For many women, a monthly menstrual cycle means cramps, headaches and sharp mood swings that can strain relationships with friends and family. While it may feel like an inner monster, your period doesn't have to cause misery.
Bernardi and Bernardi: Relief for menstrual cycle discomfort
By Diane and Sarah Bernardi
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For many women, a monthly menstrual cycle means cramps, headaches and sharp mood swings that can strain relationships with friends and family. While it may feel like an inner monster, your period doesnít have to cause misery.
There are many natural and effective ways to alleviate symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menstruation ó beginning with the liver.
Yes, the liver. It may seem strange to think that a womanís liver has such an important impact on her period. While this mighty organ performs a wide range of critical functions in the body, itís the liverís ability to metabolize hormones that can intensify PMS, cramps and other symptoms.
Progesterone, a key hormone in the menstrual cycle, is released after ovulation to prepare the uterus for a potential pregnancy. If the liver is overworked and unable to properly metabolize progesterone, it can cause an excess amount to circulate in the body, leading to an exacerbation of unpleasant symptoms ranging from irritability to insomnia.
To promote a healthy liver, start with staying hydrated. Drink the amount of water in ounces that is equivalent to half of your body weight. This means a woman who weighs 120 pounds should drink 60 ounces of water. Eat foods that support liver function, such as organic produce and whole grains, and avoid eating refined sugar and hydrogenated fats. Basically, aim to eat unprocessed foods that wonít put any additional strain on the liver.
A glass of wine may be tempting, but alcohol will only add to the liverís workload and should be avoided. Thatís not to say you shouldnít enjoy life during this time, which is why having a small amount of dark chocolate in moderation is recommended to help curb cravings.
An herbal blend of dandelion, milk thistle and artichoke will also help support liver function, as well as homeopathic treatments, such as lycopodium, phosphorus, cheleidonium and nux vomica. A blend of these homeopathic remedies is recommended, rather than taking each one individually. Homeopathic blends can be found at specific pharmacies and health product retailers.
Stress and a lack of adequate sleep can also have detrimental effects on the body during menstruation. Itís already a stressful time, which is why itís important to get plenty of rest and find healthy ways to reduce stress, such as exercise, music or getting a massage.
Sleep enables the body to repair itself and get rid of metabolic waste. Itís also critical for healthy liver function, since the liver works at night when the body is sleeping to metabolize excess progesterone.
While some women experience headaches during their period, others suffer from an extreme headache, known as a menstrual migraine. This type of extreme headache can occur before or during a womanís period, and may be related to a drop in estrogen levels.
Relieving stress, increasing exercise and supporting the liver through food and supplements can help prevent menstrual migraines. Additionally, while taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin or ibuprofen might alleviate painful headaches, these pain relievers end up burdening the liver by adding to its workload.
Cramping ó a common and often very painful symptom ó can be relieved by a variety of homeopathic remedies that target the type of cramp. Cimicifuga can be used for menstrual cramps that are improved by lying down. Colocynthis alleviates cramps that improve when bending over, while magnesia phosphorica can be used for menstrual cramps that improve with heat.
Another effective remedy for cramps is a hot castor oil pack. It may seem antiquated, but this soothing remedy helps to relieve period pain and cramping. This treatment can easily be done at home. Take a piece of flannel and saturate it with castor oil. Then take a big thick bath towel and wet it with hot water and place it on your stomach. Make sure the water isnít hot enough to burn, but provides enough heat to make the skin moist. Remove the towel and put the flannel with castor oil on your stomach. Place a second towel with warm water on top of the flannel.
The castor oil helps to relieve cramps, sore muscles and headaches and helps to draw toxins out of the body. The castor oil pack should be left on for about 25 minutes to be effective, and while it will leave behind an oily residue, the results are worth it.
Itís important to note that for any severe cramping and bleeding, a woman should see her gynecologist to rule out reproductive disorders and other conditions.
For symptoms such as bloating and lower back pain, sepia, a homeopathic remedy can help to reduce the feelings of fullness and discomfort. Natrim muriaticum, another homeopathic treatment can also lessen water retention and reduce irritability.
Herbal remedies are also very helpful, including chaste treeberry, which works to relieve irritability, breast tenderness and bloating, while sepia alleviates bloating and lower back pain.
While pain, irritability and other symptoms may be overwhelming and in some cases debilitating, itís important to take good care of your body by eating a proper diet, exercising and getting plenty of rest. This will not only help to relieve PMS and painful period symptoms, but will improve overall health and wellness.
So relax, unwind and begin embracing healthy habits that will help you to strengthen and heal. You will feel the difference ó whether youíre having your period or not.
Diane Bernardi is a pharmacist and co-owner of Johnson Compounding and Wellness Center in Massachusetts and Sarah Bernardi is a registered nurse.