Painful periods (known as dysmenorrhea) is a fact of life for many women. And while it’s important to find out the underlying causes (hormone imbalance, endometriosis, etc), sometimes what you really want is relief. Many women turn to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) to get them through each month and this can put added strain on the body—damaging the digestive tract, liver and kidneys. So what’s a gal to do?
Well firstly, let’s look at why the pain occurs. When we get an injury or an infection, our body responds by making prostaglandins—a substance made from fats in the body that have hormone-like actions. These prostaglandins help control inflammation, blood flow and the formation of blood clots, as well and the onset of labour. They are a natural and important part of the healing process. Unfortunately, they may also be an underlying contributor to painful menstruation. Research has shown that women who have primary dysmenorrhea have higher levels of prostaglandins (especially in the uterus), particularly at the beginning of menstruation. NSAIDs block the pathways that create prostaglandins, again with the potential for some nasty side effects. The good news is, there are natural alternatives to help relieve the pain.
Ginger has been used for thousands of years as medicine and recent clinical studies on humans have shown that ginger (Zingiber officinale) can be an effective treatment for dysmenorrhea when used in the first three to four days of menstruation at doses of 750-2000mg/daily (check out one of the studies here) . Like NSAIDs, ginger can block the pathways that make prostaglandins—making in nature’s anti-inflammatory! Unlike NSAIDs, ginger has a good safety profile without all the nasty side effects on the gut and kidneys.
While the clinical studies focused on ginger as supplements, you can use fresh and dried ginger liberally in your diet to support reduced inflammation. Try this yummy anti-inflammatory smoothie featuring ginger:
Turmeric Ginger Smoothie165 mL coconut milk (a mini can is perfect)
1/2 cup coconut water
2 teaspoons fresh grated turmeric
1.5 teaspoons fresh ginger, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 banana, sliced
1/2 cup frozen cubed mango
3 tablespoons protein powder (optional)
Pinch of shredded coconut, toasted (to serve)
Combine it all together and whiz in a high powered blender until smooth. Pour into two short glasses (or one tall if you’re “hangry” and aren’t good at sharing!) and top with shredded coconut. Wowza…enjoy!
As with any natural medicine be sure you use supplementation under the guidance of a qualified practitioner to make sure it’s right for you. If you are experiencing symptoms of hormone imbalance such as PMS, endometriosis, PCOS or other related conditions, we can help. Give us a call or book online here.