Dietary Treatment for Painful Menstrual Periods

Dietary Treatment for Painful Menstrual Periods
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Women suffering with dysmenorrhea who switch to a plant-based diet experience significant relief in menstrual pain intensity and duration.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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, attempting 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 altogether.

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 of 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. A 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? Thirty-three women suffering from painful periods were placed on a vegan diet for two cycles, and experienced “significant reductions in menstrual pain duration” [from four days down to three days], and a significant reduction in “pain intensity,” as well as an improvement in symptoms of PMS, 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 okay, now we need you to go back to your regular diet to test before and after, several said, no way José, and refused—even though they were required to by the study protocol.

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 by people, even when testing more benign conditions.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Thanks to Ellen Reid, Maxim Fetissenko, PhD, and Laurie-Marie Pisciotta for their Keynote help.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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, attempting 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 altogether.

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 of 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. A 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? Thirty-three women suffering from painful periods were placed on a vegan diet for two cycles, and experienced “significant reductions in menstrual pain duration” [from four days down to three days], and a significant reduction in “pain intensity,” as well as an improvement in symptoms of PMS, 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 okay, now we need you to go back to your regular diet to test before and after, several said, no way José, and refused—even though they were required to by the study protocol.

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 by people, even when testing more benign conditions.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Thanks to Ellen Reid, Maxim Fetissenko, PhD, and Laurie-Marie Pisciotta for their Keynote help.

Doctor's Note

I’ve touched on this body of work briefly in Plant-Based Diets for Breast Pain. Plants that may be especially helpful include flax seeds (see Flax Seeds For Breast Pain) and the spice saffron (see Saffron for the Treatment of PMS and Wake Up and Smell the Saffron).

For those unfamiliar with the work of Drs. Ornish and Esselstyn, see, for example, my video Our #1 Killer Can Be Stopped or my blog post Heart Disease: There Is A Cure.

The vitamin D results were astonishing. See my series justifying my vitamin D recommendations, which includes Vitamin D Recommendations Changed and Resolving the Vitamin D-Bate.

For further context, check out my associated blog post: Treating Menstrual Pain with Diet.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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