I have suffered with severe menstrual cramps and severe menstrual pain for over 10 years of my life. In fact, it was one of the reasons why I decided to go raw vegan, and why I was extremely strict with my diet for a long time. I kept believing that through a strict raw vegan diet, I could solve my severe menstrual pain. But surprisingly, I discovered that diet was important, yet not the central pathway to alleviating my painful cramps.
I am elated to write this blog post. Perhaps elated is not the right word – I don’t even know what is, in this case. Ever since I started Soul in the Raw in 2013, all I wanted was to be able to write a blog post about how I solved my menstrual cramp problem so that I could support other women suffering from this, and share my “secret”.
In this blog post, I want to share my horrific menstrual cramps journey with you, as well as the 5 surprising things that have helped me most in healing. I would never have expected that these 5 things would lead me to reducing my menstrual cramps, and that is why it’s even more important for me to share them with you.
I really hope that I can help many of you who are suffering, and many men who can pass on the information to their partners, girlfriends, friends, sisters, and mothers.
Watch the video here:
Severe Menstrual Cramps: Before the Trauma
I was home alone with my mom, 13 years old, when it hit. I cried none stop, because I believed that from now on, I am not “modest” anymore. I am a woman.
I wore thick black glasses to cover my eyes, and met my older best friend who laughed at me and my dramatic showcase of movie-like emotions.
I remember how sad I was, because I thought that I had now lost my innocence. And in a way, it was true. My family loved and sheltered me before it started. Very soon, I was about to discover how cruel the world could be.
It may sound silly to you that when my period came at 13 years old, I behaved like a dramatic young “old lady”, like a scene from a dramatic film. It’s somewhat funny to me now, but also sad considering the events that were about to happen.
Severe Menstrual Cramps: My Story
My menstrual cramps didn’t start until about 2 years later. At 15, I met a guy who would tear my life apart, and I strongly believe that my body, exhausted, started to hurt at the physical stage of his attack.
At 15 years old, and for another 2 years, I was sexually assaulted. My innocence was quickly broken, and the “silly” sadness of that 13-year old became very real.
When they hit, it was like a rolling tsunami attack on my poor, young body. The pain was unbearable, indescribable. It had no mercy or breaks. It paralyzed me for the first day of my period, every month.
I remember lying in bed, crying my eyes out. Praying. Just wishing it would stop. One day, during standardized testing at my high school, I got up from my seat, walked to the bathroom, and fainted from the severity of the pain.
When I was 21, I drove home from work when it just started. On my drive, it started becoming too much. I stopped the car, unbuckled my seat belt, and got out to sit on the curb and rest a minute.
Instead of sitting on the curb, I ended up face down, on a major 2-lane road. I fainted too fast to get to the curb.
I relied on Ibuprofen, in heavy doses. 10 pills a day would make the debilitating pain go away. A few days before it started, the faint signs of the attack on my body would begin, and I would tense up. My whole body would tense up and I’d think about nothing else than the insanity of what would overtake my body very soon.
Severe Menstrual Cramps: The Raw Vegan Diet
At 23, I went raw vegan. It took me a while to stop eating cooked food, and to transition to a fully vegan diet, but I got there eventually, hoping that it would stop the demon living in my body.
At first, it seemed that my menstrual cramps were getting better. For the first few periods, I felt some signs of relief, and began to get excited.
But it all went downhill from there. Each period was worse than the one before. Until one day, the worst of them all came.
I was laying on my bathroom floor, my partner next to me, and my mom hovering above me. I could barely open my eyes. I was so weak that I could only whisper, and the only thing I could say was, “I think I am dying. Please take me to the ER”.
I really did think I was dying. The pain was so severe that I continually came in and out of consciousness. They gave me the ibuprofen, and after 30 minutes, I came back to my sense and felt perfectly fine.
But I was scared. I was terrified of it happening again. I was exhausted, and sad, and disappointed that nothing I did was working. I was trying to eat perfectly, to exercise, and it wasn’t helping.
In my desperation, my anger, my fear, my self-hatred, I was ready to do and change anything. And I started researching like crazy.
Severe Menstrual Cramps and Inflammation
My online research led me to come across this study. The 2016 UC Davis study showed that inflammation is closely tied to severe period pain.
This made so much sense, because the only thing that would ever help stop the pain was Ibuprofen, a strong anti-inflammatory drug I was taking, and basically overdosing on.
The problem? Ibuprofen has consequences and scary side effects for the liver. It is a chemical, a pain killer that I really didn’t want to be taking.
Moreover, pain killers caused my body to be numb, like it was when I was sexually assaulted. It was shutting down my body, and forcing it to stop feeling. Taking this pain-killing drug created an even stronger disconnect between my body and I.
After I was sexually assaulted, I became strongly disconnected from my body, not wanting to experience all of the painful feelings my body was going through. One of them was probably these horrific menstrual cramps.
Severe Menstrual Cramps and Non-Diet Related Issues
Another thing I started learning about is that my hatred for my body, my stress about the cramps themselves, and my disdain for my period were all a big part of the problem.
These are not scientifically proven, but they are hugely based on my own experience. The angrier I was at my body and my period, the more my period would hurt.
The more stressed I was, and the more sad or uncomfortable I felt while pushing that sadness and discomfort away and not really feeling it, the worse my period cramps would be.
For women, trying to hide being on our period is part of a societal norm. Periods are treated as something shameful that should be hidden publicly, and never discussed.
Fortunately, my amazing partner did not treat it this way. He asked me many open questions about my period. I was really surprised that a man could treat a woman’s body in this way. He also noticed and constantly brought before me the issue of my general disdain for my body and its physiology.
