It’s that time of the month, and with it come a few side effects that you can do without: constipation, bloating, diarrhea … maybe even all of the above.
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Many people have mild, manageable digestive problems related to their menstrual cycle. For others, it is worse.
Regardless of your symptoms, General Practitioner Donald Ford, MD, MBA, Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, shares steps you can take to manage menstrual poop and other cycle-related stomach problems.
Why are you pooping more on your period?
Blame it on hormones. Every month, just before your period begins, fatty acids known as prostaglandins begin to relax the smooth muscle tissue inside your uterus to help it lose its lining.
But those same prostaglandins can have a similar impact on your gut, leading to – you guessed it – more shit, and even diarrhea.
“It makes sense when you think of the cycle,” says Dr. Ford. “Until ovulation, the uterus prepares to accept the egg and as soon as it starts, the opposite happens – it is cleansing to prepare for the next cycle.”
For people with pre-existing digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, period-related back problems can be more serious.
You may also be constipated between periods
Another period-related hormone, progesterone, can cause diarrhea in some people and constipation in others.
Progesterone is responsible for the growth and thickening of the uterine walls, and it reaches a peak just before ovulation. A buildup of the hormone can cause intestinal problems.
“Progesterone typically promotes constipation, which tends to come around ovulation or a few days afterward,” he says.
Other period-related stomach problems
Some of the other abdominal symptoms you experience around your period are not related to your digestive system at all. During menstruation, the hormones that your body releases hormones can cause:
- Water retention.
- Abdominal cramps.
“While these symptoms may feel like they are taking place in your stomach, they actually occur in the womb,” explains Dr. Ford.
How to relieve menstrual cramps
Hormones happen, and no matter what you do, you probably can not prevent a little stomach problems related to your periods. But you can take steps to reduce it and to take care of your stomach.
1. Eat a clean diet
The first line of defense for digestive problems is a healthy diet.
“Eat healthy foods and get lots of natural fiber,” says Dr. Ford. “Some people also take fiber supplements, but there is some controversy about whether they are effective or not.”
Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and leafy vegetables to maintain regular bowel habits. And try not to enjoy that craving for junk food before the period, which can promote your upset stomach and cause extra-smelly stools and gas.
2. Stay hydrated
Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, a loss of water and nutrients from your body’s tissues – which can become a serious problem if left untreated.
If you are prone to loose stools at that time of the month, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. And avoid coffee, if you can, which has a laxative that you just do not need right now.
3. Try medication
Using ibuprofen just before the start of your period can prevent the release of prostaglandins, thus relieving the pain of your period. and your period poop. Just make sure you follow the dosing instructions carefully.
For constipation, dr. Ford recommends taking a soft brand like MiraLAX® or chair softeners to relieve constipation as needed. If your constipation is chronic, prescription medications such as linaclotide or lubiprostone may provide an effective solution.
4. Consider oral contraceptives
If your digestive problems become debilitating, your doctor may recommend oral contraceptives that reduce the frequency of your periods. If you are already using contraceptives, one option is to skip periods by skipping the week of placebos.
“It does not solve the problem, but it does make it happen less frequently,” says Dr. Ford.
It is a good idea to talk to your doctor if you have major symptoms such as severe cramps with your period, he says. Also, if you ever have pain associated with blood in your stool, see your doctor as soon as possible to rule out more serious problems.