10 Causes of Painful Periods + How Stop Period Pain Naturally (2022)

Is your period is so painful that your life practically stops when you have it?Having extremely painful periods is a sign of an underlying imbalance that can have far-reaching implications for your overall health, not just your reproductive health. Keep reading to find out what causes period pain and what you can do to stop it.

How Much Period Pain Is Normal?

If you’re like most women, you’ve experienced period pain at some point in your life. A little bit of mild cramping can be considered “normal,” especially at the beginning of your period. But ideally, you won’t even feel your period coming at all.

If you’re consistently having to pop painkillers like candy, or you’re in too much pain to go to work or school, then something deeper is going on. That type of period pain is not normal. In medicine, painful periods are called dysmenorrhea.

Your period is like a barometer of your overall health.It tells you how well your body is being nourished (or not), how much stress you’ve been under, and how much inflammation might be going on in your body.

It’s important to uncover the root causes of whyyour hormones are in turmoil so that you can find the least invasive, safest and most effective solution.

The great news is that women’s hormonal issues respond beautifully to natural medicine and, with a little detective work, you can troubleshoot your problems to get back on the road to wellness.

First, let’s explorethe causes of menstrual pain.

I‘m going to get all ‘sciency’ because I want you to really understand what’s going on inside of your body. I even made a cute little drawing to help explain everything. Bear with me and keep reading. It’ll all make sense – I promise! 🙂

What Causes Menstrual Pain?

Pain during menstruation is thought to be caused by prostaglandins and leukotrienes. Together, these compounds are known as eicosanoids.

Prostaglandins are a group of hormone-like fats that are made by our cells at sites of tissue damage or infection in the body. Their job is to direct the healing process by coordinating blood vessel constriction and blood clotting. In this process, prostaglandins cause the pain, fever, redness and swellingthat we experience with illness and injury.

Prostaglandins also play a role in the female reproductive system by controlling ovulation, initiatinglabor (there’s a clue about pain, eh?) and regulating menstrual flow. In other words, prostaglandins cause the uterus to contract.

Two specific prostaglandins have been linked to menstrual pain:PGE2 and PGF2-alpha.

Now, normally, prostaglandins are very short-lived. Once their job is done, the body breaks them down quickly.

But problems arisewhen inflammatory prostaglandins are produced in excess. Certain dietary and lifestyle factors will cause persistent tissue damage and load us with omega-6 fats, resulting in ’round the clock production of inflammatory prostaglandins.

Below is an illustration of the process. As you can see, anything that promotes high levels of arachidonic acid, the precursor to prostaglandins, can lead to pain and inflammation.

Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), an inflammatory compound, stimulates the aromatase enzyme,which raises estrogen levels. Estrogen then stimulates the COX-2 enzyme, which creates morePGE2, and thus more inflammation. It’s a vicious cycle!

Similar to prostaglandins, leukotrienes are inflammatory molecules that are released by our white blood cells.

(Video) HOW TO TREAT PERIOD CRAMPS AT HOME

Leukotrienes are notorious for their role in allergies and asthma, but leukotriene E4 may play aspecific role in menstrual pain.

There are many things that lead to painful periods, but I’m going to focus on the most common reasons that I see in my practice.

Keep in mind that the causes of your menstrual pain can be multifactorial, and oftenit is the total load of several imbalances that is responsible for causing symptoms.

1. Your diet is not good.

We just talked about prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and their role in menstrual cramps. But what causes your body to produce them in large amounts? Much of it has to do with your diet.

10 Causes of Painful Periods + How Stop Period Pain Naturally (2)


A diet fullof vegetable oils, refined grains, sugar, and alcohol is almost guaranteedto make your periods miserable. Because of the ways these foods damage your cells, disrupt your hormones, and interfere with cell communication, these foods will send your immune system into a firestorm. And that means prostaglandins and pain.

Alcohol is especially problematic for women with painful periods because it reduces the liver’s ability to detoxify estrogen and toxins. Did you know that having just 2 drinks per day can double the amount of estrogen in your body?! As shown in the diagram above, estrogen increases PGE2 (the pain molecule) by stimulating the COX-2 enzyme.

