natural treatment for endometriosis

What to Do About Menstrual Cramps

I’ve have gotten a few questions in a row about menstrual cramps, so thank you for guiding me on what information you want!

There are two types of menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), primary and secondary.  I’ll first give some tips on dealing with primary dysmenorrhea, and then cover the sources of secondary dysmenorrhea.  

Primary Dysmenorrhea

Primary dysmenorrhea is caused from the normal process of shedding your uterine lining each month with your period.  But the degree of pain and cramping varies for each woman, and you can influence the level of pain naturally.  

Here’s a bit of background on why menstrual cramps happen from the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine

“In the 1960s, it became evident that chemicals called prostaglandins are a central part of the problem. These chemicals are made from the traces of fat stored in cell membranes, and they promote inflammation. They are also involved in muscle contractions, blood vessel constriction, blood clotting, and pain.

Shortly before a period begins, the endometrial cells that form the lining of the uterus make large amounts of prostaglandins. When these cells break down during menstruation, the prostaglandins are released. They constrict the blood vessels in the uterus and make its muscle layer contract, causing painful cramps. Some of the prostaglandins also enter the bloodstream, causing headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Researchers have measured the amount of prostaglandins produced by the endometrial cells and found that it is higher in women with menstrual pain than for women who have little or no pain.”

The article goes on to explain a way to lower prostaglandins through food. How can this be done? Because prostaglandins are produced in the endometrium (aka endometrial lining) of the uterus, and because the endometrium grows in response to estrogen, if we can keep estrogen within a healthy range, then that lining will not overgrow, causing an overproduction in prostaglandins.  Pretty cool, right?  

Tips for Menstrual Cramps

1.  Magnesium

Your uterus is smooth muscle, and it requires magnesium to cramp smoothly. This is true for labor as well as your monthly period.  In addition to relaxing the muscles, it helps calcium be absorbed, and calcium is important for proper muscle function as well.

Due to insufficient minerals in the soil, insufficient greens and healthy foods in the diet and increased mineral need due to bodily stress, most of us are not getting nearly enough magnesium.

When I ask women if they are taking magnesium, they usually say, “well I’m taking a multivitamin.”

Unless you are taking a multivitamin with several pills included, the chances are you are not getting enough magnesium for your supplementation.

Magnesium is very bulky, and it requires usually four pills to reach the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of 400 mg.  If you don’t want to take a handful of pills, there is also magnesium powder that you can mix up with water.  And there is magnesium spray for your skin, and magnesium salts (Epsom salts) that you can use in your bath.  You can also get more magnesium form getting lots more greens in smoothies, salads or cooked form. 

Also note the RDA of 400 mg may not be quite enough for you.  You can experiment with taking more, and can safely do so long as it does not cause diarrhea.  Of course always ask your physician first if you are taking medication or have special conditions.

2. Drink Enough Water

A handful of clients have told me that just drinking more water cured their cramps.  It’s a basic, un-sexy tip, but water is important for tissue hydration and detoxification, so it makes sense that it can help.

The usual guideline for how much water to drink is half your body weight in ounces of water.  So if you weigh 150 pounds, that’s 75 ounces of water per day.  I think there is wiggle room here for less water if you are in cold climate and are no active, and more water if you are in a hot climate and more active.  

If you are actively detoxing, you may need more water.  That can include the natural process of detoxification that happens in the days before and during your period, and also if you are doing a detoxification protocol with a practitioner. 

Please try to drink filtered water, and don’t count coffee, juice or other heavier beverages in your ounces per day.  Note that coffee and other caffeinated beverages are actually de-hydrating because they act as a diuretic.  

Drink water away from meals as too much fluid with meals dilutes your digestive fluids.  Try to sip water to not overwhelm your body with fluid by gulping it down.  First thing is the morning is a great time to get hydrated and have a big glass of water.  Room temperature and warm is best, and you can add a generous squeeze of lemon of you like.

3.  Fish Oil (or Algae oil)

Whenever we have pain, including with menstrual cramps, there is usually inflammation. 

Fish oil is great anti-inflammatory substance.  It has the ability to manage inflammation over the long-term and also in acute situations. (Source)

For a standard maintenance dosage, 1,000 mg of fish oil is enough. But if you are coming from a background of lots of inflammation and you’ve never taken fish oil before, you may want to take 3,000 mg a day for a month. 

