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Tips for Managing Menstrual Cramps in the Summer from a Gynecologist

From Sherry Thomas, M.D. 

The traditional way of dealing with menstrual cramps -- the good ol’ heating pad -- is so yesterday. And in the summertime, who wants to be hugging the equivalent of a toaster oven? The latest research suggests there are much better options for fighting off menstrual distress. Here are my top five recommendations:

1. Stay away from foods that can cause bloating. Some foods that are nutrition super-heroes the rest of the month may provoke bloating right before and during your period. That includes legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils) and cruciferous veggies (like broccoli and kale). Likewise, dairy products and whole grains can be bad factors during this time. Be extra careful to stay away from anything with lots of sodium, which is well-known for causing bloat.  But... this is a good time to be reaching for ginger. It has long been a traditional medicine for fighting inflammatory disease, and recent research says it can help tame cramps. It's available as a supplement on the vitamin aisle.

2. Go for gentle exercise and stretching. It's long been known that cardiovascular exercise helps direct blood away from places where pain is concentrated. That's partly because cardio revs up your endorphins, which are nature's pain reliever. In summer heat during your period, go for cardio, but do it indoors and kick it down a notch or two. An easy session on the treadmill or the elliptical can go a long way toward banishing the pain of menstrual cramps. It will also improve your mood on those PMS days. Any low-stress exercise, such as dancing or doing yoga stretches, can work wonders by making your mind and your body feel happier.

3. Hydrate. This is always a good thing, but even more so during your period. It will help ward off headaches and keep fluids in equilibrium at a time when your body chemistry needs every bit of help it can get. In summer heat, aim for eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water, spread throughout the day.

4. Get your beauty rest. Skimping on sleep during your period is an invitation to extra sluggishness when you already feel like a slug. Make your goal eight to nine hours of sleep.

5. I generally don't recommend specific commercial products for menstrual cramps. However, there's a new menstrual pad available featuring an innovative type of technology, and it is showing promising results for making cramps a thing of the past. The product is called the Nannopad, and it takes advantage of something called far infrared energy. Our bodies generate energy in the form of heat, and the Nannopad uses this energy to alleviate pain. It's like an updated version of the good ol' heating pad, but it's way more convenient and the best part is, you don't actually feel the heat.


Dr. Sherry Thomas is a uro-gynecologist practicing in Southern California.

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