For some women the time of the month can mean mild discomfort. For others it can mean excruciating and crippling pain. Many reach straight for over-the-counter (OTC) remedies such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and paracetamol without a second thought. But as I have mentioned in previous emails, these so called harmless quick fixes can wreak havoc on your gastro-intestinal system.
Todays e-alert was prompted by one of my work colleagues. She is one of the unfortunate women whose monthly cycle affects her so badly that she has to take time off work. I searched for natural alternatives to harmful OTC pills and came across the following studies which show promising results.
Vitamin E may ease the pain
Dysmenorrhoea (period pain) is very common in young women and 90% of all cases are classed as primary dysmenorrhoea. This means that the pain is not caused by a medical condition which requires further tests. Typical symptoms include cramping, lower abdominal pain, and may also include backache, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, headache and lightheadedness. Sometimes these symptoms cause so much discomfort that they interfere with peoples everyday lives.
The first study was conducted by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Tarbiat Modarres University (TMU), in Tehran, Iran to study the effect of vitamin E in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhoea.
The randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was held at a secondary school in Tehran, tested 278 girls aged 15-17 who suffered from primary dysmenorrhoea. The girls were given 200 units of vitamin E or placebo twice a day, beginning two days before the expected start of their menstruation and continued through the first three days of bleeding. This treatment was continued over four consecutive menstrual periods.
The TMU researchers were measuring the severity and duration of pain, and the amount of menstrual blood loss, at two and four months. A visual analogue scale (VAS) was used to record pain, and a validated Pictorial Blood Loss Assessment Chart (PBLAC) to measure menstrual loss.
The results in the vitamin E group were:
- Pain severity was lower with vitamin E at two months and four months
- Pain duration was shorter at two months and at four months
- Blood loss assessed by PBLAC score was lower at two months and at four months
The researchers concluded that vitamin E relieves the pain of primary dysmenorrhoea and reduces blood loss. This study did not mention which form of vitamin E was taken in the study.
So if you do suffer from dysmenorrhoea, increasing your vitamin E levels may help. And as we have reported before it also has many other beneficial antioxidant effects.
Pine bark decreases pain levels
Another trial in Japan tested the effect of Pycnogenol, the French maritime pine bark extract on menstrual pain.
The Japanese researchers treated 47 patients aged 21-45 with 2 capsules (30mg) of Pycnogenol twice a day. This began on the eight day of the first menstrual cycle and continued until the seventh day of the third menstrual cycle. The improvement was evaluated using the Wilcoxon rank sum test during the first, second and third menstrual cycle.
The results showed that continued treatment with Pycnogenol during the second cycle significantly lowered abdominal pain scores compared to pretreatment values. The number of days with back pain decreased.
This led to the conclusion that Pycnogenol has a potential analgesic effect on menstrual pain.
This is great news for women who suffer from dysmenorrhoea. Pycnogenol can only be bought on a private basis at good health food shops and Internet sources.
As always we urge you to consult a health professional before starting a new supplement regimen.