It’s not well known that fish oil can be used acutely at higher doses than 1,000 mg.  For example if you feel a flu coming on, you can take 3,000 + mg of fish oil a day, as it fortifies your cells’ walls so they don’t pass the virus.  For cramps, you can take a higher dose to help reduce the inflammatory prostaglandin activity.  

Another benefit of fish oil is it’s ability to regulate the immune system in cases of autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are more common in women, and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid disease, can contribute to estrogen dominance and resulting heavy periods and cramps.

If you are allergic to fish or on a vegetarian diet, you can take a DHA / EPA oil (these are two types of beneficial fat found in fish oil) made from algae instead of fish.  Here is a link to some products by Nordic Naturals.

4.  Anti-inflammatory Diet

Please don’t follow tips 1 - 3 without also creating a stable base with an anti-inflammatory diet. A big, big reason that women have menstrual pain is due to tissue inflammation from an inflammatory diet. Inflammation blocked hormone receptors, causing hormone imbalance.

Foods to avoid:

  • The whites- white bread, pasta, pastries and sugar

  • The drinks- wine, beer, juices, sodas, sweetened coffees and teas

  • The oils- seed oils like canola oil are inflammatory are found in most processed foods and restaurant foods

Foods to increase include:

  • Fatty fish like wild salmon and anchovies

  • Green vegetables

  • Berries like raspberry and blueberry

  • Fresh nuts and seeds like chia seeds and walnuts

  • Herbs like clove, ginger, cinnamon and rosemary

Foods high in fiber help clear excess circulating estrogen through the gut. As you learned earlier, keeping estrogen levels in a healthy range can reduce menstrual cramps caused by high prostaglandins.  

Other Reason for Menstrual Cramps (Secondary Dysmenorrhea)

A. Uterine Positioning

As you can hear about in my interview with Rachel Eyre, if your uterus is adhered to other tissues and can’t move freely, it is forced to twist which can cause you pain.  But you can treat that with specialized massage, castor oil packs or yoni steams, as Rachel explains.  

The whole interview is great, but I’ll point out that at minute 22 we start to talk about cramps, and at minute 35 we talk about techniques that can help.

B.  Endometriosis

Endometriosis can cause extreme pain, and also pain with intercourse, or bowel pain.  If your cramps require prescription painkillers and days off work, you may need to find a practitioner to help determine if you have endometriosis.  

Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue (the tissue that lines your inner uterus) is found outside the uterus.  This misplaced tissue adheres to other tissues, and the endometrial tissue also responds to changes in your hormone levels with bleeding and inflammation.

Here is an article by our friend Melissa Turner at Endo Empowered about how to ready yourself for your period if you do have endometriosis.  Some of the tips match mine above, but she has some great new ones too, including using warming herbs and exercise.  Melissa and I also recorded a video on turmeric, which is another herb she uses to reduce inflammation and pain.  

 

C.  Adenomyosis

In this condition, the endometrial lining embeds within the uterine muscle, causing period pain or lingering pain after sex.  Risk factors for adenomyosis are genetics, estrogen dominance, childbirth or a surgical cut into the uterus.  An ultrasound or MRI scan can help with diagnosis.

D.  Fibroids

Fibroids are tumors of the uterus that are non-cancerous 99% of the time.  Up to 80% of women experience fibroids, and most women will be symptom free.  Dark-skinned women have a greater chance of having fibroids.  This is theorized to be related to low vitamin D levels in dark-skinned women, emphasizing the importance of vitamin D to our hormonal balance.

The mechanism of fibroids is not totally understood, but they grow under the influence of estrogen, so women with estrogen dominance are susceptible.  Estrogen dominance is very common as women approach menopause, so women in their 40s are prone to fibroids.

Uterine fibroids can occur within the walls of the uterus, inside the uterus or outside the uterus. Fibroids can cause menstrual pain, pelvic pain, heavy bleeding, abnormal bleeding, fatigue and anemia.

We have a great interview on the subject with Dr. Allan Warshowsky here.

 

E.  Copper IUD (Intrauterine Device)

I use a copper IUD for birth control and have very rarely experienced pain from it.  But I have heard stories from other women in which they reacted very poorly to their IUD, having pain and heavy bleeding.  This seems to be more common in younger women who have not gone through childbirth.