Having too much estrogen willalso causeheavyperiods,sore breasts, bloating, moodiness, and pretty much all of the things that we hate about periods in the first place! So nix the booze until you’ve made enough progress in your healing, okay?

10 Causes of Painful Periods + How Stop Period Pain Naturally (3)

Want to get real help now? Join our Body Bliss program and break free from period pain.


2. You have high insulin levels.

Insulin increases arachidonic acid, the precursor to the inflammatory prostaglandins that cause menstrual pain. Insulin also promotes clotting and can interfere with ovulation.

10 Causes of Painful Periods + How Stop Period Pain Naturally (4)


How do you know if your insulin levels are too high? Ask your doctor to order a fasting insulin test for you. Your fasting insulin level
should be no higher than 8, but I really like to see it 6 or less.

If your insulin is too high, you need to start making changes like cutting sugar out of your diet and emphasizing vegetables, protein and healthy fats. Exercise, especially resistance exercise like weightlifting, is crucial for lowering your insulin levels. Also be sure to get 8 hours of sleep each night: Just one night of sleep deprivation can promote insulin resistance!

Signs and symptoms of imbalanced blood sugar and insulin resistance include:

  • Sleep trouble
  • Brain fog
  • Darkened skin folds
  • Belly fat
  • Energy crashes or sleepiness after meals
  • Sugar cravings


3. You’re not ovulating.

Ovulation is the release of an egg from the ovary. It typically happens on day 14 of the menstrual cycle. Ovulation is important when it comes to period pain because that is where you get your progesterone.

Progesterone balances the stimulating effects of estrogen; it is a very calming hormone. When you don’t have enough progesterone, it leads to inflammation. It also works in reverse: inflammation impairs your body’s ability to make progesterone, so it becomes a vicious cycle.

Having periods that are late, early, too heavy, too light or absent can all be symptoms of not ovulating (called “anovulation”). Common causes include nutrient deficiencies (especially magnesium, selenium and B6)polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and stress.

(Video) Period Pain Relief: What Works? [Dr. Claudia]

Stress is of particular importance because it reduces progesterone in two ways: 1). by “stealing”progesterone to make the stress hormone cortisol; and 2). by interfering with ovulation, your main source of progesterone.

10 Causes of Painful Periods + How Stop Period Pain Naturally (5)

And while we’re talking about stress, it’s worth noting that chronic stress promotes insulin resistance (see point #2 above)!

If you’re not ovulating, you need to figure out why you’re not ovulating. Are you deficient in important nutrients? Is it chronic stress? Are you eating inflammatory foods? Is it your thyroid?

Join our Body Bliss program and break free from period pain.

4. Your thyroid is out of whack.

Your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. It makes thyroid hormone, which provides the “spark” for bodily functions like digestion, generation of body heat, detoxification and ovulation. Every single cell in your body needs thyroid hormone.

The most common thyroid problem is when the gland is underactive, which is called hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism interferes with ovulation, which means you’ll be making less progesterone. And remember that low progesterone promotes inflammation.

Heavy menstrual bleeding can be a symptom of an underactive thyroid. Unfortunately many women with hypothyroidism never get diagnosed because the standard screening test (TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone) doesn’t show the whole picture. I always recommend a complete thyroid panel that includes TSH, free T3, free T4, reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies.

5. You’re full of toxins.

Did you know that even low-level exposures to chemicals and environmental toxins can cause period problems, cancer and reproductive issues?

It’s sad but true. Many of the chemicals in our environment act as “endocrine disruptors,” meaning they can mimic hormones and disrupt our hormonal (endocrine) system.

These toxins include pesticides and herbicides, metals, solvents, flame retardants, plastics, food additives, and fragrances.

10 Causes of Painful Periods + How Stop Period Pain Naturally (6)

These chemicals are everywhere, so there’s no foolproof way to avoid them entirely. The best thing to do is minimize your exposure (check your personal care products!), and it’s equally important to support your body’s ability to detoxify.

