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An In-Depth Look at the Potential Benefits and Risks of Supplementing with Vitamin E for Menstrual Pain Relief

Period cramps or primary dysmenorrhea (PD) can be a distressing and disruptive experience for those who suffer from it, and can lead to missed work or school. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and oral contraceptives are the go-to treatments for menstrual pain, but vitamin E supplements could provide relief for those who cannot take these medications. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis found that vitamin E can reduce period cramps by inhibiting the release of arachidonic acid and reducing prostaglandins in the body, leading to relaxation of the uterus and reduced pain and discomfort. Additionally, vitamin E can help reduce the duration and intensity of period pain, limit blood loss, reduce cramping, anxiety, and cravings associated with premenstrual syndrome and regulate menstrual cycles.

Studies involving vitamin E supplements have used dosages ranging from 100 IU to 900 IU, with the supplement given twice a day, starting two days before the expected start of the period and continuing through the first three days of bleeding. While natural vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) is preferable, synthetic vitamin E (dl-alpha-tocopherol) may be found in some supplements. It is recommended to choose supplements certified by recognized organizations such as the US Pharmacopeia (USP) or ConsumerLab.

Foods such as sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, wheat germ oil, vegetable oil, and kiwi can provide a natural source of vitamin E. However, incorporating these foods into your diet may not provide the same results as supplemental vitamin E.

It is important to note that vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and can accumulate in the body’s fat tissues, potentially leading to toxicity. While toxicity is rare, it can cause symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, and muscle weakness. Therefore, it is essential to follow supplement instructions and consult a healthcare provider with any questions.

Certified pharmacist Ariana Medizade explained that taking vitamin E for PD may be an attractive option, especially in younger people, as the combined contraceptive pill, which can also reduce prostaglandins, is not an appropriate treatment for cramps in adolescents. Dr. Laura Purdy, a board-certified family physician, recommends consulting a healthcare provider before taking vitamin E supplements, as the effectiveness of the supplement can vary from person to person.