| Oh, the monthly pains

It’s happening: the painters are in, Aunt Flo is coming to visit and you’re surfing the crimson wave. In short, it’s that time of the month. Getting your period is less than fun, and changes in hormonal levels can affect your mental and physical state during the cycle, so here are a few easy methods for lessening the discomfort. If, like me, you suffer from mind-numbing cramps and awkward bloating, along with the subsequent bad temper, these tips may make a big difference.

Even if all you want to do is stay curled up in the fetal position, stretching can be an excellent way to lessen cramping. During menstruation, the cervix stretches slightly to allow the endometrium – the blood vessel-rich lining – to shed. This is believed to cause some of the cramping women often experience. Stretching can stimulate circulation and oxygen flow, and can help ease the pain in the muscle. Making time for a daily stretch can also help ease the leg cramps that are also common during menstruation.

No alcohol, but plenty of water
Drinking water is good for the body at any time, but it’s particularly crucial during your period, and drinking a minimum of eight glasses a day is recommended. Water helps transport nutrients to the cells and aids in their absorption, correcting any imbalances in hormonal levels related to the menstrual cycle. Water also helps decrease the bloating you might experience by minimizing the body’s salt retention.
Conversely, it is wise to stay away from alcohol during your period. It dehydrates the body, which – as anyone who’s ever experienced a hangover knows – can cause fatigue, migraines, and muscle cramps. During menstruation, this can exacerbate the existing discomfort. Alcohol can also disrupt sleeping patterns, increasing fatigue.

Limit your caffeine
Caffeine is a diuretic, a drug that increases the rate of urination, and its consumption stimulates the excretion of important nutrients. If you feel anxious and irritable during your period, caffeine can also aggravate these feelings.

Increase your iron intake
The loss of blood during menstruation doubles your daily requirement of iron, and an iron deficiency can lead to fatigue, dizziness, and irritability. Foods such as lean red meat, dark poultry, lentils, spinach, and almonds are high in iron, but since the recommended intake during menstruation is a minimum of 18 milligrams, an iron supplement might also be recommended.

Stop smoking
Smoking further reduces the body’s iron intake, and affects nutrient absorption. Cigarettes also cause the levels of estrogen present in the body to fluctuate, and can interfere with your menstrual cycle. Because of these effects, smokers are more likely to experience abnormal bleeding or amenorrhea – the absence of a period in a woman of reproductive age.

Have some magnesium and vitamin B6
Both magnesium and vitamin B6 help smooth out the contractions of the uterine wall and can lessen the bloating, swelling, and tenderness felt in your muscles. Magnesium also helps regulate activity in the nerves and muscles, decreasing the chance of cramping. Good sources of magnesium include artichokes, black beans, whole wheat flour, and almonds. Vitamin B6 can be found in baked potatoes, bananas, chick peas, and sunflower seeds.

Lots of ibuprofen
Ibuprofen relieves cramping by limiting the body’s production of prostaglandins, the hormone-like substance that helps the uterus contract and expel its lining. Prostaglandins are naturally high during menstruation and can cause the extreme pain known as dysmenorrhea. Doses of ibuprofen under 200 milligrams can be purchased without prescription and are usually potent enough for most period-related cramping.

If you want to take a more natural route, raspberry leaves have been known to serve as an alternative to medical solutions. The leaves can help regulate the menstrual cycle, and can decrease the occurrence of both amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea. The raspberry fruit will also alleviate cramps. Raspberries have antispasmodic properties that smooth muscle contractions and lessen the associated pain. They are also high in fiber content, and a diet high in fiber will decrease the hormonal imbalances in the body, keeping menstruation stable and painless. Fruits and vegetables are also a good way of sating your appetite without making you feel sluggish.

While these recommendations should be enough to eliminate most of the pain felt during menstruation, if you still suffer from severe cramping, talk to your doctor. The pain could be a sign of underlying conditions such as thrombosis, embolisms, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, or ovarian cysts.

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