Dear Lily June,
“‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said, ‘to talk of many things.'” I don’t know who Lewis Carroll’s walrus is, my darling dear, but the elephant in the room when it comes to periods is pain. As a woman on a mission to raise you to have both an optimistic and a realistic attitude, I have to strike the balance–when you come to me to tell me you’ve started your period (and oh, dear Lily, please come to me, I beg you!)–between buying you red balloons (though not 99 of them) and having them attached to a card that reads, “My condolences.”
Because periods–while they are an incredibly important, moving part of the human experience that mean you are capable of creating life–also suck. They just suck, Lily. And I’m so very sorry.
What Are Cramps, Anyway?
In addition to periods making you feel roughly like the featured image in this letter (you know, like tearing every strand of hair from your scalp might distract you from the mental anguish), they also trigger a chain reaction of horrible physical responses, like a Rube Goldberg machine from Hell. All the “science” described below is from Wikipedia, but I’m fairly certain it’s accurate:
During a woman’s menstrual cycle, the endometrium [or mucuous membrane inside the uterus] thickens in preparation for potential pregnancy. After ovulation, if the ovum [egg] is not fertilized and there is no pregnancy, the built-up uterine tissue is not needed and thus shed.
Molecular compounds called prostaglandins are released during menstruation, due to the destruction of the endometrial cells, and the resultant release of their contents. Release of prostaglandins and other inflammatory mediators in the uterus cause the uterus to contract. […] When the uterine muscles contract, they constrict the blood supply to the tissue of the endometrium, which, in turn, breaks down and dies. These uterine contractions continue as they squeeze the old, dead endometrial tissue through the cervix and out of the body through the vagina. These contractions, and the resulting temporary oxygen deprivation to nearby tissues, are responsible for the pain or “cramps” experienced during menstruation.
But all that medical mumbo jumbo, while accurate, doesn’t describe to you a feeling so heinous and mind-numblingly achesome that you’d be willing to grant yourself a hysterectomy with plastic cutlery just to make it stop.
So What Do You Do?
I took the liberty of doing some pretty hefty research (i.e. Googled like my fingers were on fire), and I’ve found the following 20 remedies. I’ll give you my take on each, but really, Lily, whatever offers you relief without wanting to stab your fellow man (who doesn’t get period pain) through the, well, manhood, is fine by me. Anything to make you feel less like you have fish hooks in your belly.
I only went through a single page of hits, so when appropriate, I’ll tell you how many sources seconded the remedies. Do be wary, though, of internet “remedies” to any ache or illness. The only functional use of herbal tea I’ve found is scalding the hippie “WebMDs” who keep trying to force it down my throat. Like a kettle itself, all “herbal tea” suggestions do for me is make me want to steep and boil over with rage. They have never helped me.
1) Apply Heat–An Idea So Great, It Was Backed by Eight
You’ll already feel like you’re in Hell. So why not fight fire with fire? Nothing has ever helped your mother like her beloved heating pad. If anyone tried to take it from me, I’d have to strangle them to death with the electrical cord. That includes you, Lily. Get your own, my beloved daughter.
2) Exercise More–Suggested by Seven Sources
This is more a preventative measure, as women who are more active report having less cramps come Aunt Flo’s monthly visit. Of course, they likely report more pulled muscles and twisted ankles from all that activity earlier in the month, so your big momma’s a no-go with this one. But do as I say, not as I do, okay? Fitness really is good for you, so sayeth Michelle Obama (and some other sources, too, I’m sure).
3) Drink Hot Herbal Tea–Backed by Five Sources
As I mentioned above, I’m skeptical. Some sources said chamomile was an anti-inflammatory; others said it actually stimulates uterine contractions. The same with red raspberry leaf tea. If nothing else, I find heating up a cup and setting it on my aching abdomen is a nice way to apply heat, at least on a cold winter’s period.
4) Swallow NSAIDs–Backed by Five out of Five Doctors
NSAID pain relievers, like Advil, Ibuprofen, or Aleve, all work to reduce inflammation. You can use that nice hot cup of tea to wash these tried and true methods down with.
5) Try Acupuncture–Recommended by Five Crazies
Um, no. Not for me. Not my culture. I just wasn’t raised to stick sharp objects into my face or other parts of the body intentionally. If you want to try it, be my guest. Take pictures, because this I gotta see.
