Why do Periods Hurt? The science behind Menstrual Cramps

·      Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

 PID is a bacterial infection of female reproductive organs. It is the result of vaginal infections or sexually transmitted infections. Pelvic pain, discharge, and an inflamed vagina are the main symptoms of PID. 

·      Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a common hormonal disorder in women. It involves a large production of hormones like androgen. Irregular periods, heavy bleeding, and severe cramps are common in women who have PCOS.

Menstrual Cramps and Inflammation

Premenstrual syndrome or (PMS) is the condition of the body prior to the menstrual period. The terms PMS encompasses physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms that occur a week or two before the menstrual cycle. Cramps can occur either during PMS, periods, or both. 

Scientists have found that PMS and cramps are heavily associated with inflammation. Inflammation occurs as the uterus contracts to expel the endometrial lining. It is also the main culprit of pain during a period.

Research shows that acute inflammation causes PMS. This inflammation is the consequence of a biomarker called C-reactive protein or CRP. This suggests that taking anti-inflammatory medications can prevent or minimize menstrual cramps in the first place. 

What other symptoms occur due to inflammation in periods?

Not every woman experiences the same level of inflammation during her period. The above conditions and disorders that cause severe cramps induce high levels of inflammation. This is why the association of inflammation and PMS differs for everyone. Although many factors affect PMS, inflammation plays a mechanistic role. Inflammation during the menstrual period not only causes severe cramps but other symptoms too. If you frequently experience these symptoms during your period, you probably know who the main culprit is:

·      Frequent acne and breakout on the skin

·      Heavy flow

·      Muscle and joint pain

·      Dizziness and headache

·      Pelvic pain

·      Diarrhea or nausea

·      Mood swings

What can help fight off inflammation during the periods?

Some anti-inflammatory medications and suppressants can help ease the inflammation, thus reducing the menstrual pain.  If inflammation isn’t too severe, natural remedies can reduce the pain. 

Diet and exercise have a significant impact on the body’s inflammatory system. Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet can help a lot in this regard. Several foods promote the production of prostaglandins in your body. It is necessary to avoid such foods before and during the periods.

 Anti-inflammatory diet and periods

It is best to avoid foods that are rich in fatty acids, especially trans fats. Fatty acids are the precursors of prostaglandins. So consuming fatty acid-rich food will produce a higher amount of prostaglandin, which will cause more pain and inflammation. Packaged foods, soybean oil, canola oil, peanut oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil are some common examples.

Other foods that promote inflammation are sugars, processed carbs, processed meats, vegetable oils, and alcohol. 

Include anti-inflammatory foods in your diet. You have a long list of foods to choose from. It includes leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, beans and legumes, oats, and nuts. Certain fruits like strawberry, avocado, and blueberry are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods. Also, fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are good candidates as well.

 Can Exercise help with period cramps?

 Exercise can prove beneficial in reducing menstrual cramps. Exercises to ease menstrual cramps do not have to be heavy or too exhausting. Performing light exercises like swimming, walking, and cycling daily can help lower your menstrual pain. Nonetheless, you have to be consistent for a month. 

Exercise has several positive impacts on your health. One of these impacts is reduced inflammation if you remain consistent. Also, exercise releases endorphins that can significantly reduce menstrual cramps.

Wrapping Up

Menstrual cramps usually do not cause other medical complications. But they case a lot of pain, discomfort and can interfere with routine. The main culprit for menstrual cramps is inflammation. However, other factors like stress, lack of sleep, unhealthy diet, and dehydration can cause pain as well.

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