Menstruation is a natural part of a woman’s life, but painful menstrual cramps is a problem for many. They can strike right before or during that time of the month. Menstruation occurs when the uterus contracts and sheds off its lining every month. Prostaglandins (hormone like substances that cause pain and inflammation) instigate uterine contraction. Increased levels of prostaglandins are associated with increased menstrual cramps.
Tips for Managing Menstrual Cramps
1. Drink plenty of water and stay well hydrated. This will ease your bloating and prevent water retention, contrary to the popular belief that drinking more water will cause water retention. Also, water helps in preventing dehydration headaches which occur when you drink less water during periods.
2. Eat healthy. Include complex carbs in the diet like brown rice, whole grains. Eat lean protein like lean chicken, beans, sprouts, nuts, and low-fat dairy products like skimmed milk, and low-fat yogurt.
3. Eat healthy fats like omega-3 (walnuts, flax seeds, olive oil), iron, and protein. These foods help to replenish the iron which you lose during menstruation.
4. Calcium helps to reduce muscle cramps, bloating sensation, and water retention during menstruation. Include foods rich in calcium like milk, almonds, broccoli, yogurt, and green leafy vegetables in your diet.
5. Magnesium-rich foods like almonds, black beans, pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, yogurt should be included in your diet. Magnesium helps in reducing menstrual cramps by relaxing the muscles of the uterus and also helps in decreasing the prostaglandin levels.
6. Apply a heat pad, heat wrap, or hot water bottle to your abdomen to ease menstrual cramps. Heat therapy works by relaxing the uterus muscles and relieving menstrual cramps.
7. Exercising during periods may ease your menstrual cramps. Moderate exercise in the form of yoga, walking, etc., can improve your mood, reduce fatigue, and relieve menstrual cramps.
8. Wear loose-fitting clothing during your period as tight-fitting clothes will cause pressure on your abdomen, leading to increased menstrual cramps
9. Practice good sleep hygiene to keep painful menstruation symptoms at bay.
10. Limit the intake of salt as bloating and water retention can occur if you overdo it.
11. Avoid taking stress and relax. Studies have proven the association of stress with menstrual pain. Exercising, yoga, engaging in social activities, spending time with family and friends can reduce your stress.
12. Avoid eating unhealthy foods like processed, refined, spicy, sugary, and fried foods. These foods increase the prostaglandin levels causing menstrual cramps.
13. Reduce coffee intake. Coffee contains caffeine which causes narrowing of blood vessels (vasoconstriction) leading to cramps. Caffeine also increases bloating during periods.
14. Avoid smoking and alcohol. Studies have demonstrated that women who smoke, experience more severe premenstrual symptoms, and have a 50% more increase in menstrual cramps lasting for 2 days.
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