The sciency name for that throbbing, cramping, aching, you-want-to-stay-home-in-bed feeling that you likely experience every month is dysmenorrhea. The pain caused by periods varies from woman to woman, ranging from discomfort to down-right disabling.
Below are four quick tips (other than over-the-counter pain meds) that could help kick the cramps.
1. Magnesium matters.
The contraction of the uterus causes menstrual cramps. Magnesium relaxes muscles and can offer a little relief when you’re feeling the need to curl up. Whole grains, beans and leafy greens are also excellent sources of the mineral, which studies show improves mood and reduces water retention.
2. Help is on the half shell.
Zinc has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it’s been found to relieve menstrual cramps. Oysters are an excellent source, as they contain more zinc per serving than any other food. If you don’t find salty mollusks appetizing, try chickpeas or lentils. Bonus: Studies show zinc can also be effective against acne.
3. Water it down.
Staying hydrated is always a good idea and increasing H2O intake during your period has been shown to cut down on cramps, backaches and alleviate bloating. Pro tip: The standard eight glasses a day is a good place to start, but the amount could be a little more or less depending on your body and activity level.
4. Run away from the pain.
It might sound like the last thing you want to do, but even moderate activity like a brisk walk or light jogging can reduce bloating, release endorphins (the feel-good hormones) and relieve cramps.
In most cases, menstrual pain doesn’t indicate a serious problem. Feeling some pain and discomfort for a few days is normal, but not through your entire period or so much that pain meds don’t help. If you are experiencing painful periods or pelvic pain of any kind, talk to your gynecologist. If you don’t have an OB/GYN, you can search our online physician directory.