Menstrual cramps; medically termed as dysmenorrheal, is caused by an excess of prostaglandins which forces muscles to tighten more than necessary, creating spasmodic cramps that can be very intense.
At the beginning of each menstrual cycle, the uterus secrets prostaglandins to assist contraction of the uterine muscles and expel tissue and fluids during menstruation.
Not every woman suffers from cramps, but if you do, these remedies might provide some relief.
1. Ibuprofen - has the ability to stop the actions of prostaglandins. Take as directed on packaging when your cramps start and continue taking until the cramps go away.
2. Diet - avoid dairy products, fats, salt, alcohol, sugar and caffeine which can all make cramping more severe.
3. Exercise - gentle exercise often relieves cramps in progress. Here are a couple to try.
- Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place a large book on your abdomen. Inhale to raise the book, hold for 5 seconds, then tighten stomach muscles and exhale slowly to lower the book. Continue steps repeatedly for as long as you are comfortable.
- Kneel on the floor and sit on your heels. Bring your forehead to the floor and place your arms along the floor next to your body. Close your eyes. Hold this position for as long as it is comfortable.
4. Warmth - will increase your blood flow and relax your muscles. Put a heating pad on your abdomen for a few minutes at a time. In addition, drink hot herbal teas.
5. Relaxing bath - add 1 cup of sea salt and 1 cup of baking soda to a warm bath and soak for 20 minutes to relax your muscles and relieve cramps.
6. Make love - the vigorous muscle action moves blood and other fluids away from congested organs, relieving pain. Having sex with orgasm is great for relieving cramps.
7. Calcium and magnesium supplements - Radical changes in female hormones cause blood calcium levels to decrease prior to and during menstruation. (When taking calcium supplements, you should always be taking magnesium supplements as well.) Calcium relieves cramping, backache and nervousness. Take 1500 milligrams of calcium (chelate form) daily and 1000 milligrams of magnesium (chloride or chelate form) daily in small doses that you can take a couple of times a day after meals.
8. B complex, additional B6 and niacin supplements - Cramps not relieved with calcium may respond to a daily B complex tablet plus additional B6 and 50 milligrams of niacin taken with each meal. NOTE: Do not take niacin if you have a liver disorder, gout or high blood pressure.
9. B complex and vitamin C with bioflavonoids - brought relief to 90% of cramp sufferers in an Australian study. Accompany the B vitamins with 300 milligrams of vitamin C with bioflavonoids.
10. Herbal teas - used to relieve menstrual cramps include black cohosh, chamomile, caraway seed, catnip, comfrey, ginger, ginseng, licorice root, mint and sarsaparilla.
11. Herbalist suggest drinking a cup of red raspberry leaf tea or cramp bark (squaw vine) each morning and evening for several days before the start of a period to prevent cramping. Adding a teaspoon of powered meadowsweet to each cup of raspberry leaf tea provides the painkilling benefits of aspirin.
12. Wild yam extract - this herbal contains natural progesterone and has proved effective in alleviating cramps, headaches, mood swings, irritability and insomnia.
13. The herbal supplements angelica root, cramp bark, kava kava and red raspberry have antispasmodic properties and may alleviate cramps. The herbs black haw and rosemary are also good for cramps and help calm the nervous system.
Persistent painful periods warrant a gynecological examination to rule out an underlying disorder of the reproductive system.
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