If you recently got a copper IUD, you may need a few months to adjust.  If you suspect it is still a problem, consult with your physician.  Also consider following my four tips above before you throw in the towel.

F.  Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

If you have an untreated infection it can cause increased pain with your periods. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease occurs mainly due to STD (sexually transmitted disease), but can also occur after childbirth and pelvic surgeries, including abortions.  It can cause cause infertility and can seriously stress your other body systems. According to Wed MD, one million American women experience PID each year.

Other symptoms of PID could be abdominal pain, painful urination, pain after sex, yellow or green vaginal discharge, chills/fever and nausea/vomiting.  If you suspect a PID, see a doctor.  And always practice protected sex with an untested partner. (Source)

G.  Cervical Stenosis

I have never encountered this cause in my years or work, but it is a possible cause so I will share it. Cervical stenosis is a narrow or narrowing of the cervix, the lower portion of the uterus.  If this area is narrow and your menstrual blood is trying to pass, this can case increased pain.

H. Uterine Shape

Some women have an irregularly shaped uterus that can lead to increased menstrual pain.  These abnormalities are:   bicornuate uterus (two uteri that lead to one cervix), septate uterus (normal uterus with a fibrous band of tissue bisecting it), unicornuate uterus (a uterus that develops from only one mullerian duct), uterus didelphys (two uteri, two cervices, and a septum, or membrane, dividing the vaginal canal).  (Source)

These conditions can be diagnosed by medical imaging, and are sometimes diagnosed during a C section.

I hope this article helps you get out of some monthly distress!  

Feel free to share your own tips for menstrual cramps below.

If you have not yet taken our interactive quiz on Your Hidden Hormone Stressors, we invite you to do so here.

My Pain: My Motivation For Changing The Lives of Women by Melissa Turner

I had endometriosis. It was unbelievably painful. It is a condition that affects over 176 million women around the world and yet most of us have never heard of the condition. In some cases women endure pain for years before realizing that what they are experiencing is far from normal. I did this too. I believed that my excruciating period pain was normal. I thought my swollen belly and my aching body was normal. I thought that regular PMS and erratic mood swings were normal. Gotta love those TV commercials that say all of this is just part of being a women… right?

Women are told from an early age that period pain is simply part of their cycle. Something they have to learn to deal with. That they shouldn’t be so weak or pathetic and that every women goes through this. This is why endometriosis can take over ten years to get properly diagnosed and in many cases it can dramatically effect the ability of women to get pregnant!

I had never heard of endometriosis. Have you?

The most common symptoms of endometriosis include painful periods and pain during sex. Endometriosis is a condition where the cells which are meant to remain in the uterus, spread into the abdominal cavity and grow and change along with the cycle. These eventually form adhesions and cysts, which cause incredible pain for many women. Though pain is a key indicator of endometriosis, some women don’t experience any pain or little pain as their cysts form in less obtrusive places.

I had pain though. I had pain from my very first period and it lasted for over 15 years. I followed all the best meaning advice and went to the best specialists I could find. Some were doctors, endometriosis specialists and gynaecologist. I went through seven operations, a number of hormone treatments putting my body through menopause or stopping my periods all together. I had a huge arrange of pain-killers and drugs to overcome all the side-effects of the hormone treatments. I had a huge handbag and it was not filled with typical girly things. Instead it was filled with pain-killers and drugs to help me to get through a typical day.

As much as I reached out for help, I never found any new insights or options from the typical medical sources.

Something had to change, and it all began with me finally taking responsibility for myself and my health.
— Melissa Turner

I began with throwing out all the junk in my life. The junk food, the junk relationships, the junk thoughts and all the chemicals I was adding into my body each and every day. I shifted my focus in a big way… it was about taking care of myself and my body. It was about providing for my body with real, nourishing foods. It was about filling my mind with positive and uplifting thoughts and it was about finally acknowledging and realizing my own strengths and loving myself.

I won’t lie. It wasn’t an easy journey. I certainly can relate to so many women who struggle to make the shift in using a holistic approach for their endometriosis. However, I can tell you that it has shifted more than my pain levels. I no longer experience pain or symptoms from endometriosis. I never believed that I could ever say that!

