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What are Painful menstrual periods [Dysmenorrhea] ?

Most women have painful menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) from time to time. Menstrual cramps are one of the most common reasons for women to seek medical attention. The pain from menstrual cramps can range from mild to severe and can involve the lower belly, back, or thighs. You may also have headaches, nausea, dizziness or fainting, or diarrhea or constipation with your cramps.

During the menstrual cycle, the lining of the uterus produces a hormone called prostaglandin. This hormone causes the uterus to contract, often painfully. Women with severe cramps may produce higher-than-normal amounts of prostaglandin, or they may be more sensitive to its effects.

Cramping is common during the teen years, when a young woman first starts having periods. Primary dysmenorrhea is a term used to describe painful menstrual cramping with no recognized physical cause. It is seen most commonly in women between the ages of 20 and 24. It usually goes away after 1 to 2 years, when hormonal balance occurs.

Symptoms and Complications of Dysmenorrhea

The main symptom of dysmenorrhea is pain. It occurs in your lower abdomen during menstruation and may also be felt in your hips, lower back, or thighs. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lightheadedness, or general achiness.

For most women, the pain usually starts shortly before or during their menstrual period, peaks after 24 hours, and subsides after 2 to 3 days. Sometimes clots or pieces of bloody tissue from the lining of the uterus are expelled from the uterus, causing pain.

Dysmenorrhea pain may be spasmodic (sharp pelvic cramps at the start of menstrual flow) or congestive (deep, dull ache). The symptoms of secondary dysmenorrhea often start sooner in the menstrual cycle than those of primary dysmenorrhea, and usually last longer.

Other menstrual symptoms, such as weight gain, headache, and tension, that occur before your period begins, can be caused by premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Dietary factors that are thought to affect pain and cramps associated with menstruation are discussed below.

#1: Reduce Omega-6 Fats in Your Diet, Increase Omega-3 Fats

Excessive amounts of omega-6 can aggravate menstrual pain because these fats produce inflammatory substances such as inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes. Simply consuming less refined vegetable oils like corn oil and safflower oil that are high in omega-6 fatty acids and consuming more foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, and cold water fish like salmon, cod, and halibut) can help with menstrual pain.

 #2: Step Up Your Vitamin E Intake

A substantial intake of vitamin E a few days prior to the onset of and during menstruation has been shown to significantly reduce menstrual pain as well as to limit the amount of blood lost during menstruation. Sunflower seeds, spinach, vegetable oils (olive oil, sunflower oil, wheat germ oil), peanuts, avocado, almonds, shrimps, hazelnuts, asparagus, broccoli.

#3: Add Foods Rich in Vitamin B6 to Your Diet

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is a vital component of any diet aiming at reducing menstrual pain. This important vitamin plays a key role in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is thought to promote physical and emotional well-being. Good sources of vitamin B6 include bananas, lentils, chick peas, oatmeal, lean beef, wild salmon, and chicken breast.

#4: Consume Plenty of Foods Rich in Vitamin B3

One study found that vitamin B3 (niacin) was effective at reducing menstrual cramps in nearly 90% of symptomatic women. White meat and red meat, lamb liver, peanuts (oil roasted), mushrooms, green peas, sunflower seeds and avocado are the best sources of Vitamin B3.

#5: Ensure a Sufficient Intake of Calcium

Calcium has for long been known for its role in supporting strong bones, but few are aware that calcium can also help women who suffer from painful menstruation. Calcium-deficient muscles are more likely to be tense, which may trigger menstrual cramps. Skimmed milk and low-fat dairy provide a good source of calcium, without containing much saturated fats that are known to worsen pain during menses. If you are sensitive to dairy products, choose other sources of calcium such as green leafy vegetables.

#6: Add Zinc to Your Diet

Zinc consumption a few days prior to the onset of menses has been shown to prevent premenstrual pain and bloating. Wheat germ, spinach, pumpkin and squash seeds, nuts (cashews), cocoa and chocolate, beans (chickpeas), mushrooms,  oysters, red meat, and poultry are best source zinc.

#7: Consume Magnesium-Rich Foods

The restoring magnesium levels to normal can progressively reduce the severity and duration of menstrual cramps. dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit, dark chocolate, and more. The current daily value (DV) for magnesium is 400mg.

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Ranjana Mishra
Ranjana is a MSc. in Life Sciences (Bio-Chemistry) and is presently pursuing Phd. in Bio-Molecules. She is in the Products Research & Development Department in Herbalage and had got immense knowledge on Health & Diseases which she is sharing with us via her articles.

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