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I experience intermittent cramping during my period, nothing severe, just uncomfortable. I don’t like to take over-the-counter medication, is there anything I can do to find relief naturally?
Kansas City, MO
Great, great question, Sara. Many of us experience minor* menstrual cramping from time to time, even with otherwise healthy cycles. I covered this topic in-depth a little while back, but because this is such a common question I will touch on the highlights—you can read the unabridged article here.
Here are my favorite natural remedies for menstrual cramps:
Take a bath: Fill your tub with warm water; add a cup of Epsom salt and about 15 drops of lavender essential oil. You can also put on some soothing music and light a few candles to help create an environment of relaxation!
Turmeric tonic: Turmeric, possibly one of the most beneficial spices known to humans, has been shown in recent studies to be as effective on pain as over-the-counter medications (without the health risks). The tonic I like to use for pain relief also includes ginger, cinnamon and honey (for sweetness).
Mix 1 tsp. powdered turmeric, 1 tsp. powdered ginger and ½ tsp. powdered cinnamon into 4 oz. of warm water. Add honey to taste (I add about half a tablespoon). Mix thoroughly and shoot it down! Drink this tonic for pain every hour as needed.
Add heat: When my cramping is especially severe I like to cozy up with a heating pad/pillow or hot water bottle. Lay your apparatus of choice on top of your pelvic area and press down lightly (I just rest my hand across my lap). Make sure you have at least a thin layer of fabric between you and your heating device to prevent burns or skin irritations.
Exercise: I know this seems like an awful idea, especially if you are in pain, but engaging in light to moderate exercise can actually be helpful for cramping. Take a walk, go for a run, take a swim or practice yoga.
*I classify minor menstrual cramps as something that does not interfere with your daily activities. If you regularly experience cramping so severe that you can’t move, they are accompanied by nausea or vomiting, dizziness or fainting, fever or pain centralized to one side of your pelvis, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
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Amy Sutherland is a period-positive advocate and graduate student at the University of Minnesota where she is currently researching and writing her thesis on how menstrual stereotypes and stigmas affect health outcomes in women and girls. Read her full bio here.