When was the last time you were thankful for periods? That’s right, never. One of the major reasons for that would be period cramps. More like mini ninjas playing tug of war with your ovaries!
No wonder they get us reaching for the painkillers. But popping too many pills can cause nasty side effects, including stomach ulcers, acid reflux and digestive problems.
Fortunately, we’re here to save you from some of that pain, with simple remedies. Everyone loves a good hack, but hacks to deal with period cramps? Even more exciting! The best part is that you probably have access to most of these things at home already (who doesn’t have a backup stash of chips and chocolate lying around?)
Here are a few life hacks to make your periods much more tolerable:
1. Hot water bags: Snuggling up with a heating pad or a hot water bag is perfect for getting rid of the unease and relaxing your muscles. It increases blood circulation, thus alleviating the pain.
2. Cramp-fighting foods: “I’m craving green leafy vegetables” said no one ever in the history of periods. Still, stocking up on junk comfort food might be an inconvenience to your cramps. Calcium rich foods like dairy products, walnuts and almonds help reduce muscle cramping. Papaya, brown rice and broccoli are full of vitamins that work to make you feel less bloated. Include foods rich in vitamin B6 and possibly consider a multivitamin or B complex. Add turmeric to food, and let it work its antioxidant charm. Good amounts of chicken and fish will help make up for the loss of iron, and also complete your protein requirement. Steer away from candy bars. Say no to crispy French fries, because getting cozy with the salt shaker is only going to get you bloated. But the good news is: dark chocolate is a big yes for your dose of nutrients, and also your sweet tooth (as if we need a reason to hog on chocolate).
3. Exercise: Exercising on your periods might be the last thing you feel like doing, but many womxn swear by a sweat session to loosen up. It helps in releasing endorphins (feel-good hormones), that significantly reduce period pain. Gentle workouts like yoga (strike a pose like angel, bridge and staff), or a long walk can ease discomfort and leave you feeling a lot fresher. Don’t let myths like ‘working out on your periods could make you pass out/leak’ hold you back. Also, WomxnCup allows you to have a pretty comfortable period workout.
4. Massage therapy: The purpose of a massage is to relax your body, so it’s not crazy to think that a massage can also relax your lower abdomen and relieve the pain from menstrual cramps. Get a gentle massage from someone you trust and you can use your favorite soothing essential oils, like lavender or mint. Having a massage at the end of the day is a good idea, so you can just climb into bed when you’re done being pampered!
5. Drink more water: Put as much water into your system as you can. It’s easy to get really dehydrated when your body is losing so much fluid. Chugging water will help ease the most common symptoms, such as bloating and fatigue. Resist the urge to purchase the sugary energy drinks you see in the vending machines, as they will only make you feel worse. Staying hydrated will also aid with digestion, so you can process your meals better and faster.
6. Rest more: Kick away your alarm clock and put your to-do list on hold. A good, satisfactory bedtime schedule will make you less cranky during PMS, and more likely to make healthy choices while on your periods. Also, de-stress and ditch your phones before bed. Listening to your favorite music or winding down with a warm shower is a great way to relax.
7. Sleep in the fetal position: There are people like me who sleep like a baby throughout their cycle, while there are some who toss and turn all night. If you’re normally a back or stomach sleeper, try rolling to your side and tucking in your arms and legs. This position takes pressure off your abdominal muscles and can relieve tension that can makes cramping worse.
8. Try acupressure: This treatment involves using your fingers to apply firm pressure to specific body parts to help ease various symptoms. According to a study, rubbing circles on your calf at a point above your ankle can relieve period pain. The space between the index finger and thumb is another pressure point. Press the point, on the other, hand using your thumb. Repeat the process on the other hand. Such self-acupressure routines can assist you in fighting the pain.
9. Pain-killers: Only if your cramps get too severe, over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen sodium can come to the rescue. Regular doses starting the day before you expect your period to begin can help control the pain of cramps. Bonus: these can also make your flow lighter.
10. Lay off the Latte: Caffeine (and also sugar) can make cramps worse, so steer clear of coffee before and during your period. Make sure you're not sneaking it in with soda, energy drinks, or tea. If you need a morning or midday pick-me-up, try a small smoothie packed with veggies instead.
11. Add ginger to your hot tea: Ginger works wonders for a lot of period-related things. You already know it helps with nausea (that's why ginger ale is the big go-to drink when you're sick), but it can also help reduce inflammation and pain that makes cramps feel worse. Mint or lemon tea is a good option for your ginger water.
12. Stay off the scale: Do yourselves a favor and don't weigh yourself on your period. Water retention and weight fluctuation typically wanes off throughout your period. But the last thing you need when you're already grumpy and bleeding is to be tricked by your body into thinking that you’ve put on weight. Don't do it. Just don't!
13. Beware of your tight jeans: As much as we wish we could put on potato sacks while on our periods, your favorite tight jeans will only torture your bloated tummy. Go for flowy dresses and comfortable lounge wear that makes you kick up your feet and start binging on shows.
Apart from these, period cramps are different to every womxn. While they are definitely common, that does not mean that they are normal. Any sort of pain is a sign from your body to take a look at what may be causing it. Recognize the good pain from the bad.
Having said this, periods and cramps are a blessing in disguise. Your cycle is a natural body cleanser that helps maintain your hormonal balance, and prevents them from being all over the place. It’s like your monthly health report which ensures good health, and acts as a ‘bodyguard’ to prevent a long list of diseases.
All in all, cramps are no picnic, but they are manageable. Make sure you check up on this toolkit of hacks the next time you curse your uterus!
Written by Nibha Patil
Cover by Isabel Castillo Guijarro