Don’t get us wrong, the female menstrual cycle is a wonderful thing, and it is part and parcel of one of the coolest functions of the female body. But let’s be real here, feeling like your lower abdomen is constantly being punched or stabbed or squashed (trust me, this list can go on for much longer) is just not as great. And acting like everything is well and good, while you are pretty much constantly screaming internally is not such a good feeling either.
Thankfully, there are ways to combat this unfortunate inconvenience, and while things like drinking lots of water, doing frequent exercise, and getting enough sleep are givens, we’re all just human, and sometimes we just want to cheat a little, and have some extra help on the side to deal with the pain (we get it). So here are 6 totally doable yet effective ways you can relief those dreaded menstrual cramps (or dysmenorrhea).
1. Stay Away from Coffee
Yes, we know, the photo doesn’t help. And this one is a particularly tricky one, considering the fact that for many of us, coffee is basically your primary source of life sustenance, especially when deadlines are near. But as much as we don’t like to admit it, coffee can aggravate menstrual cramps, as caffeine constricts your blood vessels and raises tension levels. So put that caffeine-loaded, double shot, low-fat latte down, and switch to either decaf alternatives, or go for natural, caffeine-free teas instead. Teas like chamomile tea are known to be particularly useful, and we have a whole list of other teas you can try out here!
2. Give Abdominal Massages a Try
Don’t you sometimes wish that you could just press away the pain? Well, turns out you can, in fact massage therapy has been known to be one of the most effective ways to ease the pain of menstrual cramps, because in addition to be extremely relaxing, it is also able to relax your muscles and increase blood circulation. You can learn how to do it yourself here and here, or better yet, get someone else to do it for you.
3. Make Yourself a Salad
Dark leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, as well as seeds, like pumpkin and squash seeds, contain lots of magnesium, a mineral known for being a muscle relaxant. Studies suggest that eating foods rich in magnesium, or taking supplements a couple of days before your period are super effect in minimizing the pain of period cramps as people usually do not take in the daily recommended dosage of magnesium in the first place. We know this is hard when the carb cravings come knocking at your door with a vengeance, but trust us, it’ll be worth it in the end. Just think of how un-bloated and pain-free you’ll be!
4. Have Some Dark Chocolate
Rest assured, life during and before your period need not be all about salads and teas, things like dark chocolate can be really good for you too! Dark chocolate is high in magnesium and potassium which are both essential in the proper functioning of your muscles, and in addition to this chocolate stimulates the release of endorphins, your body’s natural painkiller. What this means is that chocolate will be able to reduce your perception of pain so that menstrual cramps feel less intense. So go forth and indulge, as long as you’re not overdoing it, a little chocolate will go along way in making your period a happier one!
5. Apply Heat
The benefits of heat therapy in dealing with cramps have been widely advocated, you can read more about them here and here. But without getting too science-y, basically what heat helps to do is to relax the contracting muscles in the uterus, as well as increase blood circulation, which will ultimately relief the pain of menstrual cramps. Heat packs, such as MenstruHeat, are real lifesavers because they are able to provide this heat therapy on the go, and can provide effective relief even when you’re out and about!
6. Try Tangkwei
TCM can help menstrual cramps in many ways. The “blood herb” Tangkwei has been known by generations of Asian women to ease menstrual pain. It has anti-spasmodic properties, as it is high in magnesium, iron, cobalt and vitamin B12. In addition to its muscle relaxing properties, it is also an excellent in relieving any fatigue that you may experience during your period, and can also help in replenishing blood supplies in the body. Tangkwei can be incorporated into yummy recipes such as this one, and this one, but for those of us who are… less culinarily inclined, BRAND’S Essence of Chicken with Tangkwei is an awesome alternative that is easy and convenient way to add Tangkwei into your period routine!
These are just some easy ways you can combat dysmenorrhea, so you see, it doesn’t need to be difficult or inconvenient. With so many easy options nowadays, a pain-free period is totally within your grasp. Good luck, ladies!
Chen Wei is an undergrad majoring in Psychology. She's currently spending a year in New York City, where she's interning at a startup. When she's not at work, you can find her practising yoga, or exploring the Big Apple with her camera in hand.