When that time of month arrives, are you struggling through discomfort? Forced to dose up on pain relief?
Or have your sex hormones bounced back post birth with your cycle returning and period pain is just not something you can deal with right now?
Period Pain 101
Crippling period pain is something I hear of far too regularly. Discomfort in the lower abdomen, back and stomach, aching down the legs, even nausea, headaches, loose bowels and in the chronic cases, vomiting.
Also referred to a dysmenorrhoea, period pain can be caused by the contraction of your uterine muscles during menstruation, but is also a major symptom of conditions with abnormal tissue growth and inflammation, such as endometriosis and fibroids. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in 2012, endometriosis may be a contributing factor in more than 20% of women with chronic pelvic pain.1
Read on to see if you can introduce some natural ways to prevent your dreaded period pain and associated symptoms.
Natural Support To Prevent Period Discomfort
1.CASTOR OIL PACKS
Castor oil packs are a simple treatment that can help a wide range of conditions, including the prevention of period pain. They work by increasing the circulation and promoting elimination and healing of the tissues and organs underneath your skin.
When a castor oil pack is applied, the oil is absorbed through your skin and has a relaxing action on the smooth muscle beneath. This positively affects all of the hollow organs in that area plus your liver, blood, lymph vessels, uterus, fallopian tubes, bowels and gallbladder.
Specifically, castor oil packs can be applied to help stimulate the detoxification function of your liver and lymphatic system, helping to overcome oestrogen dominance symptoms and the oil itself can also relieve pain. Conditions that may benefit from castor oil pack treatment, include:
- Uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts (non-cancerous), for both relieving ovarian pain and assisting the healing process after a cyst has ruptured
- Painful menstruation
- Liver disorders
- Constipation and other digestive disorders
- Gallbladder inflammation or stones
Instructions for administering a castor oil pack:
- Soak a piece of calico, cotton or a wool flannel (the thinner, the better) in castor oil and place it over your abdomen, particularly around the liver area (right hand side, just under your rib cage) or the area of your pain.
- Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap (to avoid making a castor oil mess), followed by a hot water bottle or heat pack. If using plastic, be careful to avoid plastic contact on your skin.
- To prevent period pain, use a minimum of three times per week for 30-60 minutes over your liver area- especially in the week leading up to your period.
Note: Although they will help symptomatically for any pain, to avoid heavy bleeding you should not use the castor oil packs during menstruation. Instead perform castor oil packs between periods as a preventative for menstrual discomfort.
2. COFFEE ENEMAS
The active ingredients of coffee have shown outstanding healing properties when used in an enema. Instead of sipping on your morning brew, it is inserted in the other end by the means of a long tube and bucket called an enema kit.
Yes, I can see those cringes and giggles (nothing out of the ordinary) but if you can see past the initial squirming thoughts, have a read and see just how powerful this cleansing practice can be for your hormone health and therefore preventing period related pain. The benefits of a coffee enema include:
To successfully clear out old wastes from your blood, it is crucial to have a well- functioning liver. Any detox program that doesn’t facilitate the removal of toxins via your liver will be detrimental towards your health. Enemas do just that, promoting a healthier inside. You will feel better on the outside, with increased energy, clearer thinking, improved concentration and memory and healthier skin, just to name a few. Enemas are also handy for a hangover (for the occasional times you may have a few too many) because they help rid the body of the toxic overload that results from drinking alcohol.
Toxins are bound in the liver with bile, which enables its safe elimination. Coffee enemas help to increase the production and flow of bile from your liver and gallbladder, therefore a greater detoxification of toxins occurs when coffee enemas are administered. This even includes enhancing the effects of a parasite cleanse.Pain Reduction
The underlying cause of pain is generally triggered by circulating toxins in your body. These toxins irritate your nervous system, contribute to heightened inflammation production and can lead to health challenges such as depression and anxiety, among other pain related conditions (enter period pain). Coffee enemas help to remove these culprit toxins and halt the inflammation cycle in its tracks.
Think of coffee enema use to prevent and treat headaches, hangovers, menstrual discomfort, or any pain in your body.
After retaining the coffee liquid inside for 10-15 minutes, almost all of the caffeine is absorbed. It travels through your haemorrhoidal veins, directly into your portal veins and into your liver. It is important to understand that the coffee enemas are not performed for the function of your intestines, instead they support the stimulation of your liver.
An effect occurs contributing to dilation of your bile ducts, an increased bile flow and counteraction of any inflammation in your gut. This is due to theobromine and theophylline found in the coffee. An increase in the enzyme system responsible for detoxifying carcinogens, toxins and free radicals in your liver and small intestine, called glutathione S-transferase system (GST) also occurs due to the palmitate extracted from the coffee. Glutathione S-transferase is crucial for the production of your master antioxidant and detoxifying molecule in your body, glutathione.
