ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Relaxation Tapes or Mozart Lower Blood Pressure
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
New Insights Show Ginseng Fights Inflammation
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Studies Struggle to Gauge Glucosamine's Worth
Majority of College Students Report Backpack-Related Pain
Sea Worm Inspires Novel Bone Glue
CANCER
Immune Therapy May Aid Kids With Neuroblastoma
Higher Vitamin D Intake Could Cut Cancer Risk
Sharing Cancer Info May Be Empowering
CAREGIVING
Mom's Smoking May Lead to SIDS
Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome
Hispanic Children More Likely to Have Hearing Loss
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Obesity Linked to Heart Failure Risk
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
COSMETIC
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
Health Tip: After Liposuction
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Scientists Find Gene for Tooth Enamel
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
DIABETES
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Study Shows Turmeric May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Insulin Resistance Tied to Peripheral Artery Disease
DIET, NUTRITION
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Eating More Soy May Be Good For Your Lung Function
School Meals Need to Get Healthier
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Fish in U.S. Rivers Tainted With Common Medications
Exposure to 9/11 Fumes Tied to Chronic Headaches
Most Mt. Everest Deaths Occur Near Summit During Descent
EYE CARE, VISION
Magnetic Pulses to Brain Improve Lazy Eye in Adults
Contact Lens Cases Often Contaminated
Unconscious Learning: In the Eye of the Beholder?
FITNESS
Walk Long, Slow and Often to Help the Heart
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
Weak Muscles May Cause 'Runner's Knee'
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
GENERAL HEALTH
Family Medicine Cabinet Top Source Of Kid's Poisonings
Deployment Takes Toll on Army Wives
When It Comes to Lifting, the Pros Have Your Back
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Whole Grains Lower Risk of Heart Failure
Arteries Age Twice as Fast in Smokers
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
Folic Acid Reduces Infant Heart Defects
Plastics Chemical Tied to Aggression in Young Girls
MEN'S HEALTH
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Mind Exercise Might Help Stroke Patients
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
SENIORS
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
The Healthy Habits of Centenarians
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Green Tea May Help Treat Uterine Fibroids
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Add your Article

Natural Relief for Painful Menstrual Cramps



Like clockwork, Carrie spends three days a month doubled over in pain. Her discomfort is so unbearable she often misses a day or two of work.

Most women do not have such severe symptoms. But menstrual cramps (also known as dysmenorrhea) affect more than half of menstruating women. Those in their early twenties usually have the most pain. Along with cramps, other complaints may include headaches, nausea, diarrhea and back pain.

Menstrual cramps are caused by contractions of the uterus. The pain can occur in otherwise healthy women, or can stem from another problem, such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts or fibroids.

Experts believe that the activity of a specific type of prostaglandin (a hormone produced in the uterus) is a main cause of the pain. This hormone also causes increased contractions of the uterus. Prostaglandin levels tend to be much higher in women with severe menstrual pain.

What to do about it?
Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and birth control pills are often prescribed for easing painful symptoms like Carrie's. But for women who want to get pregnant or would like to try a more natural approach, one or more of the following strategies may be helpful:

A healthy diet.It's not unusual to crave junk foods high in salt and sugar when you are menstruating. But this can make your symptoms worse. Eating light, frequent meals and reducing sugar, caffeine and alcohol are often suggested to help ease side effects. And because excess sodium can cause fluid retention, it's a good idea to limit salt intake too.

Also, following a diet that is rich in whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables can be helpful. These foods contain a host of important nutrients, including magnesium and thiamine, that some studies have shown may decrease painful symptoms.

* Magnesium:
o In several small trials, women taking magnesium had lower levels of prostaglandins in their menstrual blood. Magnesium supplements were more effective than a placebo for pain relief, and reduced the need for medication.
o Good food sources for this mineral are: whole grains, beans, nuts, cantaloupe, oranges, green leafy veggies, avocado, halibut and dairy products.
* Thiamine:
o In one large trial, thiamine was more effective at reducing pain than a placebo.
o Good food sources for thiamine are: whole grains, beans, nuts, cantaloupe, oranges, spinach and milk.
* Omega-3 fatty acids:
o To date, there is no solid research linking low intake of omega-3 fats and menstrual cramps. But, fatty fish and fish oil capsules contain the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These naturally suppress prostaglandins and are known anti-inflammatories.
o Most Americans do not get enough omega-3's to start with. While awaiting further studies, some researchers feel that adding them may be helpful.
o Experts advise eating low-mercury cold water fish (salmon, herring, sea bass, and trout) two to three times a week.
o As an alternate, you may take an omega-3 (fish oil) supplement that supplies both EPA and DHA. Check with your doctor about what dose may be right for you.

TENS. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy that uses mild electronic impulses that may block pain signals. In a number of small trials, high-frequency (but not low-frequency) TENS was found to help in the treatment of menstrual cramps.

Other lifestyle factors. Many women have found pain relief through these alternative remedies:

* Placing a heating pad on the lower abdomen, just below the belly button
* Massaging the lower abdomen in circular motions with your fingertips
* Drinking warm beverages and taking warm baths
* Getting regular exercise
* Acupressure
* Taking meditation and/or yoga classes
* Bending knees when lying down (reduce the stretching of pelvic muscles)

If your pain is severe or lasts longer than two or three days, see your doctor. Also be sure to check with your gynecologist if the pain occurs outside of your normal menstrual cycle.