How Gut Health Can Help With Period Cramps

December 14, 2023

Sadly, we live in a world where period cramps are normalized to a point where many companies offer menstrual leave. While rest is certainly great when you’re dealing with cramps, women across the world need to know that their periods do not need to be, and indeed should not be, painful. The pain you experience during your period is your body’s way of showing you something is wrong.

Types of Period Pain

Period pain, aka dysmenorrhoea, affects about 50% of menstruating women worldwide. That’s a large enough number to take seriously. Women who suffer from dysmenorrhoea often have symptoms that include:

  • Cramps in the lower belly
  • Back pain
  • Pain in the upper thighs
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

There are a couple of reasons why dysmenorrhoea occurs:

Primary Dysmenorrhoea:

This is what most women think of as ‘regular’ period pain. There are no identifiable causes and women typically feel the pain starting a couple of days before their period.

Secondary Dysmenorrhoea:

This occurs due to an underlying cause like fibroids or endometriosis. Women who suffer from secondary dysmenorrhoea often experience irregular periods or heavy bleeding or both.

Why the Pain Occurs

The uterus contracts and relaxes as it sheds its endometrial lining when you have your period. When you experience pain, this means that there is an abnormality in how it contracts and relaxes along with an inflammatory factor that is contributing to the pain. Often this pain is caused by prostaglandins which are a group of lipids that your body produces at the site of an injury and regulate the contraction of muscles in the gut as well.

If you have severe period pain, it’s a good idea to have it checked out by a doctor to investigate any underlying causes through a series of tests.

There Are No Underlying Causes For My Period Pain. Now What?

There are a couple of different ways to tackle primary dysmenorrhoea. There are several over-the-counter medications you can take that can help alleviate some of the pain. However, the pain will return every month and the use of these medications over the long term can cause other issues like peptic ulcers or impair kidney function.

A more sustainable way to address cramps is to work with your body to set things right and reduce the inflammatory compounds it is producing. Your gut health plays an important role in this. As one study demonstrated, simply taking probiotic supplements helped women decrease their reliance on anti-inflammatory medications. However, the cramps were not alleviated completely. A more holistic approach is necessary to bring your body back in balance. Read this article to learn more about naturopathy.

Diet Matters

Eating and drinking the right foods can make a huge difference to how you experience your period. Sustainable dietary changes are key to reducing inflammation in the body. These changes are not hard to implement and can help you feel empowered to change your life. Some changes include:

  • Eat Healthy Fats: Replace the trans fats found in processed foods like vegetable oil, commercial baked goods, and deep fried snacks with healthy fats found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olives. The Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil have potent anti-inflammatory properties and have a positive effect on both primary dysmenorrhoea and endometriosis.
  • Include AntiInflammatory Foods: Many foods included in the Mediterranean diet have anti-inflammatory properties like spinach, kale, and all the lovely deeply coloured vegetables that look so good on a plate.
  • Spice Is Right: Many spices have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric being at the top of the list. So, if you’re ever craving that turmeric, oat milk latte – just go for it. Ginger is another great anti-inflammatory agent. In fact, a study found that women who took ginger supplements had a similar decrease in pain as those on NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs).
  • Magnesium-Rich Foods: A deficiency of Magnesium is one of the identified causes behind primary dysmenorrhea. Eating magnesium rich foods like bananas, dry-roasted almonds, pumpkin seeds, and salmon can all help with period cramps.

Apart from these, your naturopathic doctor may recommend additional dietary supplements to help bring your gut back on track including zinc supplements, herbal tonics, or acupuncture treatments to alleviate symptoms.

Period pain is not normal and it’s time to change the conversation.

Dr Ibby’s Repair, Restore, Balance Gut Rebuilding Program

Dr. Ibby’s Repair, Restore, Balance Gut Rebuilding Program is designed to help you understand your gut health better. This in combination with her work to help restore hormonal balance can help you bring your body back to its natural balance.

Every aspect of the program is tailored to your individual needs and your body to help bring your life back to what it should be.

If period pain is setting your life back, sign up for a virtual wellness consult or book your in-person appointment in Ontario today.

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