There must be a lot of women who would agree that period cramps are a bit of a nightmare.

At best, they’re uncomfortable, and at worst, completely debilitating.

However, there is no need for you to be resigned to having them until the menopause… they are not inevitable!

Simply put, asides the usual painkillers (or perhaps contraceptive pills) which will often be prescribed by your doctor, studies have shown that certain foods (e.g. omega 3-rich foods) and exercises can actually help relieve those debilitating period cramps!

With awareness of the causes of menstrual cramps, you are equipped to bring things back into balance.

It probably goes without saying that cramps are not the only troublesome symptoms during your period. Nobody wants to feel bloated, lethargic and moody!

Wouldn’t it be great if you could kiss goodbye to those symptoms for good? Well, maybe you can.

MedFanatic is here to help with some useful information on some causes of menstrual cramps and how to relieve them.

What causes period cramps?

The pain of period cramps arises when you have excessive numbers of prostaglandins in the uterine lining (endometrium).

Prostaglandins are compounds, similar to hormones, that are released from your uterine lining when the womb prepares to shed it.

Prostaglandins are responsible for the shedding process, as they aid the womb in contracting and relaxing again, which helps the lining to detach and release from the body.

Although they are necessary for regulation of the contractions, they are also responsible for that nasty cramping sensation.

Unfortunately, when the prostaglandins are present in large numbers, severe menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) can be the result.

This is when your period becomes overwhelming, affecting both your well-being and overall productivity.

If you’re suffering with this each month, you’ll no doubt be looking for a sustainable solution other than merely masking the effects with painkillers.

Women who have an IUD (coil)—a common type of contraception—fitted in their womb are more likely to experience worse period cramps.

This is because when your womb contracts, you’ll be able to feel the device pressing against the uterine walls.

Other causes of severe period cramps may be pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids or endometriosis .

Endometriosis sufferers may find that they have period cramps but no period, as well as a range of other unpleasant symptoms. If this sounds familiar, it’s worth checking with your Doctor to find out if you have endometriosis, since professional treatment may be required.

It may be worth checking with your Doctor to find out if these are a possibility, since professional treatment may be required.

Some foods and drinks relieve period cramps

The body’s inflammatory response plays a big part in your menstrual cramping. This is because an inflammatory substance called arachidonic acid is released whenever a certain type of prostaglandin is produced.

Therefore, taking in more anti-inflammatory foods can help to bring things back into balance and relieve menstrual cramps.

Here are some foods that relieve menstrual pains:

#1. Omega 3-rich foods

Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid that reduces inflammation. At the same time, it regulates hormonal fluctuations and stabilizes moods… so your loved ones may also feel the benefits!

Get more omega 3 by eating oily fish, seafood, nuts and seeds, or plant-based oils like flaxseed oil.

#2. Seeds

Another great anti-cramp food is cumin seeds.

These little seeds have a wide range of health benefits. They’re anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic, meaning that they help to calm muscle spasms.

Sunflower seeds are also helpful as they contain the anti-cramping minerals magnesium and zinc.

They also contain vitamin B6, which does a great job at relieving depression that may accompany pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). It is also an anti-spasmodic nutrient.

#3. Bananas

bananas contain vitamin B6 that reduces period cramps

Bananas also contain plenty of vitamin B6 which, as mentioned earlier, helps to reduce the pain that comes with menstrual cramps.

#4. Ginger

Yes, we know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard of several purported health benefits of ginger and you’re probably wondering if this this is worth believing.

Well, studies have shown that ginger can decrease the severity of period cramps, and how long they stick around for.

So, we wouldn’t pass a chance to try them out especially if those period cramps are usually a big pain in the… we’ll leave you to complete that!

You can do exercises to relieve period cramps

Menstrual pain has a way of making you want to curl up in a fetal position and ignore the world, so exercise may be the last thing on your mind.

Although it may seem ironical, personal stories from ladies have proven that exercises are one sure way of getting rid of your source of monthly trepidation.

However, you don’t need to do anything strenuous and you may well find that some basic movements are all it takes to alleviate those awful period cramps.

So, we’d love to answer the mystical question that’s been lingering on your mind:

How exactly does exercise help relieve your menstrual cramps?

One way is that exercise can help to boost circulation to your pelvic area.

Even more importantly, engaging in exercises also results in the release of endorphins. Think of these as chemicals produced by your brain which function as your natural painkillers (more like your body’s locally-produced morphine) and will neutralize prostaglandins.

Of course, we don’t recommend any high-impact exercise that will stress your tired body or jolt your internal organs during this delicate time.

Low impact exercise is much better if you’re looking to relieve period cramps.

If you’re willing to give it all it takes, here are a few examples of exercises worth trying during those awful moments:

#1. Light aerobic exercises

When we say aerobic exercises, we’re definitely not referring to the high endurance cardio sessions that you’ve got listed out in your workout schedule. Hence, the need to emphasize ‘light‘ here.

These types of exercises range from going for a brisk walk with (or without) a company such as your pet, to swimming or even biking.

woman walking with her dog to reduce period cramps

What’s more, you can get yourself engaged in light cardio activities such as dancing, hula-hooping, or even walking up the stairs.

This can be fun as long as you’re creative—bearing in mind the limits to which you can go with it!

#2. Yoga poses

Here at MedFanatic, we’re always talking about the benefits of yoga, of which there are many.

However, this is the first time we’ve mentioned that yoga poses can help you relieve period cramps, but it’s true!

The good thing about this is that you do not need to have done yoga before, as the helpful postures are very simple.

Here are the postures we recommend for menstrual cramp relief:

Knees-to-chest pose

For this pose you’ll first need to lie on your back. Then bring your knees up over your chest in the direction of your chin.

This is great for increasing abdominal circulation and relaxing your lower back.

It will also give tender abdominal muscles some relief if they are carrying tension from attempting to resist cramping pains.

Child’s pose

Child’s pose is one of the easiest yoga postures around.

By getting onto your knees and opening them out in opposite directions while you stretch your arms out forwards and place them (and your forehead) on the floor, you will release tension in both your lower back and your reproductive organs.

It’s also a very calming posture that will encourage your whole body to relax.

The cat-cow pose

The cat-cow pose is more active but not strenuous at all.

You’ll need to get onto your hands and knees, positioning your wrists directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips.

Then alternate between slowly arching your back while your chin moves toward your chest, and dipping your abdomen while your head moves back and upwards.

This stretches out the abdominal and lower back muscles at the same time. It also boosts circulation and calms your mental and emotional states.

To conclude, you may not be able to completely prevent menstrual pain every month, but there is a lot you can do to reduce the impact of your period cramps.

By eating the right kind of foods (as part of a sustained lifestyle choice rather than when you start experiencing pain) and performing a few simple exercises and yoga poses, you should notice a marked difference in pain levels.