A Naturopathic Approach to Treating Dysmenorrhea

Do you get pain in the pelvic region, lower back or radiating down your thighs, during your menstrual period? You are not alone. Our Naturopathic doctors at Aumakua Integrated Wellness Clinic see a lot of undiagnosed or poorly treated dysmenorrhea patients. Over half of menstruating women do, some have nausea, vomiting, debilitating migraines, diarrhea and fatigue (and that’s not even an exhausted list).

At our naturopathic clinic, our naturopaths take the time to listen to you. They do a thorough assessment to build up a complete clinical picture. Laboratory tests may be utilized, dietary changes may be required and supplements may be recommended.

What is the difference between Dysmenorrhea and Premenstrual Syndrome?
PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) is a hormonal disorder that is identified by the monthly recurrence of physical or psychological symptoms.2  Dysmenorrhea is identified by the symptoms that occur during your period.

There are two kinds of dysmenorrhea, primary and secondary:

– Primary dysmenorrhea is when there is no actual observable pelvic disorder or abnormality, but the monthly pain associated with menstruation. The onset is usually 6 to 12 months after the initial menstruation, and most intense symptoms between the ages of 20-24. The symptoms can decrease after childbirth and cessation of smoking. Being overweight may also increase symptoms.1
– Secondary dysmenorrhea is when there is an underlying condition associated with the monthly pain. Such conditions can be fibroids, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, adhesions, ovarian cysts, polyps, narrowing of the cervical opening, or congenital malformation.1

Dysmenorrhea Symptoms for Primary Dysmenorrhea1

Spasmodic Congestive
Sharp Dull-ache
Vise-like (tight, constrained) Location is pelvis and lower back
Tightening and constricting of the uterine muscle Bloating
Breast tenderness

*Many women rely on drugs such as Ibuprofen, Aleve and Tylenol to get rid of the symptoms. Some side effects of these drugs are bruising, lightheadedness, itching skin, abdominal pain, heart burn, shortness of breath and unusual tiredness and weakness (to name a few).3 Thankfully there is a natural way to heal the problem and solve not only the symptoms but the root cause.

Causes of Primary Dysmenorrhea1

  • There are certain fats that promote the formation of arachidonic acid and eicosanoids in the body, which cause uterine contraction and pain. Arachidonic acid (omega-6) is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that causes inflammation in the body. Eicosanoids are a lipid mediator of inflammation derived from arachidonic acid.
  • Some foods to avoid that form arachidonic acid in the body are, red meat, dairy fat (cheese, butter, milk, yogurt) and shellfish.
  • Excess sugar and refined carbohydrates that cause high insulin levels, which activate an enzyme called delta 5 desaturase, that turns fats in healthy oils (evening primrose oil, borage seed oil, and vegetable oil) into arachidonic acid.
  • By keeping insulin levels down the activation of this enzyme, is not initiated. Some beneficial oils to help to offset pain-producing inflammatory eicosanoids are flaxseed oil, fish oil, evening primrose oil and borage oil.
  • Liver, bowel toxicity and dysbiosis (overabundance of harmful organisms) will increase the biological, chemical and heavy metal load in the uterus causing inflammation.
  • Displacement of the uterus, either forward, backward or to the side, makes it more likely to spasm.
  • Chronic illness or overwork, if the blood has insufficient energy to move properly there is stagnation and pain.

Prevention and Treatment1

Each individual’s path to recovery is unique and specialized. This is why it’s important to consult with a naturopathic physician to have a specific treatment plan made for your needs. Some of the changes can be, improvement with nutrition by cutting out excess sugar, refined carbohydrates, red meat, dairy products, limiting alcohol, decreasing saturated and hydrogenated fats and avoid known food sensitivities. Adding in healthy oils (flaxseed, borage seed, fish, and evening primrose), eating lots of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant foods (fresh berries, and dark leafy greens) to decrease inflammation and free radicals. Exercising approximately 40 min a day to improve circulation, seeing a massage therapist to help with lower back problems and a hot water bottle over your lower abdomen while cramps are occurring. See one of our naturopathic physicians at Aumakua Integrated Wellness Clinic for more specific instructions; however below you can find information regarding nutrient therapy1

Nutrient Therapy (Some not all)1

Nutrient Action
Vitamin B3 Decreases pain, improves circulation
Vitamin B6 Improves liver detoxification
Vitamin C Decreases menstrual cramps when combined with vitamin B3
Vitamin E Decreases inflammation
Magnesium Decreases muscle spasm and pain
Curcumin Decreases the formation of inflammatory prostaglandins
Bromelain Decreases pain and inflammation
Liver Cleanse Help metabolize and detoxify all hormones
I3C Helps to metabolize bad estrogens

Menstruation is a really beautiful process when we can acknowledge it for being a celebration of being female and fertile. It doesn’t have to be feared and associated with pain and emotional discomfort. If you are struggling with dysmenorrhea, know there are many natural options that we would love to help you with to have a much more comfortable period.


  1. Kaur, Sat Dharam., Carolyn Dean, and Mary Danylak-Arhanic. “Dysmenorrhea.” The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health. Toronto: R. Rose, 2005. 257-62. Print.
  2. Smith, Pamela Wartian. “Premenstrual Syndrome.” What You Must Know about Women’s Hormones: Your Guide to Natural Hormone Treatment for PMS, Menopause, Osteoporosis, PCOS, and More. Garden City Park, NY: Square One, 2010. 139-48. Print.
  3. “Drugs.com | Prescription Drug Information, Interactions & Side Effects.” Drugs.com | Prescription Drug Information, Interactions & Side Effects. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2015.


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