Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Natural Menstrual Cramp Relief - What really works?

I've tried a lot of supplements and "natural" products for my crippling menstrual cramps, and the only one that works for me is curcumin.  Curcumin is an extract from the yellow spice turmeric, which is used in Indian cuisine.  However, in its solo form it is not well absorbed by the body, so the product I use actually combines curcumin phytosomes  with phosphatidylcholine to greatly increase absorption (other products combine it with black pepper, which is also an effective formula).
Doctor's Best Curcumin Phytosome
Curcumin Phytosome

The exact brand/product I've been taking is Doctor's Best Meriva Phytosome Curcumins 500mg Vegetable Capsules.  I take one capsule twice a day, every day (not just during PMS time).   Curcumin is known to reduce inflammation and has been used for other kinds of pain and its general anti-oxidant properties.  I actually started taking it for other medical reasons and was surprised by its positive effect on my time of the month.

Before taking curcumin, I had crippling cramps, that even full prescription strength ibuprofen couldn't relieve.  Also, accompanied with the cramps, I was getting diarrhea that hurt so much that I felt like I was going to puke.  The one thing that did work for my cramps was birth control pills but after taking them for 10 years, I began to worry about the risks (blood clots).   So I decided it was time to ditch the oral contraceptives and try something natural.  

I also like heat pads.  You can use the old fashioned plug-in type, or if you need something more portable, you can wear Thermacare Heatwraps under your clothes.  They provide 8 hours of heat!  They have special heatwraps for menstrual cramps, but other ones can work too. Check out this comparison of thermacare heat wraps.

I tried a lot of other products, but none consistently delivered results.  The problem with "testing" these alternative remedies is that I couldn't tell if they were working after just one cycle because some months were easier than others... So my search for a solution has been a long one.  I've been experimenting for years.

All women are different, and what doesn't work for me, might work for you.  Sometimes you have to keep trying until you find something that works.

Here's everything that I've tried:

Curcumin:  My winner!  I use Doctor's Best Meriva Phytosome Curcumins 500mg Vegetable Capsules.

Magnesium: No cramp relief for me, but it does seem to help with PMS sadness.   Try a chelated type like Doctor's Best High Absorption Magnesium for maximum effect and no side effects!

Fish Oil - I tried high dose for months, but sadly, it has no noticeable effect on me.

Progesterone Cream - I thought it was helping at first, but then it stop working.  I'm not sure if this is a good idea.  While it's natural, it is still a hormone and may have risks associated with it. (The brand I tried was: Source Naturals Natural Progesterone Cream)

Natrol PMS Control - A blend of herbs, like Gymnema Extract, Dong Quai Extract, Ginger Extract, Parsley, St John's Wort, and more.   It didn't help my cramps.  However, many of the ingredients seem to have merit for other ailments.  For example, I use Ginger for dizziness, and St John's Wort works as an anti-depressant for many.   They do prescribe an anti-depressant for PMS (Fluoxitine or Prozac) but that's for the mood symptoms rather than the cramps.

I hope the above list of what I've tried helps.  Remember to always discuss supplements with your doctor and check for interactions.  "Natural" does not equal safe!

More Information - Websites I Recommend

Menstrual Pain - University of Maryland Medical Center.  They have information on symptoms, causes, and treatment, including nutrition, herbs, and supplement suggestions. Curcumin - Scientific information with summary of studies and effects.

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