by Laura X. / 1.20.22

13 Tips for a Smoother and Less Painful Period

Oh, that time of month. Also known as Aunt Flo, Shark Week, Lady Business, Crimson Tide, TOM (Time Of Month), Carrie, Red Wedding, Code Red, etc. While the nicknames may vary, one thing’s for sure: periods are not fun times.

Some women are blessed with having short and/or painless periods. I have friends who nonchalantly shrug when discussing it and say something like, “I hardly notice when I have it.” Am I jealous? One million percent.

My unwanted visitor enjoys living rent-free 7 days a month and leaves a mess afterward, not to mention Aunt Flo likes to announce her arrival a week beforehand with delightful bloating, cramping, and an appetite that makes my hubby occasionally (and cautiously) ask, “Darling, are you sure you want to eat two dinners?” No I’m not, but the ravenous pre-menstrual monster inside me says YES.

Fear not! As someone with decades of experience battling the Crimson Tide, after a lot of trial and error, I’ve found some natural remedies and methods that make the TOM a lot more bearable.

Extra Sleep

While I wish I could sleep 5 hours a night and be high functioning, I’ve come to accept that this is simply not the case. When I’m not on my period, I typically feel my best if I sleep around 8-8.5 hours a night. During my time of month, I sleep a bit worse the first two nights due to fatigue and some cramping. I try to factor that in by getting into bed earlier and waking up later, so I’m usually in bed for a total of 9-9.5 hours. That way even if I sleep worse during the night, I’ve been resting in bed longer which offsets the fatigue a bit.

All About Maxi Pads

What we use during our menstrual cycle varies drastically depending on the person, but as someone with a heavy flow, I prefer pads, specifically maxi pads that are so long that they are basically the largest pads you can buy before you get into the adult diaper category. They’re not the prettiest, but I don’t have to worry about leakage, and I pair that with thicker period-friendly underwear for extra protection. Combine that with a pair of huge but chic sweatpants from Acne Studios or Weekday (thank goodness for athleisure), and no one can tell that I’m wearing a pad the size of my torso.

Why not tampons, you ask? I always feel more pressure down there whenever using a tampon, not to mention that my flow requires the largest tampon size possible in order to not change every hour, which causes more pressure. Some of it’s also due to my Chinese upbringing. Growing up in a household with a very health conscious mom and a grandma across the pond who’s a former doctor, both of them warned me about leaving tampons in for too long and also to not restrict my body from bleeding freely during that time of month. That slight fear mongering combined with the discomfort of using them have made tampons something I only use on rare occasions if I absolutely MUST (for ex: If there’s an outfit I need to wear and I have a photoshoot scheduled).

What about menstrual cups? I’ve tried a few different types (OrganiCup, DivaCup, Cora, etc.) but once again, the pressure down there makes it too uncomfortable.

Light Movement & Stretching

Light movement during that time of month does help alleviate the pain and cramping for me. Depending on the period, sometimes I’m able to do a light workout the first three days (can’t be any bouncing though). This consists of about 30-45 minutes at low resistance on the elliptical machine or a leisurely walk outside. If I feel worse than usual, then I opt for only light stretching for about 10-20 minutes. After the first 4 days, I can gradually start doing more intense workouts, such as weight lifting on Day 5 or 6, followed by HIIT/circuit training videos or running outside by Day 7.

Coffee + Magnesium

A lot of my cramping stems from constipation that I often get either right before or right when my period begins. I know there are mixed reviews out there on whether to have caffeine on your period or not, but I personally find it very beneficial to help with constipation. When I start to feel that Day 1 is starting (my Flo app is fairly accurate but sometimes it’s off by a day or so), I start the morning with a big glass of water followed by a cup of black coffee. That gets the bowels moving and then I’m off to a business meeting with myself. “Business meeting” is my personal euphemism for when I’m going to be in the bathroom for awhile. ;)

Magnesium is also important to help with constipation. During the rest of the month, I take 2 magnesium citrate + 1 magnesium malate at dinnertime. The evening before my Day 1, I bump that up to 3+1 or sometimes just 4 citrate and no malate, depending on how constipated I feel.

Food That’s Easy On The Stomach

This helps with both avoiding constipation and also trying to make it less taxing for my body during my menstrual cycle. Thankfully, my menstrual cravings occur the week leading up to my period, so by the time it arrives, it’s relatively easy for me to focus on eating foods that are easy on my stomach. Some foods I often eat during my period: oatmeal, chicken congee, soup (especially bone broth), salad, Greek yogurt, fruit, salmon, avocado.

Good Bacteria

I take probiotics in pill form about 4 or 5 days out of my 7 day period for gut health (balanced microbiome) and digestion. The rest of the time, I either take probiotics 3-4x per week or less if I’m eating a lot of kimchi that week. The probiotic I take is called Physician’s Choice 60 Billion Probiotic.

