Body Talk: Natural Ways To Deal With Menstrual Cramps

woman holding stomach due to menstrual cramps

By Chris D. Meletis, N.D.

If you dread that time of the month because of menstrual cramps, you’re not alone. Menstrual pain—what doctors call dysmenorrhea—is common. And in up to 20% of women it’s so severe that it interferes with daily activities.1 But menstrual cramps don’t have to bring you down. There are some effective ways to overcome the pain. In this article, I’ll describe some strategies I have used with my patients to provide natural menstrual pain relief. These strategies are based upon the latest scientific evidence. First, though, it’s important to touch upon what causes menstrual cramps in the first place.

What Causes Pain During Your Period?

When you’re menstruating, your uterus is eliminating its lining. To do this it must contract and it’s this contraction that causes the pain and discomfort during your period. There are also some health concerns that can cause painful periods such as endometriosis.

Not every woman has bad cramps. Chemical messengers in your body called prostaglandins are involved in the severity of your pain. Higher levels of prostaglandins may equal more cramping.2

An inflammatory substance known as arachidonic acid, which can be converted into prostaglandins in your body, also plays a role in your menstrual cramps. Higher levels of arachidonic acid are linked to more menstrual pain.3

Natural Relief for Menstrual Cramps

Conventional treatment for menstrual cramps includes aspirin or birth control pills. However, for women who prefer a more natural approach, there are a number of ways to soothe your discomfort. Your body may just be telling you that it needs more relaxation and important nutrients.

Relaxing Strategies

A combination of yoga and meditation can work wonders for menstrual health during that time of month. In a study of 113 medical school students who suffered from menstrual cramps, menstrual pain was significantly reduced in the women who participated in yoga and meditation.4 In fact, 88.3% of those women reported complete relief of their menstrual cramps while 11.6% still had mild pain.

Dietary Supplements and Menstrual Health

If you’re suffering from menstrual cramps, your body might simply need key nutrients. Here are some vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids that play an important part in menstrual health.


Studies have shown this mineral is beneficial in supporting the health of women with menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome, and menstrual migraine.5


Calcium is another important mineral for menstrual health. Studies have shown taking 1,000 mg of calcium can be helpful.6

Vitamin E and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids—either alone or together—both support the health of women during menstruation. However, one double-blind, randomized study found that combining these two nutrients made them even more powerful.7 The study used 180 mg of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA and 120 mg of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA combined with 200 IU of vitamin E. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, may protect against the inflammation caused by high levels of arachidonic acid.8

Vitamin B1 and Vitamin B6

Several randomized, controlled studies have found that thiamine (Vitamin B1) supports menstrual health.9,10 It does this by playing a role in healthy uterine muscle contraction.11

Combining magnesium with vitamin B6 may also reduce premenstrual stress.12


Menstrual cramps are an unfortunate part of many women’s lives. The many natural strategies mentioned in this article can support the health of women experiencing this painful monthly problem.

Dr. Chris Meletis

Dr. Chris MeletisDr. Chris Meletis is an educator, international author and lecturer. His personal mission is “Changing World’s Health One Person at a Time.” Dr Meletis has authored 18 books and over 200 national scientific articles in journals including Natural Health, Alternative and Complementary Therapies, Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, Life Extension, Natural Pharmacy, and PubMed.gov articles.

Dr. Meletis served as Dean of Naturopathic Medicine and Chief Medical Officer for 7 years for the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (now the National University of Natural Medicine). He was awarded the 2003 Physician of the Year by the American Association of Naturopathic Physician of the Year by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. He has a deep passion for helping the underprivileged and spearheaded the creation of 16 free natural medicine healthcare clinics in the Portland metropolitan area of Oregon.


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