Natural Remedies for PMS & Cramps

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Natural Remedies for PMS and Cramps that actually work!
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I get more hormone and fertility related questions than any other topic, and my post on nine ways to balance hormones naturally has been my most visited post every single day for the last several months!

Hormones have a much bigger impact that many people realize, and women who struggle from hormone related pain and other symptoms realize this acutely. I’ve gotten an especially large influx of questions about PMS, PMDD and menstrual issues like cramps lately, and figured this was an important issue to address. I used to struggle with horrible PMS and cramps myself, and can certainly sympathize with how frustrating these things can be.

What Causes PMS and Menstrual Problems?

PMS, by definition, refers to a wide range of symptoms that start during the second half fo the cycle and which can include headache, dizziness, cramps, irritability, bloating, breast tenderness, nausea, vomiting, food cravings or aversions, weight gain, irritability, depression, anxiety and fatigue. These symptoms usually occur before menses begins and subside gradually at the onset of the period. Other menstrual symptoms like abdominal cramping and heavy bleeding can occur during menses.

While a variety of factors can influence a woman’s symptoms during this time (including genetics, nutrition, medications, etc), it is largely controlled by hormones, and getting hormones in proper balance can go a long way toward reducing symptoms. The monthly fluctuation of estrogen and progesterone (and other hormones like FSH and LH) largely controls a woman’s cycle and there are theories that these hormones can interact with certain brain chemicals, creating real symptoms during these times.

Optimally, these hormones are in balance and working correctly, and this interaction might cause little to no discomfort or symptoms, but if these hormones are out of balance, a variety of symptoms can occur.

In my own life and in working with others, I have seen how dietary and supplement changes can greatly impact the estrogen/progesterone balance and alleviate many of these symptoms. The effectiveness of each of these individual methods will vary by individual, but a comprehensive plan can often greatly alleviate symptoms across the board.

Nutrition Changes

1. Avoid Polyunsaturated Omega-6 fats in Large Amounts

“I’ve talked about this before, but the body is simply not meant to consume these man-made fats found in vegetable oils. From that article:

About 97% of the fat in the human body is saturated and monounsaturated fat, with only 3 % Polyunsaturated fats. Half of that three percent is Omega-3 fats, (the other half is Omega-6 fats) and that balance needs to be there. Vegetable oils contain very high levels of polyunsaturated fats, and these oils have replaced many of the saturated fats in our diets since the 1950s.

The body needs fats for rebuilding cells and hormone production, but it has to use the building blocks we give it. When we give it a high concentration of polyunsaturated fats instead of the ratios it needs, it has no choice but to incorporate these fats into our cells during cell repair and creation.

The problem is that polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable and oxidize easily in the body (if they haven’t already oxidized during processing or by light exposure while sitting on the grocery store shelf). These oxidized fats cause inflammation and mutation in cells.

In arterial cells, these mutations cause inflammation that can clog arteries. When these fats are incorporated into skin cells, their mutation causes skin cancer. (This is why people often get the most dangerous forms of skin cancer in places where they are never exposed to the sun, but that is a topic for another day!)

When these oils are incorporated into cells in reproductive tissue, some evidence suggests that this can spur problems like endometriosis and PCOS. In short, the body is made up of saturated and monounsaturated fats, and it needs these for optimal health.”

Bottom line: Don’t eat fats like Vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil, soybean oil, margarine, shortening or other chemically altered fats. Choose fats like coconut oil, real butter, olive oil  and animal fats (tallow, lard) from healthy sources instead and eat lots of high Omega-3 fish.”

2. Avoid Chemicals in Food and Household

“Toxins found in processed foods, pesticides, plastics, household chemicals and even mattresses can contain hormone disrupting chemicals that mimic hormones in the body and keep the body from producing real hormones. Things like hormonal birth control can (obviously) do the same thing.

If you have hormone imbalance or are struggling to get pregnant, avoiding these toxins is very important! Cook in glass or non-coated metal pans (no non-stick or teflon!) and avoid heating or storing foods in plastic. Find organic produce and meat whenever possible and don’t use chemical pesticides or cleaners. There are recipes for natural cleaners on this page.”

