Complementary Treatments: Nutrition, Exercise, Heat, and Touch
Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements. I also suggested that Olivia might try an omega-3 fatty acid supplement—specifically, fish oil. One study showed that adolescents who took a fish oil supplement for two months had less period pain. But high doses of fish oil may also have high doses of vitamin E, which can cause heavy bleeding when combined with NSAIDs. So don’t try omega-3 fatty acid supplements (or vitamin E supplements) and ibuprofen or similar NSAID drugs. It’s either/or. If you try this, take 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids per day, dividing it into four doses a day of 250 milligrams, and take it with food, since that helps you absorb it and helps keep your stomach from getting upset. Check the milligram amount on the label carefully before taking it—otherwise you won’t know how much is in each dose.
Heat Therapy. The good old-fashioned hot water bottle ain’t just for Grandma. Reports of heat therapy for pain date as far back as the second century A.D. from as far away as China and India. Although there aren’t a lot of modern medical studies on the topic, researchers think heat reduces menstrual pain by stimulating heat receptors that lie just beneath the skin. This may keep some types of nerve cells from sending pain signals to the brain. The heat also increases blood flow to your abdomen, which might dilute pain-causing compounds. And more blood flow brings more oxygen to the uterus, which could help, too.
To try heat therapy:
- Apply moderate heat to your lower abdomen for six to eight hours. To do that, use a hot water bottle, warm towel, or a newer device called ThermaCare, a heating pad that doesn’t use electricity (it uses a chemical reaction to basically rust itself into a hot state). The pad remains hot for eight hours and you can wear it under your clothes, which is helpful if you’re at school.
- Don’t use an electric heating pad: It could cause a fire, and we don’t fully understand the damage that electromagnetic fields may inflict on cells.