New Study Finds Vitamin E Supplements May Help Ease Period Cramps

  • A new review has found that vitamin E can be used to minimize period cramps.
  • Vitamin E is a popular storehouse for antioxidants; it’s those antioxidants that can ease period pain.
  • Experts recommend individuals focus on incorporating vitamin E-rich foods into their diet before diving into supplement pills, but note that a conversation with a healthcare professional will be beneficial in understanding how supplement pills may help meet specific needs.
woman on couch with abdominal pain

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New research has found that vitamin E could help minimize pain from period cramps.

If you have experienced period cramps—or primary dysmenorrhea (PD)—you know firsthand that they tend to strike at the worst possible moment not only wreaking havoc on your tolerance level, but disrupting plans and impacting your overall demeanor. In fact, PD is considered one of the leading causes of missed school or work, translating to a loss of 600 million hours per year.

But here’s the thing. You don’t have to live with cramps every month, nor do you have to try to power through the painful sensations, especially when there might be an option for relief at your fingertips.

Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the initial therapy of choice, with oral contraceptives a close second. But not everyone can use these medications—and some simply just don’t want to. This is where supplementing with vitamin E might be a good option.

Vitamin E for Period Pain

Recently, researchers implemented a systematic review and meta-analysis and discovered that vitamin E supplementation could significantly ease or minimize period cramps, making them more tolerable and allowing individuals to go about their day without too much disruption.

Because period pain is often characterized by an increased concentration of prostaglandins (or hormone-like substances) in menstrual fluid, suppressing its production has become the primary way to treat menstrual pain. Additionally, researchers have been exploring ways to prevent this process from occurring.

One way to do that is with the combined contraceptive pill, which can not only decrease prostaglandins but also can reduce the volume of menstrual fluid. While this pill is an appropriate treatment for cramps in non-adolescents, taking this high-dose pill from an early age may increase the long-term risks. For this reason, researchers believe that vitamin E is an attractive option for addressing cramps, especially in younger people.

The Benefits of Supplementing With Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps promote healthy skin, good vision, and a strong immune system as well as protect your cells from free radical damage. In recent years, vitamin E has become increasingly popular for being a storehouse of antioxidants. 

These antioxidants are what may help reduce the pain of menstrual cramps. In fact, they can inhibit the release of arachidonic acid (a fatty acid) and its conversion to prostaglandin—ultimately reducing period pain.

“By taking Vitamin E, this will cause a reduction of prostaglandins in the body,” explained Ariana Medizade, PharmD, a certified pharmacist with a background in functional nutrition and a pharmaceutical advisor for Momotaro Apotheca, an organic vulvovaginal care line. “This may lead to an overall reduction in pain and discomfort during menstruation and relaxation of the muscles of the uterus.”

Vitamin E also can reduce the duration and intensity of period pain as well as limit blood loss, Dr. Medizade noted. It may even help reduce cramping, anxiety, and cravings associated with premenstrual syndrome and regulate your menstrual cycle. In most cases, though, taking vitamin E acts as a pain relief method and not a complete removal of pain in primary dysmenorrhea, she says.

How to Supplement With Vitamin E

In various studies involving vitamin E, the supplement was given twice a day, beginning two days before the expected start of your period and continuing through the first three days of bleeding.

“The studies on vitamin E used dosages ranging from 100 IU to 900 IU,” said Stephanie Hack MD, MPH, FACOG, an OB-GYN and founder of the Lady Parts Doctor, a women’s health platform. “Follow the instructions on the supplement instructions, and consult your healthcare provider with questions. Vitamins can be toxic if you consume more than the recommended dosage.”

Keep in mind, too, that the effectiveness of vitamin E may vary from person to person, noted Laura Purdy, MD, MBA, a board-certified family physician. “Some individuals may experience significant relief while others may not experience much difference.”

How to Choose a Supplement

When choosing a vitamin E supplement, look for products that contain natural vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol), Dr. Purdy says, rather than synthetic vitamin E (dl-alpha-tocopherol). You also should look for supplements that are certified by recognized organizations such as the US Pharmacopeia (USP) or ConsumerLab.

You also can get vitamin E from foods as part of a nutritious diet, but there is no evidence to suggest that food with vitamin E provides the same results as supplemental vitamin E, added Dr. Purdy. However, incorporating vitamin E-rich foods into your diet may be beneficial in promoting overall health and should be included whenever possible.

Foods High in Vitamin E

The recommended dosage of vitamin E is 15 mg for teens and adults and 19 mg for breastfeeding people. Here are some foods that are naturally high in vitamin E:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Tomatoes
  • Mixed nuts
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Green leafy vegetables such as spinach
  • Wheat germ oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Kiwi

Risk of Taking Vitamin E Supplements

Like vitamins D, A, and K, vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, where the excess is stored in the body’s fat tissues. Because these vitamins can accumulate over time, there is a risk of vitamin E toxicity—though this is rare, explained Dr. Medizade.

If toxicity occurs, it can cause fatigue, nausea, muscle weakness, and diarrhea; but the greatest risk is bleeding.

“[Vitamin E] also can likewise interfere with blood clotting, which is the body’s natural defense against excessive bleeding after an injury,” she added. “It is worth noting that excessive levels of vitamin E can potentially interfere with other drugs such as anticoagulants.”

Typically, vitamin E toxicity can occur at daily dosages of 1000 mg or greater, said Carly King, ND, a licensed naturopathic doctor with a focus on evidence-based medicine for reproductive health. “Drug reactions with vitamin E dosages of 300 mg or greater can also occur, particularly with aspirin, warfarin, cyclosporine, and tamoxifen.”

If you are interested in supplementing with vitamin E, it is important to talk with a healthcare provider first. They can review your medical history and determine if vitamin E is safe for you. Likewise, they can test your vitamin E levels with a blood test. They also can perform a red blood cell hemolysis test, Dr. Medizade said. “This test specifically measures the resistance of red blood cells to hemolysis—which is an indicator for Vitamin E deficiency.”

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  1. Alikamali M, Mohammad-Alizadeh-Charandabi S, Maghalian M, Mirghafourvand M. The effects of vitamin E on the intensity of primary dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysisClin Nutr ESPEN. 2022;52:50-59. doi:10.1016/j.clnesp.2022.10.001

  2. Itani R, Soubra L, Karout S, Rahme D, Karout L, Khojah HMJ. Primary dysmenorrhea: pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment updatesKorean J Fam Med. 2022;43(2):101-108. doi:10.4082/kjfm.21.0103

  3. Vilvapriya S, Vinodhini S. Vitamin E in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhoeaInt J Reprod Contracept Obstet Gynecol. 2018;7(6):2257. doi:10.18203/2320-1770.ijrcog20182331

  4. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin E: fact sheet for health professionals.

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