Period Pain!

If you are a women reading this, this is a question for you – Do you experience pain before or during your periods?

Research shows that 80% of women worldwide experience period pain at some point in their lives! That is 4 out of every 5 women!

I know some women go through such intense pain that they are homebound,  while there are (a handful) of others whose periods are a breeze.

What.. Why.. How? You wonder. Is it normal to get pain during period or not? Is there anything we can do about it apart from popping painkillers?

Here’s making some sense of period pain with inputs from my friend and colleague Dr. Rashmi Menon (a doctor who heals without medicine).  

Q.1 Is it normal to get pain during the period?

A normal period is a pain free period. Yes you read that right! During the cycle, one may experience discomfort as the hormones undergo a cyclic shift. During this time the hormones are geared to cause contraction of the uterine muscles to expel the uterine mucosal lining. The same hormones may cause the rest of the body muscles to contract as well, hence cause discomfort. Anything more than mild discomfort indicates a deeper problem.

Q.2 What causes period pain?

Medical problems PCOD/PCOS, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical stenosis, adenomyosis etc. can be a cause for period pain.

Q.2. Can we seek relief from pain through natural methods?

Yes, absolutely! Diet and lifestyle changes hold the key. Mild discomfort can be tackled by 

  • Maintaining an exercise regimen. Yes, it’s important to continue light exercise even when the periods are on!
  • Hip opening exercises are especially beneficial (scroll down for more on this)
  • eating light (addressed in the next part)
  • self massages 
  • hot and/or cold fomentation 

In severe cases a mild painkiller will need to be taken for temporary relief.

But severe pain is a signal from the body that there is an underlying disease, and that needs to be treated through diet and lifestyle changes.

Q.3 What are the diet/lifestyle changes one can make to reduce/eliminate period pain?

In severe medical cases, medical intervention might be necessary.  However for long-term relief and to make sure the problem does not recur, lifestyle modifications are a must and in they can completely take care of the general discomfort. 

A whole food plant based diet, efficient stress management with adequate physical exercise is the way to go.

Q.4. Ok, let’s look at exactly which foods. 

A baseline of a natural diet, that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, high in fibre and greens, helps the body balance the hormones. These foods also keep the body alkaline hence muscles recover quicker.

In addition one should avoid foods that contain hormones and steroids – such as milk, meat, chicken, eggs and fish, as presence of foreign hormones create havoc in the body.

Refined and processed foods (lacking fibre) should be avoided too.

It is easy to make avoid dairy, by switching of simple non dairy alternatives such as nut milk, nut cheese and yogurt! Give it a try today!

Q.5 Any particular thing to keep in mind before or during the period to relieve the symptoms.

Soaked raisins and saffron are known to be beneficial to relieve pain. Close to the period having more fruits, greens and keeping meals light and easier to digest would help too.

Check out this wonder hack called the green smoothie and also some easy delicious salads that can help you keep meals light and green!

Also ensure sufficient hydration (water and water rich foods) as that helps muscles relax and relieve some pain.

Q.6 What kind of exercises are recommended to ease period pain?

Certain yoga asanas work like magic to relieve period pain. They are hip opening and lower abdomen opening asanas* such as :-

  • Badh kona asana (cobbler or butterfly pose)
  • Supta badhkonaasna (supine cobbler or butterfly)
  • Upvishtakona asana (wide angle seated forward bend)
  • Janushirsha asana (head to knee pose)
  • Viparit Karni (restorative, legs on the wall)

If one practices them throughout the month, one will see a difference in pain intensity during the cycle.

(*please practice these asanas under the supervision of a teacher)

Regular exercise throughout the month is equally important as well. And one should continue even during the cycle as per body’s strength.

Q.7. How is stress connected to period pain?

When we are stressed our body secretes adrenal hormones (a.k.a. stress hormones) to help us cope. But our reproductive hormones are also affected by adrenal hormones, translating to pain. Hence keeping stress under control through – deep breathing, pranayama, meditations or any other means is important.

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