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. Candy Avatar

    I am thankful for this information. A few months ago, I started having the most painful menstrual cramps ever

  2. Rosemary Avatar
    Rosemary

    Hi Katie, just wondering why there are 2 different progesterone creams in this post? Thank you, Rosemary

  3. Ciara Avatar

    I eat a ton of animal fats and I truly believe it’s the reason why my period cramps are now non existent. I used to get them so bad when I ate the standard American diet that it would sometimes cripple me to the couch. Usually when I tell other women they look at me like I have 3 heads because they just can’t wrap their head around the fact that fats from animals are actually healthy for them.

    1. Sandra Deem Avatar
      Sandra Deem

      Where do you have done ypur research? There’s evidence of animal products being a reason for heavy periods and pms

    2. Sandra Deem Avatar
      Sandra Deem

      They are not. Of course you will feel better, if you come from a high animal fat diet to a “healthier” high animal fat diet, but that doesn’t make the healthy.

  4. Jennie Avatar

    Livia is pretty awesome for immediate relief. You have two sticky pads that you put over the area that hurts, and you turn the unit on. It almost has a buzzing or tingling sensation, but it helps with the pain a lot. I use it for non menstrual pain too, like neck pain or if I have a stomach ache.

  5. Arizona Avatar

    To be quite honest none of the above works when you have actual cramps in the middle of the night and have taken your fare share of pain killers on your 3rd hot water bottle ect

    Is there any immediate reliever for cramps

  6. GinGin Avatar

    Maca has helped my pms symptoms. I’m stil quite emotional and cry a day or two before my period. I think it helps with cramps and heavy bleeding by balancing hormones.
    Be warned, maca may make you horny! Not kidding here folks. Add that to being single and mid 30s and in good shape (lots of energy) and it makes me kinda crazy. Maybe a little insight of what it’s like to be a hormone-charged man.
    Really though. Maca is awesome for energy. I stop taking every other month for a week or two as I was worried about too much building up. I am a moderation girl. Although I eat a half an avocado almost everyday!

  7. Marolyn Avatar

    The healthy/unhealthy fats were new information for me, but most of the herbs I knew in the back of my mind and forgot. Thanks so much for the reminder! I have tried a Diva Cup, but my flow is so heavy the first two days or so, I wind up changing the cup as often as every hour or even 45 minutes. I liked the cup, and I am wondering if the flow will slow down a bit with the use of some of the herbs? Days 1-2 are spotty, days 2-4 are heavy and crampy, days 4-9 are spotty again, with occasional heavy bursts. It would be nice to level out the flow some, reduce or get rid of cramping altogether, and have a more manageable cycle. Thanks so much for the information, and keep up the good work!

  8. Tony Avatar

    A few things to keep in mind when trying natural remedies: everybody is different, so what works for one person unbelievably well may not work for you. So there may be some trial and error to find what works best for you. If you are on any medication, always check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure there won’t be any interaction between a supplement and your medication. There are also online resources to check for this. And remember that natural remedies take longer to work than drugs. Usually I will try things for at least 2-6 weeks, sometimes up to 3-4 months, before seeing results. Over time, you can fine tune what you take for best results. What’s really nice about going the natural route is that many times, other problems fade away, too. One last thing – it’s always a good idea to cycle herbs (5 days on, 2 days off; or 6 days on, 1 day off; 3weeks on, 1 week off) – they work better that way and give your body a break. I personally use different cycles for different supplements. Hope this helps.

  9. Deirdre Avatar

    Thank you Wellness Mama. Can you get that from your doctor or natural health shop? How did you know how much to use?

  10. melissa Avatar

    I have heard progesterone levels should be between 18 to 25. I have started using young living progessence oil. It is sweet yam oil and vitex chaste berry oil. I also bought the mighty maca greens and vital protein collagen. I really hope they help me and I hope they help you!

  11. Deirdre Avatar

    Hello, I’ve been reading this post with great interest. I came off yasminelle birth control almost a year ago now and I’m still not back to myself. The thing I found so difficult was chest pains and joint pains. I also got severe bouts of anxiety in the first few months off of it. I’m coping with the anxiety side of it but the joint pains and chest pains are really getting me down to the point where I have considered going back on birth control. I’ve had all the heart tests done and MRI on brain because I was dizzy etc and everything came back fine. I had hormone blood test last month which said my progesterone was at 4.2 but the nurse said they like it around 17 I think but when I spoke to the doctor she said it was fine unless I’m trying to conceive……. I bought maca yesterday but I’m not sure how I’m doing on it- I feel a few slight headaches, is this a normal thing??? I also have Angus castus but I’ve been scared to try it. Can anybody relate to the joint pain??? My doctor wants me to get checked for fibromyalgia but I was perfectly fine until I stopped birth control so I think it’s hormone related. But they said the pill leaves your system in a matter of days. I’m doing a lot better than I was 6 months ago but I just want to feel great again. I don’t get excited about anything anymore. I got a new car last week (by new I mean newer than my old 16 year old car) and my sister said I wasn’t one bit excited looking getting it. I’m a single mom and I just want to get back to enjoying life again. I feel like I’ve aged into an old women… I’m only 33 but my mom has more energy than me!!!! I’m rambling on here a bit….. Sorry!!! I have tried multivitamins and stress b complex, taking osteocare tablets and vitamin D and magnesium. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      When I had low progesterone, I used a natural progesterone cream for the second half of my cycle and it made a huge difference for me… Hope you find answers and feel better soon!

