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For the last six months I've had cramps every time I've gotten my period. I'm twenty-three, and before now, my periods weren't even noticeable to me. I guess something in my body has changed. I don't like drugs and I don't want to take anything stronger than aspirin, which hasn't seemed to help me anyway. I'm a great believer in vitamins and fresh, natural foods. I'd like to know if there are any organic remedies or old-fashioned cures that might work. I know most doctors only like to recommend drugs, but I'm hoping you will be different.


Shreveport, Louisiana

Heat is always helpful in relieving pain. If a woman places a heating pad on her stomach or underneath her back when she is in a supine position, the heat may lax the uterus and ease her cramps. Remember there are muscles in the uterus that can contract and create a charley horse of the womb, and these may respond to the warmth on the stomach. Nerves from the uterus enter into the spine and cause backache, so heating the back may calm the nerves.

A heating pad, however, is only one way to bring warmth to the uterus.

Massage, a long soak in a hot tub, or a soothing liniment rubdown might

naturally tranquilize the uterine muscles.     

Alcohol and Pain. Recent studies in our laboratories have shown that alcohol has a definite relaxing effect on the uterine muscles. A mature woman who does not have extreme cramping may remedy her mild pain with a drink or two. She may even use a heat remedy along with a glass of wine. Naturally, I am not recommending alcoholic beverages to teenage girls, but a mature woman who knows her own body may be able to alleviate her pain with one or two glasses of wine.

Mind Control. Scientists have recently discovered that the brain creates its own opiate—a morphine-like substance called beta-endorphin which affects the way a person is able to tolerate pain. Marathon runners who are pained and drained just before the end of a race are able to go that last half mile, it is believed, from a surge of beta-endorphins. The biofeedback movement has shown that people can learn to control their heartbeats and blood pressure, cure their headaches and insomnia, and so forth, with their minds.

The ability of the mind to change the body chemistry with brain impulses and beta-endorphins is being proven again and again. If a person learns to relax, through yoga, meditation, reading a book of poetry, whatever suits her personality, it seems that beta-endorphins will do the rest. A woman who knows she will be suffering severe menstrual cramps may try to remove the pain herself by stimulating her beta-endorphins through her own forms of pleasure and relaxation. Some women feel particularly sexually responsive just prior to menstruation, and intercourse during this time may be nature's way of bringing beta-endorphins to the fore.

The best-known case of organic painkilling, of course, is that of Norman Cousins, former editor of Saturday Review, who laughed his way out of a crippling disease with Candid Camera classics and old Marx Brothers movies: "I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep. When the painkilling effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion-picture projector again, and, not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free sleep interval."


Women's Health

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Unexpected labor events: cesarean

The breast cancer prevention diet: avoid transfatty acids

Menopause and hormone replacement therapy (hrt): cancer risk and the oestrogens used in hrt

The human reproductive system: general principles of sexual reproduction

Pms: the ingredients of a healthy diet

Womens problems: premenstrual tension

Alexander procedures for pregnancy and labour: squatting

Miscarriage and prematurity

Treatment of menstrual pain: will home remedies work?

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