This is one of the foundational strategies that we teach in our Body Bliss program.


6. Your gut isn’t healthy.

Okay, this is a BIG one. The health of your GI tract is so intricately linked to the rest of your body (and mind). Practically every patient who comes to me with chronic health issues has some degree of imbalance in their digestive system.

When our guts are healthy, good things happen for us. We absorb our nutrients. Our friendly gut bacteria help us detoxify estrogen and reduce inflammation. Our hormonal systems are balanced. All good things!

But when our guts are not healthy, it sets the stage for all of the things that we don’t want. Our metabolism doesn’t work right. We become full of inflammation. Our immune system is imbalanced and we can develop autoimmunity. It can ruin our thyroid function. We can’t get rid of excess estrogen. We can’t absorb the nutrients we need. And the list goes on.

More specifically, when the bacteria and other microbes in our gut are out of balance, there are some key factors that directly contribute to period pain. Unfriendly bacteria (referred to as “gram negative”) have something called lipopolysaccharide (LPS) on their outer surface. LPS is, by far, one of the most toxic and irritating substances known to the human body. And when the gut isn’t healthy, LPS can move across the gut barrier and get into the bloodstream.

(Video) How To Reduce PERIOD PAIN Instantly | Period HACKS Every Girl Should Know

This creates a cascade of inflammation, revs up the immune system, blocks detoxification, and can specifically cause pelvic pain. In my practice, I’ve been able to link LPS with headaches, acne, and a host of other chronic conditions.

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One of the most common conditions that creates a large amount of gram negative bacteria and LPS in the gut is small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. This is a condition where the motility of the small intestine has been compromised, and bacteria proliferate in the gut. The classic symptom is bloating after meals, usually with a “pregnant belly” look.

The other awful thing these critters do is produce an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. This enzyme causes estrogen and toxins that would have otherwise been excreted to become freely circulating again. And remember that toxins and estrogen contribute to inflammation and pain.

So what causes your gut to become so unhealthy in the first place? Hands down, the number one cause I’ve seen among my patients is antibiotic use. Whether it’s for recurrent sinus infections, UTI’s or acne, frequent antibiotic use can destroy your health.

Don’t get me wrong!

Antibiotics certainly have a time and a place. But the key is to support your immune system so that you’re not having to deal with to chronic infections in the first place.

The bottom line: If you want healthy periods, you absolutelymust fix your gut. There’s no way around it. That’s why we’ve dedicated an entire lesson to gut health in our Body Bliss program.

–> Click here to learn gut health tips in our free guide: Look Good, Feel Good!

7. You smoke.

It goes without saying that smoking is bad for you. Research shows that smoking even 1 cigarette per day is an important risk factor for painful periods. And the earlier you start smoking, the more likely you are to have painful periods.Quitting can be incredibly hard, but I’ve had more than one patient tell me that Allen Carr’s book worked like a charm for helping them quit for good!


8. You have Celiac disease.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where eating gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) causes serious damage to the small intestine.

10 Causes of Painful Periods + How Stop Period Pain Naturally (8)

Many health care practitioners don’t realize that the symptoms of celiac disease can vary, so many people go undiagnosed. In fact, less than half of people with celiac disease have the classic symptoms of GI pain and diarrhea.

Skin rashes, neurological symptoms, fatigue, painful sex and menstrual pain can all be clues that you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.Remember, anything that causes inflammation in the gut will cause inflammation in the rest of your body!


9. You have growths.

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors of the uterus. They are incredibly common, and a majority of women will develop at least 1 small fibroid at some point. Fibroids don’t usually cause pain, but they can when they obstruct blood flow or if they grow rapidly. If your periods are becoming heavy, that can be a symptom of fibroids.

Adenomyosisis a condition where the inner lining of the uterus grows through the muscular uterine wall. This can cause heavy bleeding, cramps and bloating. Many women also have ovarian cysts, which are fluid-filled sacs that can cause painful cramps. Most of the time cysts clear on their own, but they can require treatment if they start to obstruct the fallopian tubes or they become very large.

