woman with menstrual cramps on a window seat

Period Pain 101: Why it happens and what to do about it!

This post is for all my gals out there trying to tough it out when it comes to menstrual cramps. I have been there, and I understand how hard it can be to jump back into work or other life commitments when all you want to do is binge netflix with your heating pad and some ibuprofen. I do think that there is something to be said about our cycles ebbing and flowing (if you’re not familiar with the 4 phases of your cycle, check out the book Woman Code by Alisa Vitti), and giving ourselves permission to not be superwoman every single day of the month. The truth is, we, as women aren’t wired the way western society is. With it’s traditional 9-5 cadence, day in and day out. Our energy levels fluctuate a little bit throughout the month just based on our normal hormonal fluctuations. Which is why you may feel much more energized a couple weeks after your period but then it feels all down hill from there. There are times during the month where we may feel more inspired or creative. And other times where we feel more reflective or introspective, desiring to plan things out but maybe not having all the energy required just yet to act on it. And I think there is so much freedom that comes from that reality!

But I digress, we are here to talk about period cramps. I’m just setting the stage a bit.

When it comes to period symptoms such as cramps, drastic mood swings, poor sleep, period poops (you know the ones!), heavy flows or near to non-existent bleeds, cyclical acne, etc. These all serve as the body’s check engine lights to help us know, “hey something is off” or “we need some help please!”. And they are not normal, no matter what society would have you believe.

So if they aren’t normal why are over 80% of women experiencing cramps at some point in their life if not consistently?

It may be different from person to person, which is the beauty of bio-individuality, but let’s talk about a few factors I see most often in working with clients desiring to have seamless, pain-free periods.

  • A diet that is highly processed or lacking sufficient whole foods.

When we are eating out more often than eating in, we can be exposing ourselves to overly processed foods that can trigger inflammation within the body. Cramps are often triggered by too many pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are these hormone-like substances that can either contribute to inflammation and pain OR reduce it. There are three types and often because of diet both with food quality and how well blood sugar is supported, lifestyle, toxin load, etc. Can all pour into one of those two buckets. If the pro-inflammatory bucket gets too full, that can sometimes present itself with more period symptoms like cramping.

So what’s the solution?

1- Working on swapping out inflammatory foods for more whole foods + quality fats, ie. simple ingredients or at least ones with an ingredient list you can actually understand.

2-Maybe opting for more stable fats/oils when cooking at home such as coconut oil, ghee, avocado oil, olive oil.

  • Excessive sugar intake

Now I know this may be touchy, and I’m all for balance and not restricting. However, opting for whole food sources of sweet things ie. maple syrup, honey can be a better option than refined sweets on a consistent basis. If you’re getting starbucks everyday, crashing at 2 pm, and reaching for a candy bar or treat from the break room to keep you going, supporting your blood sugar is essential. If blood sugar gets out of check, inflammation can occur. Which, read above, we don’t want to happen right?

So how can we help this?

1-Consider keeping a log of food for a few days and seeing how you feel energy and mood wise on days you reach for those treats. Do they keep you energized for 4-5 hours, or are you craving something else shortly after?

2-Spend some time reflecting during your next period on how your diet was over the past month. Are there any areas you can improve or make more nutrient-dense swaps to better support your period?

3-Opt for a protein-rich, savory breakfast. This can help keep blood sugar stable and prevent cravings during the day.

  • Conventional meat and dairy

When it comes to food, you are what you eat. I’m sure we have all heard that phrase but you are also what you absorb. So if you’re consuming meat that is raised conventionally, it’s likely been fed a GMO corn/soy based diet (which you’re then consuming), or has been treated by antibiotics or added hormones which can inevitably affect your hormones. Same goes for dairy, opting for maybe low-temp pasteurized, grass-fed dairy if not raw milk can be helpful when looking to reduce inflammation and exposure to chemicals or hormones that aren’t the most supportive for someone looking to have more optimal periods.