Quick note: Any links I share are not affiliate links. They are simply brands I personally like. If you buy it on a platform like Amazon, PLEASE make sure you purchase from a reputable buyer so you don’t get a fake or hazardous product.


I take one turmeric (along with a lot of other goodies) on a daily basis for inflammation reduction, but when I’m on my period, I bump it up to 3-5 pills per day. Our bodies can’t absorb very much turmeric into the bloodstream, but black pepper does help with the absorption, so I take one that contains black pepper + an organic curcumin complex from a brand called NatureWise.

Shepherd’s Purse

Since I have a heavy flow, one natural method that works to slightly reduce the heaviness is shepherd’s purse. As with anything I’ve listed in this blog post, shepherd’s purse works for my body but may not be right for you, and it’s important to understand dosage, as shepherd’s purse can be quite potent. I use one from Herb Pharm and take about 1 tincture in a small glass of water a few times a day during Days 1-3 of my period.


Iron deficiency is relatively common, especially if you have heavy periods like me. I used to be very iron deficient, but over the years I’ve gradually built it up, and now I only take iron supplements during my period. The reason I didn’t take a ton of iron right from the start to build up the level is because my natural doctor taught me that it’s still more dangerous to have iron overload than iron deficiency. I like Ferrasorb from Thorne Research. It’s comprised of ferrochel, which is a chelated iron that is easier on the stomach and typically has more efficient absorbency as well (this is all info my doctor taught me).

Stay Hydrated With Warm Water

When I was a teenager, my mom always told me to drink warm water during my menstrual cycle or room temperature at the very least, but never cold. She’s no doctor and obviously neither am I, but I definitely feel better when I drink hot or room temperature water, and I honestly feel like my cramps get worse when I drink anything cold. For those of you who love icy cold beverages (aka my hubby’s side of the family), this might be a difficult one to do, but you can find ways to make it more enjoyable, such as having more teas or adding some honey to warm water for a hint of sweetness.

Period Tea

This headline sounds kind of wrong, but you know what I mean. There are lots of period-friendly teas out on the market, and while I don’t think it makes a substantial difference to my TOM, I do find that it helps a bit with stomach discomfort and makes it more fun than just drinking warm water all day. My favorite one is from Earth Mama. Thankfully their packaging is pretty discreet these days. Obviously I love this tea, but as a design and aesthetics snob, their old packaging was not exactly something I prominently showcased in my kitchen:

image of tea packaging
Let’s just say this tea used to be in the verrrry back of my cupboard.


With the combination of methods listed above, I rely on a heating pad way less often than I used to. These days I use a heating pad probably once every 4 or 5 periods. If you have a lot of cramping and pain though, a heating pad or hot water bottle is a must! Just be sure not to use it directly on the skin so you don’t burn yourself.

Final Part: Check Your Hormones

If you’ve read all the way up to this point, I commend you. The last part is about hormones, and I’ll start with sharing a bit of my personal backstory on hormonal issues.

When I was 22, I started having debilitating periods where I was bedridden the first few days, and Day 1 consisted of (sorry to be TMI) vomiting, diarrhea, cold sweats, and cramping that felt like hundreds of small daggers stabbing the inside of my stomach. I went to an OBGYN who didn’t really listen to me and dismissed it as normal hormones changing in my 20s. She told me to take some Midol (which I already tried but it didn’t help much) and sent me on my way. Unfortunately, being young and too trusting, I believed her and didn’t get a second opinion.

After years of enduring this, I finally went to a better family doctor who ordered some bloodwork and ultrasounds, which resulted in the discovery that I likely had endometriosis and my hormones were very out of wack. My estrogen levels were through the roof, my iron level was crazy low, one aspect of my thyroid was underperforming, and I had a handful of other hormones that were not even close to optimal.

Shortly after that, I found a licensed natural doctor through a referral from a trusted friend who had the same health issues as me, and it was literally a godsend. After extensive bloodwork and lots of lengthy discussions, we started working together to regulate my hormones. This wasn’t an overnight success, but after about a year, things started getting much better, and my periods were about half as bad as they used to be.

Fast forward to today, and while my periods are definitely worse than someone who experiences minimal discomfort or pain, they are leaps and bounds better than before.

I’m not a doctor and I know it’s not a one-size-fits all, and bloodwork can’t tell you everything about your health, but take it from me: If you feel like something is off, it’s better to start seeking answers earlier than to postpone it for years like I did. And if you don’t feel comfortable with the first doctor/OBGYN/natural doctor you go to, don’t be afraid to get a second or third opinion.

While your period might not be a walk in the park, I do hope that some of these tips will work out and that your periods will be more bearable in the near future.

**These are methods that have worked personally for me, but this is not professional medical advice. Please speak to your doctor about your specific needs before making any major changes.