While these growths can be responsible for pain, keep in mind that they are symptoms of underlying inflammation and hormone imbalances. That’s why it’s so important to address things like gut health and nutrition.


10. You have endometriosis.

It’s estimated that 1 in 10 women have a condition called endometriosis.

(Video) Menstrual Pain? How to Manage Period Pain?

In endometriosis,the tissue that lines the uterus (called the endometrium) becomes implanted outside of the uterus, around other locations inthe body. This misplaced tissue behaves in the same way as it wouldinside the uterus and it grows and bleeds in response to estrogen. Eventually, adhesions form.

Adhesions arebands of scar tissue that can “glue” organs and body structures together. Theycan cause strong, sharp or burning pain, and even gastrointestinalsymptoms like heartburn and constipation if the scars are attachedto the intestines. Endometrial tissue can even attach to the lungs in rare cases.

The symptoms of endometriosis include:

  • SEVERE menstrual cramps (sometimes even painkillers won’t help)
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain between periods – when you’re not even bleeding
  • Pain with sex or vaginal penetration
  • Urinary problems
  • Long periods
  • Heavy periods (which can lead to anemia)
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Pain with bowel movements
  • Infertility
  • Fatigue

**It is entirely possible to have endometriosis with NO symptoms or very mild symptoms, and many women don’t know they have it until they have trouble getting pregnant.**

As you can see from the list above, endometriosis can mimic gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. And sadly, a lot of women are misdiagnosed for years. The only way to get an accurate diagnosis for endometriosis is through a surgical procedure called laparoscopy. During laparoscopy, a thin tube (called a laparoscope) is inserted into yourabdomen through a small cut. The tube has a camera attached to it, allowing the doctor to see yourorgans on a video screen. If you have endometriosis, the doctor will see adhesions.

How to Stop Period Pain Naturally

I admit that I am not a fan of using birth control pills or painkillers to treat painful periods.

Why? Because birth control pills increase the risk of blood clots, they can cause permanent side effects (like loss of sex drive and vaginal dryness), and they do nothing to address the root causes of the pain in the first place.

Period problems are a message from your body that something is out of balance. When we suppress those messages, we can create additional problems.

Over-the-counter painkillers are effective for pain and can help to reduce heavy bleeding, but they can cause liver or kidney damage with long-term use. They can also damage the gut, which contributes to body-wide inflammation.

Let me be clear: there is a time and a place for medication, and you have to do what is best for you. Right now, you might need big doses of painkillers just to get through your day. No judgment.I totally get that!

But my goal as a naturopathic doctor is for you to ultimately not need those medications because you’ve done such a great job getting your body back into balance. That’s exactly what we teach you how to do in our Body Bliss program.


Supplements

  • Our favorite “all around” formula for healthy periods and balanced hormones is FemGlow. This is our exclusive product. Along with diet and lifestyle changes, the ingredients in this formula have produced amazing results for my patients. Whether you’re concerned about period pain, PMS, or even menopausal discomfort, FemGlow provides balanced support. And in our Body Bliss program, we share a comprehensive hormone health protocol.

Lifestyle

  • Find ways to manage stress.
  • Sweating through exercise or sauna is a great way to support gentle detoxification.
  • Eat an unprocessed, low-sugar, whole foods diet.

Take-Home Message

My hopefor you is that you no longer ignore your menstrual pain. And don’t let ANYdoctor tell you that you’re “just one of those unlucky women” or that you just have “bad periods.”

Menstrualpain is a sign that something deeper is going on with your health. Keep pushing until you find answers.

And if you’re serious about stopping your period pain, check out our Body Bliss program. This is the proven, real-life system we’ve developed in our clinic to help women like you get their lives back.

Disclaimer: This articleis for informational purposes onlyand is nota substitute for the professional advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Never avoid, disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice, or change any of your prescribed medical treatments because of something you have read on this blog. If you try any therapies or recommendations discussed on this blog, you do so at your own risk.

