Dysmenorrhoea (painful periods)

Dysmenorrhoea is painful menstruation. It affects as many as 50% of menstruating women, and of these, about 10% have severe dysmenorrhoea, which greatly limits activities for one to three days each month. It is classified as either primary or secondary. Primary dysmenorrhoea is due to excessive contraction of the uterus which causes cramping pain and sometimes nausea and vomiting . The pain tends to decrease with age and very often improves after childbirth. Anti-inflammatory drugs which prevent the formulation of prostaglandins may be helpful. The contraceptive pill, which blocks ovulation may also alleviate symptoms.

Secondary dysmenorrhoea is menstrual pain caused by another condition such as endometriosis, fibroids, chlamydia or pelvic inflammatory disease.

Dysmenorrhoea includes symptoms of abdominal bloating, frequent and intense cramps, pain below the waistline, or a dull ache that may radiate to the lower back or legs. There may also be symptoms of headache, nausea, diarrhoea or constipation, frequent urination, and, occasionally, vomiting. The symptoms usually occur just before or during the menstrual period.

Natural remedies can be very effective for primary dysmenorrhoea. For secondary dysmenorrhoea, refer to the sections on the particular underlying cause.

Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)

Supplement/Herb What it does Dosage
Magnesium Muscles require magnesium in order for them to relax, so low magnesium levels often result in muscle cramps. The muscle-relaxing effects of magnesium are helpful for menstrual cramping. 200 – 600mg
Niacin Increases blood flow and helps reduce the severity of menstrual cramps in women with dysmenorrhea. Additional vitamin C and bioflavonoids may be helpful as these help to improve the vasodilating effects of the niacin. Dosages may need to be increased to maintain the flushing effect. 100-500mg per day (build up slowly) Begin 7-10 days prior to the beginning of the period with lOOmg morning and evening, increasing to lOOmg every 2-3 hours during cramping.
Omega 3 fatty acids It’s anti-inflammatory and blood thinning actions can help to improve blood circulation and reduce menstrual cramps. 1000 – 3000mg daily
Dong quai An effective analgesic, also may help to improve circulation and promote muscle-relaxation relieving menstrual cramps. 100 – 300mg daily

Diet and Lifestyle Factors


Increase your intake of:

Oily fish for the anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids that help prevent cramping of the uterus.

Wholegrain cereals, yeast extract and bananas for B vitamins.

Nuts, seeds and avocados for vitamin E

Soya products for phyto-oestrogens

Brazil nuts, shellfish for selenium

Pineapple and pineapple juice for their healing enzymes which also help to reduce inflammation of the lining of the uterus.

Reduce or avoid:

  • Sugar
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Processed foods
  • Caffeinated beverages

Alcohol because it depletes stores of certain nutrients and alters the metabolism of carbohydrates—which in turn might worsen muscle spasms. Alcohol can also interfere with the liver’s ability to metabolise hormones. In theory, this might result in elevated oestrogen levels, increased fluid and salt retention, and heavier menstrual flow.

Trans/hydrogenated fats found in processed food.

Stress, anxiety and tension may make dysmenorrhoea worse, so yoga, pilates, meditation and relaxation may also help. Regular physical exercise helps to regulate hormones. 20 minutes swimming, gardening or brisk walking at least 3 times a week is recommended.

Homoeopathic Remedies which may help. (Refer to the individual remedy for guidance on the one that is most appropriate for you.)

  • Actaea Rac
  • Belladonna
  • Chamomilla
  • Lachesis
  • Nux Vom
  • Pulsatilla
  • Sepia

Suggested further reading:

  • Cramps and the pill
  • Self help for cramps




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