After years of thinking I’d be suffering from painful periods until menopause delivered me from my monthly cycle, I have found an unexpected release from my monthly pain. If you also suffer from painful periods, read on, this might hold the answer for you too.
Ten Years of Suffering
About ten years ago I was home visiting my parents, and some other relatives were visiting as well. We were having a relaxing family weekend.
After a fun day out, we all came back to my parents’ house and were preparing to get ready to go out to dinner. But I found myself in the bathroom close to tears.
My period had started, and along with it, the most excruciating cramps I remember experiencing up to that point. The cramping was intense, and along with it, I was having extremely painful diarrhea. And the waves of pain kept coming, making me stay in the bathroom for an hour or more. Once I thought I was safe, the pain would start again and I’d run back to the bathroom.
Somehow I made it through dinner that evening. But I remember this day vividly because it was the first time I had an excruciatingly painful period.
Unfortunately, it was only the first of the reliably painful periods that would mark the next ten years of my life.
To give you an idea of what type of pain I’m talking about, let’s take a scale of 0-10, with 0 being no pain or discomfort at all, and 10 being the worst pain you can imagine. My periods were consistently at 7-8 on that scale.
I started to plan my life around my period, including travel, dates, restaurants. During my period, I avoided doing anything that would take me away from the comfort of my home where I could quickly run to the bathroom and stay there if needed. Or lie on my bed agonizing.
The only relief I was been able to find was by taking CBD gummies to help lessen the pain, which would take my pain down from 7 or 8 to 6 or 7. Anytime I took Advil, my period would stop along with the pain, with the pain returning full force as soon as the bleeding recommenced, and anyway, I was worried about these types of products damaging my already sensitive gut. I tried many herbal remedies – vitamin K, evening primrose oil, cramp bark, raspberry leaf tea – none of them helped.
Along with the painful periods, I started developing flu-like symptoms during PMS. A few times I left work early, believing I had the flu, until I began to notice a pattern. It wasn’t the flu, it was just new, bonus PMS symptoms.
And then there was the chest pain. Chest pain that landed me in urgent care once, and the doctors office a few more times. When I noticed that my chest pain seemed synchronized with my period, I started to think I might have endometriosis. To help with that, I started to avoid caffeine as much as possible. Avoiding caffeine helped with the chest pain somewhat, but did not help with my intense cramps.
Once during my period the pain was so intense – reaching 9 on my pain scale – that I actually threw up a couple of times. That was certainly the most severe episode I experienced.
In addition to herbal remedies, yoga, stress reduction, and so on, I also tried modifying my diet, eating foods that were supposed to contain nutrients that get depleted during menstruation. None of it helped in any significant way.
A Light at the End of the Tunnel
Throughout the years I would have a month here and there where the pain wouldn’t be nearly as intense. This seemed to be in summer, and I wondered if it had something to do with me spending more time outside and getting extra vitamin D through sun exposure. Now I know why less painful periods sometimes appeared in summer – this was related to the availability of fresh food from my garden.
Because of some other health issues that had gotten worse this year, I started looking into low inflammation diets and I checked out a few cookbooks from the library. One of them happened to be about lowering inflammation by eating a low histamine diet.
As I read about the author’s own experience discovering her histamine intolerance, lightbulbs were going off for me. Reflux, confusing food intolerances, and painful periods were among her symptoms.
I did some more research and promptly put myself on a low histamine diet – not an easy feat. You can’t eat leftovers, or most spices, among other things.
Wholly moly, did I notice a difference. My acid indigestion decreased, the chest tightness that had been plaguing me diminished – and when my period arrived – WOW. I had forgotten what an easy period could be.
The best part? I had only been eating a low histamine diet for a few days prior to the onset of my period, and I still felt a huge difference.
But maybe it was a fluke? You can’t judge just one period and decide the problem is solved. Then my second period rolled around. Also an easy period. No more extended amounts of time sitting on the toilet waiting for the pain to pass. No more terrible PMS! After my third miraculously changed period, I am taking this as clear proof that histamine intolerance was responsible for my ten years of suffering.
A low histamine diet has helped me reduce my menstrual pain from a torturous 8 down to a much more tolerable 2 or 3 on my pain scale.
When your cycle lasts 28 days, as mine do, PMS a week of that, and menstruation another week, that’s half of your month.
I can’t help looking back over the past ten years and doing the math – so basically I spent five of the past ten years suffering needlessly.
If you decide to try a low histamine diet and find it improves your symptoms, you are likely histamine intolerant, like I am.
Along with this dramatic improvement to my menstrual cycle, eating a low histamine diet has helped me greatly reduce my reflux, acid indigestion, allergy symptoms, and many other unpleasant symptoms.
Unfortunately though, it seems that for most people, histamine intolerance isn’t a full diagnosis in and of itself – there’s probably more. Histamine intolerance seems to be just the tip of the iceberg, part of some other underlying issues. As for me, I’m still working on uncovering and treating those other issues.
However, without having discovered my own histamine intolerance, I’d be in bad shape right now – including putting up with the monthly specter of agonizing menstruation. I’m grateful to at least be unburdened from that.
Since this problem is dominating my life at the moment, I’ll be writing more about it here.
In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more, here’s a list of histamine content in foods from the Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance.
Spread the Word
Clearly there is not enough awareness about how histamine intolerance can impact our menstrual cycle. It shouldn’t have taken me 10 years to find a solution to my problem when the answer was so easy. Please share this post or tell the women in your life about this possibility, to help prevent needless suffering.
Thanks for reading, and here’s to pain-free periods for more of our mothers, daughters, friends, aunts, partners, and total strangers!