What can we do?

1-Opt for a less processed form of dairy as mentioned above, but also looking at raw cheddar or even goat’s milk/cheese. A2 milk may be easier for some to digest as well.

2-Opt for grass-fed + finished beef, wild-caught fish, and pasture-raised chicken and eggs.

  • Xenoestrogens and toxins

I’m mostly talking about plastic exposure ie water bottles, tupperware, etc. Doing an audit of your environment and looking for potential endocrine/hormone disrupting products that may contribute to excess estrogen type symptoms, ie. cramps can help to reduce the toxic load, support liver health, and ease period woes.

1-Pick one product in your home that you’d like to swap out to better support your hormones this month. Some examples could be, plastic water bottles or tupperware, conventional candles or fragrances, drug-store makeup, etc.

Need recommendations or got specific questions, shoot me a DM!

  • Dysregulated blood sugar

Okay I mentioned sugar specifically above but elevated blood sugar and as a result insulin levels from eating a diet high in processed or refined foods and mostly unbalanced carbohydrates, can contribute to excess inflammation. You may have heard of insulin resistance well this paired with this higher inflammation going on, can reduce those anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Our bodies perceive our period bleed as a sort of injury so when it’s too inflamed, that may look like increased blood clots IYKYK, and trigger muscular contraction a.k.a. cramps…

So though we love what our body is trying to do with keep us safe, strong and healthy, it can over compensate in a sense if there are too many pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. But by regulating your blood sugar, you can help get cramps in check by reducing inflammation.

1-Aim to eat a protein or fat source with each carb you eat, no naked carbs around here ladies! Pro-tip, eat the fat and protein first if possible to prevent a sharp blood sugar spike.

  • Poor Gut Health

Last but certainly not least, we gotta keep the gut in check. This is especially important if you are currently on or have been on birth control in the past. Hormonal or non-hormonal.

Certain bacteria strains can overgrow in the GI tract and may cause an increase of an enzyme called b-glucuronidase which in excess may increase how much estrogen that should be exiting the body via our stools, is actually going back into circulation leading to potential hormonal imbalances and period symptoms. Poor gut health or digestive dysfunction in general can be a precursor to nutrient deficiencies that may be helpful in soothing menstrual cramps, and also exacerbate inflammation. Ah yes the main theme of this entire blog post. I have an idea, let’s play Denae’s version of where’s waldo, except it’s “Where’s inflammation”. Haha I’m kidding but seriously, inflammation is the thread that is woven through each of these common factors.

1-One easy way to support digestion today is to chew your food well to about applesauce consistency. This can help with breaking down food and reducing bloating, and triggering the parasympathetic or rest and digest state. Undigested food can be tough on the stomach and potentially serve as fuel for harmful bacteria in the gut.

Pain-free periods are 10000% possible, they may take a few months because nothing to do with true hormone balance is a quick-fix… But they are possible with consistent changes and tweaks to how you’re nourishing your body, reducing toxin and chemical exposures, etc. I can attest to this as can many of my clients who put in the work, were consistent and took personal responsibility of their health. They saw massive, life changing shifts with their cycles.

These tips are just a starting point and are by no means comprehensive. This is just a blog post after all, but if you’re looking to dive deeper, I cover all the nutritional foundations inside my Cystic to Confident Course. It may be mostly geared towards acne, but you’d be surprised how many similarities there are between acne and period health.

Let me be clear I’m not here to preach pain-free periods for the purpose of just hustling and grinding that much more…My hope is that you see 1) It’s possible, and 2) You have permission to slow down. Our cycles are great communicators and indicators of overall health, we just have to be willing to listen.

Alright that is all for today, if you made it this far, thank you for taking time to be here and way to go for spending these past few minutes learning and investing in your health!

Until next time peeps, stay nourished as always and if you’ve got questions, shoot me a message on the gram or head over to my contact me page to unpack this a bit more!

Much love,


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