Long term debilitating period pain is unfortunately something that presents to me in my private Naturopath practise far too regularly. Discomfort in the lower abdomen, back and stomach, aching down the legs, even nausea, headaches, loose bowels and in the chronic cases, vomiting.
Also referred to a dysmenorrhoea, period pain can be caused by the contraction of your uterine muscles during menstruation, but is also a major symptom of conditions with abnormal tissue growth and inflammation, such as endometriosis and fibroids. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in 2012, endometriosis may be a contributing factor in more than 20% of women with chronic pelvic pain. (1)
Does that time of month roll around and cause you to retreat and dose yourself up on pain relief? Read on to see if you can introduce some natural (and dare I say unconventional) ways to prevent your dreaded period pain and associated symptoms.
Castor Oil Packs
Castor oil packs are a simple treatment that can help a wide range of conditions, including the prevention of period pain. They work by increasing the circulation and promoting elimination and healing of the tissues and organs underneath your skin.
When a castor oil pack is applied, the oil is absorbed through your skin and has a relaxing action on the smooth muscle beneath. This positively affects all of the hollow organs in that area plus your liver, blood, lymph vessels, uterus, fallopian tubes, bowels and gallbladder.
Specifically, castor oil packs can be applied to help stimulate the detoxification function of your liver and lymphatic system, helping to overcome oestrogen dominance symptoms and the oil itself can also relieve pain. Conditions that may benefit from castor oil pack treatment, include:
- Uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts (non-cancerous), for both relieving ovarian pain and assisting the healing process after a cyst has ruptured
- Painful menstruation
- Liver disorders
- Constipation and other digestive disorders
- Gallbladder inflammation or stones
Instructions for administering a castor oil pack:
- Soak a piece of calico, cotton or a wool flannel (the thinner, the better) in castor oil and place it over your abdomen, particularly around the liver area (right hand side, just under your rib cage) or the area of your pain.
- Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap (only if you are concerned about making a mess), followed by a hot water bottle or heat pack. If using plastic, be careful to avoid plastic contact on your skin.
- To prevent period pain, use a minimum of three times per week for 30-60 minutes over your liver area- especially in the week leading up to our period.
Note: Although they will help symptomatically for any pain, to avoid heavy bleeding you should not use the castor oil packs during menstruation. Instead perform castor oil packs between periods as a preventative for menstrual discomfort.
The active ingredients of coffee have shown outstanding healing properties when used in an enema. Instead of sipping on your morning brew, it is inserted in the other end by the means of a long tube and bucket called an enema kit.
Yes, I can see those cringes and giggles (nothing out of the ordinary) but if you can see past the initial squirming thoughts, have a read and see just how powerful this cleansing practice can be for your hormone health and therefore preventing period related pain. The benefits of a coffee enema include:
To successfully clear out old wastes from your blood, it is crucial to have a well- functioning liver. Any detox program that doesn’t facilitate the removal of toxins via your liver will be detrimental towards your health. Enemas do just that, promoting a healthier inside. You will feel better on the outside, with increased energy, clearer thinking, improved concentration and memory and healthier skin, just to name a few. Enemas are also handy for a hangover (for the occasional times you may have a few too many) because they help rid the body of the toxic overload that results from drinking alcohol.
Toxins are bound in the liver with bile, which enables its safe elimination. Coffee enemas help to increase the production and flow of bile from your liver and gallbladder, therefore a greater detoxification of toxins occurs when coffee enemas are administered. This even includes enhancing the effects of a parasite cleanse.
The underlying cause of pain is generally triggered by circulating toxins in your body. These toxins irritate your nervous system, contribute to heightened inflammation production and can lead to health challenges such as depression and anxiety, among other pain related conditions (enter period pain). Coffee enemas help to remove these culprit toxins and halt the inflammation cycle in its tracks.
After retaining the coffee liquid inside for 10-15 minutes, almost all of the caffeine is absorbed. It travels through your haemorrhoidal veins, directly into your portal veins and into your liver. It is important to understand that the coffee enemas are not performed for the function of your intestines, instead they support the stimulation of your liver.
An effect occurs contributing to dilation of your bile ducts, an increased bile flow and counteraction of any inflammation in your gut. This is due to theobromine and theophylline found in the coffee. An increase in the enzyme system responsible for detoxifying carcinogens, toxins and free radicals in your liver and small intestine, called glutathione S-transferase system (GST) also occurs due to the palmitate extracted from the coffee. Glutathione S-transferase is crucial for the production of your master antioxidant and detoxifying molecule in your body, glutathione.
Coffee enemas will not be beneficial for everyone. Those that should steer clear of the detox procedure include anyone with:
- Renal, cardiac, or respiratory failure (seek medical advice)
- Bleeding or ulceration in the colon tract
- Hypertension and tachycardia
- Cardiac, respiratory, or renal insufficiency
- Pregnant and breastfeeding mums
How to perform a coffee enema
This recipe recommend is based on the Gerson Therapy recipe and was endorsed by the late Wellness Warrior, Jess Ainscough.