3. Eat enough of the right kinds of fats:

Eating fats like quality organic meats, butter, tallow, coconut oil, ghee, olive oil, etc can help boost proper hormone production. While the wrong kinds of fats (see above) can interfere with hormone production, eating enough of the proper fats can really help!

Coconut Oil is amazing for hormone health. It provides the necessary building blocks for hormone production, can assist weight loss, reduce inflammation, and even has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.

If you really need hormone help, aim to consume 1/4 cup of added coconut oil a day. My favorite way is to blend into coffee or tea. This is the highest quality one I’ve found.

4. Avoid Inflammatory Foods

Foods like grains, dairy and vegetable oils can create inflammation in the body and can exacerbate hormonal problems. The degree that these foods will affect the body varies by person, but I have seen several cases where severe hormonal symptoms were resolved by just adopting a grain free and dairy free diet.

Especially for the first few months, focusing on foods like homemade bone broths, soups, grass fed meats, and healthy fats (butter, coconut oil, tallow, ghee, etc) will help the body rebuild and reduce inflammation. Check out the recipe index for some simple meal ideas.

Helpful Supplements for PMS

“In a perfect world, we would be rising and sleeping with the sun, getting Vitamin D from the sun and Magnesium from the ocean while relaxing and exercising in great balance each day in a stress-free world. Since I doubt that describes any of us currently, supplements can fill in the gaps. I’ve talked about the basic supplements that I take before, but there are some specific ones that are helpful for hormone support.

  • Maca– A tuber in the radish family that has a history of boosting hormone production and libido. Many women notice less PMS, increased fertility, and improved skin while men notice increased sperm production, libido and better sleep. Maca is also high in minerals and essential fatty acids, making it great for hormones. It is available in powder form you can add into a drink (least expensive option). Maca should be discontinued during pregnancy. The effects of Maca are somewhat cumulative, so the best results are seen after 3-5 weeks of taking Maca regularly.
  • Magnesium– Magnesium supports hundreds of reactions in the body and often contributes to better sleep (which is great for hormones!). There are several effective forms of Magnesium: In powder form with a product like Natural Calm so that you can vary your dose and work up slowly,  ionic liquid form  can be added to food and drinks and dose can be worked up slowly,or  transdermal form by using Magnesium oil applied to skin. This is often the most effective option for those with damaged digestive tract or severe deficiency. Magnesium often greatly helps both PMS symptoms and menstrual cramping.
  • Vitamin D– A pre-hormone is supportive of hormone function. Best obtained from the sun if possible, or from a D3 supplement or Fermented Cod Liver Oil (what I do in the winter). Make sure not to get too much, and optimally, get Serum Vitamin D levels checked to monitor levels.
  • Fermented Cod Liver Oil– Provides many of the necessary building blocks for hormone production including Vitamins A, D, and K. It also is a great source of Omega-3s and beneficial fats.
  • Gelatin is a great source of calcium, magnesium and phosphate. It supports hormone production and digestive health and helps sooth inflammation, especially in joints.
  • Vitex/Chaste Tree Berry– Nourishes the pituitary gland and helps lengthen the luteal phase. It lowers prolactin and raises progesterone. For some women, this alone will improve symptoms.
  • Natural Progesterone Cream– PMS and menstrual troubles are often linked to specific hormone imbalances. Especially for those with short cycles or short second phase of their cycle (ovulation through start of menses), progesterone can be the issue. I’ve seen people add only natural progesterone cream and see symptoms greatly reduce. If you do use progesterone cream, do you own research, make sure you have a good brand that is soy-free and only use for the second half of your cycle (ovulation through menses).
  • Red Raspberry Leaf A well know fertility herb that is also helpful in reducing PMS and cramping. It has a high nutrient profile and is especially high in calcium and is a uterine tonic. It is available in capsule form, but makes an excellent hot or cold tea.

NOTE: Make sure to check with your doctor or health care professional before taking any new supplements, especially if you are on medications or contraceptives.

