARTAVA) – A PROSPECTIVE MULTICENTRIC OPEN OBSERVATIONAL STUDY
- Effects of Yogasanas in the Management of Pain during Menstruation
- Period Pain: Could It Be Endometriosis?