Cramps are a reality for most teens and women in their 20s and early 30s. They are caused by strong uterine contractions triggered by prostaglandins. These strong contractions cause the blood supply in the uterus to temporarily shut down and then increase the contracts and pain.
Menstrual cramps are the single largest reason for lost school and work hours among women. Cramps can be mild to debilitating and do not require a doctors attention unless the pain is not controlled by over the counter medications and other home remedies.
Women can use a menstrual calendar to predict their periods, chart their pain and emotional responses to the hormonal changes that happen each month. Using this calendar a woman can begin taking ibuprofen 2 times a day the day before she expects her period. Ibuprofen blocks the prostaglandin receptors in the uterus and significantly decrees the pain and cramping.
Some women also suffer from constipation during the beginning of their period. Eating 8 servings of fruits and vegetables and maintaining a healthy colon, at least 3 days before she expects her period, will decrease the pain and discomfort from constipation.
Another natural option to help decrease pain of cramping during menstruation is to include exercise in her daily routine. Exercise will improve blood and oxygen circulation to all of the muscle groups. Women should try not to use tampons during the first few days since they trigger more uterine contractions. Avoiding red meat, refined sugars and fatty foods will also increase the body's ability to fight off the strong contractions.
Caffeine will constrict blood vessels and contribute to stronger contractions while cayenne pepper is a vasodilator and improve circulation. Stress reduction also helps women to cope better with the pain during her period.
Some researchers believe that chamomile tea, which has other health benefits, also helps to decrease menstrual cramps. Bilberry, found in dark skinned fruits, is a powerful anti-inflammatory and is also used to treat severe menstrual cramps by improving blood flow. Bilberry requires more studies to improve cramps but there are minimal side effects and good studies to show use for vision disease prevention.
Oral birth control pills have been found to decrease the amount of menstrual tissue formed and therefore lower the pain level of uterine contractions causing the cramping. This should be used only in women less than 40, who do not smoke and who do not have the risk factors associated with stroke and birth control pills.
Menstrual cramps take their toll on women. Several options are available to treat cramps that help to decrease the disabling pain and discomfort that some women suffer with each month. With a little planning and the ability to predict her cycles women are able to prophylactically treat the pain and avoid the symptoms.