This article is about menstrual cramp remedies that work - both temporary and long-term solutions. All descriptions and remedies are based not only on research but also on my own experience.
I managed to eliminate my menstrual cramps a couple of times before, what seemed like a permanent change. However, my menstrual problems have returned since I've been eating a mixed processed/ cooked/ junk diet. At the time of writing this, I have just come out of a difficult episode of menses, where I had to return to taking pain killers. I got fatigue and a cold due to an impaired immune system two days before the menses even started. During the period I felt miserable, bloated, tired, and kept popping pain killers for the pain. I hate living like that and the worst part is that I feel that there is something fundamentally wrong with my body and its hormonal balance.
Last month I managed to control the pain from the menstrual cramps purely by the methods listed below. I am still not 100% healed and feel fatigued and bloated, as well as slight pain during the first day of menstruation, but I am a lot better than I was and no need for painkillers!
And over the years, as I have been slowly learning about - and transitioning into - a healthier lifestyle, the length of my menstruation has reduced from some eight days to three. I believe it would be possible to achieve these results a lot quicker too, it is just that I have been going back and forth with being healthy and eating junk and I have spent a lot of energy in working long hours in the office.
But let's discuss the menstrual cramps remedies I have found so far. These are the factors I have found to be effective:
Keep in mind that the more of the menstrual cramp remedies you can incorporate at once, the more likely you are to succeed.
Over time, my menstrual cramps were getting worse and worse and, without painkillers, I would be bedridden for 1.5- 2 days. And in so much pain. Hot water bottles on the belly would help, but once the pain got going bad enough, it would not stop easily - even painkillers would sometimes not work.
Then by chance I stopped drinking caffeine one summer, and suddenly, the next month, I had no menstrual pain. My caffeine habit, as well as the pain, would quickly return, but I made a mental note of the possibility that food had something to do with the menstrual cramps and I started realizing that it might not be just my genes that caused my problems.
Caffeine has been shown to have a negative effect on women's hormones and it is also very dehydrating. Some magazines claim that coffee has such a disrupting effect on women's hormones that drinking it will stop breast development and those who drink a lot of caffeine tend to have smaller breasts. Read more here: Quitting Caffeine
This is just speculation, but perhaps a time when you feel like your life is very exciting is also a time when your happy hormones somehow balance out your hormonal problems...
Another occasion when my period pains just spontaneously disappeared, was one summer when I was 15 years old, I went to Hungary for a two-week holiday, organised by the local council as a youth exchange art camp. I was living in the sunny climate in a small town in Hungary, eating Hungarian food, sharing a room with a friend and travelling around a bit and drawing and painting a lot. I was used to the pain always starting before the menses, and that's how I knew to be prepared. This time the pain didn't come - not a slightest amount of it - and the blood caught me by surprise. I still don't know why the pain suddenly disappeared so quickly - then I was still drinking some Hungarian coffee as well if I remember right. All I can think of that it must have been something with the food, the climate and the sunshine, and the fact that I was very happy and excited about being abroad on a holiday with other young people.
The Chinese Doctor I have been seeing told me that liver weakness is connected to my menstrual cramps. To overcome the problems, I should strengthen my liver by taking what she called 'happy pills', which were herbal supplements designed to strengthen the liver and through that make me happier. Any negative feelings weaken the liver, especially anger and frustration, but also, a weak liver causes the same negative feelings. Other ways that the liver can be strengthened is through plenty of movement and trying to release any 'emotional heat'. Dehydration is also linked to the same set of problems. I have written a full report on my visit to the Chinese Doctor here. Another nutritionist told me that especially if I feel nauseous and get diarrhea during the menses, which I do, then that is a sign of weak liver.
I didn't notice the 'happy pills' making any difference to my menstrual cramps, but the instruction was to keep taking them for six months or longer. I didn't. However, luckily I found other remedies.
I lived in California for a while where I discovered the Mexican wild yam cream and read on the internet about estrogen dominance, and how that is a major problem in the Western countries. I found that by using wild yam cream - lots of it - directly on my belly and other soft body areas, I could sometimes get through the period (menses) without having to take pain killers at all. I would always have some pain but if I applied the cream soon enough, and often enough, I would find relief.
On the other hand, if I let the pain get too strong before starting to apply the cream, then it was almost impossible to make it work. I also had to lie horizontally or stay in movement, e.g. walking, for the cream to work. Sitting in front of a computer would bring the pain back quicker than anything but also sitting on a train would not allow the pain to release, probably because of the position my stomach was in.
