Like a lot of other woman out there, I suffer(ed) from extremely painful period cramps. Going to be totally transparent here; I get the shits, sometimes throw up, get hot flashes, feel like I might pass out, someone might have stabbed me the stomach situation. I've had times in my life where I've missed school and work because of this. And missing work due to your period is usually not "acceptable". So I decided to share a few tips that are a bit more natural than popping 5 painkillers back to back while your on the toilet hunched over your sweaty body like a rag doll, wishing the pain away in time to get to work.
1) A whole foods plant based diet. Even if your don't normally eat this way, I recommend giving this a shot around the time of your period. This has been the absolute most successful for me because it actually prevents the cramps and makes my periods much lighter. When I say a whole foods plant based diet, I mean... non-processed fruits and veggies. Keep it as clean as possible. Stay away from tons of added salt and sugar. Stay away from meat and animal products, especially dairy. Avoid processed foods and junk foods like chips, soy meat substitutes, canned soups, sugary drinks, fast food, etc. Snack on nuts, dried fruit, avocado, veggies in hummus, fruit dipped in (all natural) peanut butter, homemade kale chips, banana "ice cream", etc. For dinner try black bean pasta, a baked potato and salad, zucchini noodles in a vegan pesto, etc. Stay hydrated.
If you're not vegan or vegetarian and don't ever plan to be, I would still give this a shot. One week before your period is expected to come, start incorporating these whole plant based foods, cut out animal products and processed & junk foods, and stay hydrated. Continue this throughout your period. When I do this, my periods are much less painful to painless, and much lighter and shorter. Therefore, handling period cramps isn't even an issue, because they don't really exist. If you're struggling, please give this a shot.
2) Ginger Chews. These things are a lifesaver. Whether you're on your period, sea sick, or just plain 'ol not feeling good, try these. They're very chewy, and spicy in a gingery way. Ginger has been known to help when you don't feel good for ages, but I like the chews way better than a ginger soda that's loaded with sugar. They're chewy enough that they kind of give you a distraction, something to focus on, that takes away from the pain. The wonderful gingery quality of these bad boys truly helps with nausea and stomach pains. I have found them at health food stores and health food aisles in normal grocery stores. I have also seen ginger gum, which is similar, and something you may want to try!
3) Heat. A heating pad, aromatherapy heating pad, heated blanket, cup of hot tea on the belly, or biomat treatment. Some heat on the belly really does work wonders. The yoga studio I work at offers biomat treatments. I haven't seen them everywhere, but if you can find it, definitely try it! It's basically a mat made of Amethyst crystal which is heated with infrared light and negative ion technology. Rather than just heating the outside of the body, it actually works to get you all heated and yummy inside the body. It is very healing and relaxing.
4) Honor your body. Follow your flow. I know in the fitness community there's this whole, stop for nothing, beauty is pain, mindset. Screw that. Personally, on the first or second day of my period I'm often exhausted. Like another level of exhausted. Your body is working really hard and exerting more energy than usual, AND messing with your hormones. So if you're feeling run down, then have a day of rest. You don't need to go to the gym, take that yoga class, or do the 10 errands you wanted to do today. Sleep a little extra if you can. Grab a hot tea, your heating pad, and lounge out while reading a book or watching your favorite series. Work from home. Or, maybe you want to take it easy but your body is really craving a burst of energy and a good stretch. Grab a yoga mat, a bolster or pillow, and blanket. Have a gentle yoga practice. Stretch out the hammys and hips. Slowly move through some sun salutations. Take a restorative child's pose with some pillows and a blanket. So good.
5) Breath. If I neglected to eat healthy, my cramps are full force, and nothing seems to be working...I'm likely laying in bed alternating between groaning and unsteady breathing. Which doesn't work. Start to breath long, deep, steady, inhales and exhales through your nose. Try inhaling for 7, and exhaling for 7. It's not going to eliminate all cramps but it definitely does help.
If I've done it all, and I'm still in a ridiculous amount of pain, I will take a couple of ibuprofen. Holistic health means taking all options into account and finding what works best for you. If the all natural routes aren't working for you, there's no shame in taking some painkillers. There might be some negative effects on your health, but overall, the painkiller is helping you eliminate pain and get through your day. It is benefiting you. If that is what's best for you, at that time, do it. No shame. I highly encourage you to try out some alternative options (especially #1!!!) for dealing with period pains and find a combination that works for you.