Lifestyle Factors

1.Sleep

I Can’t emphasize this one enough! If you aren’t getting enough sleep, your hormones will not be balanced. Period.

Use these tips to help improve your sleep and just do it! This can singlehandedly improve hormones and is even linked to longer life, less chance of disease and optimizing weight.

2. Natural Menstrual Options

I’ve written about it in detail before, but switching to natural feminine hygiene options like cloth pads or the Diva Cup may really help reduce cramping in some women. Some women do not react well to the chemicals in tampons and pads and these natural options provide a chemical free solution. There is also no risk of Toxic shock syndrome with these options.

3. Exercise

If you have hormone imbalance, intense extended exercise can actually make the problem worse in the short term. Sleep is actually more important, at least during the balancing phase, so focus on relaxing exercises like walking or swimming and avoid the extended running, cardio and exercise videos, for now….

Due to its blood sugar balancing and lymph stimulating effects, the T-Tapp system is helpful for some women and is a low-impact exercise that can be very effective.

Have you ever struggled with hormone related symptoms? Were there any things that helped you? Share below!

Hormone imbalance can often cause PMS, menstrual problems and more. These natural and herbal remedies can help reverse these issues.

Sources
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

103 responses to “Natural Remedies for PMS & Cramps”

  1. Brein Avatar

    I’ve been taking notes on all these great ideas for alleviating menstrual discomfort. I’ve relied on pain relievers for far too long and I actually think the pain reliever is making some of the symptoms worse. In the last year or so I’ve experienced severe indigestion during my cycle do you have any suggestions for that? Also what is the best way to be sure you aren’t mixing the wrong supplements together? I’m really hopeful some of these ideas will change my life! I dread my cycle each month, its just so painful and miserable!

  2. Nan P Avatar

    I’m in my army 40’s and I’m have heavy long period. It last for weeks and I’ve been in and out of the hospital. No relief. I eat healthy but I don’t want to put any more meds in my body. I am in bed all the time. I am not sleeping. I have bad cramps also. I really want the pain, and bleeding to stop.

    How can Maca Roots help me? An where do I find Maca Root?

    I want to use National remedies to make this stop.

  3. chris Avatar

    I felt compelled to write a comment and to say thanks. I read your blog looking for ways to help deal with female issues. You wrote about fats. I use all the good fats. I never thought of putting coconut oil in coffee before. It is quite good and an easy way to take coconut oil. I added 2 teaspoons to my coffee which I also add organic sugar and raw milk, it gave is a very nice texture and I really didn’t even taste the coconut oil. Plus I have read elsewhere that coconut oil is good for oral health. Thanks again, keep up the good work!

  4. Jon Roberts Avatar
    Jon Roberts

    I’m just a man, but I’ve been blessed to work with a couple options that are natural protocols that help women with these issues. I don’t want to violate the comment policy, so let me just say thank you for raising awareness that there are options besides the terrible therapies offered thru traditional western medicine. God bless you.

  5. Tiffany W Avatar
    Tiffany W

    My period has been wacky for about a year and a half. While it seems to come at about the 28 mark every month, what happens is I spot the first day and then it takes 3-4 days of barely any spotting before I really start. It is very frustrating, and I don’t understand why I am doing this. When I asked my OG/GYN, her response was that I take birth control pills to regulate it. No thanks, I just want an answer.

  6. Laura Avatar

    Cutting out sugar, chemicals and exercising were my life changers. have no more terrible PMS symptoms – no moodiness, no breast tenderness, a little bit of bloating the day before and a little sensitivity but the hormones are shifting (drop off in progesterone to trigger mentruation) so that’s to be expected.

    The one thing I have NOT been successful at getting rid of is period cramps. I’ve tried all the herbs – red raspberry leaf, vitex, dong quai, etc plus magnesium, 2 homeopathics, yoni herbal steam baths, energy healing, maca, I3C, plus super super clean holistic diet – lots of healthy fats, paleo, organic, spring water in glass, black out windows at night, blue light glasses on computer during the day, 15-30 minutes of sun time, Cod liver oil, no use of soaps, etc. What I do see though is 1-2 months of only mild cramps when I initially make a change (add a supplement, eliminate a certain food) and then even if I continue with that change they return 2 months later and I go back to the drawing board. Nothing is wrong physically so I’m wondering if this really could just be “normal”.

