It is recommended to speak to your doctor concerning your symptoms and please make further investigations into why you are experiencing severe menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhoea). Tests are of benefit to find the cause behind your symptoms and to also rule out any physical causes such as polycystitic ovaries, endometriosis, uterine fibroids or pelvic inflammatory disease.
TESTS TO DETERMINE THE CAUSE OF PERIOD CRAMPS:
- Physical investigations include an internal examination
- A non-invasive scan such as an ultrasound to look for abnormalities inside the pelvis
- Full blood test to determine the influence of the thyroid on your hormones, full nutrient profile and inflammatory mediators activity.
- Salivary test to determine hormonal status (you may find that you are Oestrogen dominant)
WHAT CAUSES PREMENSTRUAL TENSION (PMT):
Premenstrual tension (PMT) is caused by a hormone imbalance (incorrect
relationship between the two primary female sex hormones, progesterone and Oestrogen), variations in these hormones have an effect on the menstrual cycle. Painful menstruation cramps are a symptom of hormonal imbalance, not a disease itself. The frequent uterine contractions experienced with cramping are caused by an increased amount of inflammation and decreased blood circulation. Regular menstrual cycles require the reproductive organs,including the ovaries and uterus, to be functioning normally.
Hormonal imbalances may occur due to one or more of the following:
- Stress contributes to endocrine dysfunction
- Lack of exercise, exercise helps to increase levels of endorphins and thereby improve pain thresholds
- Nutritional imbalances – deficiencies of Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, B Vitamins
- Poor dietary habits – too many salty foods, soft drinks, alcohol, acidic foods, sugar, caffeine and saturated fats
- Inadequate sleep
- Oral contraceptive pill use
- Xenoestrogens (pesticides, plastics, DDT and dioxin)
- Alcohol intake
- Weight issues
- Excess Oestrogen which is deposited in adipose (fat) tissue
- Thyroid conditions
- Liver congestion
MEDICATIONS FOR PMT
Common pharmaceutical drugs which are often prescribed for chronic menstrual pain:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Oral contraceptive pills to prevent ovulation and the production of prostaglandins which contribute to cramps
- Anti-depressants are used to decrease stress levels and raise pain tolerance levels
- Depo-Provera an injection that can be used to temporarily stop ovulation
It is important to note that most Naturopaths don’t recommend the use of synthetic hormones such as some of the medications listed above. This is because many Naturopaths have found that in the long run they tend to do more harm then good. By introducing synthetic hormones into the body it can over time create further hormonal imbalance and reduce the ability of the body to detoxify. This can lead to a worsening of symptoms in the long term.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY HERBS FOR PERIOD PAIN
If you are presently taking large amounts of anti-inflammatory medication as a way to ease the dreadful pain, this is not a healthy long term management for pain relief.
There are natural herbal alternatives to reduce inflammation in the musculo-skeletal system and may also give you pain relief when taken long term. Pharmaceutical pain relief drugs only block the inflammation rather than treating the cause of the inflammation. The following as some herbs used for this purpose, you may consider speaking to your Health care practitioner in regards to a formula which best suits you:
- White Willow Bark
- Cramp Bark
- Devils Claw
DIET TIPS FOR PMT
- Eating a healthy diet is important for general health and may also help relieve PMS symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness, weight gain, irritability, and headaches
- A healthy diet includes eating foods high in complex carbohydrates, like whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoiding saturated fats (chocolate, cakes, bakery foods, biscuits, fatty foods and deep fried foods). It may also help to avoid salt, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, red meat, and dairy products.
- Excessive consumption of dietary Arachidonic Acid (AA), found in red meat contribute to dysmenorrhea (due to AA increasing the production of Prostaglandins (hormone-like substances that play a role in activation of the onset of bleeding
- Low Oestrogen diet
LIFESTYLE FACTORS FOR PMT
- Many women receive great relief using Shiatsu or Acupuncture which may help reduce menstrual pain severity, pain medication use, and anxiety associated with menstruation
- Exercise is an important factor for reproductive health. Exercise helps to increase endorphins which are potent anti-inflammatories to reduce the pain associated with PMT
- It is important when addressing reproductive complaints to not look for the fast results of pain relief. Many issues of pain and inflammation can be helped by using natural remedies and results can be seen after a couple of weeks, however it is best that you continue to take a remedy for at least 3-6 months for better long term results
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR PMT
- Zinc, B Vitamins and Magnesium are the common nutrients which are deficient in women experiencing cramps and menstrual dysfunction. These nutrients are needed for hormonal modulation, muscle relaxation and to reduce inflammation
- Fish oil contains omega 3 essential fatty acids, particularly Docosahexenoic acid (DHA) which acts on the inflammatory pathways of Leukotriens and Prostaglandins. A high amount of these inflammatory molecules are implicated in dysmennorhea.
- Tienchi Ginseng an anti-haemorrhagic herb, anti-inflammatory to reduce stagnation or congestion of blood in the pelvic reproductive organs and promote healing.
- The herb Chastberry (Vitex agnus-castus) is used by many women with great success to balance hormones which contribute to cramping by regulating the levels of estrogen and progesterone
- Liver herbs such as Dandelion, Bupleurum, Schizandra, St Marys Thistle and Rheumania are beneficial to support the liver and reduce liver congestion. Chinese Medicine treats the liver to improve reproductive health as they believe that the liver governs the pelvic area and reproductive organs
- Flaxseed oil is a rich source of the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, a precursor to omega-3 fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid (both anti-inflammatory in action)
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