Most days, we really enjoy being the strong, fierce, Lean In–inspired women we are. There’s just that small period of time during the month when we curse our womanhood because of just that: our period. Simply put, the cramps that come along with it suck, and anyone who’s had to deal with the achy, dull pain can attest. United in our cause, we decided to see if there was anything—anything at all—we could do to relieve them. Eager to hear advice for our poor, bloated selves, we went straight to Dr. Frank Lipman, an expert in all things health and wellness who is board certified in internal medicine, with a background in acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and herbal medicine. Keep scrolling for his three tactics for kicking cramps to the curb!
You might be craving chocolate or chips before your period hits (or, let’s be real, before, during, and right after), but that’s actually a no-no. Lipman, who heads up the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center, says he encourages his patients to eat a whole-foods diet that’s low in sugar and processed food. “This is a key approach to healing, especially for hormonal system imbalances, which are often the root cause of menstrual cramps,” he says. He recommends incorporating healthy omega-3 fats into your diet, which can include walnuts, flaxseed, wild salmon, and sardines. On the flip side, make sure to reduce (or, ideally, eliminate) sugar and refined carbs like white flour. “Eating magnesium-rich foods or supplementing with magnesium throughout the month can be very helpful as well,” he says.
We already know that acupuncture has a number of beauty benefits, but did you know it can cure your cramps, as well? Acupuncture is rooted in the belief that qi, or life force, flows through your body’s channels and is tied to your health. The entire need application is done to help stimulate your qi to flow correctly and in the right direction. “Through regulating blood flow through to the uterus and relaxing the nervous system, certain acupuncture points may help soothe menstrual cramps through calming muscular contractions,” Lipman says. Studies have shown that acupuncture can relieve period paid, or dysmenorrhea, too—though, it may not be the convenient option when you’re in bed cursing your life.
You might use a hot pack to soothe cramps, but Lipman says you can take it a step further and DIY a castor oil pack. This is a go-to remedy among the natural-minded community—but be warned: It does get messy. Basically, it involves soaking dye-free wool or cotton flannel in castor oil then applying it to your body, wrapping it, and placing a hot pack on top. Yes, it involves a lot of effort, but people absolutely swear by the results. You can find out how to DIY one yourself here. If you’re not in the mood to DIY anything, you can simply massage the area with a hot water bottle or apply a heating pad—this will also help to increase blood flow and circulation to ease your cramps.
One last word of caution: Lipman says to remember that cramps can be a symptom of a serious underlying issue, like infection, endometriosis, or PCOS, so consult with your doctor each year for a thorough checkup.
If you’re going the DIY route, buy some hexane-free castor oil ($15) for your hot pack.
Have you tried any of these methods? Sound off below!