A new report published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology shows that short-term supplementation with vitamin E can help relieve painful periods.
One hundred school girls who reported having pain when menstruating (dysmenorrhea) were recruited by the researchers. Each girl was randomly assigned to receive either 500 IU of vitamin E per day or a placebo for five days, beginning two days before the start of menstruation. The same five-day treatment schedule was administered again during the next menstrual cycle.
Each girl was then asked to rate how painful her period was two months after taking the vitamin E. Girls who took the vitamin E experienced a significantly greater reduction in menstrual pain, compared with those given the placebo. The researchers did not report on the effect of vitamin E during the first month of treatment.
Dysmenorrhea is a very common condition, with symptoms occurring in up to 72% of menstruating women. Conventional treatments for painful periods include anti-inflammatory medication and hormonal agents. Experts in nutritional medicine may question the long-term effect of such a brief intervention with vitamin E, since treatments involving vitamin E usually require prolonged and consistent supplementation. In fact, an older study found that vitamin E treatment for dysmenorrhea becomes more effective with each successive month of use. The authors did not specifically address why they chose such a brief period of supplementation.