Menstrual Cramps Revisited

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I often report on cases of dysmenorrhea for two reasons. The first is
personal. I freely explain that the reason I became interested in
alternative medicine was because of my own history of menstrual cramps.
The second reason is because I see many women who have monthly
recurrent debilitating symptoms causing missed work, and more
importantly, they miss out on well being. Patients tell me they
schedule vacations, dinner out with friends, family events and other
activities making certain that they won’t be menstruating during
important times.

It was only after years of prescription therapy that really did nothing
to help me and only complicated my life by leaving me in pain and
unable to think straight, I turned to herbs, nutrients and dietary
changes, which changed my life in a matter of months. I remember that
the first supplement I ever took in 1976 was vitamin E. I recently came
across an article in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
2001;108:1181-3. In short, the study participants who took 500 IU of
vitamin E per day experienced a significantly greater reduction in
menstrual pain compared to those taking the placebo. And the benefit
was felt the first month of treatment. That is how I remember it so
many years ago; being amazed how much better I felt after only a month.

In practice, I believe that many nutrients and botanicals can influence
the pain brought on by hormone changes at the start of the menstrual
period. Diet and exercise also can have a major impact. Peanuts, dairy,
and red meat seem to favor the formation of the hormones that trigger
inflammation. I routinely suggest that my patients with painful periods
refrain from these foods at least five days before the anticipated
onset of the menstrual flow. The vitamin E article just reminded me of
another important nutrient to help with this symptom that reportedly
affects up to 72% of menstruating women.