It’s no secret that lady cramps are one of the worst things about being a woman. If you suffer them like I do, then it would be appropriate for us to be friends and share our literal and figurative pain with each other. Media makes it seem like having cramps is all about which flavor of Ben and Jerry’s you’re going to eat and how many episodes of Supernatural you’re going to crush, and while wearing granny panties and bingeing on ice cream and Netflix may play a part, for many women it’s very different. VERY different.
Growing up, my cramps would land me in the hospital once a month. I genuinely thought I was dying at 17. My poor parents had no idea what to do, and neither did I, so when the pain hit hard we were off to the ER at 1 am. Doctors were quick to say there is nothing they could do except recommend a painkiller. Whoopie. Prescription painkillers at 17.
People, this is NOT NORMAL. I was shocked when I found out that most of my friends had periods that were essentially rainbows and effing unicorns compared to the bloodletting that I endured.
It’s important to note that I did go through the standard medical channels of ultrasounds and other invasive tests. All negative for all things scary. That makes it even harder to get anyone to listen to you or try to solve the problem with something other than a pill – painkiller or THE pill. No thank you.
Overall, I suffered through terrible cramps and periods for the better part of 15 years. My poor husband found all this out the hard way during our first 6 months of dating. One night he found me in the fetal position on our bathroom floor because they pain was so intense I couldn’t stand up.
Oh, I was also sobbing and half-naked because two minutes earlier I was totally fine getting undressed to shower, and then BAM. WOMANHOOD. It sucker punches me right in the uterus, every damn time.
But, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. I don’t need to recap every single horrendous experience of the past decade of lying on washroom floors and crying alone in my bed or taking enough Advil/Tylenol/whatever to make me paranoid about how much crap I had put in my body. It never did anything, anyway. (Sidenote: New research shows that Tylenol is SUPER dangerous.) Bonus: I recently found out that I am allergic to Naproxen (Aleve) and potentially Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) thanks to a fun monthly experience I’ve been having lately with hives. (Could also be red wine… fingers crossed for Ibuprofen!)
Anyway, to the point. Cramps Suck 🙁
Through trial and error, I have found some magic that has turned my lady-pain down from a 15 (on a scale of 10) to a 2 or 3.
1- A Magnesium Supplement
This may as well be magic dust because it was the first thing to have a near immediate impact on my cramp intensity and duration. I heart Natural Calm, so much. You can check out my full review here. I take this every day. I double up and do a morning and night dose a few days before my period and the first few days into my period.
2- A Natural Hormone Regulator
A lot can be achieved with diet changes and elimination diets, but that can be a very frustrating and expensive experience. Eating organic is not cheap, yo. This type of supplement was the first natural thing I tried years ago and flip-flopped brands a bit depending on what was most affordable to me at the time. The main active ingredient is the indole-3-carbinol which is derived from cruciferous veggies like broccoli. This is used in the prevention of female cancers like breast and ovarian. You can check out some more info on that here. It took 2-3 cycles before I noticed a big difference, but well worth it. I stopped using it at one point after a few months of regular pain-free periods but then noticed that my original ickiness came back. Booo.
3- Epsom Salts
For people who can’t stomach magnesium supplements, Epsom salts are amazing. You get the same magnesium benefits in a hot bath. This is more useful when you feel the cramps coming on, or are having a bad wave. A hot bath filled with Epsom salts is super comforting and helps relieve the muscle tension in your uterus. Don’t waste your money on the scented ones – go for the unscented kind and add a drop of essential oil for a zen experience. Natural Calm also makes a liquid spray Magnesium – you can add some of this to a bath in a pinch.
4- A Menstrual Cup
Let’s be honest: these are not pretty. They also take some time getting used to — especially learning how to insert and remove it without creating a murder scene in your bathroom. But, they are life changing. I’ll be very clear here, I have no idea why this product makes such a big difference, but it 100% does. I guess it has something to do with the fact that you are just letting your body do its thing and not plugging it up. Think about it: the other stuff that you put in your body is bleached and chemically treated, and can make you über sick if you leave it in too long. I mean, thanks, science! But also, eeeesh. A menstrual cup can be left in for up to 12 hours (depending on your flow) and is hand washed. You can use one for a full year. Think of the money you will save! You can also get a really in-depth picture of your flow: amount, clots, timing etc. So seriously, stop shoving bleached paper up your hooha! If you are a tampon or pad user, I challenge you to try out a menstrual cup and see the difference after two cycles. The Diva Cup and Lunette are the two main brands I hear about, but I know there are a ton. I personally use the Diva Cup. There is a whole website devoted to reviews – check it out here.
*BONUS* DITCH THE DAIRY
Yes, I’m talking to you, milk-drinkers. If you suffer from crazy cramps, PMS, hormonal acne etc. etc. etc. STOP. IT. WITH. THE. DAIRY. Cut out your milk/cheese/ice cream/pizza and see the wonders.
This is coming from a self-professed pizza addict, so I hope you can appreciate the seriousness in my statement.
Yes, dairy tastes amazing but has the potential to totally eff up your system if you are a sensitive gal, like me. I’m so jealous of those who can enjoy it without side-effects, but the hard truth is that more of us are likely to have issues with it. These issues come out in our hormones, skin and reproductive systems. Test it out for a few weeks before your period and see if it helps you. Note: do not replace cow milk with soy milk. You are not doing your body any favors drinking that
This is the best of the best of my personal list. I will keep adding to it as I find new tricks to help hack your period cramps. Any of these sound like they could work for you? Try them out and let me know how you did.
***And here is a subtle reminder that I am not a doctor. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. I had no desire to be in school for ten years and I have no desire to diagnose and/or cure you or your ailments. (Actually, I would love to cure you of whatever, but unfortunately, I’m not legally or educationally able to do so.) So, that being said, don’t get upset with what I say here. This is simply what has worked for me and sadly, it may not work for you. If you suffer from abnormal periods please please please see a specialist. Don’t take no for an answer until you find someone who listens to you and you can trust. Also legally I need to tell you to please check with your actual doctor, naturopath or another health professional before starting supplements etc. If you don’t know a naturopath or holistic person, find one. They will blow your mind. In a good way.***