6) Cut Back on Caffeine–Verified Four or More Times
See that delectable ambrosia above, Lily? What your Mom treats like the crack-cocaine equivalent of the nectar of the Gods? Yeah, my cramps might improve, but my mood is sure to take a nosedive down to PMS “I’mma cut-ya” town if I don’t get my cuppa Joe. So, no, I don’t recommend this unless, unlike your mother, you’re not a jones-ing caffeine fiend. At least, as seen below, you can still have creamer?
7) Enjoy Massage–Four Sources Were Sure
Um, nice work if you can get it. And if you get it…won’t you tell me how?
8) Imbibe Calcium–Three is a Magic Number (of Sources)
I know milk does a body good. But it’s weird to me that this was recommended as I’d always heard that lactose can actually worsen inflammation. Viva the milk, though, Lily, since it’s all you drink right now, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard you complaining of PMS. Yet.
9) Eat-a Papaya–Backed by At Least Two Sources
I have absolutely no response to this, as I’ve never tried it. If you want your period to make you feel like you’re alone on a tropic island, more power to you. I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten a papaya, period, so I don’t know what it’s like to eat a period papaya. Let me know if you give it a man-go. (So many puns to make. So little time, Lily.)
10) Practice Yoga–Two Sources Confirmed This
Again, I’m not much for the bending and the twisting and the coordination and the breathing and the relaxation. When I want to relax, I take a nap. But I get the overall impression–from the entire world–that yoga’s a pretty good thing. You do it. And teach me how, okay?
11) Cut Back on Alcohol and Tobacco–Verified At Least Twice
Though no source specifically mentioned guns, I’m going to say that any item that could get you in trouble with the ATF for using it underage is likely a no go.
12) Use More Ginger (also Cinnamon & Molasses)–Two Sources Said So
Not sure why these would help. But in all fairness, I’ve never tried them.
Or you could just get a few cats to keep you company through this rough time. Because Cinnamon, Molasses and Ginger all sound like kick@$$ kitten names to me.
13) Give Aromatherapy a Chance–The Remedy So Nice, I Saw It Twice
I recommend just lighting candles. But if you want a two-fer with exercise (#2), you could always go frolicking through a field of lavender.
14) Ingest Basil and/or Parsley and/or Flaxseed–One Hit Wonders
Like Jack’s “magic” beanstalk beans, lots of herbs are touted as miracle cures because of the palliative prowess of [insert random but science-y-sounding ingredient here]. I’ll believe when I experience it, since you almost can’t throw a stone without hitting a curative plant. And if that many commonly used herbs and spices healed people, just eating a lot of foods would save a lot of people a lot of pain a LOT of the time. I’ve eaten food my whole life and I still get pain. Go figure.
15) Drink More Water–Seen in a Single Source
Despite its only being mentioned once, this is just a good idea anyway. Retaining water is a bad deal (I know this from my pregnancy with you, when my feet rose more than two heavily yeasted loaves of bread at the end of my legs), and, irony of ironies, drinking water prevents you from retaining it. Also, being dehydrated never helped nobody with nothin’.
16) Take Vitamin D–Only Spotted Once
Again, I heard over and over during and after my pregnancy about how most Americans have a Vitamin D deficiency. And as much as the idea of going out into the sun–especially in some kind of bikini–makes me feel like the picture below, you can always pick up Vitamin D in supplement form. If nothing else, it’s supposed to regulate mood, so maybe it’ll keep you from wanting to burn down humanity one “frolicking on the beach” period commercial advertiser at a time.
17) Orgasm–Only One Source Said So. And What Does That Guy Know?
Yeah, I doubt it very much. But you can see if faking an orgasm does it for you. You can find a How-To guide in When Harry Met Sally.
18) Down Chocolate–Now Backed by No Science
Lily, I couldn’t find a single source, other than Dr. Wonka, backing the importance of chocolate at a time like this. Listen to me. I don’t care about the truth. I only know that this is my sweetness, and I’m sticking to it.
19) Devour Red Meat–Recommended Only By Me
My logic is, you lose iron during menses, so what comes out must go back in. That could just be my excuse to grill up steaks, though.
20) Accept the Hugs of Your Mother
Periods really do suck. And I really do love you. Come to momma, baby. I don’t care how old you are. Let’s bitch about being women together, and eat ice cream. Daddy can go out and get it while we’re hugging.
