Fish Oil, Vitamin B-12 May Offer Relief During That Time of the Month
"Omega-3 decreases inflammation, and omega-6 increases inflammation, so
there has to be a balance there," Schaefer says.
Zeev Harel, MD, a professor of pediatrics at Brown University, has done his
own studies on menstrual cramps in adolescents and omega-3 intake. He says an
ideal diet should be made up of 50% carbohydrates, 20% protein, and about 30%
fat, which includes saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.
"Among the polyunsaturated fat, we have two families: omega-3 and
omega-6," he tells WebMD. "There is a competition in the body between
omega-3 and omega-6: They use the same enzymes and everything. We have more
omega-6 in our Western diet; unfortunately, the ratio is almost 25:1. Ideally,
it should be should be 5:1 in favor of omega-6. If we supply the diet with more
omega-3, we incorporate more of those in every tissue of the body," Harel
Why is that important? Because these fats affect the body's production of
chemicals called prostaglandins, Harel says. Prostaglandins can cause
inflammation and also affect uterine contractions and blood flow, both of which
are involved in cramps.
"The findings don't surprise me," he says.
So, should women of childbearing age stock up on vitamin B-12 and fish oil
to foil menstrual cramps? While some studies have shown that as your
consumption of fish or fish oil and/or B-12 goes up, that menstrual pain goes
down, you're unlikely to find a doctor to prescribe them just yet.
But Schaefer says fish oil supplements can't hurt. "Fish oil is
certainly innocuous, and people can buy it over the counter," says
Schaefer, adding that fish oil has been shown to be beneficial for a number of
other conditions as well. "People have used [fish oil] for a variety of
conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, for example. Also, it has been
reported in a large prospective study that two fish oil capsules a day reduces
the risk of heart disease."
"At this point, we just recommend encouraging fish intake, especially
those rich in omega-3 fatty acid, such as salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, and
sardines," Harel says. "For those who don't like fish, they may
consider fish supplements."
- New research has shown that women who suffer menstrual pain may get some
relief by taking fish oil supplement and vitamin B-12.
- Researchers suspect that these two supplements work because they decrease
- It is too soon to prescribe fish oil supplements as a treatment, but women
can buy them over the counter or eat more fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty
acid, such as salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, and sardines.