If you’re lucky, you don’t get menstrual cramps at all, or you only experience slight discomfort. But if you’re like the estimated 15% of women who suffer from severe menstrual cramps, your pain can be debilitating. If that’s the case, you ought to consult with your doctor to make sure your pain isn’t related to something more serious, like endometriosis. If your pain is less severe, but still sets your teeth on edge and makes you cranky, here are some tried-and-true ways to avoid cramping.
1. Try Advil
Start taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug (I prefer Ibuprofen, like Advil) regularly three or four days before your period is ready to start. Ibuprofen lowers your body’s production of prostaglandins, which scientists believe contribute to menstrual cramps. But if you wait until you actually have cramps to take the Ibuprofen, it won’t be nearly as effective, so make sure to take it in the recommended dosage BEFORE your period starts.
2. Consider the Pill
The hormones in birth control pills not only help regulate your period, they also help maintain a steady level of hormones, which greatly reduces the severity of menstrual cramps.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Fat cells produce estrogen, a hormone that, if imbalanced, also contributes to uterine cramps.
4. Drink Plenty of Water
If you’re well-hydrated, your liver functions better, keeping your hormones (like estrogen) balanced.
5. Stay Away from Coffee
Caffeine, commonly found in colas, coffee, and even most teas, is a diuretic, and can make cramps a lot worse.
Not just during your period, because who wants to exercise then? Exercise regularly. It will reduce your stress level (stress makes cramps feel worse), and it will release endorphins into your system, which will reduce the amount of pain you feel.
7. Heat is Your Friend
No matter how many preventive measures you take, camps happen. When they do, using a heat pad on your lower back and abdomen can help relax your muscles and relieve the pain.
8. Have a Salad
Leafy greens, like spinach, contain lots of magnesium, which is a natural muscle relaxant. Studies have shown that women with the worst cramping are often magnesium-deficient.
9. Don’t Forget the Fiber!
Excess hormones are expelled through our bowel tracts, but if they sit there for too long, our bodies re-absorb them (lovely!). So make sure you get plenty of fiber to keep the mail moving.
10. Skip the Chips
You might be craving salty junk food, but it will only make your cramps worse, trust me.
11. Try Yoga
Yoga is definitely high on the list of menstrual cramps remedies! Poses that target the pelvis and lumbar region, (where period pain is the worst) will be the most helpful to you! Experiment with different yoga poses or even hit up a yoga class. I'm sure the instructor will be more than happy to offer you some advice!
12. Calcium is Your Friend
Foods that are rich in calcium like yogurt, broccoli, cabbage and milk can help fight muscle spasms and avoid cramps. We all know how important calcium is and if you choose to get your daily dose through veggies like spinach and kale (or a salad like #8 suggests), it'll give you an extra dose of vitamins and can help lighten your flow. Win/win, right?
13. Try Aromatherapy Massage
It's spa time! Massages promote relaxation and that's exactly what we need when we have our periods. Did you know that the more tense you are, the more you can cramp? Well, massages will take away all the tension in your body!
14. Take a Hot Bath
Heat pads can definitely help you relieve your cramps but nothing's better than Immersing yourself in a hot bath. It'll help relieve your muscular tension and help you relax!
Since I started watching what I eat and went on the Pill, I haven’t had a single cramp. Not one. What about you? Do you have any anti-cramp tricks to share?
This article was written in collaboration with editor Vanessa Salles.