PAINFUL PERIODS (Dysmenorrhoea)

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What is dysmenorrhoea? 

Painful periods.  There are two types; one is called primary dysmenorrheoa which generally occurs anytime from the first period for a couple of years getting less painful as time goes on.  Secondary dysmenorrheoa is painful periods experienced by women who have a condition called endometriosis.  This pain differs from primary dysmenorrheoa as it starts later in life and often gets worse as time goes on not better as it does with primary dysmenorrheoa. 


What are the symptoms? 

Stomach cramps, backache, bloated stomach, nausea and headaches.



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Don’t drink alcohol. Because alcohol interferes with carbohydrate metabolism, it is thought by many nutritionists to make cramping muscle spasms worse. Just one of the livers jobs is to metabolise hormones, including oestrogen. The reasoning is that if the liver is busy dealing with the alcohol then it may interfere with its job of metabolising hormones. These theories have not been tested however 1 If levels of oestrogen increase then there is more chance of salt and fluid retention and as a result you will have a  heavier menstrual flow.  



The following information does not constitute a prescription or recommended dose— studies have been conducted using the dosages stated and are included for your information only.


The nutrients mentioned here are often recommended by Health-Care practitioners


VITAMIN B3 (niacin) In studies, a group of 40 women took B3 with 87% of them reporting that they found their pain lessened.  In this study, they took the following amounts; 200 mg daily, throughout the menstrual cycle and take 100 mg every 3 hours while experiencing the cramps2 


CALCIUM may help prevent menstrual cramps as muscles that are calcium deficient tend to be hyperactive, thus causing cramps. Studies found calcium reduced pain 3 in one trial but another trial only reported its success in relieving the pain that occurs prior to the menstrual bleed.4  Nutritionists suggest taking 1,000 mg per day through out the month and between 250 – 500 mg every 4 hours for pain relief if the attack is acute, but do not exceed 2,000 mg per day.  



The herbs mentioned here have historically been considered beneficial in the treatment of various conditions including painful periods. Therefore these and previously mentioned herbs are often recommended by health-care practitioners.


FALSE UNICORN is a herb used by Native Americans for years and is good for a number of women’s health concerns.  Take the tincture forms at a dose of 2 to 5 ml up to three times a day.  You can take the root form in a dose of 1 – 2 grams per day.  It is usually taken with other herbs; particularly vitex.


YARROW can be used in many forms to relieve cramps.  Make up a tea using 5-10 grams of yarrow herb and steep in 250 ml of boiling water for 10 – 15 minutes.  Drink 3 cups a day.

Yarrow tincture at a dose of 3 to 4 ml should be taken 3 times a day.

If you can get hold of yarrow juice the dose here is 3 teaspoons a day.


DONG QUAI is a traditional Chinese herb and women should take 3 to 4 grams per day in the form of a capsule.  It can also be taken in the form of a tincture or tea.


CRAMP BARK named so because it is a favourite in the treatment of painful periods.  Put two teaspoons of herb in a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 – 15 minutes.  Drink 3 cups per day.  Alternatively you can use a tincture form taking 4 to 8 ml 3 times a day.


BLACK COHOSH has been used historically to relieve menstrual cramps. It comes in various forms, and the dry powdered extract should be taken at 250 mg three times a day. 



Take up exercise as this can has lessened the pain of periods for many women.   


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1. Teperi J, Rimpela M. Menstrual pain, health and behaviour in girls. Soc Sci Med 1989;29:163–69.
2. Hudgins, AP. Am Practice Digest Treat 1952;3:892–93.
3. Penland J, Johnson P. Dietary calcium and manganese effects on menstrual cycle symptoms. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1993;168:1417–23.
4. Thys-Jacobs S, Starkey P, Bernstein D, et al. Calcium carbonate and the premenstrual syndrome: effects on premenstrual and menstrual symptoms. Am J Obstet Gyencol 1998;179:444–52.




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