Our Top 5 Vitamins for Alleviating Period Cramps

Our Top 5 Vitamins for Alleviating Period Cramps

Vitamin supplementation can be an effective alternative solution to period cramps, especially when paired with a hormone supportive diet and lifestyle. Period cramps or dysmenorrhea affects roughly 80% of women of reproductive age. It’s estimated that the average woman misses nine days of productivity per year because of period pain. Unfortunately, many women suffer in silence with period cramps. They are often told that the only solution is to shut down the reproductive system, with an option like an oral contraceptive. Although this may work in the short term, oral contraceptives can further deplete vitamin stores. Our recommended list of vitamins work to combat the mechanisms that drive period cramps. 


Why do Period Cramps Happen?

Period cramps have a role in the menstrual cycle. Their purpose is to help rid of the uterine lining at the end of the menstrual cycle. This process is carried out by hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. These prostaglandins trigger the muscles in your uterus to contract, allowing the uterine lining to be shed. Prostaglandins are also elevated when menstrual hormones like estrogen and progesterone are out of balance. Cramps can occur when estrogen levels rise and progesterone levels are not adequate enough to counter-balance estrogen. This is especially common in teenage girls and perimenopausal women. Progesterone is an important hormone that should be elevated in the second half of the menstrual cycle, following ovulation until your next period. Progesterone works to alleviate period cramps by aiding in relaxing the uterine smooth muscles. However, many women have low levels of progesterone. The three most common causes of low progesterone levels that we see in practice include: high cortisol levels, high androgen levels such as in PCOS and women that are perimenopausal


Vitamins for Period Cramps

Vitamin E as Tocotrienol

Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin that is essential to the function of our brain, cells, reproduction and skin. Vitamin E is a group of eight fat soluble compounds. These include: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. In our podcast episode with researcher, Dr. Barrie Tan, he shared about the superior power of the vitamin E compound, tocotrienol. Tocotrienols offer 40-60 times more protection and power versus tocopherols. When you purchase Vitamin E at the store, it is often in the tocopherol form. Instead, we recommend the tocotrienol form. Tocotrienols are incredibly effective for period cramps because of their ability to suppress prostaglandins. Tocotrienols directly block inflammation pathways and when combined with other nutrients like Vitamin B6, have an even more powerful anti-inflammatory effect. 

Dosage recommendations: 100 – 200 mg per day with food. Do not combine with alpha – tocopherol form of Vitamin E.


Vitamin B6

B6 or pyridoxine is a water-soluble vitamin and essential nutrient. It is important for both brain development and the function of the nervous system. It has been shown to be significantly better than placebo for period cramps and premenstrual depression. Research done in pregnant women with morning sickness has shown effectiveness of Vitamin B6 for treating nausea. Nausea is another PMS symptom that women may experience due to elevated prostaglandins and B6 can help.

Dosage recommendations: 50 – 100 mg per day. Do not exceed 200 mg of B6 per day. 


Minerals – Calcium and Magnesium

There are seven main minerals. These include: calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride and sulfur. They each play essential roles in every cellular function in the body. There is ample research to show the role of minerals in reproductive function and hormone production in women. For example, lower calcium levels have been associated with lower progesterone levels. A deficiency of the mineral magnesium may also lead to decreased uptake of iodine by thyroid cells, thus leading to low thyroid function. Magnesium in the dosage of about 300 mg per day appears to be an effective supplement for decreasing premenstrual symptoms like cramps, headaches, back pain and mood disturbances Calcium has also been shown to be an effective strategy for decreasing premenstrual pain. Disruption of calcium regulation may be an underlying factor in recurrent period pain. When calcium and magnesium are combined together, there is a greater decrease in pain level. 

Dosage recommendations: 300 – 600 mg magnesium and 500 – 1000 mg calcium


Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are an essential fat part of the polyunsaturated fat family. They are an essential nutrient, meaning we must eat or supplement them, our body cannot manufacture them. It has been shown that over 95% of children and 63% of adults are deficient in Omega 3 Fatty Acids. In our private practice, we see this number even higher, with nearly 95% of omega 3 index panels coming back low. Omega 3’s have several roles in our body. They play a role in prostaglandin production through inhibiting an enzyme called COX that produces prostaglandins. This is one of the mechanisms as to how they work for period pain. Research shows that when used consistently for three months, women experienced reduced symptom intensity and were able to decrease the amount of ibuprofen used for period pain. 

Dosage recommendations: 1000 – 2000 mg/day with food.


PMS Solutions

With the proper vitamin regimen, period cramps can be a thing of the past. As I shared with SHAPE Magazine, many of the above nutrients listed can also be found in food. However, food provides much smaller quantities. We recommend incorporating both food and supplementation so that you can obtain the therapeutic dosage necessary to notice a dramatic difference in your period pain. It’s important to also be patient as it could take 2-3 menstrual cycles of consistent use to notice dramatic changes in your period pain. Curious to dive deeper into understanding your hormonal levels that could be influencing your PMS symptoms? Learn more about our hormone testing packages here.

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