If you are like most women, you think that painful periods and cramps are just a part of life as a woman.
A friend of mine recently posted this quote to Facebook:
Instead of getting periods, can girls just get a text once a month from Mother Nature saying, “You’re not pregnant. Have a nice day.”
Although I giggled when I read it, painful menstrual periods (also known as dysmenorrhea) are NOT a laughing matter.
On the contrary, symptoms of dysmenorrhea can range from debilitating cramps to nausea and vomiting to even passing out!
Let’s take a closer look at this problem that is not funny and is a LOT more common than you think, as well as some safe, natural ways to get relief.
You’re not alone– Dysmenorrhea: its numbers are greater than you think
Depending on what source you’re looking at, there is a HUGE disparity in estimates of how common dysmenorrhea really is. Standard medical literature generally reports that it affects about 30-50% of menstruating women.
But direct studies of women in their reproductive years tells quite a different story—to the tune of about 80% or more. One study conducted in a physician’s waiting room surveyed 581 women aged 18 to 45, and 90% reported significant menstrual cramping!
The most common reasons for the significant difference between sources include:
Women are embarrassed to report the problem to their doctors
Women think it’s “normal” and thus not worth mentioning
Many doctors don’t typically ask about cramping and other menstrual difficulties
But the fact remains that dysmenorrhea is a major cause of missed school days in adolescent girls, as well as the reason behind missed work days in adult women. One gynecology textbook states that dysmenorrhea-related work absenteeism accounts for 140 million lost work hours!
Two types of misery
There are two types of dysmenorrhea—primary and secondary.
Secondary dysmenorrhea can be the result of a number of different gynecological problems. Things like endometriosis, uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or complications from an IUD insertion can all cause or worsen painful menses.
Primary dysmenorrhea on the other hand is more of a stand-alone condition—it’s having painful periods and cramps that are not related to another specific sickness or condition.
Primary dysmenorrhea can be broken down into two categories—congestive or spasmodic.
Congestive dysmenorrhea is typically characterized by a dull aching pain in the pelvic region for the one or two days prior to menstruation, and usually subsides once menstruation starts.
Spasmodic dysmenorrhea causes vise-like cramping of the uterine muscles. They usually begin at the onset of menses and continue for four to six hours or more.
Here is a list of ALL the symptoms of the two categories of primary dysmenorrhea—see how many sound familiar to YOU:
Congestive dysmenorrhea Spasmodic dysmenorrhea
Dull, aching pain Sharp, vise-like cramps
Lower back pain and tender pelvic region Gripping pains in lower abdomen
Bloating Sharp pains shooting to inner thighs or low back
Weight gain Fatigue
Tender breasts Faintness to the point of passing out
Headaches or migraines Hot and cold flushes
Irritability Nausea and vomiting
Worsens with age, especially in the 30s and 40s Diarrhea, constipation, bowel urgency
Worse in teens and 20s
Improves with age and childbearing
What’s the deal? It’s all in your prostaglandins
One of the primary instigators behind dysmenorrhea is a culprit called “prostaglandins.”
Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances. They function as messengers in a variety of your body’s natural activities and physiological responses including inflammation, smooth muscle contraction, blood clotting, dilation of your blood vessels and your immune system functioning.
When they’re working like they should, prostaglandins (PGs) are vital to gynecological health. A balance of PGs—including a small amount of the inflammation-causing PGE2 and PGF2 alpha—are necessary for normal menstruation to take place.
But dysmenorrhea occurs when there is a “tidal wave-like” release of these inflammatory prostaglandins just before the onset of your period—in other words, you get an extreme exaggeration of normal menstrual symptoms, aka “a period on steroids.”
This also explains why dysmenorrhea can have such a wide variety of symptoms like I listed above.
You see, your inflammatory PGs can sneak out of your uterus, get absorbed into the bloodstream and sail through your body, wreaking their havoc everywhere from head to toe.
That’s why you can also see symptoms like headaches, tender breasts, digestive problems, etc.
And although the inflammatory PGs typically get destroyed fairly quickly once they reach the bloodstream, often they have enough time to cause their harm before their demise.
Painful periods and cramps: It’s not a mystery
This cascade of inflammatory PGs might seem like a mystery to you, but it’s really not, especially when you understand how the different types of prostaglandins are “born.”