What you’ll need:
- 6 tbsp organic ground coffee (not instant)
- Filtered water
- Fine mesh strainer
- Enema kit
- Coconut oil or aloe vera juice, for lubrication
- Hydrogen peroxide, for cleaning
What you’ll need to do:
- Boil enough coffee for two enemas, just in case you can’t hold the first one for very long and want to try again. For two enemas, bring one litre of water to the boil in a pot on the stove
- Once boiling, remove from the stove and add six tablespoons of organic ground coffee. Boil for three minutes then reduce to simmer for another 15 minutes
- Remove from the stove and strain the coffee through a fine mesh strainer. Strained this way will ensure you retain some silt in the enema, which is high in palmitates
- Add one cup of coffee liquid to your bucket and top it up with 2 cups of filtered water
- Hang or sit the enema kit on a tap, door knob, or vanity bench, so that the outlet of the bucket is approximately 40cm –1m above your body (lying down). Make sure you are set up close to the toilet
- Turn the valve tap to OFF position
- Ensure you have a towel and a pillow on the oor, to keep you comfortable
- Pour the enema liquid, lukewarm, or body temperature, into the enema bucket
Administering the enema:
- Open valve to clear air out of tubing, being careful not to lose much liquid, then turn valve tap off
- Lubricate the tip of the catheter (coconut oil). You should lie on you right side, insert the tip of catheter approximately 10cm deep, with both legs drawn close to the abdomen to allow uid to run into the bowel slowly and avoid cramping. e bulk of the enema can then pass into your large colon and be absorbed by the mesenteric veins, which deliver the co ee directly to the liver. Turn the tap on, to let liquid flow in
- Once you have reached the maximum quantity of liquid that you can hold (or all of the liquid), turn the tap off, remove catheter and lay back retaining the fluid for 12- 15 minutes
- Pass the enema on the toilet, a er 12-15 minutes
- Clean your enema kit with hydrogen peroxide and water and let it completely dry before putting the kit away (to prevent mould growth)
For best results, aim for a coffee enema 1-3 times per week, especially in the week leading up to your menstruation, to prevent unwanted period pain. Your bowels can continue operating independently even when taking the enemas and start functioning on their own afer the enemas are discontinued.
Nutrients & Herbs
Depending on the cause of your menstrual discomfort, herbs and nutrients may offer you further liver support and relief from period pain.
Oestrogen is a proliferative hormone when in excess levels in the body (oestrogen dominance) and can manifest as abnormal inflammation and growth. An example is the growth of uterine tissue in the inflammatory conditions of fibroids and endometriosis, which can present through symptoms of menstrual pain, heaviness and clotting. (2,3,4)
You can learn about diet culprits which fuel inflammation, oestrogen dominance and therefore painful periods in this post. Instead focus on a gut supportive anti-inflammatory diet which includes fermented foods and bone broths. Making up my Veggie Juice For Healthy Hormones will also provide anti-inflammatory and liver supportive properties from the ginger and turmeric, as would my Turmeric Milk.
Detox supportive nutrients which help to manage oestrogen dominance include glutathione, B vitamins, probiotics, iodine, magnesium, selenium and zinc. Indole-3 carbinol found in cruciferous vegetables and calcium D glucorate found in orange, apple, brussel sprouts, broccoli and cabbage also help to promote healthy oestrogen metabolism. Chaste Tree (Vitex Agnus Castus) is a herb that can be used (under a guidance of a Naturopath or Herbalist) to help promote healthy progesterone levels in the body, which will help to naturally balance out oestrogen levels and prevent PMS related symptoms.
The mineral Magnesium also provides anti-inflammatory support and relaxes your muscles. Increase your levels by soaking yourself in an Epsom Salt or Magnesium Chloride salt bath/ foot bath. Alternatively you can lather yourself in Magnesium Chloride spray in the week leading up and during your menstruation.
Specific nutrient dosage information and further detox support can be found here.
Protect Your Liver For Pain Free Periods
The liver plays an important role in metabolising your hormones. By supporting your gut health with nutritious, anti-inflammatory foods, less toxins will be passed through your small intestine and into the bloodstream. This will naturally help out your liver, as it will be left with enough energy to focus on hormone metabolism.
Introducing liver supportive regimens like castor oil packs and coffee enemas can further encourage healthy hormone detoxification in your liver and promote healthy hormone balance, inflammation levels and therefore pain-free periods.
For my further support to maintain a nourishing anti-inflammatory diet and introduce detox support regimens to help out your hormones and overall health and wellbeing, check out my upcoming Vibrant Woman Challenge. You can find out more over here.
What are your favourite natural ways to reduce period pain?
Love, health & happiness,
(1) American Society for Reproductive Medicine (2012). Viewed Feb 2016, https://www.asrm.org/BOOKLET_ Endometriosis/.
(2) Bulun SE, et al. Aromatase in endometriosis and uterine leimyomata. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2005 May;95(1- 5):57-62.
(3) Bulun SE, et al. Uterine broids. N Engl J Med. 2013 Oct3;369(14):1344-55.
(4) Greenspan FS, Gardner DG. Basic and clinical endocrinology. 6th edition. Sydney, Australia; Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill, 2001:Pp 459.