Do you dread your period each month? Maybe PMS makes you feel tired and low? Or you suffer from cramps so painful you have to clear your social diary, or take a day off work? Research shows that over 90% of women get PMS; with 40% living with severe symptoms that disrupt their work and personal lives. Things don’t get much better when menstruation starts either. 80% of women experience period pain, and 20% get cramps severe enough to interfere with daily activities. It’s enough to make you hide away with the best period pain relief you can find and not come out ‘til it’s over!
The struggle is real when it comes to periods, and they affect around 18 million of the UK population. That’s a lot of people putting their lives on hold every 28 days! So we’re sharing some insight into what causes these uncomfortable and disruptive symptoms. AND some surprising ways to counter them you might not have tried before. Be gone PMS and killer cramps, hello freedom to live your life all month long.
What is PMS anyway?
PMS (or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) usually starts after ovulation and before your period, when the hormones oestrogen and progesterone dip. Shifting hormones affect the mood-regulating neurotransmitters in your brain, like serotonin and dopamine. This can trigger psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
Unpredictable moods aren’t the only side effect you’ll have to deal with. Various studies have shown there are up to 150 different symptoms of PMS. Yes really! Most common are physical things like breast tenderness, bloating, trouble sleeping, or an upset stomach. You can get uncomfortable cramps before you start bleeding that could find you reaching for period pain relief. And lots of people find PMS also affects cognition, with many experiencing brain fog, trouble focusing, and feeling forgetful.
What causes menstrual cramps and why might you need period pain relief?
Officially known as ‘dysmenorrhea’ painful menstrual cramps happen when the muscular wall of the womb tightens when your period starts. This cuts off the oxygen supply to the blood vessels lining your womb and triggers tissues there to release chemicals that cause pain. This tightening also releases prostaglandins; chemicals that encourage the womb muscles to contract even tighter, further increasing your pain levels – ouch!
Did you know that Medieval women believed that burning a toad and then wearing the ashes in a pouch would cure cramps? Thankfully we now have a MUCH better understanding of what causes period pain, and there are many effective (and toad friendly) ways to target them:
1. Eat yourself pain-free
If you reach for the sweet stuff the week before your period, stop! Avoid eating refined sugar because it raises inflammation levels in your body and triggers the production of more prostaglandins. Which means more painful cramps. Fizzy drinks, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, salt, and alcohol have the same effect, with salt also making water retention and bloating worse, so swerve those too.
Instead, eat lots of leafy green veg like kale, spinach, and broccoli. They are rich in antioxidants that reduce inflammation in your body and are also a good source of calcium, shown to reduce bloating.
Foods that are high in B vitamins like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, chicken, turkey, and salmon are another must-eat. Research suggests B vits can reduce PMS symptoms by up to 35% and make period cramps less painful. You should also eat plenty of cucumber, onion, watermelon, tomato, and asparagus. They all have high water content and act as natural diuretics that can help with bloating.
Need a snack? Go nuts! Nuts are rich in Omega-3, a natural anti-inflammatory, and zinc which has been shown to provide period pain relief and lessen cramps.
2. Needles = period pain relief
It might seem counterintuitive to stick a needle in yourself to relieve pain. But acupuncture is proven to be a very efficient way to manage cramps AND reduce PMS symptoms. Research has shown that the intensity and duration of period pain can be reduced by up to 50% after an acupuncture session. And one study found that acupuncture had a success rate of 77.8% in treating PMS symptoms. Wow.
Don’t like needles? Bear in mind that the needles used in acupuncture are small and relatively painless. Much thinner than the ones used for vaccinations and blood tests, many people don’t even feel them. So, get googling your nearest acupuncture clinic and get ready for some impressive period pain relief.
3. Take the right supplements
In an ideal world, before your period you’d eat right, get plenty of rest, and stamp out stress to keep PMS and cramps at bay. But then real life comes along! Don’t panic, there’s a simple way to give your body what it needs to make periods easier, with virtually no effort required (especially if you use our patches!): take a supplement.
It should contain vitamins B6 and D, which can help restore normal hormonal activity and naturally boost your mood. Iron, to help prevent anaemia (especially important if you have heavy periods). Calcium, to reduce bloating and food cravings. Plus, magnesium, to help stabilise your mood and help you snooze on those sleepless nights.
The Monthly Relief Day Patch contains all these nutrients, as well as tried and tested herbal remedies like ginger root extract, chasteberry, and evening primrose oil. All of which can help to see off sore boobs, balance your hormones, and provide period pain relief. Want 24 hour support? Try the Monthly Relief Night Patch, which also contains herbal sleep and calm aid chamomile.
Can’t string a sensible sentence together? If brain fog and cognitive issues are one of your main PMS symptoms, try the Focus Patch. Packed with energising B12, ginseng, brain function-friendly vitamins A, C, D, Omega-3, and stimulating nootropics like L-theanine, to help you get your mojo back.
4. Try CBD for period pain relief AND less PMS
You might have read about people using CBD, or cannabidiol, to level out their mood and help with chronic pain. And guess what? It can also help with period pain relief.
CBD is a chemical substance found in cannabis that can have medical and pain-relieving benefits. Unlike the marijuana that some people smoke, CBD doesn’t have the same psychoactive properties that make people spaced out and giggly, because it doesn’t contain the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in cannabis that makes you high.
Crucially, it does share some of the same anti-inflammatory properties as THC. What’s more, the science shows that CBD can relieve symptoms of PMS and also reduce period pain in some women too.
And don’t worry, CBD is totally legal in the UK. You just need to make sure what you’re buying contains less than 0.2% of THC. Good news, we’ll be stocking CBD patches very soon!
5. Get scent-ual
Did you know PMS and menstrual cramps can be improved by smelling the right things? It might sound crazy, but the psychological and physical benefits of aromatherapy are well documented and have been used for thousands of years.
Studies show that inhaling lavender oil is particularly effective in reducing PMS symptoms like anxiety, depression, pain, and bloating. Need some period pain relief? Try clary sage oil, which research has shown can relax the autonomic nervous system and help to reduce cramping. Cinnamon, renowned for reducing inflammation in the body, can combat period pain too.
Find a quiet corner, sit with your eyes closed, and take a deep breath through your nose with the oil close at hand. Do this for a couple of minutes each day during your period. You’ll reduce side effects AND it will ensure you make space for extra self-care time – double win.