“That time of the month,” “on your period,” “Auntie Flow,” or “That special time…” Regardless of what you call it, your monthly menstrual cycle is probably your least favorite time of the month.
Reactions to the monthly cycle are widely unique from woman to woman. Some women breeze by with minor inconvenience, while others experience mood swings, irritability, pain, and excessive cramping.
According to Rosemary Gladstar, author of Herbal Healing for Women¸ it’s common and normal to experience occasional discomfort, heavy or light bleeding, and minor fatigue as part of your menstrual cycle. A few herbal remedies and lifestyle changes are usually all you need to deal with these issues. Read on to learn some natural remedies for menstrual symptoms.
One of the most common reasons women experience cramps is a lack of calcium in the blood. Take a chelated calcium supplement and increase your intake of calcium-rich foods, especially the week before your period. Eat lots of leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collards. Salmon, sardines, and dairy products are also great sources of calcium.
Reduce your reliance on simple carbohydrates and processed foods and switch to a natural, whole-foods diet. Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Round out your diet with lean dairy, poultry, and fish, and save red meat for an occasional indulgence. Drink water as your main beverage and avoid soda, energy drinks, and drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners. Reduce or eliminate alcohol and caffeine.
This list may seem restrictive, but the positive changes you feel during your monthly cycle as well as your overall energy and health will more than make up for any deprivation you feel. And, the good news is that dark chocolate is on the “yes” list. Dark chocolate contains mood-lightening serotonin, as well as magnesium and fatty acids.
Several studies  have found that women who exercise at least three times per week for thirty minutes suffer fewer menstrual symptoms, possibly because exercise releases endorphins that block pain. To get the benefits, take part in some type of aerobic exercise that raises your heart rate—walking, jogging, ice skating, or aerobic classes are all great.
Additionally, when your period first starts, don’t sit around or hibernate. Go for a walk to relieve pelvic congestion, improve circulation, and reduce or eliminate cramping. Yoga is also great for relieving menstrual pain because it stretches out the pelvic area. Don’t do inverted poses during your period, although these are fine the rest of the month.
Rest and Relaxation
A balanced life is a happy life. Look at your schedule and routine and cut out those things that aren’t necessary. Spend time everyday in prayer or mindful meditation to relieve stress and bring perspective.
Women who don’t get enough sleep tend to suffer more pre-menstrual symptoms as well as an increased risk of depression, weight gain, and high blood pressure. Lack of sleep has even been associated with type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Try going to bed an hour earlier and getting up an hour earlier. If you have a hard time going to sleep, turn off the television or computer at least two hours before bedtime. Take a relaxing stroll, but avoid heavy exercise and read a book instead.
Herbal Remedies And Supplements
Herbs have been used for thousands of years to treat common illnesses and discomfort. But just because they’re plants doesn’t mean they’re always safe. Talk with your doctor if you’re taking prescription drugs, which can interact with some herbs. And buy your herbs from a certified herbalist or other reliable source.
Below are a few safe and effective herbal remedies for the monthly blues.
- Take 500 milligrams of evening primrose oil daily or follow the manufacturer’s suggested dosage. Primrose oil contains GLA (gamma linolenic acid), which regulates prostaglandin production. Excess prostaglandin can cause menstrual discomfort, mood swings, and cramps.
- Try natural progesterone creams made from wild yams. Inadequate levels of progesterone can cause premenstrual symptoms as well as depression, weight gain, and even infertility.
- Use aromatherapy. Add essential oils of lavender, clary sage, and chamomile to a warm bath or mix them with pure almond oil. Rub the fragrant oil into the abdomen to relieve cramping.
- Take a whole foods supplement or Floradix with iron. Many women are lacking nutrients, which contributes to achiness and fatigue. Look for supplements that contain magnesium, vitamin E, and vitamin B6 complex.
- Take two capsules of dong quai daily to regulate hormones. Discontinue use one week before your period starts and for the duration of your period though, because dong quai can stimulate menstrual bleeding. Other herbal supplements shown to improve PMS symptoms include chaste berry, ginger, St. John’s wort, and raspberry leaf.
- Drink cramp bark tea beginning one week before your period starts and until bleeding stops. Many natural foods stores sell cramp bark teas marketed as women’s teas, or you can make your own by mixing the following:
- 2 parts cramp bark (or black haw)
- 1 part pennyroyal leaf
- ½ part ginger root
Combine the herbs and store in a dry, cool location. To make the tea, add four to six tablespoons of the herb mixture to cold water. Simmer 2 to 5 minutes and sweeten with honey. Drink 2 to 3 cups daily.
When To Call The Doctor
Most women experience some pre-menstrual and menstrual symptoms, although with a few lifestyle changes, your symptoms will probably be very mild or almost non-existent. On the other hand, if you frequently experience any of the following symptoms, consult with a naturopath or health care provider to rule out more serious problems:
- Severe pain and cramps
- Dark brown blood
- Spotting that continues for several days after your cycle ends
- Excessively heavy bleeding or no bleeding at all