period pain: the (not so) fun facts and natural remedies.
Period cramps… there’s a lot of mystery as to why we have them, and how to naturally help soften the anguish. Let’s bust a few myths, for the 80% of women and non-binary people with vulvas who experience them during their cycle.
1. Why do periods hurt?
Don’t worry, this isn’t a biology lesson! In short, uterus contractions restrict the oxygen supply to neighbouring blood vessels and muscle tissue. As a natural response, our bodies release prostaglandins and the uterus muscles contract further. It’s just Mother Nature doing her thing but unfortunately it can trap us in a vicious cycle of discomfort.
2. Mainstream tampons are most likely making things worse.
Big-brand tampons, pads and panty liners contain a great number of chemicals - including phthalates, bisphenols and parabens - which alter the body’s hormones. In fact, a recent study** published in January 2020 assessed that 24 different chemicals found across feminine hygiene products!
3. Toxins damage the reproductive cycle
Gynaecologist and co-founder of sexual health brand, HANX, Dr Sarah Welsh warns us that exposure to parabens, phthalates and bisphenols, can affect a woman’s reproductive system from fertility to the menstrual cycle and ovulation: “As a very vascular and absorptive area, we should be mindful of what we put inside our vaginas.”
Exposure to those nasty substances, means our menstrual cycles can be shortened, especially the luteal phase (ovulation and egg development) and the effect on our ovaries is a toxic one.
4. How to ease cramps naturally
People who use natural essential oils during their period - sage, lavender and rose - have also reported experiencing less pain and discomfort. Turmeric and evening primrose oil are also our friends. Their natural properties reduce inflammation and, when put to the test, they come out on top. A heartwarming curry, or Turmeric tea for cramps, could be simple and effective natural remedies to relieve cramps and an easy addition to your period care routine.
5. You can’t go wrong with a hot water bottle
There isn’t a one size fits all approach to stop period cramps. But since cramps often arise from muscle tissue lacking oxygen, it can be said that increasing the oxygen flow will ease symptoms.
Fresh air and exercise are both simple solutions to help relieve cramps. While heat from a hot water bottle or heating pad will stimulate blood flow. So if you can oxygenate the blood flow and keep it pumping and flowing, all the better.
** Section 4: research paper - “Phthalates, Bisphenols, Parabens, and Triclocarban in Feminine Hygiene Products From the United States and Their Implications for Human Exposure”