  12. Nat Barden Avatar
    Nat Barden

    Hi there,

    I’ve suffered with painful periods ever since I’ve had them and have been taking Evening Primrose oil for years. This was really helping and stopped the very painful breast tenderness, menstrual cramps for sometimes 3 weeks of the month and helped the pain during the period to reduce. For a few years I was ok on 1000mg a day but I know find I can only get relief by taking 2000mg. I’m very aware that EPO is an Omega 6 so could be causing all sorts of inflammation in my body and possibly not helping the histamine reactions I’ve developed to a lot of food. Although this, I’m pretty sure is directly linked to my Methylation issues which are exacerbated by the Epilepsy meds I have to take which make me deficient in Glutathione and B vitamins.

    I’m not sure what to do about this situation as the pains are very intense if I don’t take the EPO and I don’t like to take too many painkillers.

    I would really appreciate your advice.

    Many thanks,

    Nat

    1. Deborah Epstein Avatar
      Deborah Epstein

      Nat, I hope it’s helpful to learn that while EPO is high in GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), which is in fact an omega-6 fatty acid, GLA is an omega-6 that behaves more like an omega-3. Meaning, it’s anti-inflammatory. I hope that eases your mind.

      And you’ve brought up so many things (methylation, glutathione, etc.), that I’m hoping you have local access to a good naturopathic doctor, to help you optimize function in the context of your personal challenges.

      If you’re getting histamine reactions to food, are you aware of how to eat to account for that? You might check out https://healinghistamine.com/.

      Many blessings and best wishes,
      Dr. Deborah Epstein, ND

      1. Nat Avatar

        Dear Deborah,

        Many thanks for your reply. That is reassuring to hear about the EPO although I’ve decided to come off it and up my Agnus Castus/Chasteberry tincture. I’ve yet to have a full cycle so I will see how this goes!

        Thank you I’ve researched low histamine foods and stick to a low histamine diet but may try Quercetin and see if that can help a bit.

        All the best,

        Nat

  13. Ginger K Avatar

    Thank you for your awesome site, it has changed our likes. I was hoping you could provide some insights for those of us heading into the next phase of life. I’ve turned fifty and am having difficulty with night sweats.

  14. Sara Avatar

    Katie, You saved me this month. Ive been using Natural Progesterone cream for the past 9 months. I’m getting my period on time every month, but the cramps are not not normal. i used to have cramps for days, but since i started this cream the cramps are worse, but it’s only for 2 days… I told my Chiropractor i feel like i’m in labor. I get very pale, extreme nausea, super weak and cramps so bad i can’t breath. i take 3 motrin every 3 and a half hours. This month even that was not working, i read this post and drank red raspberry leaf tea. It worked! i was able to breath. So thank you so much!

  15. Michelle Avatar

    I am currently laying on my back at 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon. There is Christmas shopping to be done and crafts and cookies to be made….Memories to be formed and moments to be savored… But here I am. Day 1 of my period. Coming off of 5 days of wanting to leave my husband, screaming in my car behind the Home Depot, and literally waking up to have tears come welling up before I even have a chance to think of something sad. This last bout of PMDD has brought me to my knees, praying to God to please help me get past this hormonal agony every month.

    My symptoms are so clear and present, like a cheesecake drizzled in chocolate sauce, you can cut them with a knife, categorize, and recognize them. These symptoms have created a serious conflict in my life. Now my husband has no clue if I have psychotic ramblings or true feelings that need validation.

    My hormonal shifts are ruining my life and affecting my relationships. Psychiatrists are there to prescribe a myriad of pills with haneous side effects that can actually exacerbate mental symptoms or create new negative symptoms while diluting other symptoms. Trust me, I know this because I’ve just spent a year on a roller coaster of meds which I eventually and abruptly ended 3 months ago and honestly never felt better!

    Now, don’t get me wrong, the psychiatrist has value. They have pills to treat symptoms in their Arsenal and rarely dig under the surface of symptoms for solutions like nutrition and biology. Sometimes a pill is an answer and many times it’s better as a temporary answer not a maintenance medication. I want to know this….

    WHY ARE WE NOT EVALUATED BY AN ENDOCRINOLOGIST? Why are we not studied more on this textbook moodswings and just thrown anti depressants and antipsychotic medications that have negative effects on our lives and make big pharma rich?

    Remember, you are reading the ramblings of a very crampy, very tired, chocolate fiending carb junkie at the moment. I may sound cuckoo. But at this point in my life, I’m tired, drained, and just plain angry I have to go through this garbage. Do I have to go to medical school myself to get some answers? I just want HELP!

    1. Kara Avatar

      This is the comment I was waiting to read. In the 5 days before my period I want to leave my husband and my children, I can’t cope with everyday things. I lash out, angry, mean. I used to take vitex and it helped a lot.

      I don’t get severe cramps anymore and the solution I found was high doses of calcium at the start of my period. About 1000mg a couple of times. Works really well.

  16. Heather Avatar

    Why shouldn’t coconut oil be heated? We often deep fry with it. I guess that’s a bad thing? What oil would you use to deep fry? Thanks!

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