Period Pain

Period Pain

Period pain, also known as dysmenorrhoea, may occur as part of the premenstrual syndrome, or may be symptomatic of other reproductive disorders, such as endometriosis.

Symptoms

  • Pain in the abdomen, lower back or legs, which typically starts prior to or with the onset of the menstrual period, and may continue for the first 24 hours of the period (or less commonly, may persist for two to three days)
  • Pain may be described as a constant ache or sharper spasms
  • The menstrual flow may contain clots
  • Accompanying symptoms of premenstrual syndrome may include headache, digestive upset (e.g. Nausea, vomiting, CONSTIPATION or DIARRHOEA), FLUID RETENTION, breast pain, DEPRESSION and mood swings
  • In some cases, period pains become less problematic after childbirth

Causes

  • Painful periods that are unrelated to underlying disease processes are termed primary dysmenorrhoea. They are believed to occur as the uterus contracts in an attempt to encourage the shedding of the endometrial lining
  • An imbalance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory groups of compounds called prostaglandins is believed to be involved. The levels of these compounds are influenced by hormonal factors, diet and other issues
  • Period pain that is symptomatic of underlying disease is referred to as secondary dysmenorrhoea, causes of which include endometriosis and fibroids

Nutritional & Herbal Solutions

  • If you regularly experience period pain, breast tenderness or other symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, take Vitex agnus-castus, a herb that has traditionally been used to balance female hormones
  • Vitex is sometimes combined with other herbs and nutrients that provide PMT support. Important ingredients to look for include evening primrose oil, vitamins B6, C and E, and the minerals magnesium and chromium
  • Taking vitamin B6 may relieve a number of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, including period pain, breast tenderness, FLUID RETENTION and DEPRESSION
  • Magnesium deficiency may contribute to the development of premenstrual syndrome, and taking a magnesium supplement may help to relieve period pain and other symptoms. It also helps relieve tense or contracted muscles and supports the body's ability to cope with STRESS. In premenstrual syndrome and period pain, it works closely with vitamin B6
  • Evening primrose oil is one of the richest sources of gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) an omega-6 fatty acid that may help relieve period pain and other symptoms of premenstrual syndrome

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Severe period pain may be indicative of underlying disease, and requires medical investigation
  • The application of heat (e.g. a hot water bottle) may help to relieve back pain and abdominal cramps
  • Premenstrual symptoms are more likely to affect women whose diet is high in refined carbohydrates and sugars. Stick to a low glycaemic index (GI) diet that includes slow-burning carbohydrates (such as oats and legumes), and avoid high GI carbohydrates such as sugars, wheat products (e.g. bread), and potatoes
  • Avoid saturated fats (animal products) and instead choose unrefined polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, from fish, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados
  • Avoid caffeine and salt throughout your cycle - these substances may exacerbate your substances
  • Reduce your exposure to environmental oestrogens by choosing organic food where possible. Pesticide residues may have oestrogenic effects in the body, which may contribute to premenstrual symptoms
  • Premenstrual symptoms are more common in women who are physically inactive, and increasing exercise frequency can help reduce the severity of period pain

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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