How I Conquered Menstrual Cramps
Having PCOS, my periods have always been troublesome. In the past they were very irregular and my cycles were sometimes 45 days long. If you read “My PCOS Story” blog, you can get more information on how I’ve treated my PCOS and the symptoms that I experience.
Painful cramps have been something that I’ve dealt with since I first got my period. Every single month I have to take ibuprofen on the first day of my period to be able to function through the cramps. Usually ibuprofen helps take care of the pain but about 1-2 times a year I get them so bad that even 1200 mg of ibuprofen does nothing. When I started seeing my naturopath, he made it very clear that even just taking ibuprofen once a month was extremely hard on my liver and not good for my body. But, in a way, my cramps were always overlooked because we were focusing on other aspects of my healing. I figured the cramps would eventually subside with all the other things we were treating but they never did. I’ve tried multiple strategies/ remedies but nothing stuck. On one occasion a few months ago, I tried going on a plant based diet 1 week before and it worked, no cramps that cycle! But the few months following I did the same thing and the cramps came back.
Last cycle, I experienced the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in the form of menstrual cramps, it was horrifying. After that night, I decided I needed to get to the bottom of the cramps, so here’s what I did:
- I went to see my naturopathic doctor. My naturopath has seen me through my whole pcos journey so when things like this come up, he always has incredible insight and wisdom. Considering all the details of my case, he concluded that I likely have low progesterone (historically this has been seen on my labs). Having low progesterone by itself can cause insanely bad cramps. Without going into too much detail, the drop of progesterone on the first day of your period is what triggers the shedding of the uteral lining. It suffocates the cells and causes them to shed. If the drop in progesterone isn’t dramatic enough (by not having enough to begin with) your body has to work way harder to stimulate the shedding of the uterus, thus- painful cramping. We also concluded that there is some inflammation going on which will always make pain worse.
- We developed a plan. First, he put me on Vitex (chaste berry extract) to help my body produce more progesterone naturally. Side note, don’t take Vitex without consulting your doctor. We put some dietary strategies in place. One week before my period I cut out all added sugar and all meat from my diet. These would hopefully help calm my inflammation. Keep in mind, I already eat a pretty clean diet of REAL WHOLE FOODS. I avoid all corn, soy, dairy, wheat/gluten, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable oil, food dyes, additives, and harmful preservatives 99% of the time. Cutting meat out of my diet helped me focus on VEGGIES which are anti-inflammatory. Side note, I don’t think eating clean, ethically raised meat is “bad”, I actually think it’s quite good for you. However, for people prone to inflammation like me, sometimes it can become more of a problem then a solution and taking it out acutely can have an anti inflammatory effect.
- I implemented 3 more of my own ideas. First, I stopped drinking coffee the week before my period when I started making the other dietary changes. Instead of having coffee I had an anti-inflammatory matcha drink every morning. To make it anti-inflammatory, I added turmeric, ginger and cinnamon powder to it. Green tea itself it very anti-inflammatory so I tried to have at least 2 cups per day the week leading up to my period. Next, I decided not to eat out at all to make sure I was avoiding all the inflammatory oils in restaurant food and other shady ingredients. Lastly, I started supplementing with CBD about 2 days before my period started.
I’m happy to report that I didn’t experience any menstrual cramps when my period came this past Sunday!!!! This has NEVER happened before, apart from the first time I implemented the plant based diet (only for the week before my period) about 6 months ago like I mentioned above. It could have been the simple addition of the Vitex increasing my progesterone, or it could have been the combination of everything but, needless to say, I’m over the moon and so relieved. I know this is only the first cycle we’ve tried this on, so there’s no guarantee it will stick but I have a feeling it’s going to work. Find me on Instagram @shetalksdetox to follow along my story. I talk about my health issues and strategies frequently on there.