Severe Menstrual Cramps: Where am I at Now
I want to be extremely honest with you. I still experience menstrual cramps, even after eating a vegan whole food plant-based diet for 6 years.
However, these days, I don’t have the need to take Ibuprofen. I don’t throw up. I don’t faint. My level of pain is at a 6/10 at the maximum.
Some periods, I am able to exercise and run on the first day of my period. This is a miracle. Some periods, I have to lay in bed on the first day and relax, and then the pain goes away after a while.
I feel so much freer, because I know that each month, it gets better and better. And I also know that my menstrual cramps were there to teach me something important. They had a role in my life. A role that I want to share with you now.
Severe Menstrual Cramps: The 5 Surprising Steps to Reduce Menstrual Cramps Naturally
Based on this story, and based on all of the research I did and the observation on my own body, here are the main 5 things that massively helped me improve my period cramps:
Eradicate tension and stress, and listen to my body
This is the most important thing I do to improve my menstrual cramps.
I try my best not to stress out, and to pay attention to when tension creeps up on me.
I really hate it when I read these articles about alleviating certain physical issues, and they say “relieve stress”. Ok, thanks. But how?
I cannot overemphasize the importance of alleviating stress in this case. Stress will cause your muscles to tense up, and your period to hurt so much more. Stress is the cause for a whole host of illnesses in the body, and there is a plethora of research on this.
If you learn to alleviate stress, it will help you in all areas of life.
Coming from a woman who is literally an expert at finding things to stress over, all the time, I can tell you that the best, most practical thing that has helped me is to meditate for 20 minutes per day.
I meditate for 10 minutes in the morning, and 10 minutes at night. I started about 2 years ago, and it has never been easy for me. It’s a practice that gets better and better each time I do it.
It has helped me sleep better, be more self-aware, have better digestion, be happier, and just love life so much more. It is my #1 health tool right now, and when I miss it, I totally feel the difference.
These are the guided meditations I love the most in a playlist. Close your eyes, sit or lie back, and give yourself those 20 minutes a day. Trust me, you will not regret it.
Doing guided meditations has seeped deeply into my everyday life. I have become more aware of everything I do, feel, and experience as a result.
Respect my period and my body
If you’ve read this entire blog post, you can probably tell how much I hated my period. I hated every part of it, since the day it started.
But now, I understand why it’s here, and why it used to hurt so much. It’s here because it’s a way for us to clean and detoxify our body naturally, a way that men don’t have. It has an important function of renewal and regeneration, and I have grown to respect this.
For me, the menstrual cramps are a reminder that I need to reset. Whenever I have a stressful month, or a month in which I don’t give myself the space I need: I don’t meditate, journal, or process my feelings in any way, my cramps come back, at least a little.
I am a very sensitive person, and my body easily absorbs the bad energy of other people. If I don’t process my feelings somehow (usually through just letting myself be super sad, super happy, or just feel uncomfortable and not run away from those feelings via TV, social media, or 500 other things), my period hurts.
I am grateful to my period for being a constant reminder that I need to relax, I need to recharge, and I need to listen to my body. I know that if I don’t do those things, there will be consequences. If I don’t do those things, these unprocessed feelings could easily turn into a life-threatening disease.
Consume a whole-food, plant-based diet
You should not stress about your food choices, because this causes stress like anything else.
As a raw vegan, I constantly stressed out about what I was eating: was it healthy enough? Is it ok to crave something else? Was I doing something wrong? This is part of the reason I stopped my strict raw vegan diet and transitioned to a high-raw vegan, whole food plant based lifestyle that I absolutely adore.
A whole food, plant based diet is about delicious, comforting food. It’s ok to comfort yourself with food sometimes, and it’s ok to enjoy your food.
This lifestyle is the best way to avoid foods that will make you sick, while still enjoying the most delicious, amazing food you could ever imagine.
If you don’t believe me, just try this 2-week whole food plant-based meal plan. It is a pure, simple, easy and insanely delicious. It will satisfy you on every level, and make you feel your best. And it’s crucial to dealing with menstrual cramps, because it avoids the main foods that are an underlying cause for them.
Consume anti-inflammatory foods
Per the study I mentioned above, I learned the importance of not only eating a whole food plant-based diet, but also of consuming specifically anti-inflammatory foods in my diet every single day. And it works like magic!
Various studies have found that turmeric is a more powerful anti-inflammatory than many common NSAIDs, which are anti-inflammatory drugs, such as the Ibuprofen I was taking.
What I take against inflammation daily: ¼ teaspoon of turmeric with a pinch of black pepper, and 1 tablespoon of flax seeds. I also try to eat ginger and cayenne pepper as often as I can.
Click here for 3 of my favorite turmeric recipes so that you can start incorporating it into your diet too.
And here are 3 ways I like to eat flax seeds.
Buy these anti-inflammatory spices:
My Emergency Cocktail
And finally, when nothing works, and I get some menstrual cramps, I turn to my disgusting emergency cocktail. Here is the recipe:
2 teaspoons calm Magnesium
¼ teaspoon turmeric
A pinch of black pepper
¼ teaspoon ginger powder
A pinch of cayenne powder
1-2 cups water
The taste is horrible, but it works miracles!
I hope my story has been helpful and inspirational to any of you suffering with terrible period cramps like I was. Please let me know in the comments if you have tried any of these tips, and if you can relate. If you have any questions, please post on the free Raw Souls Facebook group.
My goal is to help you escape the prison of painful menstrual cramps, and to learn to love your body a little more, each and every day.
Yours with love,
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