Generally, I’m pious when it comes to avoiding pharmaceuticals. I avoid antibiotics at all costs (if I can). I make fire cider in winter to combat flus and colds (I will share our recipes). I drink all the herbs. Take magnesium baths. Use a happy light. Go to acupuncture. Neti pot. I try not to run to the pharmacy to pick up drugs (and another useless mascara).
But when it comes to my period – all bets are off. I want morphine injected into my eyeballs. I literally need all the pharmaceuticals. Some months are fine, as though I got off scot free. I say to myself ‘I’m evolving, my hormones are changing…this is amazing.’ only for next month to roll on by with me crushing alka seltzer like a junkie. I know I am not alone in this quest for a cramp-free life. Thankfully, I have made some changes that have really helped me in managing my monthly visit from a cruel auntie rose; now she’s more like a nice auntie, who nags me about flossing. Also, I want to add – if you have crazy, vomit-inducing cramps – please, go to a doctor and get your vag checked out asap by your lady-doctor.
I once read somewhere that having your period was like having a little fairy who lives in your uterus. Each month she decorates her house for an expected visitor (an embryo), she paints the walls, puts in a nice new kitchen, even gets new sheets – only to be crushed upon learning that the visitor never showed up. She’s let down and furious. For the next 48 hours, she listens to death metal while tearing down all the renovations in a rage. Finally, when she clears up all the mess she made, she gets a text from her buddies in the fallopian tubes, who are like ‘yo, you’re getting a visitor again, this time, we’re sure about it.’ Little Fairy gets super stoked and starts getting all jammy about her new visitor, she starts listening to Whitney and gets decorating.
If you share a similar pattern with your period, I’ll tell you what made a difference in my life:
Zinc & Magnesium (+ Vitamin B6)
The first thing that really helped me was ensuring I was getting zinc and magnesium; these are two micronutrients that most of us are in dire need of, simply because we don’t get enough of it in our diet.
Why zinc: It’s known it helps but it’s not particularly clear exactly why it helps. However, its hypothesised that it regulates prostaglandins (lipids that help your uterus shed its lining) and how they are metabolised. Another hypothesis is that zinc has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in the uterus. Improvement in micro-vessel circulation by zinc may help prevent cramping and pain. Anyway, the studies show that in 9 out of 10 patients consuming 31 mg of zinc per day, premenstrual tension (PMT) symptoms did not occur.
I take 22mg of zinc picolinate (this form is most easily absorbed) and it’s been a game changer for me! Obviously, ask your health care professional before you take any supplements.
Why magnesium: Side bar, once I started to take magnesium glycinate daily I started to sleep like a drunk baby. I used to be jealous of people who were like ‘blah blah blah I fall asleep in 2 seconds’ meanwhile I used to lie in bed mentally redecorating a house I don’t own…for hours.
Convinced everyone else suffered from narcolepsy, now I'm one of those people, I literally fall into a coma within 10 minutes of taking these bad boys. For your period, magnesium relaxes your muscles. Allegedly, magnesium combined with vitamin B6 is especially synergistic. B6 converts angry mean oestrogen into more chilled-out, vibey oestrogen. But be very careful with b vitamins, there are side effects when you overdo it – so do your research before supplementing.
CBD has been another game changer. I still get mild (I mean, teeny tiny cramps), when I start feeling that hints that a dull pain is on its way, I take a dropper-full of CBD oil under my tongue. Then I grab a CBD topical (like Apothem’s Multi Balm, Huna’s Warrior Balm or Margent’s Muscle Salve) and rub uber generously around my abdomen, lower back and all the way down my sciatic nerve. I swear by Huna’s 12% or Treed’s Relieve tincture.
I’m serious! I know what you’re thinking — HELL NO. For me this is the least sexy time in my cycle. While writhing in pain you may not feel like indulging in any self-pleasure or couple-play, but go for it. Orgasms trigger a release of pain-relieving, pleasure-inducing chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin, honestly — natures best remedy. Avoid any sperm coming close to the cervix as this will do the opposite and cause an increase in prostaglandins (and make cramping worse).
Okay, this isn’t a recommended thing, it’s more of an avoid thing. The end of my cycle usually draws me right towards a big glass or 3 of red wine (maybe the odd margarita). Don’t do this. I would avoid this at all costs. You will always feel your cramps more intensely after a night of drinking. The plunging levels of oestrogen at the end of your cycle makes you more sensitive to aches and pains (and to everything tbh). A hangover is murderous when you get your period. Plus, alcohol is a depressant, however down you’d already be feeling is only going to amplified by the booze. Go for turmeric latte’s or warming drinks to keep your body snug.
Start with Questions
There is no magic cure — but just know, extremely painful periods are not meant to be the norm. If you are suffering from horrific pains every month, ask yourself these questions: are you getting zinc & magnesium? are you getting enough vitamin D? Are you taking your Omegas & CoQ10? What about your B vitamins? Are you drinking too much alcohol? Are you drinking too much coffee? Are you deeply unhappy/stressed/anxious? Don’t underestimate this last question, stress and trauma have a significant impact on your hormones.
Lastly, I urge you to get checked for endometriosis or other causes if your periods cause you to pass out/or leave you bedridden for days.
My self-healing hormone journey started when I went of the birth control pill at 21. It took me 2 years to feel ‘normal’ again and another 6 years to ‘learn’ my cycle. Then it took another 2 years to figure out how to manage cramps. Anyone selling you a quick fix is lying, learning about your body and cycle takes time, patience and a lot of introspection. But it has been without doubt, an empowering pursuit.
Share your cycle stories with us, we want to know all about your hormone journey: email@example.com.