Do you suffer from period pains? Help may be at hand with a simple nutrient: zinc.
84% get period pains
It seems most women experience regular period pains. When over 400 young women were asked about their periods in a 2012 Italian study, 84% reported pain either every month or at least some months. Well over a third said they needed to take time off as a result, and a quarter said they needed medication (with the accompanying risk of effects) for their pain.1
Contraceptive pill vs zinc for period pains
Many women are advised – often from teenage years – to take the contraceptive pill to help with period pains. And yet a recent study has shown how taking zinc supplements can significantly reduce the severity and duration of period pains.
120 adolescent girls with dysmenorrhea (moderate to severe period pain) were given either 50mg zinc sulphate or a placebo daily in a 3-month randomised clinical trial. In the first month, the zinc group were already reporting lower pain levels than the placebo group. By months 2 and 3, the duration of pain had reduced as well. 2
Ironically, the contraceptive pill has been shown to deplete you of zinc – the very thing you may need to help reduce your period pains. 100 women with normal periods were monitored for zinc and selenium status over 3 months. Half of them were given a low dose oral contraceptive, and the other half were used as a control group. The contraceptive pill was shown to significantly reduce blood serum levels of zinc. Selenium levels were also affected, but not significantly.3
Zinc, health and diet
Zinc is an important anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, not just for womb tissue but throughout the body, and so deficiency may have implications for general inflammatory conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, skin conditions and depression, as well as those directly related to the womb, such as endometriosis, fibroids and recurrent miscarriage.4 Zinc is needed for fertility, digestion, mental health and for the protection of brain and body tissue.
The best food sources of zinc are lamb, beef, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, lentils and chickpeas. For delicious ways to add more zinc to your diet, and more on how you can support yourself as a woman, come to the Bloom Spring Equinox Retreat in March.
- Grandi, Giovanni, et al. “Prevalence of menstrual pain in young women: what is dysmenorrhea.”J Pain Res 5 (2012): 169-74.
- Zekavat, Omid R., et al. “A randomised controlled trial of oral zinc sulphate for primary dysmenorrhoea in adolescent females.”Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 4 (2015): 369-373.
- Fallah, Soudabeh, Fatemeh Valinejad Sani, and Mohsen Firoozrai. “Effect of contraceptive pill on the selenium and zinc status of healthy subjects.”Contraception1 (2009): 40-43.
- Maybin, Jacqueline A., Hilary OD Critchley, and Henry N. Jabbour. “Inflammatory pathways in endometrial disorders.”Molecular and cellular endocrinology 1 (2011): 42-51.