Transcript: Dietary Treatment for Painful Menstrual Periods
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful, crampy periods. It affects almost half of menstruating women, yet despite the substantial effect on quality of life and general wellbeing, few women will seek treatment as they believe it won’t help. There are treatments available, though. Modern medicine to the rescue. There are surgical options such as neuroablation, where surgeons go in and attempt to cut or destroy the nerves leading to the uterus, or doctors can just take out your uterus completely, though there are certainly a bunch of hormones in pills and shots that can suppress the menstrual cycle.
Since the pain is caused by inflammation, anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen are the most commonly used, achieving symptomatic pain relief in about two thirds of women. These drugs are effective, though women using them need to be aware of the significant risk that they may cause adverse drug side effects. Though there are a bunch of non-drug, non-surgical treatments like acupuncture, the evidence for the effectiveness of these treatments is generally weak.
One of the latest advances in treatment involves the use of a single high dose of vitamin D. Take a look at this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The placebo did nothing, in fact, most women got worse, but the women who got the vitamin D all felt better.
But wait a second! If it's pain caused by inflammation, how about putting women on an anti-inflammatory diet? 33 women suffering from painful periods were placed on a vegan diet for two cycles and experienced significant reductions in menstrual pain duration, from 4 days down to 3 days, and a significant reduction in pain intensity, as well as an improvement in symptoms of PMS symptoms like bloating.
This was a crossover study, so after two months eating vegan the women were supposed to go back to their regular diets, to see if the pain would return, but the women felt so much better that when the researchers said OK, now we need you to go back to your regular diet to test before and after, several said İNo way José! and refused even though they were required to by the study.
Doctors too often patronizingly think that patients simply won't adhere to therapeutic diets, but when they surveyed these women during the study, not only did they have fewer cramps, but they were losing weight, reported increased energy, better digestion, better sleep. This showed that you don't have to be in some Ornish or Esselstyn study facing certain death after a heart attack to stick to a plant-based diet. It's well accepted even when testing more benign conditions.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.
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