(Video) Period pain relief naturally

Our clinic proudly serves the Boulder and Denver, Colorado metro areas including Broomfield, Louisville, Lafayette, Arvada, Thornton and Westminster.

FAQs

How can I stop my period pain immediately? ›

How to relieve period cramps fast at home
  1. Apply heat. "Heat can help relax the muscles contributing to cramping, so applying heat to your abdomen or back can help relieve your pain," says Dr. ...
  2. Take a pain reliever. ...
  3. Exercise. ...
  4. Take steps to reduce stress. ...
  5. Get your vitamins and minerals.
Sep 24, 2021

How can I stop my period naturally? ›

“If you can prolong the progesterone, that's the most effective way to stop your period,” says Dr. Jhaveri.
...
What doesn't work
  1. Drinking lemon juice.
  2. Drinking salt water.
  3. Drinking water with vinegar.
  4. Taking the morning-after pill.
  5. Taking ibuprofen.
  6. Drinking raspberry leaf tea.
  7. Drinking pineapple juice.
Apr 4, 2022

Does chocolate help cramps? ›

Certain foods can help with period pain by reducing the inflammation and muscle contractions associated with cramps, including one of the world's fave treats. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can help ease cramps.

Why do periods hurt? ›

During your menstrual period, your uterus contracts to help expel its lining. Hormonelike substances (prostaglandins) involved in pain and inflammation trigger the uterine muscle contractions. Higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more-severe menstrual cramps.

What drinks help with period cramps? ›

The 8 Best Teas for Menstrual Cramps
  • Red raspberry leaf tea. Red raspberry leaf tea is made from the leaves of raspberry plants. ...
  • Ginger tea. Ginger tea is made from the pungent, spicy ginger root. ...
  • Chamomile tea. ...
  • Peppermint tea. ...
  • Cinnamon tea. ...
  • Green tea. ...
  • Thyme tea. ...
  • Oolong tea.
Apr 13, 2021

What food is good for period cramps? ›

Naturally, eating foods that decrease inflammation in the body will help to tame menstrual cramps. These foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Research has shown that both a vegetarian and plant-based eating pattern work to decrease inflammation in the body.

How does lemon stop your period? ›

No. Drinking a shot of lemon juice won't delay your period or make it stop. Using a hormonal birth control method is the only way to lighten or control when you get your period: When taking a hormonal birth control method, like the pill, ring, and patch, you have the ability to skip your period.

Does drinking water stop your period? ›

2. Your period stops when you get in the water. Don't fall for this myth, and get yourself into a sticky situation! "Your period doesn't slow down or stop in water—it just may not flow outside the vagina because of the counter pressure of the water," says Dr.

What stops a period? ›

Periods can also sometimes stop as a result of a medical condition, such as heart disease, uncontrolled diabetes, an overactive thyroid, or premature menopause.

Can we eat ice cream in periods? ›

Having a lot of dairy products is not the best idea, as it can cause cramping. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and ice cream contain arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid), which can increase inflammation and can intensify your period pain.

Is milk good for period cramps? ›

Research shows that calcium can ease menstrual pain. That may be because the mineral helps muscle cells work properly. Like milk, yogurt, and other dairy products, tofu packs lots of calcium.

What should I drink while on my period? ›

In general, having hot drinks during period pain is good. For example, chamomile, ginger, or peppermint tea are great because not only are they hot, but they're also caffeine-free. On the other hand, smoothies can be good too. You'll get plenty of vitamins and minerals to help power through difficult times.

How much period pain is normal? ›

Two or three days of menstrual discomfort is considered to be normal. Cramps may start the day of or day just before the bleeding starts, but they should not continue all the way until the end of your period.

How long does period pain last? ›

How long period pain lasts. Period pain usually starts when your bleeding begins, although some women have pain several days before the start of their period. The pain usually lasts 48 to 72 hours, although it can last longer. It's usually at its worst when your bleeding is heaviest.