Coffee enemas will not be beneficial for everyone. Those that should steer clear of the detox procedure include anyone with:
- Renal, cardiac, or respiratory failure (seek medical advice)
- Bleeding or ulceration in the colon tract
- Hypertension and tachycardia
- Cardiac, respiratory, or renal insufficiency
- Pregnant and breastfeeding mums
How Often Would You Need To... Bottoms Up?
For best results, aim for a coffee enema 1-3 times per week, especially in the week leading up to your menstruation, to prevent unwanted period pain. Your bowels can continue operating independently even when taking the enemas and start functioning on their own afer the enemas are discontinued.
3. NUTRIENTS & HERBS
Depending on the cause of your menstrual discomfort, herbs and nutrients may offer you further liver support, anti-inflammatory action and acute pain relief.
Is Oestrogen Dominance Your Culprit?
Oestrogen is a proliferative hormone when in excess levels in the body (oestrogen dominance) and can manifest as abnormal inflammation and growth. An example is the growth of uterine tissue in the inflammatory conditions of fibroids and endometriosis, which can present through symptoms of menstrual pain, heaviness and clotting.2,3,4
You can learn about diet culprits which fuel inflammation, oestrogen dominance and therefore painful periods in this post. Instead focus on a gut supportive anti-inflammatory diet, including omega 3 rich smaller fish and gut soothing bone broth. Anti-inflammatory herbs such as ginger and turmeric, can help reduce pain when regularly added to the diet and supplemented in higher doses for acute pain relief. You can try my anti-inflammatory Sunshine Smoothie here.
Enhance Hormone Metabolism & Liver Detox
Detox supportive nutrients which help to manage oestrogen dominance include amino acids like NAC, glutathione, B vitamins, choline, probiotics, iodine, magnesium, selenium and zinc.
Indole-3 carbinol found in cruciferous vegetables and calcium D glucorate found in orange, apple, brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage, also help to promote healthy oestrogen metabolism. Rosemary is a herb to enjoy regularly for healthy hormones, as it to enhances phase 2 detoxification of your oestrogen (I love adding it into cooking broths and savoury meals) and regularly drinking Dandelion root tea can help cleanse your liver too.
Balancing Out Oestrogen With Progesterone
Chaste Tree (Vitex Agnus Castus) is a herb that can be used (under a guidance of a Naturopath or Herbalist) to help promote healthy progesterone levels in the body, which may help to naturally balance out oestrogen levels and prevent PMS related symptoms.
Specific nutrient dosage information and further detox support can be found in my book Balanced, The Natural Way To Healthy Hormones.
Relax Your Body
The mineral Magnesium also provides anti-inflammatory support and relaxes your muscles. Increase your levels by soaking yourself in an Epsom Salt or Magnesium Chloride salt bath/ foot bath. Alternatively you can lather yourself in Magnesium Chloride spray in the week leading up and during your menstruation.
4. YOUR POO MATTERS TOO
The health of your gut has a strong influence on your hormone health destiny and therefore can contribute to period problems. Good gut health means strong stomach acid production for adequate breakdown of foods, a healthy small intestinal wall for nutrient absorption and to prevent an inflammatory cascade. Plus a balanced microbiome with a healthy gut, helps out the elimination of excess hormones and toxins.
When the bowel is slow moving, oestrogen (which your liver has worked hard to package up, ready to leave the body), is recirculated. In other words, a healthy regular, Bristol stool #4 poop, will promote efficient elimination of excess hormones such as oestrogen and could prevent oestrogen dominance drivers behind period pain.
A powerful step for promoting your gut health is to bring in high strength fermented foods, such as my fav homemade coconut yoghurt and kefir and prebiotic fuel for these good bugs, such as tiger nut flour, jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions and asparagus, just to name a few. Foods that contain both insoluble and soluble fibre such as green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds, will also ensure regular bowel movements for healthy hormones.
Along with reducing inflammatory foods, you may also want to consider a food intolerance test to detect any further gut inflammation causing culprits.
THINK HOLISTICALLY FOR PAIN FREE PERIODS
The liver plays an important role in metabolising your hormones. By supporting your gut health and fuelling it with nutritious, anti-inflammatory foods, less toxins will be passed through your small intestine and into the bloodstream. This will naturally help out your liver, as it will be left with enough energy to focus on hormone metabolism.
Introducing liver supportive regimens like castor oil packs and coffee enemas, along with herbal and nutritional medicine can further encourage healthy hormone detoxification in your liver and therefore promote pain-free periods.
ps. I do use and recommend essential oils topically for period pain too. You can get in touch here to learn more.
(1) American Society for Reproductive Medicine (2012). Viewed Feb 2016, https://www.asrm.org/BOOKLET_ Endometriosis/.
(2) Bulun SE, et al. Aromatase in endometriosis and uterine leimyomata. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2005 May;95(1- 5):57-62.
(3) Bulun SE, et al. Uterine broids. N Engl J Med. 2013 Oct3;369(14):1344-55.
(4) Greenspan FS, Gardner DG. Basic and clinical endocrinology. 6th edition. Sydney, Australia; Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill, 2001:Pp 459.