Across women’s health, we’ve come to believe that pain is normal. This rings particularly true regarding monthly period pain when your uterus sheds its lining and the muscles contract. However, maybe we don’t have to suffer from these cramps regularly.
The pain women experience with their monthly bleed falls on a scale, says nutritionist and women’s health expert Thalia Pellegrin. For those with severe and debilitating pain, she recommends an OB/Gyn visit to check they aren’t suffering from a condition like endometriosis, fibroids, or ovarian cysts. But for those with mild to moderate pain, there may be ways it can bed eliminated through the right mixture of diet, supplement, and lifestyle changes. “We can make huge changes over three to six cycles. Dietary intervention is potent,” says Pellegrini.
Here we look at the changes you can make for a happier period that could help ease your reliance on over-the-counter pain medication.
Meet the Experts
Thalia Pellegrin is a nutritionist and women’s health expert.
Hannah Hope is a nutritionist and women’s health expert.
Adding heat can help your muscles relax and ease tension. Lay down with a heating pad or draw yourself a warm bath to make it a full-body self-care experience.
Increase your healthy fats
“Healthy fats — also known as essential fats — can help reduce the impact of pain-releasing chemicals that cause the womb to contract,” says Pellegrin. While fat gets a bad name, eating the right fats is key for overall health, especially hormone balance. “Make sure to have one healthy fat a day,” Pellegrini recommends. Healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, quality olive oil, organic eggs, oily fish, and hummus.
Follow an anti-inflammatory diet
While a tub of ice cream or a cupcake might feel like the cure you need at the moment, foods with a high sugar content can cause inflammation and bloating that can make cramping worse. Generally, the more anti-inflammatory your diet, the better. Daily consumption of healthy fats plays a big part in this, but the rest of your diet is important too. “The key elements of an anti-inflammatory diet beyond healthy fats is lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and not much sugar,” says Pellegrini.
Make magnesium your hero
“Magnesium has over 300 functions in the body, but one is that it is a muscle relaxant,” says nutritionist and women’s health expert Hannah Hope. Subsequently, it’s great for easing period pain. You can take magnesium supplements throughout your whole cycle, and Hope specifically recommends magnesium glycinate. Baths with magnesium – found in Epsom salts – can also be a relaxing way to ease those cramps.
“Omega-3 is a potent anti-inflammatory,” says Hope. While it’s naturally found in things like fish and flaxseed, it’s worth supplementing if you feel like you’re not getting enough through food. “Find a good quality one from a reputable source with a higher EPA to DH,” she adds.
Up your fiber intake
Fiber plays an important role in the hormone cycle. “Hormones need to be detoxified out of the body to stop them from being recycled and not performing as they should. Fiber helps aid this process,” says Hope. “Fiber is also a prebiotic, feeding the ‘good’ gut bacteria and creating an anti-inflammatory terrain,” she adds. Fiber-rich foods include whole grains like brown rice and pasta, lentils, pulses, beans, fruit (fresh and dried), vegetables, and nuts.
Cut back on caffeine
While your morning cup of Joe might feel like a crutch, it could make period pain much worse. “Caffeine constricts blood vessels and can cause added discomfort,” says Pellegrini. So if you’re drinking lots of coffee, try to decrease your intake to one daily cup or switch to decaf coffee. Or even better, switch it out for a herbal tea.
Steer clear of alcohol
Around the time of your monthly bleed, sticking to the mocktails can make a difference in how you feel. “The liver has only a small capacity to break down alcohol, so if it has to focus on this, it does so at the priority of detoxifying hormones,” says Hope. “It is also inflammatory, which can lead to pain in the body,” she adds.
Do some gentle exercise
Getting off the sofa might be the last thing on your mind, but a little movement can make all the difference. “Exercise is very helpful. You may not want to go hard at it, but gentle restorative exercise such as yoga, Pilates, or even a walk will help with period pain,” says Hope.
We only recommend products we have independently researched, tested, and loved. If you purchase a product found through our links, Sunday Edit may earn an affiliate commission.