Here’s what I mean:
Prostaglandins are made from fatty acids that you take in with your diet, and the type of fat you eat largely determines the type of prostaglandin that is created.
Inflammatory prostaglandins are created from inflammatory-type fatty acids—specifically Omega-6 EFAs.
On the other hand, prostaglandins that decrease inflammation are derived from the natural anti-inflammatory Omega-3 EFAs.
Your body’s ability to make enzymes is also key here.
You see, the process of creating both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory PGs requires the same types of enzymes in your body.
But if these enzymes are “tied up” making a bunch of inflammatory PGs, there is little left for your body to create the anti-inflammatory ones…in other words, the inflammatory PGs are “enzyme hogs.”
The typical treatment
The typical medical treatment for dysmenorrhea is, you guessed it, pain drugs, specifically NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen.
Although they can be helpful, many women report that these drugs don’t work for them, or lose their effectiveness over time. In those cases, many times women will take larger and larger doses, to the point where they can exceed safe dose levels!
And let’s not forget the potential side effects of NSAIDs including gastritis, leaky gut syndrome and liver damage.
Safe, natural and effective answers
The great news here is you can help ease the horrors of dysmenorrhea in ways that are FAR safer than relying on NSAIDs and other drugs.
Here are 4 strategies that can help spell tremendous R-E-L-I-E-F for YOU:
1) Get sources of Vitamins C and B6, niacin, magnesium and zinc.
These nutrients are enzyme cofactors that are needed by your body to produce anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.
Here are great food sources of each:
Vitamin C: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, sweet peppers, strawberries, oranges and spinach
Vitamin B6 and niacin: Whole wheat and whole grain foods, brown rice, oats, liver, green leafy vegetables, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and beans
Magnesium: Dairy products, seafood, oats, nuts, seeds and brown rice
Zinc: Meats, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes and whole grains
2) Increase your intake of Omega-3 EFAs
As I mentioned earlier, Omega-3 EFAs are the building blocks for anti-inflammatory PGs, so it’s vital to make sure you have an adequate supply to help keep dysmenorrhea at bay.
Unfortunately, our typical diets are brimming with inflammation-causing Omega-6 EFAs and grossly deficient in Omega-3s.
The daily 2-capsule dose of VitalMega-3 gives your body 1,200 mg of inflammation calming Omega-3 fatty acids, including 600 mg of EPA and 400 mg of DHA–the two all-important Omega-3 EFAs highly recommended by experts.
VitalMega-3 can help reduce inflammation from head to toe, including inflammation associated with arthritis, fibromyalgia and dysmenorrhea!
3) Eat a well-rounded diet and avoid bad fats & refined carbs
Refined carbs and bad fats (especially trans-fats) can interfere with your body’s enzymes that make anti-inflammatory PGs…thereby giving the “upper hand” to inflammatory PGs and making dysmenorrhea symptoms even WORSE!
So to have a chance at relief from dysmenorrhea, it’s crucial to have a diet that includes a variety of real foods while avoiding processed foods, fast food and “the whites”–foods made with white flour and sugar.
That will help ensure that you’re limiting refined carbs and bad fats AND getting a variety of nutrients that your body so desperately needs.
But that’s only half of the puzzle.
The other half is to make sure your body is actually absorbing those nutrients…and that comes from efficient digestion. And what can help you achieve both of these important goals is the Great Taste No Pain
Both Great Taste No Pain and Great Taste No Gluten feature hundreds of delicious recipes and ideas for enjoying nutrient-loaded real foods that taste outstandingly good.
Plus they show you the best foods to eat together to help encourage pain-free, efficient digestion and maximum absorption of those crucial nutrients your body needs.
4) Helpful herbs
Certain herbs can help interrupt the inflammatory tidal wave that is associated with dysmenorrhea, especially turmeric, fresh ginger and fresh garlic.
So be sure to incorporate these into your diet as much as possible! And note that Great Taste No Pain and Great Taste No Gluten also give you great recipe idea featuring these anti-inflammatory superstars!
Ladies, know this: Dysmenorrhea is much more common than you think, it’s no laughing matter, and most importantly, IT’S NOT NORMAL!
If you’ve been suffering each and every month, it’s time for you to finally get some relief.
Take the bull by the horns and see just how great YOU can feel with the natural measures I’ve suggested above.
To your health,
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