The natural progesterone in the Mexican wild yam cream (I order mine from At Last Naturals) supposedly helps to balance out the estrogen dominance, providing much relief and many health gains for women. However, my own symptoms seemed to be closer to estrogen deficiency than estrogen excess, and therefore the progesterone cream may have helped only due to its anti-inflammatory effect, or for another reason.
Also, be aware of other 'progesterone creams' which have synthetic hormones added. Even some wild yam creams may have added hormones so it is worth studying the ingredients carefully.
In David Wolfe's book, Longevity Now, he discusses some other ways of avoiding toxic estrogen from foods and the environment and using some natural herbs and superfoods to increase progesterone naturally. (See a summary of this book by following the link.) Progesterone is also an anti-inflammatory which may have something to do with the pain relief.
Some time later I did the four-month-long Lifeforce Plan (candida cleanse), which is a program with special supplementation sold by by Dr. McCombs on his website. The Lifeforce Plan reduced my menstrual pain to a level where I didn't need to take pain killers anymore, over a period of three months. Also, I had already by then noticed that the less caffeine I drank the less pain I would have.
In his excellent book, 'The Lifeforce Plan', Dr. Jeffrey McCombs lists 'endocrine (hormonal) system problems' among symptoms of candida overgrowth. More specifically, he includes among them: menstrual difficulties, infertility, vaginal yeast infections, sexual difficulties, diabetes, weight control issues, and food cravings.
But during the cleansing of the Lifeforce Plan I experienced an episode of worst menstrual pain ever. I woke up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain, feeling sick. I went to the toilet and had bad diarrhea. I was feeling very weak and my head was spinning, ears ringing, and I was in cold sweat from the pain. I passed out on the toilet floor.
My boyfriend woke up to the 'thump' of me falling on the floor. He helped me up and I vomited into the toilet bowl. After that, I felt a bit better. I put lots of wild yam cream on my belly and the pain started to dissipate fairly quickly. I went back to sleep and in the following month my menses reduced in length and were not as bad as before.
I don't know what to make of this experience exactly, but what seems to make the most sense was that this was some kind of a cleansing reaction, where this episode was the turning point and something got healed during the extreme cramps. I ruled out the possibility of toxicity of the supplements, and for more explanation of this you can read the full report of the candida cleanse linked to above.
Update: Candida has been linked as one of the typical causes of endometriosis and menstrual problems. Candida toxins flood the body, and burden the liver massively (which tries to clean up the toxins). The liver regulates hormones and cannot perform properly when overburdened. More information here: Natural Remedies for Endometriosis.
The Everything Candida Diet Book by Dr. Jeffrey McCombs:
When I started the raw food trials, I was very inspired by the examples of people I saw and heard on the internet. I put much hope in learning to permanently eliminate my menstrual pains - but also many other health issues as well.
And I quickly found that the cleaner food I ate - the less processed and more focused on raw fruits and vegetables - the shorter my periods (menses) would get, and the less bloatedness, tiredness, pain, and other untoward symptoms I would experience. The change was very gradual, and as soon as I would go back to eating less good foods, the direction would reverse, the old problems slowly returning.
Why can raw food diet effectively heal menstrual cramps? Probably because it eliminates many of the toxins your body is exposed to. If you eat no meat and dairy (although I ate some raw dairy) the bad hormones you receive from food get diminished. The toxic load on the body is less, and your liver has a chance to cleanse itself. Also, many mineral and vitamin deficiencies probably get naturally corrected because the food is eaten is more fresh, and the nutrient content is not diminished by cooking. A possible additional benefit I had during the diet was that I drank no alcohol (although many raw foodists do drink 'raw' alcohol, such as organic wine and vodka).
Raw food provides enzymes, which according to Dr. Brian Clement is electricity, to the body. As we all know, our bodies are electrical, as the signals brain cells use to communicate are electrical. But there is much more to the body electricity as well.
In addition, raw foods help to switch away from excess acidity, and they are very oxygen-rich foods. In addition raw foods provide plenty of antioxidants, which fight inflammation and support the liver especially, but also the other organs. And according to Dr. Brian Clement, raw foods also have actual good hormones in them which are important for hormone balance.