I also never believed that changing my thoughts, my food and my focus could shift me into a whole new life for myself. One filled with real fulfillment from my work and my relationships. I am finally open and energetically ready to do anything I wish to do in this world, without fear or limitation.

This is why I do what I do. I want more women to experience the shifts that I experienced when I finally started taking care of myself properly. It goes beyond simply eating a healthy diet or moving our bodies. It is about putting ourselves first and deciding that we are worth it. Truly worth it. Beyond beauty products and pretty dresses but worth taking care of in terms of our health and our personal well-being.

The REACH Technique©

I run an online business which supports women with endometriosis who are keen to use a holistic approach. I guide women on how to:

  1. Eat for real nourishment
  2. Move to help heal their bodies of anxiety and poor posture
  3. Change their thinking and shift old emotional pain
  4. Cleanse the body of contributors to developing endometriosis

I call it the REACH Technique© and you can get the full picture in my free online mini course.

 

Found This Interesting?

Sign up to find out more about the REACH Technique© and how you can successfully manage your endometriosis.

Melissa Turner

Harness Your Cycle Superpowers!

My guests today are Audrey Sourroubille Arnold and Lucia Lukanova, both women's health coaches and also partners in a women's health app called The Flow.

A bit about the pair:

Audrey- Diagnosed with endometriosis  a few years ago.  She feels her former high pressure career contributed to her endometriosis diagnosis and overall burn-out. She switched careers into women's health.

Lucia- Working long hours doing big technology projects. She got burned out as well, and started to learn about hormones of stress and the menstrual cycle. She started to notice the subtle symptoms related to the phases of her cycle. She wanted an app to help her track her cycle, but didn’t find one, so she started to develop one, now out in several languages, called the Flow App.

Stages of the Cycle

Week One- Starts with day one of your cycle.   Cleanse time, from the inside out- want to be alone and peaceful.  Your verbal skills are lower, but is a 'wise stage.'  Energy is low and if you push you get cravings to create energy.

Paula Ratcliffe ran the Chicago marathon in world record time, and was on day 1 of her cycle.

In transition from period to the next stage (dynamic), is a good time to knock out your to-do list.

Week Two- Dynamic phase- energy is good, accomplish things, 'maiden' phase

Ovulation- femme fatale moment - phéromones are high, vocal chords have highest range, good time to ask for pay raise

Post-ovulation- a mini PMS is possible

Week Three- Reflexive phase- decide what to keep or give up, evaluate, very empathic, mother, femininity, caring, nurturing 

Week Four- Creative phase, Enchantress, represents Autumn season

Some resources we mention on the show:

Audrey's website

Miranda Gray's website

Jason Karp's book, Running for Women: Your Complete Guide for a Lifetime of Running

Video on How to Use the Flow App

Ultimately you will have to download the Flow App from the app store on your smartphone, but you can find more info on the Flow App here.

You can listen to the full interview below, but be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get an interview weekly!  Just got into your the podcast app on your smartphone and search, "Womens Wellness Radio."

Enjoying the show?  We'd really appreciate you taking a moment to rate and review us on iTunes.

Eliminate Endometriosis Pain with Melissa Turner

Hello, and a big thank you for listening.  We've had a surge in listeners in the past month, and it's thanks to YOU listening and sharing!

About 6-8% of all women have endometriosis (source), and many of those experience severe, chronic pelvic pain.  Many of those women will undergo surgery, or multiple surgeries, as our guest expert Melissa Turner did.

Exhausted and frustrated, Melissa turned to dietary changes to see if that could help. She did find relief there, but also found that there was more the solution than obsessing over diet.

Melissa now experiences her cycle with nary a blip on her radar, and she teaches others to do the same at endoempowered.com.

In this interview, she explains how she developed her REACH method. (She's got a new Endo Wellness Technique program starting soon here.)

Melissa also made an appearance on our youtube channel to take about turmeric.

And she generously wrote a blog for us called, What Few People Will Dare to Tell You About Endometriosis.  Intrigued? Check it out here!

If you are not a subscriber to our podcast, we'd love for you to become one!  You can do so at iTunes, or search your podcast player for "Womens Wellness Radio."

Do you have any experiences overcoming your endometriosis symptoms?  Please share below.