    I’m thinking it could have something to do with a very hidden allergy or it’s sub-conscious creation.

    We shall see…

    1. Paige Avatar

      Hi Laura, sounds like you are doing some amazing things to support your health! I’m inspired:) Thought I would share this with you since I didn’t see you mention it and maybe it could be a resource for you? In my search for understanding my super intensely painful periods I’ve started physical therapy to address my tight pelvic floor muscles. My therapist (a woman) works intravaginally to release tight muscles. She also works externally on my abdomen, as that has been a source of restriction. I’m only about a month into it, but also started a daily yoga practice to help stretch and open the muscles of my pelvis. I’m hoping that it will help…

    2. Claire Mc Avatar
      Claire Mc

      Hi Laura,
      You are taking such good care of your body.
      I’m in a similar situation. I live a holistic, sugarfree, grain free lifestyle with lots of organic veg & meats.
      I don’t get any symptoms before my period but during I can suffer extreme cramping. I can be almost cramp free for a few months & then there’ll be 1 or 2 months when it is terrible. It was like this when I was a teenager before starting the contraceptive pill. Been off the pill now for 4 years.
      Everything else is very regular so I guessing it is maybe genetic.
      One thing I have noticed is that I take a potent nutritional supplement but I will have some gap days as I’m not keen to supplement all the time. Interestingly, my cramps do seem to be more present in the months following the gap days. I’m going to test it out by not doing the gap days. A friend of mine just started the same supplement & the first thing she said is her period cramps have gone.
      Vitamin B1, B6, B12, E, C & D all seem to be very important for period support. Vitamin B6 helps the body produce ‘good’ prostaglandins that help relax muscle rather than the other prostaglandin that causes contrations & pain. Hoping this is the key.

      Hihi & in the end, as just take it as the Universe’s way of saying I really need a rest day & to be uber gentle with myself (challenging sometimes when the cramps kick in).

  7. melissa Avatar
    melissa

    I don’t have cramps but I am irritable and have a short cycle. Has anyone tried the YL progessence plus oil from day 14 on… it contains progesterone and vitex. Did it work? Is it no dairy or is raw fine?

    1. Tracy Avatar

      Yes this technique is called”oil therapy” ,is very helpful for balancing hormones and used by many naturopaths.You take flax or fish oil for the first half of your cycle and on day 14 you take borage or evening primrose oil ( to raise progesterone and balance hormones) This is helpful for women of all ages with hormonal problems from menarche through menopause. Be patient,your hormones will take afew months to balance…..and follow all the healthy lifestyle recommendations on this website ?

  8. Hannah Avatar
    Hannah

    Thanks for this! Nothing major going on as I have always had a clockwork cycle with regular periods and normal ovulation. I’m fortunate to have avoided hormonal birth control methods opting instead for a Natural Family Planning – based device called Lady Comp. I also switched to a menstrual cup a little over a year ago (I use Lunette). Despite all of that I have always had cystic hormonal acne and have had some pretty bad hirsutism in my chin that tells me my hormones are NOT completely balanced. Trying to figure out where to start and this is all very useful information!

    1. Paige Avatar

      Hi Hannah,
      I noticed on your post you mentioned hirsutism on your chin. I too have had that for over ten years (I’m in my mid thirties). I wonder if you’ve found any helpful information about that? I’m currently working on finding natural remedies for severe monthly cramps that started about a year ago. I’m hoping as my hormones balance that the chin hair issue will resolve itself:)

  9. Hannah Raye Avatar
    Hannah Raye

    Hi, Would Avocado oil be considered one of the good guys? Where would you place amongst the natural oils/fats?

    Thanks again, love this article!

