• Optimize your digestion. Your food can only nourish you if your body is prop- erly absorbing it. If digestive distress is a chronic struggle, seek out professional help. Acupuncture and Chinese medi- cine can be enormously beneficial; other modalities have their own, some- times more appropriate interventions. Interview providers and find a good fit.

• Eat real food. Every day we’re bom- barded with some new health craze around food. Bottom line, in the words of the brilliant food journalist Michael Pollan: Eat. Real. Food. Sounds simple, right? But it’s far less common than you think—and not always easy. Eat quality food. Eat a wide range of seasonal and organic foods. Limit processed foods, snack foods, refined sugar, alcohol and coffee, and increase your fiber intake. We can *all* benefit from this advice, but it’s particularly important if you suf- fer from hormone imbalance. If you’d like to go deeper, a skilled practitioner of Chinese medicine will have dietary suggestions specific to you and the sup- port your individual system needs.

More specifics on what to curb:

• Quit the caffeine: I know! I also love a good cup of coffee in the morning, but caffeine constricts blood vessels—in- cluding those supplying blood to the uterus. This makes it a no-go if you’re trying to resolve your cramps. At least consider reducing your caffeine intake during the second half of your cycle.

• Avoid the alcohol: Coffee AND alco- hol?! I know!! We know alcohol inhib- its hormone regulation—the opposite of what we’re aiming for. If you’re serious about managing your cramps on your own, skip it, at least during the second half of your cycle.

• Red meat and dairy: To be clear, red meat and dairy are not inherently bad. Assuming the meat and milk is from pastured, organic cows, there are some folks for whom one or both can be absolute positive game-changers in terms of their health—not so much if you’re prone to cramps. Red meat and milk contain a substance known as arachidonic acid that stimulates prostaglandins and intensifies cramps. If you’re craving iron pre-menstrually (or menstrually), and prone to cramping, better to reach for plant-based sources like chickpeas, beans, and lentils.

• Move your body in a joyful way: Re- member how we said that where there is stagnation there is pain? The endor- phin release and increased oxygenation to the uterus that comes with exercise will help relieve your cramps. Walk, run, stretch, breathe, lift, dance, laugh, love. Your body was meant to be fully inhabited. Find a way to move it that lights you up and makes you smile. Repeat often.

• Reduce stress: Stress creates constric- tion in the body, which interferes with the free flow of qi, which creates stagnation and contributes to menstrual pain. Stress-management and stress- relief should be a lifelong pursuit. It will help with your dysmenorrhea—and with everything else.

• Practice mindfulness: We hear this all the time, but what does it mean? In- corporating mindfulness into your daily life doesn’t have to be a huge (stressful) undertaking. Do you brush your teeth every day? Drive your car every day? Wash your dishes every day? Turn on your computer every day? Make a habit of punctuating the start of any recurring event with a moment of attention. All you need is a pause and a slow deep breath. Be still. Notice that you are doing what you’re doing. We throw our attention mindlessly out into the world all day, every day. Start to pepper your day with brief moments of drawing that attention back into your body, back

in to the right now. If you’re unsure of where to start, start there.

In Conclusion The good news is in alleviating your

dysmenorrhea we are also course-correct- ing your body, more generally. Why should you care? The more optimally your body is functioning in any given moment, the more likely it is that we’ve staved off larger health issues that might have otherwise accumu- lated over time. Try some of these recom- mendations, find a team of practitioners to help support you in health journey, free up the energy currently bound up in managing your menstrual pain, and get out there and live your most extraordinary life!

Alexandra Gilmore, LAc, MA- cOM is a practitioner of acu- puncture and Chinese medicine in South Portland. She knows you have extraordinary things to bring forth in the world, and

her mission is to amplify your vitality in the service of that greatness. She brings to the table a unique understanding of your physiol- ogy and symptoms, a comprehensive treat- ment plan, and the opportunity to cultivate a different outcome for your health and your future. She has a special affinity for all things women’s health and dermatology, and loves the challenge of a complex case. She lives in Portland with Oscar, her 90-pound “puppy” and office mascot. or See ad on page 6

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