There's nothing quite like waking up in the middle of the night feeling like your uterus is attempting to escape, or having it batter your abdomen in the middle of a particularly brutal workday. And though Advil and Midol are usually good methods of relief, there are also some drinks to help with your period cramps and serve as a balm to your screaming ovaries when the hormones declare war.
First, though, let's take a minute to reflect on what NOT to drink when cramps hit. Dairy, it turns out, is not much of a salve, thanks to its high levels of arachidonic acid, which can actually trigger cramps, no thanks. Skip milk, or substitute for soy instead. Carbonated drinks and too much caffeine can also screw with your system, so limit your soda and coffee intake or stay away entirely if you can. And, sadly, alcohol is also not recommended during your time of the month, not just because it prolongs cramps (which it does, since it lowers magnesium levels) but also because it can increase your estrogen and testosterone levels and make you irregular, which in the long run, can also make your cramps worse. So #blessed to be a woman.
So that's the bad news - the good news is, teas and other warm liquids help soothe the pain, as do green drinks, smoothies, and most importantly, water. Here's what to turn to when the aches kick in, and note that if you're looking for a cramp-busting snack to pair with your drink, we've got you covered.
Some women think drinking water on their period will contribute to bloating, but actually, H2O is basically a panacea for all menstrual problems. In fact, not only will imbibing an adequate amount of water both reduce bloating and alleviate cramps, but it can also shorten your period, which, I mean, heck yes.
When I was first gifted with the joy of uterine line shedding, my mother made me peppermint tea to calm down my newly-screaming insides. "It's an old trick," she said, and while I assumed this was some sort of Adult Woman witchery, science says this is very true. A handful of studies have found that the menthol in peppermint relaxes uterine muscles, mitigating the spasms that cause cramps. As a bonus, peppermint tea is very tasty, and since it's herbal, there's no caffeine to screw with your system.
If you're doubled up in pain but still need a shot of caffeine to keep going, green tea is a consolatory alternative to espresso. The hot tea is soothing, and green tea's chock full of antioxidants, which will help keep your system functioning even while your uterus is freaking out.
This one was a surprise: it turns out pineapples help ease muscle tension, thanks to the bromelian enzyme. This means they come in handy when your uterine muscles are so clenched you feel like your womb will implode, and also when you crick your back from spending too many hours curled up in the fetal position on the couch marathoning New Girl. Not that I've ever done that, of course.
Smoothies are great because you can throw a bunch of necessary cramp-fighting components into one drink, plus they taste pretty spectacular, provided you lay off the spirulina (you will never convince me that it is good.) Incorporate foods high in Vitamin B, like apples and bananas, which help fight PMS and menstrual cramps; use soy milk or greek yogurt for an added dash of calcium, and sprinkle in some cashews, whose magnesium levels will also cut down on cramping.
Other helpful ingredients include spinach and kale, whose calcium levels help with cramps; flaxseed, blueberries, and dark chocolate, which serves both as a mood elevator and an antioxidant-full treat that eases period pain.