Could adding more Omega-3 oils to you diet eliminate your period pain?
Painful periods or discomfort associated with menstruation, otherwise known as dysmenorrhea, is the most prevalent women’s health issue in the world.
It’s estimated that 50% of post-pubescent females suffer from dysmenorrhea and 10% have such painful periods that they are incapacitated for 1 – 3 days each month. This is just not right!
Until recently, dysmenorrhea was classified by the traditional medical community as being a “psychogenic” condition, originating in the ailing woman’s mind.
It was seen by doctors as having no identifiable cause nor was it the result of any known injury and in traditional medicine, if there is no cause for symptoms then they must be mental manifestations. Their treatment was simply to prescribe drugs to help with the pain and send the crazy woman on her way.
Times have changed….but unfortunately, not that much!
We now have a more comprehensive understanding of what causes dysmenorrhea. However, the solution that most women receive from their doctors is the same as it was when we were all just crazy bitches! And that solution is some kind of drug.
Luckily, there are ways to resolve your dysmenorrhea without narcotics and take back control of your cycle naturally and permanently.
Prostaglandins and painful periods
In a study done in 1957, a British doctor discovered a link between fat-like chemicals in women’s menstrual blood called prostaglandins and symptoms associated with dysmenorrhea.
The doctor found that women who suffered from painful periods had 8-13 times more prostaglandins in their blood than normal women who did not experience menstrual pain.
Prostaglandins are hormone-like compounds that exist in all human tissue. Their main function is to stimulate inflammation when an injury occurs and constrict blood flow to the damaged area to prevent blood loss.
When a woman begins to shed her endometrial lining, a large amount of prostaglandins are released which constricts blood vessels in the uterus and causes the uterus to contract.
If too many prostaglandins are released this will cause more severe uterine contractions which will lead to the painful cramps that many women experience.
In some cases these excess prostaglandins can also enter the bloodstream and travel up to the brain where they can cause other symptoms of dysmenorrhea like nausea, vomiting, fainting and migraines.
So, if you’re suffering from painful periods, (or migraines for that matter), you have a singular enemy to aim your sights at – prostaglandins.
While conventional medicine continues to simply treat the pain produced by prostaglandins, I want to talk about the root cause of the overproduction of prostaglandins themselves.
The effect of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids on your period
Prostaglandin production is directly linked to the balance of fatty acids in the body. There are two key types of prostaglandins, PGE1 and PGE2.
Interestingly, PGE2 acts as an inflammatory agent (think pain!) while PGE1 has anti-inflammatory effects. The balance between these two is critical when looking to address issues associated with inflammation and dysmenorrhea.
So let’s take a quick look at both of these…
The anti-inflammatory PGE1 prostaglandins are the end-products of Omega-3 fatty acids while the pro-inflammatory PGE2 prostaglandins are derived from Omega-6 fatty acids. Humans evolved eating a diet that had a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids which would result in a balance between the production of both PGE1 and PGE2 prostaglandins.
However, times have changed and our modern western diet now has an Omega6/Omega3 ratio of 15:1! Quite simply, this imbalance will lead to a higher production of pro-inflammatory PGE2 with less anti-inflammatory PGE1 with the end result being more pain. It really is this simple.
How to test your Omega-3 and Omega-6 levels
Lets Get Checked is my go-to provider for at-home hormone and general health testing kits for myself and clients. You just order them online, have the kit shipped to you, then do the tests at home and send the kit back in the mail.
One and done.
And after processing, their team of physicians will review your results and a member of the nursing team will call you to deliver the results and discuss treatment options.
To test your Omega-3/Omega-6 levels, grab their Omega-3 Test Kit here. Be sure to use discount code Hormones20 to get 20% off the price of the test.
How to balance your Omega-6 and Omega-3 ratio
The best cooking oils for period pain
First a little history on how we got so out of balance to begin with. The western diet had a monumental shift at the turn of the 20th century with the advent of vegetable oils. Before this, most people got their fat from animal sources like meat, lard, butter and cream.
In the 1950’s vegetable oil really took off due to a brilliant marketing strategy promoting it as “heart healthy.” Today each of us consumes, on average, 70 lbs of vegetable oil each year and there is nothing healthy about this!
