As a holistic health practitioner, it’s been a revelation to learn that periods needn't be a painful or negative experience, particularly when I help so many women deal with this often debilitating issue.
Most women experience some form of period pain/discomfort just before and/or on day 1-2 of the period which is called Primary Dysmenorrhoea. 1 in 10 NZ women will experience Secondary Dysmenorrhoea which includes Endometriosis, severe pelvic pain and varying degrees of infertility.
Heavy periods or “menorrhagia” in medical terms, affects approximately 1 in 3 women, and around half of all women who report pain or menorrhagia will have no identifiable cause, according to a recent media interview with a NZ GP and medical examiner.
Not normal according to Chinese medicine...
This is at odds with the Chinese Medicine perspective, where periods are expected to come and go easily with minimal discomfort and have a healthy blood flow over 4-5 days.
In Chinese Medicine, if there is pain or discomfort, a flow that stops and starts, brown or very dark blood, clots and/or pre-menstrual tension or syndrome (PMT/S), it is believed that Liver Qi or energy and blood has become stuck and stagnated. The main causes are thought to be:
- emotional stress from suppressed emotions especially anger and frustration
- stresses from daily life
- stress from trauma or major life events
- exposure to environmental toxins
- a diet based around refined and overly processed foods
During my training to become an acupuncturist, I discovered that the ancient Chinese people nurtured the health of women, as they recognised that future generations would be healthier and stronger by doing so. This is a very different and refreshing perspective!
I think we could learn something from this culture. Here are some alternative recommendations and resources to help improve your flow naturally, so your periods don’t need to be a painful and negative experience.
Identifying and expressing stuck emotions
Explore the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) which is based on tapping certain acupuncture points, to release emotions. It's simple to do; it acknowledges the negative emotions that are being experienced and encourages us to completely accept and love ourselves. There are lots of resources for teaching you to tap here:
Hypnotherapy can also be useful to deal with past traumas that may be buried in our subconscious.
Regular moderate exercise
This helps keep the energy flowing around the body and makes you feel better. It can also help reduce PMS in the lead up to your period. So do it, especially when you don't feel like it! (a sure sign of stagnation).
Support your nutrition
Consider taking a high quality women’s multivitamin, fish oil (anti-inflammatory) and a magnesium supplement. Magnesium is amazing! It's calming to the whole nervous system and helps to reduce period cramps. The best type of magnesium is magnesium chloride that you spray onto your skin. You can spray it directly onto your abdomen or anywhere you have pain or cramping - and it works within seconds. I like Amazing Oils Organic magnesium from Australia.
Minimise processed/refined foods in your diet
Remember to also increase fruit and vegetables - especially the green veggies. Include healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados/oil and coconut oil. Sugar can make menstrual cramping much worse! Try a couple of squares of 70% dark chocolate and a couple of spoons of coconut oil when you get a craving.
For clearing energy blocks and balancing your energy. http://www.acupuncture.org.nz/find-a-practitioner/
Use chemical free non-toxic pads not tampons
Inserting a tampon goes against the natural downward flow of your period, causing menstrual blood to go back into the pelvic cavity. It also introduces toxic fibres into the body causing more cramping and heavier bleeding. Our Drion chemical free pads and liners that contain negative ions and far infrared energy can be helpful if used regularly.
Minimise environmental toxin exposure
The skin is the largest organ in the body and can absorb toxins straight into the bloodstream. Think conventional sanitary pads, liners and tampons, cosmetics, home cleaning products, the reuse of disposable plastic drink bottles, plastics on our foods and anything you put on your skin. There's a great phone app called Think Dirty Shop Clean - you can scan the barcode of personal care products in the supermarket and see which ones to avoid.
Keep your low back and abdomen warm
To ensure that blood flow is optimal. While menstruating, avoid sitting on cold surfaces, walking barefoot on cold floors, swimming and consuming cold/frozen foods and drinks. Cold in the abdomen can contribute to menstrual pain. See my article Can I go swimming on my period?
Use a wheat pack or hot water bottle
Heat helps to improve blood flow and reduce cramps.
Castor oil packs
Are a great home remedy for detoxifying the body and reducing pain. http://www.edgarcayce.org/are/holistic_health/data/thcast1.html
Try a Shakti acupressure mat
Wonderful for sore low backs and menstrual cramping.
If your period pain is really debilitating and none of these things help ease it, visit your GP and ask for a referral to a gynaecologist as it could be endometriosis. Please do not think suffering is normal - it's not. A laparoscopy is needed to diagnose endometriosis, so it’s better to seek help sooner rather than later.
How do you reduce your period cramps? I would love to hear about your favourite method if it’s not covered here.
All the best