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Natural Medicine for Menstrual Pain

Author: Dr Faeeza Abdullatief, Unani Tibb Practitioner

Let’s face it, the “joys” of being born a woman with a womb and ovaries also has its downfalls. Chances are if you’re a female reading this, you or someone you know has probably experienced or will experience some of these conditions at one stage in your life. It is often overlooked, how much something that should be so normal as a period/menstrual cycle can affect our quality of life.

The severity of menstrual pain can differ from one woman to another. Regardless, as woman we are often expected cope with this pain and function normally to do daily tasks, work, caring for others along with all the other responsibilities when for some it can be quite debilitating. Menstrual pain (Dysmenorrhoea) is very common in women, around 1 in 4 young woman suffer from debilitating menstrual pain that result in absenteeism from study or social activities [1]. We sometimes forget just how physiologically complicated a woman’s body really is. Our reproductive systems play such a vital role throughout our lives from sexual development to pregnancy, birth and then menopause. There is a very sensitive balance that needs to be maintained in order for our reproductive systems to function optimally. When this system or hormones are out of balance, which could be due to various factors, a whole whirlwind of changes can occur like mood swings, acne, period pain, weight gain or loss, changes in fertility and libido. There are many factors that can affect our health including stress, anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, unhealthy diets (high in saturated fats, sugars, processed foods), pollution and exposure to toxins, unhealthy lifestyles (smoking, alcohol intake), poor digestion/gut function and lack of exercise. How do we then prevent this and maintain our health and prevent disease? Here are some key tips and recommendations for you to consider if you are suffering from menstrual pain that can bring some relief:

· Take a warm bath with Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender or chamomile essential oil that would improve circulation to the abdomen and induce relaxation as well as ease tension and cramps.

· Change your diet: Avoid high sugar snacks, eating junk food e.g. fried foods as this increases inflammation and worsens pain [2]. Instead, go for foods are more nutrient dense such as deep sea fish, nuts and seeds, fruit, vegetable salad or roasted that contain vitamins and minerals EB1, B6 and magnesium. A study on adolescent Japanese women showed a significant correlation with the intake of fibre and reduction of menstrual pain [3]. Interestingly, dark chocolate could actually reduce menstrual pain according to experts [4].

· Massage therapy: take olive oil or sesame oil and lightly massage your stomach after a bath to relieve tension. Aromatherapy and abdominal massage is effective in alleviating menstrual pain [5].

· Cupping therapy: dry cupping can be an inexpensive and safe method of significantly reducing menstrual pain [6]. It is a form of therapy that applies suction cups onto specific therapeutic points on the body for detoxification, increase blood flow to the affected area, relieve pain and inflammation.

· Acupuncture: This form of therapy has been effective in reducing menstrual pain, and in some cases shown to be more effective than using certain pain medications (NSAID’s) [7]

· Herbal treatment: Cumin (Cumminum cyminum), Fennel (foeniculum vulgare) and ginger (zingiber officinale) have shown to be effective in reducing menstrual pain. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) can significantly reduce anxiety and reduce spasms [8].

It is important to note that menstrual pain can be a sign of an underlying disease and may require further medical investigation. Please see a qualified practitioner/doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

* Disclaimer: The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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1. Grandi, G., Ferrari, S., Xholli, A., Cannoletta, M., Palma, F., Romani, C., … Cagnacci, A. (2012). Prevalence of menstrual pain in young women: what is dysmenorrhea?. Journal of pain research, 5, 169–174. doi:10.2147/JPR.S30602

2. Najafi, N., Khalkhali, H., Moghaddam Tabrizi, F. et al. Major dietary patterns in relation to menstrual pain: a nested case control study. BMC Women's Health 18, 69 (2018).

3. Nagata, C., Hirokawa, K., Shimizu, N. et al. Associations of menstrual pain with intakes of soy, fat and dietary fiber in Japanese women. Eur J Clin Nutr 59, 88–92 (2005).

4. ArfailasufandiR., & AndiarnaF. (2018). The Influence of Dark Chocolate to Reduce Menstrual Pain in Primary Dysmenorhea. Journal of Health Science and Prevention, 2(1), 27-35.

5. Marzouk, T. M., El-Nemer, A. M., & Baraka, H. N. (2013). The effect of aromatherapy abdominal massage on alleviating menstrual pain in nursing students: a prospective randomized cross-over study. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2013, 742421. doi:10.1155/2013/742421

6. Taherpour, M, momeni M, Kazemi A, Ranikesh F, SAlimi H, Shakiba M. The effects of dry cupping on primary dysmenorrhoea: A randomized clinical trial. Nurs Midwifery Stud 2018;7:151-6

7. Woo, H. L., Ji, H. R., Pak, Y. K., Lee, H., Heo, S. J., Lee, J. M., & Park, K. S. (2018). The efficacy and safety of acupuncture in women with primary dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine, 97(23), e11007. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000011007

8. Mirabi, P., Alamolhoda, S. H., Esmaeilzadeh, S., & Mojab, F. (2014). Effect of medicinal herbs on primary dysmenorrhoea- a systematic review. Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research : IJPR, 13(3), 757–767.

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