The menstrual cycle is integral to a good third of a woman’s life. Along with menstruation though there can be a host of symptoms that may cause problems. Because of the nature of this, I will have three posts over three days on this focusing on different parts of the monthly cycle and what can affect it.
First of all, the science behind your menstrual cycle.
We start the cycle on the first day of bleeding. In this time the body is shedding the lining that has built up in the uterus, as no egg has been implanted.
There are 5 hormones involved with the menstrual cycle.
Gonadotrophin Releasing Hormone (GnRH) is secreted by the hypothalamus and will stimulate the release of both LH and FSH. In the first week or two of the menstrual cycle GnRH is high.
The anterior pituitary releases Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which promotes the growth of the follicle (the fluid filled sac with the premature ovum in it). This is low at the beginning of the cycle but does rise a little as the follicle is formed, and drops down as LH rises before ovulation.
Luteinizing hormone (LH) is also low at the beginning of the cycle, but will spike later to cause ovulation.
Oestrogen is initially low and rises as the follicular phase goes on, then dropping when LH spikes.
Progesterone levels aren’t very low in the follicular phase, they will increase after ovulation.
The most common complaints in the follicular phase (first 10 or so days) are related to menses or the period itself. Commonly cramping and pain, clinically known as dysmenorrhea. There is also a condition called endometriosis where the endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, causing extreme pain- if there is extreme pain then it does need investigation.
Before Homeopathy, consider lifestyle and diet. Regular exercise can help, and a diet low in pro inflammatory foods like grains and sugar will also decrease the body’s production of the pain and cramp inducing prostaglandins.
Supplements to consider include Magnesium- this is important for the contraction and relaxation of our muscles, not enough causes cramping sensations. Particularly if you have a craving for chocolate (which has high levels of magnesium) before or during your period you may be deficient and a supplement could help.
Omega 3 (fish or krill oil) may help. Our typical western diet is grain heavy and therefore has many more Omega 6s than there should be in comparison to Omega 3s. Omega 6s are precursors of prostaglandins, while omega 3s decrease the production of those prostaglandins and instead produce a less inflammatory type.
Homeopathy can also support the body. I highly recommend a consultation for constitutional treatment. While you can use the below remedies for the symptoms, the best treatment is to deal with the underlying cause. There are over 400 remedies with dysmenorrhea as a symptom, which means these are just a few well indicated remedies and professional help to find the best one for you might be needed.
Magnesium phosphoricum- this can be used as a tissue salt (6x) or in homeopathic potency (30c). Pains are cramping, relieved by warmth and made worse by motion.
Belladonna – pain before the flow starts, and a feeling of heaviness or impending prolapse- must sit good straight. Pains come and go suddenly and flow may be clotted. Pains are cutting through the pelvis horizontally.
Viburnum Opulus – sudden pains in the uterus before the period and backache during the period. Pains are spasmodic, bearing down, aching in sacral and pubic region, excruciating cramping in the abdomen and occasional shooting pains in the ovaries.
Xanthoxylum – agonising, burning pains, extending down thighs with a feeling that the limbs were paralysed. Period is heavy and comes with bearings down pains. May also have a headache over the left eye the day before the period.
Cimicifuga- pains fly from one side to the other, sharp pains and need to bend over, flow may be light and pains are not as severe as other remedies. May have a headache before the period arrives.
Pulsatilla – griping pains that make them bend in half. The more severe the pains the more chilly they get. The flow (and the pains) can come and go and may be dark in colour. They may also be weepy and/or need company.
Cocculus – pain feels as if sharp stones were rubbing against each other in the abdomen, and can feel bloated. Pains are worse at night and they can be irritable. Flow may be dark in colour and clotted, and sometimes they can be nauseous.
Other things you could do-
Body work in the form of Osteopathy can help. I do not know enough to recommend them but you could also enquire about Bowen therapy or chiropractic. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can also be helpful, and no doubt there are herbs that a Medical Herbalist could prescribe.
If you are looking at medicines, pick a NSAID (non steroidal anti inflammatory drug) over paracetamol. Nurofen is commonly used but Naproxen has a stronger anti inflammatory effect and is more effective. It does need to be taken with food, and take the recommended dose for the shortest possible length of time, but don’t chase the pain- it’s better to take regularly for the length of time you are in pain rather than take one dose then wait until you’re in agony before taking a second and waiting for it to kick in again. If you are on any medication, have a history of stomach or gastro intestinal problems, asthma or any medical conditions check with your Pharmacist first.
Low progesterone levels may sometimes be a contributing factor to dysmenorrhea. Progesterone will lower the pro inflammatory prostaglandins. Speak to your doctor about hormone testing and/or ask about bio identical progesterone cream; it is usually applied after ovulation to mimic the natural rise of progesterone and stopped when the period is due. It is not funded and has to be ordered for you so allow a few days to get it and ask how much it costs when going to your Pharmacy (the Doctor is unlikely to know).
Sometimes the combined oral contraceptive pill is recommended for severe period pain. I really feel this should be an absolute last resort after looking at everything else, especially for teenaged girls. While it can give relief it is not solving the underlying problem, and it does have a range of systemic effects.
Send me a message if you would like to discuss how I can help with period pain. I will refer you to your doctor or another health professional if I feel like you need a diagnosis or help that I cannot provide.
Graphic of the menstrual cycle hormones taken from this blog – https://neuroendoimmune.wordpress.com/tag/follicule-stimulating-hormone/