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Dysmenorrhoea (Painful menstrual cramps)

(Painful menstrual cramps)

Muscles require magnesium in order for them to relax, so low magnesium levels often
result in muscle cramps. Research has supported the notion that the muscle-relaxing
effects of magnesium are helpful for menstrual cramping. In one double-blind trial, 50
women with primary dysmenorrhoea were given either magnesium or a placebo. After
a 6 month period 84% of the magnesium group reported a decline in the severity of
their symptoms. The mechanism for this action was thought to be related to the
inhibition of inflammatory prostaglandins combined with the muscle relaxing and
vasodilatory effects of magnesium.

The vasodilating effect of niacin may be effective in reducing the severity of menstrual
cramps in women with dysmenorrhea. In a study of 80 women, with dysmenorrhea
severe enough to require bed rest, about 90% of the patients were relieved of their
menstrual cramps by the administration of niacin. Other studies have confirmed that
the most successful regime commences 7-10 days prior to the beginning of the period
with 100mg morning and evening, increasing to 100mg every 2-3 hours during
cramping. Additional vitamin C and bioflavonoids may be helpful as these help to
improve the vasodilating effects of the niacin. Dosages may need to be increased to
maintain the flushing effect. Preliminary evidence suggests that niacinamide may also
be helpful.

Omega 3 fatty acids
Research suggests that omega 3 fatty acids may be helpful in preventing menstrual
cramping. In one study 37 women aged between 15 and 18 years with dysmenorrhea
were given either a fish oil supplement or a placebo for 2 months. Those in the fish oils
group experienced a significant reduction in their symptoms compared with the
placebo group.

Dong quai
Dong quai is a traditional Chinese herb used in a variety of ‘female complaints’.
Research has shown dong quai to be an effective analgesic. This combined with its
reported ability to improve circulation and promote muscle-relaxation enhances its
potential benefits in conditions such as menstrual cramps.

Dysmenorrhoea Summary
Nutrient/Herb Typical intake range
Magnesium1 200 – 600mg per day
Niacin2 100 – 500mg per day (build up slowly)
Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oils)3 1000 – 3000mg per day
Dong quai (1% ligustilides)4 100 – 300mg per day

Refined carbohydrates
Processed foods
Caffeinated beverages
Trans/hydrogenated fats


Complex carbohydrates
Nuts and seeds
Oily fish
Whole grains

Lifestyle Factors
Take regular exercise
Maintain a healthy weight
Avoid smoking – including passively
Maintain optimal digestive health
Avoid stress and practice relaxation techniques

1. High doses may cause loose stools. Those taking heart medication should use magnesium under
supervision from a Doctor.
2. High-dose niacin in any form should be avoided in those with pre-existing liver disease (or
elevated liver ezymes) or gall bladder disease, unless under medical supervision. Long-term, highdose
niacin or inositol hexanicotinate should be avoided in diabetics unless medically supervised.
High-dose niacin should be avoided in cases of pregnancy, peptic ulcers or gout unless under
medical supervision. Taking high-dose niacin with alcohol, beta-blockers, mecamylamine or
pargyline may cause severe hypotension (low blood pressure).
3. Do not take in conjunction with anticoagulant medication
4. Do not use during pregnancy or lactation. Do not use with Warfarin or anti-coagulant