Be aware, however, of some 'superfoods', which may affect your hormones. Notably, raw cacao has been reported to sometimes make hormone-related problems worse. Maca powder has been reported to have both beneficial and undesirable effects on women's hormones and one thing is for sure: with such powerful supplements one should always take breaks, not letting the body learn to rely on an external source of, say, in this case, estrogen.
Also you may or may not choose to worry about xenoestrogens, which are factory-made, synthetic estrogens, and enter your body because of the plastic food and drink containers, because of the hormones in meat and dairy, and from birth-control pills. ('Xeno', means 'foreign' and 'xenoestrogen' means estrogen foreign to the body).
Read also: Raw Food Diet Articles
In a city like London, it is said, there is a fair amount of bad estrogen in the tap water, because the tap water is recycled from the waste water falling into the Thames. And although supposedly all pathogens and impurities are thoroughly cleaned from the water, estrogen specifically is very difficult to remove. So it builds up year after year, and even men are now affected with estrogen dominance.
According to 'Science Daily', women on the birth-control pill are only a minor cause of this problem:
"[Wise, O'Brien and Woodruff's] analysis found that [oral contraceptive estrogen] has a lower predicted concentration in U.S. drinking water than natural estrogens from soy and dairy products and animal waste used untreated as a farm fertilizer. And that all humans, (men, women and children, and especially pregnant women) excrete hormones in their urine, not just women taking the pill. Some research cited in the report suggests that animal manure accounts for 90 percent of estrogens in the environment. Other research estimates that if just 1 percent of the estrogens in livestock waste reached waterways, it would comprise 15 percent of the estrogens in the world's water supply."
- Science Daily: Don't Blame the Pill for Estrogen in Drinking Water
In addition, the copper that leaches from the pipes into the tap water cause women's hormone balance to go haywire as well, which possibly in some women results in estrogen dominance or estrogen poisoning.
Chlorine in the tap water supply, on the other hand, causes toxicity of the liver, which can also be a major contributor to menstrual problems.
To begin to eliminate menstrual pain, then, first quit drinking tap water. The ideal source of drinking water would be spring water delivered to your door, if you can afford it (assuming you don't have access to a real spring somewhere close to your home!). If you drink bottled water, find out where it comes from and if you can, test the acidity. Some bottled waters are not any better than tap water.
Drinking natural spring water is good for you, even if estrogens aren't a worry for all of us. It is alkaline, with clean nutrients instead of dirty contaminants, it is unprocessed, and better for your body in various different ways. See also: "Live Spring Water Benefits".
But the best and quickest remedy for menstrual cramps that I have experienced came from a juice fast, or more specifically from a juice feast, where you don't eat, only drink juices, but don't limit the amount of juice you drink.
I did a three-week juice feast and the period (menses) became a lot shorter, less heavy and a lot less painful. Before this whole journey to better hormone health started, I had heavy bleeding for 8+ days every month. After the juice fast, my menses lasted for one day of medium bleeding and 2 days of very very slight flow, almost none.
I cannot say exactly why juice fast/ feast is so effective for this. My guess is it's because the body goes through intense detoxification and repair during a juice fast - and whatever underlying problems and hormone imbalances are there get healed. Alternatively, it may have something to do with the high mineral and vitamin intake of the juice fast, and the cleaner diet in general. Or the electrolytes and alkalinity fighting inflammation, or the fact that juices are so easy to digest and so the body's energies can be directed away from digestion and into healing.
Read the three-week juice fasting diary here.
Update: Further evidence here: Hormone Diet
More articles on juice fasting: Juice Fasting - Collection of Articles.
If you can find a source of powerful, good quality, Vitex essential oil, it does seem to have a strong effect in temporarily eliminating menstrual pain. I know it sounds unbelievable, but I experienced first-hand how taking deep breaths of vitex fragrance straight from the essential oil bottle completely took the pain away. This seemed to work when I was at home, able to relax lying down, and kept smelling the oil directly from the bottle, over and over again, taking deep breaths. I also put a few drops on the soles of my feet and on my forehead and temples. In some occasions the pain went away immediately. It would return after a while but then I would just breathe deep from the bottle again.
The quality of the oil is important, as with all essential oils, and most of the cheaper ones sold in stores - whether pharmacy, beauty store or a health food store - are only fragrancies and not the real thing. So you can be easily disappointed by all the essential oil health claims if you use these inferior quality oils. I bought mine from Living Libations in Canada, using international shipment, and I can recommend their oils - they are organic and powerful. Smaller companies can generally be a safer bet when it comes to essential oils and if the oil is labelled 'organic', that is usually a good sign.