In addition to numerous other health issues related to these oils, they are extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids and their consumption has directly led to the omega-6/omega-3 imbalances we are experiencing today.
Oils you should try to avoid:
- Canola Oil
- Corn Oil
- Soybean Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Cottonseed Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Palm oil
Oils you should be using:
- Coconut Oil
- Olive Oil
- Grass-fed butter
Just by removing these vegetable oils from your diet you will be taking a huge step towards bringing your omega-6/omega-3 ratio back in balance, but this alone isn’t enough. Removing sources containing large amounts of omega-6 fatty acids is only half the battle.
Add omega-3 fish oils to your diet to reduce your period pain
You will also need to add sources of omega-3s to your diet. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines, leafy greens like spinach and kale, avocados, walnuts, and seeds like flax and chia.
Can red meat cause painful periods?
In regards to meat, the large amount of meat consumed in the traditional western diet has often been blamed for our high levels of omega-6 fats. While meat naturally has a higher ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids, this ratio can fluctuate dramatically depending on what the meat you eat eats!
In a study conducted by North Dakota State University, they found that grass fed bison had an omega-6/omega-3 ratio of 4:1 while grain fed bison in feedlots had a ratio of 21:1! Similar studies have also found that eggs from free range chickens have ratios around 1.5 to 1 while regular supermarket eggs have ratios of over 20:1. Whoa!
So it’s not just the amount of meat in our diets that’s the issue, it’s what that meat is now being fed by the likes of Tyson Foods, JBS, Cargill and Smithfield Foods, who produce 85% of the meat consumed in America.
The humane treatment of animals is front and center in our discussions about grass fed beef and free range chickens but the tremendous health benefits of these foods should not be ignored.
It is no coincidence that our omega-6/3 ratios are now approaching 20:1 at the same time that the meat we’re consuming is also rising to the same levels.
The old saying, “we are what we eat” needs to be updated to reflect our modern times. “We are what the things we eat eat” would be a more accurate motto these days.
If your diet includes meat then it’s imperative that you find the best quality organic meats available if you want to fight inflammation and resolve your pain.
If you follow these easy steps to rebalance your omega-6/omega-3 ratios and become more cognizant of the types of fats in your diet, the positive effects you will experience in your menstrual cycle will amaze you.
This will take a little time though. Numerous studies have found that simply taking fish oil supplements dramatically improves dysmenorrhea symptoms but typically only after three months. I am currently obsessed with Rosita Real Foods Cod Liver Oil which has a high amount of EPA and DHA (the essential fatty acids you need).
If you don’t experience results right away, be patient and stick with it. They will come. In the meantime, here are some ways to alleviate the pain you’re experiencing now as you begin your journey towards pain-free periods!
Additional tips to relieve your period pain
Circulation is Key: The muscle contractions caused by the release of prostaglandins can cut off blood supply to the uterus causing extreme pain. To keep the blood flowing apply heat to your abdomen using a hot water bottle. Or try out castor oil packs 2-3 times a week when you don’t have your period – they are amazing for reducing pain! Here’s my castor oil pack instructions.
B12: Vitamin B12 supplements have been shown to reduce symptoms associated with dysmenorrhea. I recommend Seeking Health Active B12 Lozenges and Seeking Health B Complex because the B’s all work in tandem so it’s important to have adequate levels of all of them. Also know you can’t overdose on the B’s because they are water soluble and can’t be stored for later use.
CBD Oil: I’ve been using cannabidiol (CBD) oil since 2017, and the results are ahhmazing! My pain (neck/back pain and period cramps which weren’t so bad) has dropped significantly. Many of my clients and friends who use CBD oil for painful periods say their pain is gone after just three months. I recommend their Foria Basic Suppositories – Menstrual CBD.
Women have, on average, 450 periods in their lifetime. There is no reason why you should feel that “the curse” is not an accurate enough word for what happens to you each month! Our bodies did not evolve to require drugs in order to function nor were they designed to punish us and make us feel miserable for 3,500 days of our life!
Our bodies simply aren’t equipped to adapt to the rapidly changing world we live in. They don’t know how to deal with the 70lbs of vegetable oil we consume each year nor did they ever fathom corn-fed cows or factory-raised chickens.
We need to get back to basics and give our bodies the things they have been accustomed to getting over millions of years. To honor our past is the best way to shape a healthy and happy future.
