Period pain is a reality for roughly 90% of menstruating people, yet the options for relieving these symptoms are incredibly limited. As we wrote in an earlier post discussing the best herbs for natural period pain relief, many people with periods turn to NSAIDs like Advil and Ibuprofen, which frustratingly, have plenty of downsides.
For example, the FDA warns that NSAIDs (an acronym for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) can increase heart attack and stroke risk. Not to mention studies show 18% of women are completely unresponsive to NSAIDs as period pain treatment.
Due to their downsides and limited efficacy, many are left looking for more natural solutions. Supplementing with some nutrients can be a viable option for managing period pain. Low levels of some nutrients may be an underlying cause of period pain, while other nutrients may have therapeutic benefit in and of themselves.
For many, the world of dietary supplements is confusing. It can be difficult to flesh out what actually works, especially for your specific needs. To demystify things, De Lune's Lead Dietitian, Courtney Mayszak, RDN, LDN has reviewed hundreds of clinical studies to determine the best nutritional supplements to prevent and treat dysmenorrhea (i.e. common period cramps).
But before we begin, let's examine why nutritional supplements have the potential to work in the first place.
Understanding Period Pain & Supplements
Supplements can have strong physiological effects on the body. The amounts of certain nutrients in your system can affect how your uterus functions, and how you experience period pain.
Nutritional supplements are relevant to period cramps in two ways.
1. Low nutrient levels can make pain worse
Lacking certain nutrients may exacerbate period pain. Depending on your tastes, values, schedule, and any dietary restrictions you may have, it can be difficult to meet your nutrient needs with food alone.
It’s possible to have a suboptimal level of a nutrient in your system (that is, a level that can prevent your uterus from functioning at its best) without having an outright deficiency that you or your doctor would notice. Supplements can step in to help fill the nutritional gaps in your diet and lower your risk of period cramps.
2. Nutrients can directly ease many period symptoms
Studies show that, when some nutrients are taken at specific dosages, they can act therapeutically—sort of similar to how drugs work. Typically, these dosages are greater than what the diet can reasonably provide, so one often has to rely on supplements to achieve these dosages.
Best Nutritional Supplements for Period Pain & Dysmenorrhea Relief
While the research is still growing, clinical studies link certain nutrients to period pain relief. Many of these nutrients also have dozens of additional studies corroborating their effectiveness to treat many symptoms that may be exacerbated by menstruation.
Here are the best nutritional supplements for conquering your dysmenorrhea and period pain.
While it's gotten more attention in recent years, most people aren't aware that zinc can be found performing important functions in nearly all tissues and fluids in the body. It plays a role in the health of your skin, brain, and importantly—the muscles in your uterus.
But it's important to know that your body cannot create its own zinc, nor can it store zinc for long periods of time. Consuming enough through diet on a daily basis is critical to many aspects of your health.
The research supporting zinc and menstrual health is encouraging.
One study found that those who took zinc supplements experienced significantly less pain during their first cycle. Pain reportedly dropped even more during their second cycle, leading researchers to believe zinc supplements could be more effective when consumed consistently over many months.
Explore additional studies supporting zinc by reading our full post below.
Click to read more about the menstrual benefits of zinc
2. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is involved in over 100 enzymatic processes, so it's not surprising that its activity overlaps with the menstrual cycle. It plays a role in hormonal regulation, the immune system, and inflammation.
Perhaps the biggest opportunity for Vitamin B6 is in mitigating PMS symptoms. For example, a research trial of 94 women found that Vitamin B6 regulates several PMS symptoms, including mood, bloating, and anxiety. Another meta-study involving nearly 1,000 participants corroborated these results.
Find out whether you should supplement with Vitamin B6 in our full article below.
Click to read more about the menstrual benefits of Vitamin B6
Magnesium plays a critical role in muscular regulation. It helps relax the uterine muscles that, when tightened, cause period pain. Magnesium's muscle-relaxing affects also position it to help with other period-related symptoms, like sore thighs, back pain, and headaches.
One study found that taking a magnesium supplement for six months can progressively decrease dysmenorrhea symptoms with each cycle. As with zinc, this leads many researchers to believe that consistently ensuring proper magnesium levels on a long-term basis is one of the best opportunities to reduce period pain.
One study described magnesium as "a potential, natural opportunity to treat primary dysmenorrhoea, which is widely free of side effects."
Magnesium can also aid in mitigating the effects of PMS. When compared to traditional medications, one researcher called magnesium a "beneficial, low cost, and effective treatment for the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome."
Click to read more about the menstrual benefits of magnesium
Take These Supplements in a Streamlined Solution
You could take all this supplements separately, but you don't have to. We combined the most effective nutrients and herbs for period cramps into one solution: Cramp Aid. Learn more here.
This information is for educational purposes only and is neither intended to nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.