Painful Periods: The Omega-6 / Omega-3 Connection
Painful periods or discomfort associated with menstruation, also known as dysmenorrhea, is the most common health problem in women around the world.
Menstrual cramps, cramps in menstruation, painful menstruation or menstrual pain, are some other names that receive painful periods. It is estimated that 50% of post-pubertal women suffer from dysmenorrhea and 10% have painful periods that can lead to incapacitation from 1 to 3 days a month. Obviously something is not right!
Until recently, dysmenorrhea was classified by the traditional medical community as a “psychogenic” condition. That is, the product of the mind of sick women. It was considered without an identifiable cause or as a result of an injury known to traditional medicine.
Since there was no cause for the symptoms, they were considered as mental manifestations. Her treatment was simply to prescribe drugs to relieve pain and send the “madwoman” back home.
Times have changed… but unfortunately, not much! We now have a broader understanding of the cause of dysmenorrhea. However, the solution they get from doctors is the same as when they were considered “crazy”! And that solution is some kind of drug! Fortunately, there are ways to relieve dysmenorrhea without drugs. This allows women to take control of their natural cycle permanently.
Table of Contents
- 1 Prostaglandins and painful periods
- 2 Omega-6 Fatty Acids vs. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- 3 Last words around painful periods
Prostaglandins and painful periods
In a 1957 study, a link was found between fat-like chemicals in menstrual. Women who suffered painful periods had 8 to 13 times more prostaglandins in their blood than women who did not experience menstrual pain.
The prostaglandins are similar to the compounds hormones that exist in different human organs and tissues. Its main function is to stimulate inflammation when an injury occurs and constrict the flow of blood to the damaged area to avoid its loss.
By removing the endometrial lining, a large amount of prostaglandins are released that constrict the blood vessels in the uterus. Causing contraction of the uterus! By releasing too many prostaglandins, uterine contractions will be more severe than the pain experienced by many women. In some cases too much prostaglandins can also enter the bloodstream and reach the brain where they can cause other symptoms of dysmenorrhea such as nausea, vomiting, fainting and headaches.
So if you suffer from painful periods (or migraines, for example), you have a single enemy and must target the prostaglandins to find it. To this day, conventional medicine continues to focus on treating the pain produced by prostaglandins.
In this article I will explain the causes of overproduction of prostaglandins. Knowing your cause will allow you to overcome the painful periods that overwhelm you.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids vs. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The production of prostaglandin is directly related to the balance of fatty acids in the body. There are two main types of prostaglandins, PGE1 and PGE2. Interestingly, PGE2 acts as an inflammatory agent (think of the pain!). While PGE1 has anti-inflammatory effects. The balance between the two is critical in the quest to alleviate the problems associated with inflammation and dysmenorrhea. So let’s take a quick look at both…
The prostaglandins PGE1 antiinflammatory are the end products of Omega-3 fatty acids. While pro-inflammatory PGE2 prostaglandins are derived from omega-6 fatty acids. Our diet maintained a 1: 1 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids for a very long time. Keeping balance in the production of prostaglandins both PGE1 and PGE2. However, times have changed and the Western diet now has an Omega 6 / Omega 3 ratio of 15: 1! In short, this imbalance leads to an increased production of proinflammatory PGE2. In detriment of the anti-inflammatory PGE1 with the final result, in this case specifically painful periods. It really is that simple!
Maintaining the balance between omega-6 / omega-3 prevents painful periods
To begin with, first a little history on how we come to such an imbalance. The Western diet underwent a monumental change during the twentieth century with the advent of vegetable oils. Before this, most people got the fat from animal sources like meats, butter, butter and cream.
In the 1950s, vegetable oils took off because of a brilliant marketing strategy, promoting them as “heart-healthy.” Today it is estimated that we consume, on average, between 40 to 50 pounds of vegetable oil every year. And there’s nothing healthy about this! Much less for the heart.
In addition to numerous health problems related to these oils. Are very rich in omega-6 fatty acids and their consumption has led directly to the imbalances of the fatty acids we are living today.
List of vegetable oils you should try to avoid:
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Peanut oil
- Safflower oil
- Grape seed oil
- Shortening, a semi-solid fat used in food preparation, especially baked goods.
Simply remove these vegetable oils from the diet to achieve a breakthrough in the omega-6 / omega-3 balance. But this alone is not enough. Eliminating sources containing large amounts of omega-6 fatty acids is only half the battle. You will also have to add omega-3 sources in your diet.
List of oils you should use:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Butter from milk fed by grass
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, avocados, nuts and seeds like flax and chia. Another problem is the meat we consume, since the feeding of animals influences the omega6 / omega3 ratio.
It is preferable to eat less meat, but meat from animals fed on grass. Obviously being more expensive, you have to eat less meat. Likewise, fish liver oil dramatically improves the symptoms of dysmenorrhea. But usually you need at least three months to notice its effects.
If you do not experience results immediately, be patient and continue to consume the oil. You will eventually notice improvement in symptoms. In the meantime, here are some ways to relieve the pain you are experiencing because of your painful periods.
Tips to overcome painful menstrual periods
The following ideas can be useful for you to start your journey towards pain free periods!
- Circulation is the key: Muscle contractions caused by the release of prostaglandins can cut the blood supply to the uterus causing extreme pain. To maintain blood flow, apply heat to the abdomen using a hot water bottle. Or you can try the castor oil compresses 2-3 times a week when you do not have your period, they are amazing to reduce the pain!
- B12: Vitamin B12 supplements have been shown to reduce the symptoms associated with dysmenorrhea. There can be no overdose of vitamin B, since they are soluble in water and are not stored for later use.
Last words around painful periods
Women have, on average, 450 periods during their lifetime. There is no reason why you should feel that “curse” is the word adequate enough for what happens to you every month! The human body did not evolve to require drugs in order to function nor was it designed to punish and make women feel miserable during their fertile life! Our bodies are simply not ready to adapt quickly to the changing world in which we live.
Our bodies does not know how to deal with so much vegetable oil that we consume every year, nor does to know how to deal with cows fed with maize or chickens raised in factories. We have to go back to the basics and give our bodies the foods they have become accustomed to consuming over millions of years. In honor of our past is the best way to shape a healthy and happy future.
I would appreciate it if you would let me know your experiences with painful periods!