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Menstrual Cramps & Vitamins

author image Sara Police
Sara Police has been writing nutrition and fitness-related articles since 2012. Her research has been published in scientific journals such as "Current Hypertension Reports," "Obesity" and the "American Journal of Physiology." She holds a PhD in nutritional sciences from the University of Kentucky and teaches online nutrition courses for Kaplan University.
Menstrual Cramps & Vitamins
A young woman holding a cup of green tea while resing on the sofa. Photo Credit: Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images

Roughly three-quarters of adolescents or women experience pain associated with menstruation, reports PubMed Health. Primary dysmenorrhea -- menstrual cramps -- are caused by muscle contractions in the uterus, which feel like abdominal cramping. Many women find mild relief from menstrual cramps by changing their diet, using vitamin supplementation or practicing mind-body stress reduction exercises such as yoga and tai chi, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center website.

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Crank Up the Calcium for Cramp Relief

According to a 1998 review published in Nutrition Noteworthy, increasing calcium intake has been shown to help reduce menstrual pain. Try to reduce menstrual cramps naturally by adding calcium-rich foods to your diet, such as almonds, kale, broccoli, oats, spinach and beans. Dairy products, such as yogurt and milk, and fortified vegan milks and juices are also rich sources of the mineral. The recommended dietary allowance -- or RDA -- of calcium for adolescents is 1,300 milligrams per day; for adults, 1,000 milligrams per day. Calcium citrate is the form of calcium that your body most easily absorbs. Consult your doctor before taking calcium supplements.

Take Fish Oil to Combat Cramps

Fish oil reduces inflammation naturally, and it’s the anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil that probably reduce menstrual cramps, according to the NYU Langone Medical Center. A small study published in the April 1996 issue of American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology showed reduced menstrual cramps in teenage women who took a fish oil supplement. In the study, women who took fish oil reported significantly reduced menstrual pain compared to the placebo group, who did not take fish oil. Once the placebo group started taking fish oil as well, they experienced the same benefit. There's no set intake recommendation for fish oil, and taking a supplement might cause side effects, so make sure to check with your doctor before you start.

Take Magnesium to Reduce Menstrual Pain

In a 2001 Cochrane review, three clinical trials demonstrated that increasing magnesium was more effective than placebo to reduce menstrual cramps. The need for pain relievers was also lessened in the magnesium group. Taking magnesium for three days prior to starting your period has also been found effective to reduce menstrual cramps. Be cautious when taking magnesium supplements since taking too much can lead to diarrhea and reduced blood pressure; ask your doctor about taking magnesium if you have digestive issues or heart disease. Magnesium can also interact with some prescription medications, such as types of antibiotics, bone-building drugs and diuretics. If you take regularly prescribed medications, talk with your pharmacist to avoid drug interactions.

Revamp Your Diet and Rethink Your Drinks

The University of Maryland Medical Center website suggests healthy habits to alleviate menstrual cramps. Eliminate fried foods and baked goods containing trans fats; instead, use healthy cooking oils, such as olive oil. Eating foods that are naturally high in antioxidants may help relieve cramps; these include all types of berries, tomatoes, bell peppers and squash. Avoid coffee, soda and other caffeine-containing beverages as well as alcohol. Instead, try green tea, which is high in antioxidants. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated; at least six to eight glasses of filtered water daily.

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