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Do you know your period is coming because of period poops? You’re constipated the week before and then when your period hits, you can’t stop pooping? Or maybe you’re someone who tracks their period, and you’ve noticed some patterns emerging around bowel movements and your period.
There’s a reason for this.
What are Period Poops?
While that’s obviously not the scientific terminology, there is science behind why “period poops” happen. Cyclical changes in bowel activity can be a result of cyclical changes in hormones of menstruation, specifically progesterone and prostaglandins.
Period related bowel movement changes are usually either recurrent constipation, usually during the tail end of your luteal phase, and/or diarrhea once menstruation begins. While some people experience bloating, headaches, acne and irritability, other people also report period poops.
Why Do I Get Constipated Before My Period?
Premenstrual constipation can be a result of high levels of progesterone. Progesterone is the hormone released to encourage the thickening of the uterine lining. It is the main hormone of the luteal phase, the phase which follows ovulation.
After ovulation occurs, the corpus luteum secretes progesterone, which is like our nesting hormone. It’s what makes us feel like staying home, getting cozy and eating lots of ice cream. It’s meant to curb the effects of rising estrogen, which contribute to feelings of irritability and other mood-related PMS symptoms. When implantation doesn’t occur, both drop and menstruation, or the shedding of the uterine lining, occurs.
Progesterone relaxes the muscles of the digestive system and can slow the movement of digested foods through our intestines, impeding elimination. If you are someone who already suffers from chronic constipation and has been diagnosed with an irritable bowel disorder (IBD), this can exasperate these symptoms.
How To Prevent Constipation
So, how can you combat period-related constipation? Eat lots of fibre-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables (with their skins on) or supplement your diet with things like chia seeds, ground flax, or psyllium husk. Note: when increasing fibre, always make sure to stay hydrated. Fibre bulks our stool for thorough elimination, but water is required to help the fibre bulk and pass through our system.
Once progesterone drops, prostaglandins encourage uterine contractions and monthly menstruation. They might also be the reason that once constipation clears, then you experience loose stools. Prostaglandins can have a laxative effect.
Why Do I Poop So Much During My Period?
Prostaglandins are fatty acids that stimulate uterine contractions during menstruation and can have a similar effect on our bowels. They are molecules made from fats that operate similarly to hormones.
Prostaglandins assist with the contracting and shedding of the uterine lining. This begins to happen prior to menstruation and can also be the cause of cramping, nausea, and abdominal pain. These powerful abilities to contract the uterus can also take effect on our intestines, leading to looser and/or more frequent bowel movements.
How To Prevent Diarrhea
So, how do you combat diarrhea during that time of the month? At the start of your period, continue to supplement your diet with lots of fibre and water. This will bulk your stool without also having a constipating effect.
In the lead up to your period, watch your diet. To limit symptoms, like menstrual cramps, acne, and irritability, resist the urge to eat lots of junk and comfort foods. What you eat can affect your menstrual cycle and symptoms—just as what you eat can support healthy hormones also.
Is There a Link Between Emotions & Period Poops?
Some studies point to a potential connection between emotions and bowel disturbances.
Commonly, feelings of depression, increased susceptibility to stress, and irritability precede menstruation. When this happens, studies have shown that digestive disruptions, like loose stools or constipation, also often occur. While the connection is not scientifically proven (yet), the growing awareness of the gut-brain connection suggests a potential correlation between the two.
Additionally, stress and anxiety can influence the digestive system, leading to irritable bowel symptoms. It is not such a large jump then to suspect that premenstrual syndrome, when our mood can suffer, can cause bowel disturbances also.
How to Deal with Bowel Disturbances
The best ways to deal with bowel irregularities alongside menstruation include:
- Magnesium and magnesium-rich foods support the natural muscle contractions of the uterus and intestines. Making sure that they respond with the correct amount of relaxation and contraction helps to properly shed the lining of your uterus, as well as keep bowel movements regular.
- Movement. Engage in regular physical activity to encourage proper elimination and hormone regulation.
- More fibre (and water). Fibre not only helps with regular bowel movements but supports healthy levels of the hormone, progesterone and keeps the level of prostaglandins within a healthy range.
- Minimize stress. Stress can disrupt bowel regularity and worsen PMS symptoms. Engaging in daily stress reduction practices keeps everything in check. Menstrual health is a direct result of your diet, physical exercise, and stress management.
If you find that you experience constipation or diarrhea frequently, check with your health care provider about irritable bowel syndrome. While digestive disruptions are not uncommon before and during menstruation, abdominal pain and frequent changes in bowel activity can be the result of an underlying condition.
- “6 Ways the Menstrual Cycle Can Affect Our Bowel Movements.” Rupa Health, 2 Nov. 2022, www.rupahealth.com/post/6-ways-our-menstrual-cycles-affect-our-bowel-movements#:~:text=During%20your%20period%2C%20more%20prostaglandins%20are%20released%20to. Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.
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- Jensen, D. V., et al. “Prostaglandins in the Menstrual Cycle of Women. A Review.” Danish Medical Bulletin, vol. 34, no. 3, 1987, pp. 178–182, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3297513/.
- Liu, Qing, et al. “Stress Reactivity and Emotion in Premenstrual Syndrome.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, vol. Volume 13, June 2017, pp. 1597–1602, dx.doi.org/10.2147%2FNDT.S132001, https://doi.org/10.2147/ndt.s132001. Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.
- Naliboff, Bruce D., et al. “Mindfulness‐Based Stress Reduction Improves Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms via Specific Aspects of Mindfulness.” Neurogastroenterology & Motility, vol. 32, no. 9, 7 Apr. 2020, https://doi.org/10.1111/nmo.13828.
- “This Is Why You Poop So Much during Your Period.” HuffPost, 12 Feb. 2016, www.huffpost.com/entry/why-do-i-poop-so-much-during-my-period_n_56be1780e4b08ffac124f045. Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.