  10. Sarah Avatar

    Great advice on supplements etc., however I do not recommend the Diva cup. As convenient and comfortable as it can, unfortunately it can easily throw off the ph balance of your vagina causing bacterial vaginosis . This happened to myself and a friend and it was not very convenient in the long run! Really sad cause I thought the Diva cup had changed my life for the better during my cycle : (

    1. Cheryl Avatar
      Cheryl

      Sarah, were you using soap or a cleansing product to clean your diva cup? Using soap will alter the ph levels and is not recommended. I use a Mooncup in the uk and only ever use water to clean it, water is ph neutral and won’t alter the ph balance at all. Not sure what the diva cup is made from, but Mooncup is medical grade silicone and I have had no issues for nearly 5 years using it.

  11. Tonya carr Avatar
    Tonya carr

    I get really bad cramps what is gud for the crampin sometimes feels like bad labor pains ugh hurt

  12. Jan Avatar

    I wish I had found these types of remedies earlier in life. I am now past that time in my life–Praise God! However, my 13 yo just started menstursting for the first time yesterday. She’s been having cramps off and on over the past few months. Since she is so young, is there a specific regime you would suggest?

  13. Ashley Avatar

    Hi, so I’ve been waiting for my periods to start back up again as I had been on the depo shot, and I have been experiencing rather painful cramping. I had gone on the depo because my periods have always been very excruciating, I would go so pale that people thought I was dying and had in between medium and heavy flows. I have troubles finding natural remedies for the pain as some of the things you’ve listed here I’m actually allergic to (coconut oil and fish) so I am unable to use/consume them. To top it off, my sugar levels drop very quickly when I have any kind of blood loss, especially when it’s comes to my menstrual cycle. I am just wondering if there’s any other fruits or vegetables that will help, or any supplements that I could possibly add into my daily smoothies to help make my menstrual cycles go, well, a lot smoother? Thank you in advance.

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Are you using disposable feminine products, or reusable? I know that when I switched to reusable it made a big difference for me.

  14. rachel Avatar

    Man, I suffer from bad Period Pains…. I get bloated, fatigue, back and stomach pain, and razor sharp pains in my abdomen/up through my uterus that lasts for a few seconds. When I get my period this usually means that I am bed bound for three-four days….as you can imagine it really sucks that it stops you from doing daily activities. Nothing that I try really works for me… I have tried Ibuprofen, hot water bottles, heating pads, tea, exercise and rubbing some specific aromatherapy oils on my belly to act as a pain reliever..

    I see on this post that there are alot of natural remedies for these kinda cramps, but my questions are; How do I know which remedy is for me? How do I find out what I need to change in my lifestyle to make things better? Where would I even get this stuff??

    Any help would be greatly appreciated as I am a very stuck woman with a very irritating problem!! Thanks….

    1. Samantha Avatar
      Samantha

      Rachel I am not a medical doctor, so please know that I am not offering medical advice only personal opinion. I have endometriosis III, and use many of the options reviewed on this site. I suggest trying to up your magnesium and trying the red raspberry leaf tea for your next cycle. You can find these products at who.e foods or online at Amazon.com. I suggest these two first because magnesium is a supplement that aids with pain. Raspberry Leaf Tea because it seems to have an overall popularity per my personal rest his online and personal use and results. You will probably still have to use pain killers as you had been while you are trying things out, but you will get a sense, month to month which things help and which seem to worsen symptoms. Note that some herbs and supplements require time to build the system, but magnesium and raspberry leaf tea, for me at least, seemed to give some immediate relief. It takes time though, to try many things and build an arsenal. Best of luck. Also, if you haven’t seen a licensed Medical Doctor for these symptoms, I would do so as soon as possible. It sounds like endometriosis, but you need to see a professional for the appropriate exam,tests, procedures, diagnosis, etc.

      1. Dr. Deborah Avatar
        Dr. Deborah

        Improving the quality of your nutritional intake, to reduce your overall level of inflammation (because processed food, and personal food sensitivities even to whole foods, are a huge source of inflammation), would make the biggest difference. This question is fairly old, so who knows if you’re still following this post… but how far along are you in implementing the really good and down-to-earth nutritional guidance available here on Wellness Mama? This is a great resource, and improving your nutrition will make a world of difference.

