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Lesser Known (But Studied!) Ideas for Period Relief: Part 2

Lesser Known (But Studied!) Ideas for Period Relief: Part 2

Kate Causbie | May 11, 2016 | Women's Health
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Part 1 outlined four methods for premenstrual and menstrual symptom relief that you have not have tried before. Here are a few more, and a brief review on what the research says!

5. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing method, involving a philosophy of “energy channels.” The physical attributes of those channels are just now starting to be studied.  Largely, the scientific method has shown that acupuncture does work, but it can’t quite figure out how. One recent study, claiming to be the first to use 3D imaging to examine acupuncture points, showed that a sample of the treatment points had very high densities of detailed structural masses of tiny blood vessel webs, which the areas around them did not (Zhang et al., 2011). 

Acupuncture has been proven regularly in experiments to help with various premenstrual and menstrual symptoms (Kim et al., 2011). Studies consistently recommend it as a treatment option for both cramps and general PMS symptoms. In a review of studies on acupuncture and herbal medicine, the treatments “showed a 50% or better reduction of symptoms compared to the initial state” (Jang et al., 2014).

Popular critiques of the studies are that they do not do very well identifying which specific symptoms the treatment is directed towards, and that they face challenges creating a placebo control group and double blind study – that is, they are studied against “no treatment” rather than “fake treatment,” thus failing to show that any measured change is not caused by mere belief, and that the person administering the treatment (or sometimes the fake treatment) inevitably knows which one it is (Reuters Health, 2011).  That makes the data less strong, because, in theory, if the administrator knows which treatment they are giving they could act slightly differently and somehow influence the outcomes of the study, a factor of a variable other than the one being studied – in this case, acupuncture. 

However, like yoga (as discussed in the previous article), I don’t see that as much of an issue. These practices just don’t fit neatly into a scientific method that requires a perfectly controlled placebo treatment to determine their isolated physical effect. But, to me, if a treatment works even without proving the mind’s belief isn’t to thank, it still works! 

If you hold health insurance, many plans cover acupuncture even if they do not cover “alternative” medicine because it has been so widely studied. If the data is compelling to you, give it a try!

6. Magnesium 

Studies have consistently shown that magnesium can help with both PMS symptoms (Facchinetti et al., 1991; Proctor & Murphy, 2001) and painful periods (Seifert et al., 1989). Evidence has also shown that decreased magnesium concentrations were found in the blood of women with PMS (Sherwood et al., 2014; Rosenstein et al., 1994). However, one 2006 study (Khine et al.) used an intravenous magnesium source, instead of the oral supplement used previously, and challenged this evidence, as the magnesium did not outperform its placebo. 

All the same, in The Period Repair Manual, specialist Lara Briden, ND, lists magnesium as a choice treatment for both PMS and painful periods, linking, among other things, low progesterone levels to both conditions, and the production of progesterone to magnesium (2015, p. 74, 82-84, 113, 166, 205). 

You can supplement your diet with magnesium by upping your intake of magnesium-rich foods such as mixed nuts, dark-green leafy vegetables, and whole grain breads. (Guerrera, et al., 2009). But Briden (2015, p. 113) explains that stress causes the body to use available magnesium on the nervous system’s work, so in the stressful modern pace of life she thinks it unlikely that you can get all of the magnesium you need for your cycle from food alone. You can also directly supplement your diet with a magnesium pill. Recommended dosing is 300-360 mg each day (Briden, 2015 & Facchinetti, 1991). 

If your system has too much magnesium, it can cause soft stool and lower your blood pressure. The University of Maryland Medical Center also advises: “If you have digestive problems or heart disease, ask your doctor before taking magnesium. Magnesium can interact with many medications, including antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro), levofloxacin (Levaquin), and tetracycline; bone-building drugs such as alendronate (Fosamax), and risedronate (Actonel); diuretics (water pills); and other drugs” (Menstrual Pain, 2013). 

6½. Cat Purrs

This is only half of an idea because it hasn’t been studied specifically… at all. But! Before you discredit everything else I’ve said because of this one, bear with me for a second. 

Studies do show that:

Purr frequencies correspond to vibrational/electrical frequencies used in treatment for bone growth/fractures, pain, edema, muscle growth/strain, joint flexibility, dyspnea, and wounds. Domestic cats, servals, ocelots, and pumas … have a strong harmonic exactly at, or within 2 Hz of 100 Hz, a frequency used therapeutically for pain, edema, wounds, and dyspnea. (von Muggenthaler, 2001)

There’s even a United States patent application (Simos & Darr, 2005) for a device that vibrates at the same frequency of a cat, aiming to recreate its healing effects. 

However, there seems to be no research on the effects of a purring cat sitting on a cramping uterus. But the web is full of women self-reporting use of this method, if that holds any meaning for you, and it’s not that much of a scientific stretch based on the existing research. So, try putting a cat on your stomach next time you have cramps! Or, if you’re a research scientist, get us some data! 

How Not to Waste Another Month When Trying to Conceive
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