21 thoughts on “Why Omega-3 Oils Can Help Relieve Period Pain”
Thanks so much for this post❤️
I have a question… Why primrose oil is so good for PMS and relief of period pain if its a powerful source of omega 6??
Hello. I am writing here for my 18 year old daughter. She has painful periods with digestive upset. How much fish oil would you recommend for a person? She does not have any other significant health issues. Thanks.
Did she try fish oil? How much mg she take? (I think 1000 mg is good) And if she did, did she take it daily?
Utterly written content material, Really enjoyed examining.
It’s not of this article I’m writing but I’ve been taking fish oil since December and since January I’ve had absolute no period cramps I mean none lady’s start taking fish oil believe me it’s a miracle worker
You are absolutely right, it worked wonders for me too. My cramps were a nightmare…….?
How much mg you suggest and is it daily or near the time of PMS?
Hello, Could you please comment on how you would address the omega issue for pyroluria sufferer with severe dysmenorrhea? So as a person with pyroluria (and as an undermethylator/MTHFR) I’ve been told to have a much higher level of omega 6 than 3 as this is anti-inflammatory for us compared to ‘normal’ people. I understand there are good LA omega 6s compared to AA, however, just having had a high dose of hemp seed oil last cycle and having a 10/10 pain (vomiting/diarrhea/passing out from cramps), I feel even the ‘good’ omega 6 may be contributing to the PGE2 production party my body has!? Your thoughts?
I can’t tell you how great it was to read this! Until last year, I had never really experienced period pain. Then I started a new job where I was working around the clock and eating take-out ALL the time. I stopped going to the gym and was focused completely on my job. All of a sudden I kept getting incredible pains every month, aches that would keep me up in the middle of the night sometimes – or distract me all day at work. Every month. And I couldn’t figure out why this was happening when it had never been an issue before.
I started researching online to try to understand or find a reason, and found an article that mentioned prostaglandins (nowhere near as much detail as this one though, I wish I’d read this first!). I made some big changes – I got back into a workout routine and started eating a lot more fruit and veg, cutting back on fatty foods. And do you know, I am now 3 days in to my period and after just one month of healthier diet and exercise, for the first time in a year I am not in pain. In JUST one month! Last month I was lying in bed wanting to see a doctor, this month all I’ve had is a low occasional ache.
Now that I have read this article and understand better what kinds of fats and foods I need to eat or avoid to improve the balance, it’s only going to get better. Thank you!! This absolutely works and I’m so happy I found this information.
I also wanted to ask you about the Omega3/6 ratio, how is countered in milligrams?
Wow, Im really happy I found your article, I feel like I finally found the treasure. The doctors said I’m normal, I’m ok, I’m not overweight, I try to eat as healthy as I can, but I still have crazy menstrual pain like forever.
I have a question, hope you can give me your opinion. I took 3 months Omega 6 (4 capsules a day~which is 145mg) – because that is what someone advice me, to increase my Omega 6, but I didn’t take Omega 3 in parallel.
I don’t eat meat and my eating habits are focused on healthy food. Now after I read your article I see I should have increased my Omega 3 dose rather than my Omega 6.
Thanks in advance 🙂
The question: Should I increase the Omega 3 rather than Omega 6?
Thank you for taking such a complex issue and making it understandable- and for providing simple and easy steps to take! Love this.
Hi Nicole, I eat a traditional (WAPF/paleo-ish) diet and still have painful periods. I no longer have PMS per say, but I still have horrible cramps the first day of my period. I was wondering what you think about nuts and the period connection. I know they are high in Omega 6 as well. I look forward to your reply.
Hi Sarah, that could definitely be the connection, especially if you eat tons of nuts. However, you should also look at the physical side of things too. Maybe your uterus is misaligned or not in the right position. I suggest looking into Mayan Abdominal Massage Therapy and/or gentle chiropractic work. I also have found Castor Oil Packs to be tremendously helpful for painful periods. Hope this helps! 🙂
Thank you so much! I get regular gentle chiropractic and I will mention something to my chiropractor.
Brilliant work Nicole! Love it and so well presented. Sharing 🙂
Thanks so much Melissa!! 🙂
Another great, informative post – thank you for this!
Why thank you so much!! I aim to please. Glad you found it so helpful BeaJae! xoxo