When it comes to Vitex, the oil that I used was extracted from the berry of the vitex plant, instead of the leaves. Both are sold widely and purported to be a strong and effective remedy for menstrual cramps but in the case of vitex, the oil of the berry is much more effective than the oil of the leaves - although both may provide some benefit.
When I was at work the oil didn't seem to work nearly as well. Perhaps the high levels of electricity, wifi, etc. had an effect. Or perhaps it was important to be in a more relaxing environment and not sitting up at a computer. The sitting position always seems to make the period pain worse, anyway, as does cycling and anything where the belly is pressured and has less room.
Also, for some reason when I used both, the wild yam cream and vitex oil at the same time, it didn't seem to work. Perhaps they cancel each other out somehow.
A word of warning: apparently men shouldn't smell the oil, it can make them nauseous or give them a headache. Vitex has a powerful effect on hormones and for some reason it has been reported to be balancing for women and problematic for men.
Grounding sheets and other grounding/ earthing products are meant to reduce all inflammation and pain in the body, including period pain. You can, of course, also ground yourself by walking barefooted in wet, natural ground (not on asphalt) or by swimming in the sea, for example.
I noticed that the grounding mat and sheets really help with the pain, at least when the grounding device has direct contact with both, the belly and the lower back, and when I can lie down horizontally. The combination of: grounding mat or sheet, lying horizontally, eating very little food, chaga mushroom tea for antioxidants, drinking fresh live spring water, eating almost nothing and drinking some fruit juices, seems to help enough to get me through the day without pain killers. I still get a lot of air in my belly and feet tired and bloated - and as soon as I get up and become ungrounded the pain seems to try to come back.
Follow my grounding experiment here: Grounding for Health
The company of the inventor of grounding/ earthing, Clint Ober: Groundology.co.uk
Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? by Clinton Ober:
Antioxidants, such as chaga mushroom tea are not only useful in effectively reducing inflammation in the body, but they are also extremely important for strengthening the liver.
Reducing dehydration and drinking plenty of good quality water in the long term is very important as well.
Negative ions are antioxidants as well. For best health, ensure plenty of negative ions from moving water (especially water spray, like from waterfalls or waves, or from rain), from natural forests and other natural environments, from therapeutic-grade negative ionizers, etc. and avoid positive ions from pollution, computers, air conditioned air, etc.
Certain types of exercise, such as running, can work well towards reducing menstrual pain. When you exercise, endorphins from the brain get released and it works as a natural pain killer.
The liver is also strengthened over time from regular movement and exercise. The less sedentary living, the better for the liver.
Cycling, on the other hand, tends to make my menstrual pain worse, probably because of the sitting position, which seems to be problematic during menstruation.
Deep breathing, also, has the effect of reducing any kind of pain, although probably not completely overcoming the pain, at least unless you are an experienced breather/ meditator.
My latest finding was that anemia may be either causing or exacerbating my menstrual cramps. I realized that eating a protein-rich vegan, dairy-free diet, together with iron supplementation, helped reduce the pain. This finding was independent of the juice fasting and raw food experiments, as I had been eating a less-clean diet before this experiment and the menstrual pain had come back, as it does.
Taking Spatone liquid iron supplementation and ensuring good levels of vegan protein seemed to help a fair bit, although they did not completely eliminate the pain. During the cramps, taking additional iron seemed to quickly knock back the pain, although that may have been a coincidence.
The pain seemed to reduce even further after one month of supplementation with copper, in addition to iron. This finding may seem contradictory to many people who blame copper for the menstrual and hormonal problems, however, copper deficiency is also linked with anemia. Toxic copper and good quality nutritious copper are two different things. More information here: Hyperthyroidism Caused by Copper Deficiency? Anemia can be linked to B12 vitamin deficiency in some cases, and both can be linked to thyroid problems. Thyroid problems, on the other hand have been linked to menstrual problems.
There are some reports online of menstrual pains being worse for those who have anemia. I noticed that Spatone liquid iron supplement was able to reduce my period pains soon after taking it. Since I began to take copper and iron regularly, the menstrual cramps (a month later) were much less than usual, and additional iron seemed to help again.
Always be careful with supplementation, however, don't take them in excess and monitor your responses carefully. Supplements can cause difficult nutritional imbalances and associated symptoms, as reported in my article on hyperthyroidism above.
