Menstrual cycle: are Omega-3 useful against pain?

In some parts of the world it is already reality: women have the right to a menstrual leave - a period
of absence justified by work due to disabled symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle.

Yes, the pain that accompanies menstruation can be so strong as to prevent normal daily activities, including work.
But why all this pain? Is it possible that there is no way to contrast it and be able to live in a peaceful way even the days of the month when you are struggling with cycle and absorbent?
Fortunately, not all people suffer from this problem - which, in technical jargon, takes the name of Dismenorrhea. Even more fortunately even those who live with painful menstruation have possible output routes available. It is not always about drugs; In fact, even absolutely natural molecules such as Omega-3 seem useful against the pains associated with the cycle.

The causes of dysmenorrhea
To understand the possible advantages of hiring Omega-3 it is good to take a step back and understand, first of all, what exactly dysmenorrhea is and what it depends on.
Sometimes cycle pains are associated with even serious health problems, such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids. In these circumstances we speak of secondary dysmenorrhea; The pains can start before the start of menstruation and continue even after the end of the losses, often worsening with the passage of time.
In most cases, however, at the basis of dysmenorrhea there is no pathology. More simply, the uterus produces a very high quantity of prostaglandins, molecules that causing the contraction of the muscles of the uterus themselves lead to the appearance of cramps - and therefore of pain.
In this case we speak of primary dysmenorrhea. The discomfort can begin to be felt already one or two days before the start of menstrual losses and generally last for a few days, but some people are definitely worse: for them, the pains are severe and persistent.

Menstrual pain: solutions
There are no specific solutions against primary dysmenorrhea. The most often used remedies are hot compresses at the level of the low abdomen, equally warm bathrooms and drugs to combat pain.
Relaxation techniques (such as yoga and meditation), physical activity and, on the other hand, rest, as well as the choice to avoid smoking and the consumption of alcohol, can give further help.
As regards drugs against menstrual pain, they are generally non -steroid anti -inflammatory (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, which can both alleviate the effects of prostaglandins and reduce their production by the uterus.
In fact, prostaglandins are inflammatory molecules. The inflamed fabrics are characterized by a significant increase in their synthesis, which plays an important role in the appearance of the typical signs of acute inflammation, including pain. Omega 3, allies against inflammation
The idea that Omega-3 can be useful against menstrual pain derives from their anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, these fatigue fats are the precursors of different molecules involved in inflammation. Compared to other fats present in food (in particular, compared to the omega-6s, very abundant in modern western diets) the omega-3 are the substrate for the production of substances that tend to have a lower inflammatory potential.
In addition, they are also the progenitors of molecules that contribute to ending inflammatory phenomena (the maresine, resolvine and protective). Finally, they control the expression of genes - activating anti -inflammatory factors and inhibiting proinflammatory factors - and the activity of the cells of the immune system, contrasting inflammation.
Among the molecules regulated by Omega-3 there are prostaglandins, whose production is regulated not only by NSAIDs but also by these fats allied to health. In short, there is no shortage of reasons to think that they can be useful even when inflammation and pain depend on the menstrual cycle.

Omega-3 against dysmenorrhea
There is no shortage of studies on the topic. Their results are encouraging, so much so that a rather recent analysis conducted by Iranian researchers and published in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology led to the conclusion that «Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may have a slight effect on the severity of primary dysmenorrhea» .
Randomized controlled trials (which are high quality clinical studies) found in the main databases of scientific publications in which the effects of Omega-3 intake on primary dysmenorrhea were included in the analysis.
It emerged that the severity of menstrual pain can depend on various factors, including how many Omega-3s you take per day. In this regard, one of the conclusions reached by the researchers may be surprising: these fats are able to combat pain better when taken in low doses. Another interesting conclusion is that they may be a more effective remedy for younger people.

Not just dysmenorrhea
Furthermore, dysmenorrhea is not the only disorder associated with the menstrual cycle that could be at least partially kept under control by Omega-3. In fact, several studies suggest that these fats can also reduce the severity of premenstrual syndrome, that is, the condition that can appear one to two weeks before the start of menstrual bleeding and which triggers many symptoms other than pain, such as bloating. , irritability, fatigue and increased
In this case, the intake of Omega-3 seems to be more effective the longer it is taken.

How to take Omega-3 against period discomfort?
Omega 3 are naturally present in various foods of plant origin (such as walnuts, flaxseeds and their oil) and animal origin (fatty fish and derived oils). However, not all food-based Omega 3s are the same.
The biologically active ones are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (acid
docosahexaenoic), i.e. Omega-3s of marine origin, present in fish, fish oil, krill oil and microalgal oil. Unfortunately, the human body is not a skilled producer of these molecules, which is therefore best taken in adequate quantities with food or, if particularly adequate doses are needed or you do not eat enough fish, with food supplements.
People who want to try their effectiveness against period disorders can take them in two different ways:

  • at low doses, if the problem they are dealing with is primary dysmenorrhea;
  • for long periods, if they want to counteract the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.


Bibliographical references:
Brenna JT. Efficiency of conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to long chain n-3 fatty acids in man.
Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2002 Mar;5(2):127-32. doi: 1 0.1097/00075197-200203000-00002
CalderPC. Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes: from molecules to man. Biochem Soc
Trans. 2017 Oct 15;45(5):1105-1115. doi: 10.1042/BST20160474
Mohammadi MM et al. Effect of omega-3 fatty acids on premenstrual syndrome: A systematic
review and meta-analysis. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2022 Jun;48(6):1293-1305. doi:
Mohammadi MM et al. The impact of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on primary
dysmenorrhea: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur J Clin
Pharmacol. 2022 May;78(5):721-731. doi: 10.1007/s00228-021-03263-1
Medlenplus. Period Pain. Last view 20/10/23
Ricciotti and and Fitzgerald Ga. Prostaglandins and inflammation. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol.
2011 May; 31 (5): 986–1000. Doi: 10.1161/Atvbaha.110.207449

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