Let's Talk About Period Poop
Do you find yourself rushing to the toilet when you’re on your period? Are you plagued by period diarrhea or do you experience constipation instead? While this may be an uncomfortable subject for some, it’s about time we talked about what’s going with period poop. In this post, we’re going to look at the changes in bowel movements around menstruation, why they happen, and what you can do about them…
Why does your period make you poop?
If diarrhea during your period is something you’ve lived with for a while, you might be relieved to know you’re not alone. A 2014 study on gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms before and during menses in healthy women found that almost three-quarters of participants experienced at least one GI symptom around menstruation.
So if changes to the bowel around menstruation are so common… What exactly is causing it? Well, the cause for period poop is actually related to another formidable feature of our cycle: period cramps.
Cramps are caused by something called prostaglandins. These are a type of compound made in the lining of the uterus. They are responsible for the contractions that cause our uterus lining to shed when we get our periods - the more prostaglandins that are made, the stronger the cramps and the more likely we are to feel period pain.
Our anatomy is closely connected, and the uterus and bowel are neighbors. So when these hormone-like compounds affect the womb’s lining it’s perhaps no surprise they can have a knock-on effect and cause disturbance on our GI tract too!
When this happens it can change the consistency of bowel movements, causing us to run to the toilet more often. Unfortunately, this means that those of us who are already prone to more painful cramps are also more likely to experience period diarrhea too.
Hormones and the bowel
It’s not just prostaglandins that are thought to affect our bowel movements in the days around menstruation. Our sex hormones can change things up too.
The hormones estrogen and progesterone are closely linked to the ebb and flow of our menstrual cycles. We know that these hormone levels do more than just regulate the cycle since many of us see changes to our skin around our period caused by hormonal changes. While more research needs to be done, these shifts in hormone levels could also affect other parts of our biology such as our GI tract too.
Those pesky PMS cravings we get around our cycle are caused by hormonal shifts too, and they can also end up being an indirect cause for GI disruption. If we indulge our cravings and consume more unhealthy foods around our periods - think fatty or sugary foods like chips or chocolate - we may notice a knock-on effect on the bowel too.
How to stop period diarrhea
There are a few steps you can take to prevent a period poop predicament. One study indicates that if you take ibuprofen before your period is due to start you can potentially block prostaglandins signals which may make your periods less painful, and potentially prevent those period poops too. Always check with your doctor before you do this to make sure you’re taking the right medication for you.
You can also try to prevent unwanted period diarrhea naturally by sticking to a healthy diet and trying your best to ignore those cravings around menstruation - we know that’s easier said than done as managing PMS can be challenging in itself! Drinking plenty of water and reducing sugar and caffeine in the days around your period may also reduce discomfort and bloating.
Taking hormonal birth control is another option for preventing unwanted menstrual symptoms, although for some of us it can come with its own slew of side effects.
If you find your painful periods are interfering with your everyday life, then it’s a good idea to have a talk with your doctor to see what other treatment options are available to you. While period pain and other symptoms of menstruation are common, that doesn’t mean you need to put up with them.
Can your period cause constipation?
All our cycles are different, and you may find that instead of experiencing diarrhea before or during menstruation, you’re having the opposite problem. This could be due to hormones or changes in diet. If your period leaves you feeling backed up, you may find that eating more fiber helps keep things a bit more regular.
Some gentle exercise can also be a helpful way to get things moving. While it may be tempting to hide under the covers, a walk can boost your mood and certain yoga poses can even help with period cramps.
Is period poop normal?
Yes. Everything about going to the toilet on your period is completely natural. You shouldn’t feel bad or self-conscious about needing to go more often during this time. However, if your period symptoms leave you feeling less than 100% you may want to prioritize self-care and take things easy until you feel better.
There is a potential link between the menstrual cycle and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A study conducted in 2005 found that participants with IBS experienced a 50% increase in gastrointestinal symptoms around menstruation, compared to otherwise asymptomatic women, of which a third reported experiencing symptoms. So if you already have IBS you may be more likely to also notice a change to your bowel movements around menstruation.
If tummy troubles on your period are causing you extreme discomfort, this isn’t normal. Experiencing pain while going to the toilet can be a sign of endometriosis and other conditions. To be on the safe side, talk to your doctor to rule these out.
Get to know your cycle better
Period poop is just one part of our physiology that’s affected around menstruation - there are so many symptoms and bodily changes that we experience along with our period. Keeping track of these can help us notice patterns in our cycle. With Natural Cycles you can track symptoms such as pain, mood changes and libido levels to spot patterns in your cycle and learn more about your body.
As well as tracking changes to your unique cycle, you can also use Natural Cycles as a fertility partner to either plan or prevent pregnancy. Why not find out if the world’s first FDA cleared birth control app could work for you today?
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