Severe period pain? 5 glucose tips for period cramps

Woman suffering from period pain

Are you part of the 80 percent of women who struggle with period pain, also called dysmenorrhea? One survey showed that more than 700 out of 1000 women said they experience period cramps and abdominal pain during their period. Unfortunately, this pain can be so severe that many women are unable to go about their daily lives [1] [2]. 

Because menstrual pain affects many women, for a very long time, the medical community assumed that this was normal and merely an annoying side effect of menstruation. But what if we told you there are other options besides painkillers to help you finally stop experiencing bad cramps? 

We, at Hello Inside, want to help you better understand your period pain. In this article, you’ll learn how to ease your discomfort and get through your period as pain-free as possible with a good diet and stable blood sugar.

What are the symptoms of dysmenorrhea?

Like many things in life, period pain is not the same for every woman. While some experience no to mild pain, for others the pain can be unbearable. A survey found that 10 out of 100 women are unable to go about their normal routines for up to three days a month due to period pain. Even the smallest movements hurt and a hot water bottle becomes their best friend those days, not fun [3].

What does period pain feel like?

You probably already know that when you experience period pain your abdominal muscles cramp. This pain can sometimes be so intense that it radiates to your back or legs. 

In addition to those annoying cramps, you may also experience the following symptoms [3]:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache

What causes period pain?

Period pain is due to the biology of women. In each menstrual cycle, a woman’s body prepares to become pregnant. It produces more female sex hormones, which stimulate ovulation, and cause the uterus to produce more mucous membrane. This mucus makes it easier to fertilize an egg and become pregnant.

However, if the egg is not fertilized, the whole process starts over again. As a result, the uterine mucus must be expelled so that new mucus can be formed in the next cycle. To do this, the uterine muscles contract, and this contraction can turn into a painful experience in the form of period cramps. 
If you’re curious to learn more about menstruation, check out our article about the female cycle and hormones.

Types of period pain

Medicine distinguishes between two different forms of period pain, which have different causes:[4]

  • Primary dysmenorrhea
  • Secondary dysmenorrhea

Primary dysmenorrhea is the result of inflammation

Primary dysmenorrhea is experienced by most women during their very first period. Hormone-like substances, called prostaglandins, are the ones to blame for the pain. 

Prostaglandins cause the uterus to contract. They also trigger inflammation and the more prostaglandins your body produces, the more severe the inflammation becomes. As a result, you can experience more painful period cramps [3].

Why your body produces more prostaglandins may be related to your diet. A study found that elevated blood glucose levels can stimulate further inflammation, resulting in more severe pain [5].

Keep reading to learn more about how your diet can affect your period pain.

Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by an underlying disease

There are several diseases that are associated with (severe) menstrual pain, such as endometriosis. With endometriosis, the lining of the uterus proliferates and attaches itself to organs, such as the stomach, intestines, or muscles. Other conditions such as tumors or chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, can also increase the risk of severe menstrual pain.

If you are using a copper IUD for contraception, this can also be a possible cause of severe period pain [3], [4].

Keep in mind that severe period pain is not normal! So don’t be afraid to go to your gynecologist and explore solutions to reduce pain. 

Often, severe period pain can be due to secondary dysmenorrhea. Although it can be a tedious process for doctors to find the cause of your pain, we want to encourage you to take care of yourself and your health. In this way, you can succeed in improving your well-being and your health in the long term. Always think of yourself and your health first and foremost and try out the tips below to help you deal with uncomfortable period symptoms [4].

Tips to reduce period pain

Your first impulse when experiencing painful cramps may be to reach for painkillers but there are other things that can help. Very often, there is a lack of information and education about other ways to treat period cramps. Follow the tips below to help you reduce pain, and as an added bonus improve your overall health:

  • Reduce foods that significantly increase your blood sugar
  • Try to avoid cravings and snack smarter
  • Focus on adding healthy fats to your meals
  • Incorporate gentle exercise to relieve period pain
  • Don’t underestimate the power of heat

Reduce foods that significantly increase your blood sugar

Foods like white flour products, fast foods, sweets, and soft drinks are full of fast carbohydrates. While these foods may taste delicious and can be hard to stay away from, they are your ticket to the blood glucose roller coaster. That’s because they cause high blood sugar spikes in a very short amount of time. 

If you reach for these foods more often during your period, your blood glucose shoots up. This plays right into the hands of menstrual pain. That’s because inflammation is already present due to prostaglandins, and elevated blood glucose can create further inflammation. Think of it this way, the prostaglandins are already setting little fires, and increasing your sugar levels is like adding gasoline to those fires creating an inferno and making your pain worse.

If you suffer from severe period pain, it’s helpful to check your blood sugar regularly. By doing so, you can check which foods spike your blood glucose [6].

Try to avoid cravings and snack smarter

When experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS), usually a few days before your period can cause intense food cravings. This is related to your blood sugar, as it is more sensitive during these days, so there may be more fluctuations in your glucose curves. These cravings usually include sweet or fatty foods, which can promote inflammation and thus pain. 

To help avoid cravings, you should focus on eating a diet high in fiber. Include whole grains and plenty of vegetables in your main meals. Protein-rich snacks such as a handful of nuts can also help prevent cravings. It also always helps to chew your food thoroughly and for a long time to help keep you feeling full for longer. And if you do have a sweet tooth, don’t panic! You can curb your craving with a piece of dark chocolate, nuts, or some fruit. As a pro tip, it’s best to have these things as dessert, and not as a snack.