Someday, dear, you’ll come to me looking like the picture below. And on that day, darling, I’ll be proud to commiserate.
- “9 of 365 Frustration” by Tanya Little – Flickr: 9 of 365 ~ Frustration. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:9_of_365_Frustration.jpg#/media/File:9_of_365_Frustration.jpg
- “BiodegradablePlasticUtensils” by Scott Bauer – This image was released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, with the ID k7245-1 (next). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BiodegradablePlasticUtensils.jpg#/media/File:BiodegradablePlasticUtensils.jpg
- “Fish hooks” by I, Mike Cline. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fish_hooks.jpg#/media/File:Fish_hooks.jpg
- “Electric heating pad” by Jen. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Electric_heating_pad.jpg#/media/File:Electric_heating_pad.jpg
- “Vegeterian pizza” by Milad Mosapoor – Own work. Licensed under Attribution via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vegeterian_pizza.jpg#/media/File:Vegeterian_pizza.jpg
- “Nice Cup of Tea” by Vanderdecken – Author’s original own work.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nice_Cup_of_Tea.jpg#/media/File:Nice_Cup_of_Tea.jpg
- “200mg ibuprofen tablets” by Ragesoss – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:200mg_ibuprofen_tablets.jpg#/media/File:200mg_ibuprofen_tablets.jpg\
- “Hr3-pinhead2” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hr3-pinhead2.png#/media/File:Hr3-pinhead2.png
- “A small cup of coffee” by Julius Schorzman – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_small_cup_of_coffee.JPG#/media/File:A_small_cup_of_coffee.JPG
- “Massage Frankfurt” by Thomas Wanhoff from Phnom Penh, Cambodia – From Rama Day Spa Frankfurt. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Massage_Frankfurt.jpg#/media/File:Massage_Frankfurt.jpg
- “Milk glass” by Stefan Kühn – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Milk_glass.jpg#/media/File:Milk_glass.jpg
- “Papaya cross section BNC” by Prathyush Thomas – Own work. Licensed under GFDL 1.2 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Papaya_cross_section_BNC.jpg#/media/File:Papaya_cross_section_BNC.jpg
- “Bed of Ware” by The original uploader was VAwebteam at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by NotFromUtrecht using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bed_of_Ware.jpg#/media/File:Bed_of_Ware.jpg
- “Red Wine Glass” by André Karwath aka Aka – File:Red Wine Glas.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Red_Wine_Glass.jpg#/media/File:Red_Wine_Glass.jpg
- “CarrotTop” by Hoggarazzi Photography – originally posted to Flickr as my boy Carrot Top. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CarrotTop.jpg#/media/File:CarrotTop.jpg
- “Lavender Field Sutton” by Kemal ATLI – Lavender Field. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lavender_Field_Sutton.jpg#/media/File:Lavender_Field_Sutton.jpg
- “Spaghetti all’ arrabbiata” by Giovanni JL from Singapore – http://www.flickr.com/photos/58862846@N00/311110573. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spaghetti_all%27_arrabbiata.jpg#/media/File:Spaghetti_all%27_arrabbiata.jpg
- “Stilles Mineralwasser” by W.J.Pilsak at the German language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stilles_Mineralwasser.jpg#/media/File:Stilles_Mineralwasser.jpg
- “The-whale-beached-1617” by Esaias van de Velde – http://whalingmuseumblog.org/2012/02/07/seven-continents-seven-seas-exhibit-opens-feb-9/. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The-whale-beached-1617.jpg#/media/File:The-whale-beached-1617.jpg
- “Chocolate02”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolate02.jpg#/media/File:Chocolate02.jpg
- “Grilling Steaks (with border)” by _BuBBy_ from USA – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grilling_Steaks.jpg. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grilling_Steaks_(with_border).jpg#/media/File:Grilling_Steaks_(with_border).jpg
- “Plate depicting emotions of grief from Charles Darwin’s book The Expression of the Emotions” by Charles Darwin (author of volume); unknown photographer of plate – Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University . Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Plate_depicting_emotions_of_grief_from_Charles_Darwin%27s_book_The_Expression_of_the_Emotions.jpg#/media/File:Plate_depicting_emotions_of_grief_from_Charles_Darwin%27s_book_The_Expression_of_the_Emotions.jpg