Note that even though my blood tests showed good levels of iron, I still could be considered anemic by some specialist doctors, due to less than ideal serum ferritin levels.
There have been reports of women on raw food diets losing their menses altogether. Some say that this is good and natural, others see it as a worrisome sign. If you are considering going on a raw food diet, please make sure to research the topic properly first to stay healthy. Ensure you eat enough, concentrate on unpackaged and unprocessed wholefoods, and don't eat excessive amounts of sugar, whether natural or not.
Dr. Llaila Afrika, in his book 'African Holistic Health' claims that truly healthy women's menstruation is just a drop of blood. How nice would that be! But, for a fact, not having a menstruation altogether, when still young, can be a sign of dangerous health issues, such as being malnourished.
Copper toxicity is in my view a very controversial topic, although it is often offered as a reason for menstrual problems. I was told I was copper toxic before by nutritionists, and put on supplements which made my health much worse. At least it seems to me that way in hindsight. Where my hair mineral analysis supposedly showed copper detoxifying, I began to develop anxiety and hyperthyroid symptoms, which can be attributed to copper deficiency. Therefore, it seems, worryingly, that I may have been eliminating good copper rather than bad copper from my body as a result of the zinc supplementation. You can read a more thorough explanation here: "Hyperthyroidism Caused by Copper Deficiency?"
Estrogen dominance is another controversial one. I took it for granted for a long time that since I had menstrual cramps and other problems, I was estrogen toxic. However, my symptoms seem to point more towards too low estrogen. In any case, I managed to drastically reduce (and when stricking to very strict diets, heal) my menstrual cramps without needing to test my estrogen levels, worry about estrogen in foods, or take hormones. Hopefully there are many others out there like me who find relief from simple natural methods and can stop worrying about estrogen.
The results I got earlier were so quick and effective, that I suspect the methods listed in this article might be all I need to permanently eliminate menstrual cramps. And I even continued drinking tap water while receiving the good results. To conclude, the methods I believe can overcome menstrual cramps permanently, and naturally, are: juice feasting, raw food diet, eliminating caffeine, candida cleanse, increasing the natural antioxidant intake, and overcoming anemia. It may be necessary to address environmental pollution and food allergies as well, depending on the person. In addition, effective temporary solutions to reduce pain are: grounding, organic vitex berry essential oil and wild yam progesterone cream.
I also feel that there may be an element of blocked emotional energy - stemming from stressful lifestyles and trauma - involved in menstrual cramps. This makes sense especially when thinking about the comments by the Chinese Doctor regarding the liver health and emotions. The trauma release exercises may be very useful in moving and clearing this stuck energy.
I use hair mineral analysis for copper detoxification - a full report here and am in the process of detoxification now. So far it has made no difference to my menstrual cramps but they say that while the copper is detoxifying and thus present in the blood (as it gets removed from the tissues for detoxification) the copper toxicity symptoms may even get worse.
Later note: After three years of this so-called copper detoxification, and its associated symptoms, e.g. exhaustion and anxiety, there was still no change to my menstrual cramps. I therefore don't believe in Dr. Lawrence Wilson's copper theory anymore. In fact, when I began to supplement with copper, and stopped supplementing with zinc, my menstrual cramps got much less severe in one month and my anxiety symptoms reduced drastically also.
Other menstrual cramp remedies may be found from yoga, herbal medicine, long-term acupuncture and energy work.
If you would like personal advice on implementing the menstrual cramp remedies discussed here, use this form to contact me or leave a comment below.
'The Vitamin Cure for Women's Health Problems' by Helen Saul Case and Andrew W Saul discuss menstrual issues among other things:
This book came out of a necessity to begin putting in one coherent place, neatly ordered, all the amazing ways we can use to naturally reclaim back our health, free of charge.
This book contains 70 brief chapters, each introducing you to the benefits of a certain technique, or a trick, to improve your health affordably. Methods suitable for busy lifestyles. Natural, noninvasive and easy techniques. Pick the ones that suit your lifestyle and interests best and begin enjoying the good life!
How to permanently overcome menstrual cramps:
Why Do We Get Menstrual Cramps - Latest Research and Solutions
Hormone Diet - Good progress on eliminating cramps
Female Hormone Imbalance Diet
Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes
How to Stop Sugar Cravings
Candida Cleanse - Lifeforce Plan
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Ulla is the Editor of Cheap Health Revolution, covering natural remedies and health solutions.