Dysmenorrhea Remedies: Treat Severe Menstrual Cramps with Omega-3s

Dysmenorrhea-Remedies-Treat-Severe-Menstrual-Cramps-with-Omega-3sIt’s that time of the month and your cramps have landed you on the couch . . . again. Many women experience cramps during their menstrual cycle, but they can be so painful for some that they become debilitating. If you often find yourself out of commission due to severe menstrual cramps, try these natural, effective treatment options. One of the best dysmenorrhea remedies is to boost your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent cramps and pain during your cycle. 

What is dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful periods. In most cases, painful cramps during the menstrual cycle are not the sign of something serious – this is called primary dysmenorrhea. In the case of secondary dysmenorrhea, the pain is caused by an abnormality. If you have severe menstrual cramps and pain during your period, consult with your doctor, who can check to make sure your symptoms aren’t caused by something more serious. For most people, dysmenorrhea is normal and just a part of the monthly cycle, but that doesn’t mean that you have to suffer.

Avoid NSAIDs

Many people manage their dysmenorrhea with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. While the occasional pain-relieving medication is ok, chronic use of NSAIDs is associated with adverse effects like kidney problems and gastrointestinal bleeding, so this is not a good long-term solution.[1]

Omega-3s – the natural anti-inflammatory

Painful cramps, as well as other symptoms that can occur during your period like nausea, vomiting, bloating, and headache, are all related to inflammation. The inflammatory response is mediated by pro-inflammatory compounds like prostaglandins and leukotrienes. Studies show that women with primary dysmenorrhea have higher concentrations of prostaglandins in the endometrium and menstrual fluid.[2]

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to suppress pain by a variety of mechanisms.[3] One of the major ways that omega-3s help treat dysmenorrhea is by reducing the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, therefore reducing inflammation.[2] A diet enriched with omega-3s results in an anti-inflammatory state in the body and is shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of dysmenorrhea.[4]

Omega-3s treat severe menstrual cramps

Numerous studies have found omega-3 fatty acids to be effective in treating painful periods. In one study, women in one group took a capsule containing 300 mg of omega-3s daily for 3 months, while another group received placebo. After three months, the average pain intensity was significantly reduced for women taking the omega-3s. They also used significantly less ibuprofen to treat their symptoms.[1] Other studies have found similar results, with women taking fish oil (an excellent source of omega-3s) reporting significantly lower levels of abdominal pain, low-back pain, and NSAID use.[2,5]

Try boosting your omega-3 intake by taking a supplement like fish oil. A typical dose is 3 to 6 g daily. You can also get more omega-3s by adding more fish to your diet.

For more dysmenorrhea remedies, as well as natural treatments for PMS, follow the links below.

Share your experience

What are your favorite dysmenorrhea remedies? How do you treat severe menstrual cramps? Share your tips in the comments section below.

[1] Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2012 Apr;117(1):45-7.

[2] East Mediterr Health J. 2010 Apr;16(4):408-13.

[3] Biol Pharm Bull. 2011;34(8):1174-8.

[4] Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2013 Jul;169(2):162-71.

[5] Glob J Health Sci. 2014 Sep 18;6(7 Spec No):124-9.

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UHN Staff

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  • I love cramp bark tincture for mild to moderate menstrual cramps. I take a few dropperfuls every couple of hours. For more severe cramps, additional antispasmotic and analgesic herbs can be added to the tincture. Wise Woman Herbal’s Women’s Crampbark Compound with Jamaican dogwood and other liquid herbal extracts is very effective.

    Dr. Jade

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