        Second, reducing or cutting out your exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals (of which there are so many!) is also of critical importance.

        It’s harder to get relief if you have endometriosis, as opposed to “regular” dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps), but the initial approach is the same (right diet, avoiding chemicals) and most critical.

        1. Melissa Avatar
          Melissa

          I had endometriosis and after just switching to a whole foods diet, taking a good multi and Ca/Mg, while avoiding gluten and dairy reduced my cramps drastically. Still need ibuprofen but the pain was finally under control. Used to get sharp nauseating pain that led to me throwing up and writhing in bed for hours. The next thing that helped me further was following the ALCAT food sensitivity test results. I could go most periods without any pain meds. And finally what allowed me to get pregnant (in the first cycle!) after 7 years of infertility, was surgically removing my endometriosis by a very successful world-renowned surgeon. (Dr. Hilgers of NaproTech) And still almost 3 years since the (very easy and natural) birth, I have either no cramps or a tiny bit of dull ache on day one. And I no longer avoid, just limit, gluten and dairy or restrict my diet otherwise. Still nourish myself with supplements and a properly prepared whole foods diet. Hope this helps someone out there with similar issues of severe endo pain and infertility.

  15. Sarah Avatar

    I have suffered from horrific cramps since giving birth to my last child. Thru the use of the natural progesterone you suggested, and a little Clary Sage rubbed on my abdomen- I have really noticed a difference. I recently switched from to the Diva cup from the Keeper, and find it much more comfortable!!! Thanks for the tips!

  16. sue Avatar

    I suffer severe pms and am perimenopausal,i cannot take most supplements due to being on antidepressants for 5 yrs ,I have been off them for 9 months now,but still suffer bad pms 7-10 days before menses and during,i also suffer bad anxiety and am on anti anxiety meds for past 5 yrs too,i am trying to get off them but the process is very slow and hard,any advice would be helpful,i tried vitex agnas cactus some months ago and got what seemed like hot flushes in my legs I could feel the blood getting hot in my legs

  17. Ashley Avatar

    Hi, came across your blog because I’m looking for natural remedies to solve PMS. So far we seem to be in line on a lot of things, which is so encouraging! I have hypothyroidism, take nature-throid (which is a natural form of the medication), and use progesterone cream. Because I am gluten-intolerant/Celiac, I avoid gluten (the last 4 years) and have also taken out sugar (the last 4 years) and dairy (the last year). But still my PMS symptoms are just awful. Long and painful. My husband and I have been married for 3 years and I’ve never been on birth control, we’ve just used natural family planning. The last year we’ve been a lot less careful, both okay if I conceived, but it hasn’t happened yet. I am in the process of taking out all hormone disrupting lotions/body washes and I use a natural foundation. I tried Maca (Now brand and Enzymatic Therapy brand) – the Now brand made me psycho, and other than some increased energy, the ET brand didn’t do much. I’m thinking that’s not the remedy for me. Would you recommend using both Vitex and Magnesium at the same time? Would that be the best combo? Just curious on your opinion. Thanks for any help/advice!

  18. Jennie Avatar

    I have a moon cup and cloth pads, they are my best friends during my period. I had debilitating cramps, they were so bad a would cry and be unable to walk. I would be practically bedridden for a week every month. Now my periods are tolerable, and I don’t dread my periods. The natural options are better for leakage protection too, my underwear has been stain free 🙂 If you are considering switching I urge you to do it! You won’t regret it.

  19. Afra Avatar

    This article was really really useful. Since I am breastfeeding I have been looking for more natural ways to balance my hormones. For some reason since I got married and since I moved to the US I feel like my body, hormones and mentality has changed alot. I think due to my diet here and also lack of exercise and possibly contraceptives I have had lots of issues with libido, and very bad PMS. Now that I am breastfeeding and feel like these issues are really affecting my marriage, what can I take that won’t affect my supply, to help (other than introducing diet changes and exercise which is what I have been attempting recently).

    Thanks in advance!

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