Focus on adding healthy fats to your meals

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids play an important role in your heart health and in the inflammatory processes. While omega-3 fatty acids prevent inflammation, omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation. Thus, there is a link between omega-6 fatty acids and menstrual pain. In today’s diet, we consume more omega-6 than omega-3, which increases the risk of inflammation and period pain [7]-[9].

However, since it is not always easy to understand where these fats come from, take a look at the table below for some quick suggestions. 

Foods rich in Omega-3Foods rich in Omega-6
Linseed oil, canola oilSafflower oil, sunflower oil,
corn oil, coconut oil, soybean oil
Flaxseeds, chia seedsButter, lard
WalnutsRed meat
Salmon, herring, mackerel

​​When it comes to oils, make sure they are always virgin and cold-pressed. This means that they are not highly processed and still contain most of the important nutrients. Read our article about why fats are better than their reputation to learn more.

Fried foods and processed foods often contain high amounts of trans fatty acids, which also promote inflammation. Ideally, you should avoid them in the days before and during your period.

Incorporate gentle exercise to relieve period pain

Be it yoga or a short walk – some physical activity can help relieve period pain, as long as the pain is not too severe. If you really don’t feel well don’t force or stress yourself to exercise, do it only if it feels right for you. 

A great resource to find out how to incorporate exercise into your routine during this time is to try physical therapy. Therapists can show and suggest different exercises to ease your period discomfort [10].

Don’t underestimate the power of heat

Buckwheat pillows and hot water bottles are probably the most commonly used aids for period pain. The heat helps relieve cramps, relax your muscles, and help you feel better.

A warm cup of tea can also work wonders on period pain. Studies found that green tea and lady’s mantle tea have been shown to relieve menstrual pain. Ginger is also said to have positive effects on pain [11]-[13]. 

Tip: In addition to heat, magnesium is also a great supplement to help prevent spasms and reduce cramping. Ask your doctor or pharmacist which supplement they recommend for you [14].

In a nutshell – stable glucose levels can help you fight period pain

For too long, menstrual pain has been talked down and treated only with painkillers. But we are here to say that small changes can also have a big effect! It’s important that you don’t try to change all your habits at once though. If you make too many changes at once, you are more likely to stumble and reach your goal more slowly, if at all. Remember, one step at a time will lead you to lasting pain-free success. 

Monitor your glucose levels to get an overview of which foods cause your blood sugar to spike, and potentially trigger inflammation. Knowledge is power and by getting to know your body better and making small changes at a time you can improve your period pain and overall health.

And if the pain ever gets too much or interferes with your day-to-day life, don’t be afraid to see your doctor and discuss other tips or solutions.

Start the Hello Hormones Program


[1] „20-WHC-FACTSHEET-Period-Pain-NOV2022-B.pdf“. Zugegriffen: 17. April 2023. [Online]. Verfügbar unter:

[2] „Periode: Begleiterscheinungen 2021“, Statista. (zugegriffen 17. April 2023).

[3] „Regelschmerzen: Symptome und Behandlung“, 28. August 2020. (zugegriffen 17. April 2023).

[4] „Pschyrembel Online | Dysmenorrhö“. (zugegriffen 17. April 2023).

[5] T. Sitter, B. Haslinger, S. Mandl, H. Fricke, E. Held, und A. Sellmayer, „High glucose increases prostaglandin E2 synthesis in human peritoneal mesothelial cells: role of hyperosmolarity“, J. Am. Soc. Nephrol. JASN, Bd. 9, Nr. 11, S. 2005–2012, Nov. 1998, doi: 10.1681/ASN.V9112005.

[6] X. Ma u. a., „Excessive intake of sugar: An accomplice of inflammation“, Front. Immunol., Bd. 13, S. 988481, Aug. 2022, doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.988481.

[7] M. D. Onieva-Zafra u. a., „Relationship between Diet, Menstrual Pain and other Menstrual Characteristics among Spanish Students“, Nutrients, Bd. 12, Nr. 6, S. 1759, Juni 2020, doi: 10.3390/nu12061759.

[8] I. Elmadfa und C. Leitzmann, Ernährung des Menschen. UTB, 2019.

[9] D. Bagga, L. Wang, R. Farias-Eisner, J. A. Glaspy, und S. T. Reddy, „Differential effects of prostaglandin derived from omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on COX-2 expression and IL-6 secretion“, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., Bd. 100, Nr. 4, S. 1751–1756, Feb. 2003, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0334211100.

[10] R. López-Liria u. a., „Efficacy of Physiotherapy Treatment in Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis“, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public. Health, Bd. 18, Nr. 15, S. 7832, Juli 2021, doi: 10.3390/ijerph18157832.

[11] X. Zhang u. a., „Association of tea drinking and dysmenorrhoea among reproductive-age women in Shanghai, China (2013-2015): a cross-sectional study“, BMJ Open, Bd. 9, Nr. 4, S. e026643, Apr. 2019, doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026643.

[12] S. Vlaisavljević u. a., „Alchemilla vulgaris agg. (Lady’s mantle) from central Balkan: antioxidant, anticancer and enzyme inhibition properties“, RSC Adv., Bd. 9, Nr. 64, S. 37474–37483, doi: 10.1039/c9ra08231j.

[13] H. Adib Rad u. a., „Effect of Ginger and Novafen on menstrual pain: A cross-over trial“, Taiwan. J. Obstet. Gynecol., Bd. 57, Nr. 6, S. 806–809, Dez. 2018, doi: 10.1016/j.tjog.2018.10.006.

[14] F. Parazzini, M. Di Martino, und P. Pellegrino, „Magnesium in the gynecological practice: a literature review“, Magnes. Res., Bd. 30, Nr. 1, S. 1–7, Feb. 2017, doi: 10.1684/mrh.2017.0419.

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

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