Easing Menstrual Cramps Might Be Easier Than You Think

Health Check 11

woman suffering from menstrual crampsEvery month, for about a week, millions of women cope with debilitating menstrual cramps. Whenever they strike, most of us reach for NSAIDs, maybe some caffeine, and sometimes a heating pad -- rinse, repeat. But that routine can get old, sometimes it doesn't even help, and who knows what kind of toll it might be taking on your long-term well-being? Plus, wouldn't it be so much better to preempt the cramps before they begin?

Enter a new, small study from Italy, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, that found a single, high-dose (300,000 IU -- whoa!) of cholecalciferol -- aka vitamin D3 -- was linked to a marked reduction in menstrual cramps. (In two months, the average pain scores dropped 41 percent for women on vitamin D vs. no difference in pain for a placebo group.) Also interesting: All the women in the study had blood levels of vitamin D measuring in the lowest 25 percent of normal at the study's outset. A clue, perhaps?

Perhaps there's a major link between vitamin D deficiency and dreadful cramps!

Of course, the answer to that Q remains to be seen, because the research just isn't there yet. In the meantime, though, this study is already being blown off by experts who are saying it's fab that the high-dose worked, but women shouldn't be taking that much vitamin D. (But hormone-wrecking birth control pills and gut-destroying pain meds are just fiiiine! Stick with those, ladies! Ugh.)

The truth is that no one really knows if 300,000 IU of vitamin D is dangerous for a woman of reproductive age -- even one who is deficient in D. However, it bears noting that the "recommended" dose of 600 IU can be entirely too low -- especially for a woman who is deficient. I speak from personal experience, having recently learned that I'm deficient. My doc suggested 5,000 IU minimum. But my boyfriend who was found to be "severely" deficient was prescribed special high-dose 50,000 IU vitamin D! So clearly, higher doses can be acceptable -- and potentially very helpful.

Sounds like the real takeaway here is two-fold: That women with awful cramps should check their vitamin D stores and consider supplementation, and that natural, nutrition-based, preventative ways that promote wellness. We should and can use real food, vitamins, herbs, etc. to preempt cramps. Even if vitamin D isn't the answer for every woman, there are lots of other natural options -- like evening primrose oil (essential fatty acids promote the production of the prostaglandins that help the uterus contract without causing cramping), turmeric (a natural anti-inflammatory), vitamin B-6, and other hormone-balancing minerals like calcium and magnesium. Because we shouldn't be waiting until we're writhing in discomfort or being left to believe a bottle of over-the-counter drugs is our only option.

Do you suffer from bad menstrual cramps? Do you think a natural remedy could help?

obgyn, pms, natural health


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Kritika Kritika

I get severe cramps for which I have to take 8-10 advil's to get any relief. Apparently my doctor thinks that's better than prescribing anything stronger for me except Celebrex - which did nothing and has terrible health risks. I've had to leave work on a few ocassions for fear of throwing up on or pooping my pants at my desk the pain is so bad. Hot baths do help but again you can't have those at work.

nonmember avatar Megan

Completely removing things like dairy, gluten and extra sugar from your diet, then adding antioxidants like berries and vegetables also SEVERELY reduces cramping.... nothing unnatural needed.

After years of excruciating and completely immobilizing cramps, changed my diet and now they are little more than a twinge. No meds or thousands of IU's of anything needed.

Momma... MommaGreenhalge

My natural remedy was simple: I had a baby. I've had cramps since then, but not even close to what I used to get as a teenager.

nonmember avatar r0sal1n3

It could also be a sign of a serious condition. I have menstrual pain so bad that sometimes I would pass out from it. I would wake up curled in a fetal position and couldn't move. I didn't know that I had Endometriosis but at first my ex-doctor thought it was just a normal irregular period because I was too shy to tell my doctor what was wrong.

It was kind of a non spoken taboo in my culture that females DON"T TALK(especially if you are a virgin and young) about anything related to or alluding to "sexual" or female issues.

Ever since I first started having my period in my early teens, I was suffering in silence. Heck, I thought it was normal because I did not no. I hate to say this because it ages me but the internet was something new back when I was younger. I couldn't just go and google menstrual pain and find out.

It wasn't until I went stark white and dropped in front of my guy friend who freaked out and rushed me to the ER. He said I turned pale white, my lips were blue, and my hands were cold! And he yelled at me for scaring 10 years off his life.

Now, that I'm older and a bit wiser, I tell my doctor everything. So, all I really wanted to say was: Don't be afraid to tell your doctor!

Heather Ford

MAGNESIUM. Take it daily and you will be amazed with the results

nonmember avatar Kellie

I had my first baby via C-Section a year and a half ago. While in surgery my obgyn descovered that I have endometresosis. It wasnt bad then. Just a few spots covering my uterious. But now, I am always in horrible pain from cramps. I still have not gotten a period since the birth of my baby. I have to take Lartab 7.5 and Soma just to deal with the pain. If there was a discovery that could help me get off all of the pain killers, Im all for it! My husband hates to see me in pain and it sucks because it takes away time that I could be spending with my son. Hot baths do help a lil, but that the lady before said, they dont have that at work. Lol

nonmember avatar stephb

regular exercise, not even a lot of it, really helps me. yoga and running around after my 18 month old do the trick right now. if i have been lazy, i pay for it in cramps.

Andrea Smith

Great article and study, but unlike scientific studies like this, few things exist in a vacuum.  I think upping your antioxidents (and avoiding sugar, etc.) can help with your natural vit D absorbsion and I truly believe that infertility and severely painful uterine disorders can be managed or even healed and reversed by diet and nutrition.

Joy Jenks

superD cod liver oil like Carlsons is the best source for D others make you fluctuate and feel like you are on a roller coaster. this has changed my life for the better

nonmember avatar Kaya

I have found tremendous reliefs for my cramps (and diarrhea associated with them) by using liberal doses of crampbark and bee balm tincture together. Whenever I start to feel them coming on, I take two dropperfuls each, and about fifteen minutes later I find markable relief. I still feel them, but they are completely reasonable. It also stops the diarrhea. I actually went to an herbalist who suggested this for me, and my life has changed dramatically since then! I can actually walk around and do things the first couple of days of my period now! What a difference. Different women have cramps for different reasons. I learned that my body reacts in excess spasms, so using anti-spasmodics and carminatives (they calm digestion) has been a true gift for my body. If anyone has these kinds of symptoms, I highly recommend trying these herbs. Of course check with a doctor or herbalist first (especially if you are on any other meds or have any health conditions). I just had to share because I feel like these botanical medicines have completely changed my life!

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