Why do period pains get worse as you age? ›

Menopause. Unfortunately just as you think your period symptoms should be easing off, cramps can actually get worse. That's because during the menopause the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle begin to fluctuate.

What drinks help with period cramps? ›

The 8 Best Teas for Menstrual Cramps
  • Red raspberry leaf tea. Red raspberry leaf tea is made from the leaves of raspberry plants. ...
  • Ginger tea. Ginger tea is made from the pungent, spicy ginger root. ...
  • Chamomile tea. ...
  • Peppermint tea. ...
  • Cinnamon tea. ...
  • Green tea. ...
  • Thyme tea. ...
  • Oolong tea.
Apr 13, 2021

What foods relieve cramps? ›

Dark, Leafy Greens

They're rich in calcium and magnesium. So adding kale, spinach, or broccoli to your plate may help prevent muscle cramps. Eating leafy greens also may help with menstruation cramps, as studies show eating foods high in calcium can help relieve pain from periods.

How do you get rid of period cramps without pills? ›

Soaking in a hot bath or using a heating pad, hot water bottle or heat patch on your lower abdomen might ease menstrual cramps. Try dietary supplements. A number of studies have indicated that vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B-1 (thiamin), vitamin B-6 and magnesium supplements might reduce menstrual cramps.

What get rid of period cramps? ›

Here are a some things that can help ease cramps:
  1. Over-the-counter pain medicine like ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol). ...
  2. Exercise.
  3. Putting a heating pad on your belly or lower back.
  4. Taking a hot bath.
  5. Having an orgasm (by yourself or with a partner).
  6. Rest.

Is milk good for period cramps? ›

Research shows that calcium can ease menstrual pain. That may be because the mineral helps muscle cells work properly. Like milk, yogurt, and other dairy products, tofu packs lots of calcium.

Is chocolate good for periods? ›

Dark chocolate may help ease menstrual cramps due to its high magnesium content. Magnesium helps relax muscles and may stop the production of compounds that signal cramps. Copper, another nutrient found in dark chocolate, may also play a role.

Can I drink milk during my period? ›

Dairy isn't a smart choice.

Dairy is a major part of a well-balanced diet, but eating too much cheese or consuming too many milk-based products on your period can cause your period cramps to worsen. In fact, dairy can lead to bloating, gas, and diarrhea, according to Healthline. So, play it safe and skip the ice cream.

What causes painful menstruation? ›

During your menstrual period, your uterus contracts to help expel its lining. Hormonelike substances (prostaglandins) involved in pain and inflammation trigger the uterine muscle contractions. Higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more-severe menstrual cramps.

Are period pains normal? ›

Period pain is common and a normal part of your menstrual cycle. Most women get it at some point in their lives. It's usually felt as painful muscle cramps in the tummy, which can spread to the back and thighs. The pain sometimes comes in intense spasms, while at other times it may be dull but more constant.

Why do periods hurt so much on the first day? ›

This pain is caused by natural chemicals called prostaglandins that are made in the lining of the uterus. Prostaglandins cause the muscles and blood vessels of the uterus to contract. On the first day of a period, the level of prostaglandins is high.

How long do period cramps last? ›

Cramps usually begin a day or two before your period, peaking around 24 hours after your period starts. They typically last for two to three days. Menstrual cramps can be accompanied by other symptoms, including: nausea.

Videos

1. Painful Periods - How to Stop Period Menstrual Cramps | Dysmenorrhea Causes,Treatments, Medication
(Dr Simi Adedeji)
2. Period Pain | How To Stop Painful Period Pain Cramps
(AbrahamThePharmacist)
3. What Causes Painful Periods? - Dr. Kevin Audlin - Mercy
(Mercy Medical Center - Baltimore)
4. How to Relieve Menstrual Cramps & PMS | Reflexology
(Howcast)
5. How To Get Instant Relief From Menstrual Cramps And Mood Swings | Home Remedies with Upasana
(Mind Body Soul)
6. Period pain? Try these remedies
(Mayo Clinic)

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