Addressing a Root Cause of Menstrual Pain: Inflammation
Menstrual pain, such as cramps, nausea, backache, headache, and digestive complaints can be a common experience for many women around the start of their period. These uncomfortable symptoms are most often caused by the release of inflammatory chemicals prior to and during menstruation. Higher levels of these inflammatory chemicals are associated with more severe symptoms. Addressing underlying inflammatory triggers and supplementing with specific nutrients can make a big impact on easing menstrual pain.
5 Effective Ways to Reduce Inflammation
1. Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
An anti-inflammatory diet includes a lot of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, as well as healthy fats and high-quality proteins. Eating fiber-rich foods (especially cruciferous vegetables) as well as fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, etc.) is very important, as it supports detoxification and elimination, as well as microbiome health. Aim for at least 8 servings of veggies and 2 servings of fruits daily. Limiting/avoiding sugar, processed white flour products, poor-quality oils, alcohol, and foods you are sensitive to, such as dairy, can also make a big difference in reducing inflammation.
2. Avoid Toxins / Endocrine Disruptors
Toxins in our air, water, food, homes, and everyday products that we use, are believed to be a significant driver of countless health problems. Chemical contaminants, also known as hormone disruptors, can cause major hormonal imbalances by inducing, inhibiting, mimicking, or blocking hormones. Limiting your exposure to hormone disruptors can have an enormous impact on your health. Even small changes can help to reduce your daily toxin exposure.
3. Support Gut Health
The GI system plays a central role in health and well-being. Factors such as stress, toxins, nutritional deficiencies, medications, and food choices can harm the lining of the gut. When the gut lining becomes more permeable (“leaky”), uncomfortable GI symptoms can occur and result in systemic inflammation. A healthy gut lining in addition to a diverse and rich microbiome are essential to health.
4. Prioritize Sleep and Stress Reduction
Sleep loss and stress can trigger inflammation, negatively impact hormone balance, and increase your risk of chronic diseases. Managing stress is not only helpful for promoting healthy sleep, but also very helpful for reducing inflammation.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids, magnesium, and vitamin D3 have been shown to play very important roles in controlling inflammation. In addition to eating a healthy diet, taking the following supplements can help to ensure that you are getting optimal daily amounts.
- Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids – Eating cold water fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut) one to two times per week and taking a high-quality fish oil supplement daily, such as Pathway Super Omega-3, is recommended to help reduce the production of anti-inflammatory chemicals in the body. Taking two to four softgels per day (providing 1000-2000 mg) of EPA/DHA is recommended.
- Magnesium – Magnesium is an important mineral that many people are deficient in. It has been shown to help with back pain and lower abdominal pain during the menstrual cycle. Magnesium plays a role in relaxing skeletal and smooth muscles. I recommend taking 400 mg of magnesium glycinate daily.
- Vitamin D3 – Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating the production of inflammatory chemicals in the body. Studies show that having an optimal level of vitamin D levels can help to improve menstrual pain. Ask your doctor about having your vitamin D level checked. Many experts recommend having a vitamin D blood level between 50-70 ng/ml, which often means taking 2000-4000 IU of supplemental vitamin D3.
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