Ok, it’s time for some toilet talk - what’s the deal with period poo? If you notice a change in your bathroom habits around your period - you are not alone. Around 73% of us have some interesting period poo situations going on, but why does it happen?
Here we’ll break down the physical and hormonal changes that could be contributing to your bloating and bowel movements and share our advice on how to make period poo less of a problem!
- The physical and hormonal changes around your period can make you need to go to the toilet more often - or cause constipation
- Diarrhoea may be down to increased muscle contractions or PMS anxiety
- Constipation could be down to higher levels of progesterone or dietary changes
- Gut health issues can also be a sign of endometriosis - so be aware of the severity of your symptoms
- There are plenty of natural ways you can support your gut health and reduce period poo problems!
Period Poo Problems
Whether you’re going too often or not enough, period poo problems can get you down. Here’s what might be causing them…
Just before your period, your body releases hormones known as prostaglandins. These hormones have various roles in your body, but when it comes to your menstrual cycle they are there to help your uterine muscles and blood vessels contract. This is what encourages your uterus to shed your lining and also why you may experience painful cramping around this time (our Myoovi kit can help with that!)
However, prostaglandins can also make other muscles in the area contract - including in your intestines and bowels, which is why you might find you need to go to the toilet more often during this time.
Stress and Anxiety
Over 64% of people with periods say anxiety is one of their worst PMS symptoms. Whilst some low mood around this time of your cycle is nothing to worry about, if you are struggling with intense anxiety it could be a sign of a hormonal imbalance and/or a stressful lifestyle - both of which can have an effect on your gut.
The gut-brain axis connects these two important areas of our body and when we are stressed mentally - especially around your period when there are already a lot of hormonal fluctuations going on- it can cause inflammation of the gut, leading to issues like diarrhoea.
On the flip side, if you find things are moving slower than usual, it could be down to progesterone. Progesterone is the dominant hormone in the second half of your cycle and peaks (and then dips again) just before your period starts.
Progesterone is a hormone that promotes a slower pace of life and it can have the same effect on your digestive system! As your muscles are more relaxed your food (and eventually your poo) may move through your system more slowly, which can cause constipation. It’s one of the reasons that constipation is very common in pregnancy - a time when our progesterone levels stay high. This backed-up digestive system can also lead to water retention, gas build-up, trapped wind and painful or uncomfortable bloating.
Around our periods we may be tempted to reach for comfort food - and there’s nothing wrong with the occasional cookie or ice cream evening. However, if we are constantly choosing sugary or fried foods over fruit, vegetables or other healthy whole foods, this could have an impact on our digestive system.
How To Ease Your Period Poo Problems
For many people period poo is a totally normal part of your cycle, but if you want to try and get your gut feeling a bit happier, there are lots of things you can do.
Getting enough fluids is vital for good gut health and to keep things moving in your digestive system. If you have constipation, dehydration will make things worse and if you’re struggling with diarrhoea you’ll need to replace the fluids you are losing. Either way, make sure you’re drinking at least 3 litres a day.
Get Plenty Of Fibre
A fibre-rich diet can help you reduce the risk of constipation and keep things regular. You want to be eating around 30g of fibre a day and you can get that from foods including wholemeal bread, brown rice and fruit and vegetables.
Avoid Trigger Foods
You may find that there are certain foods that can exacerbate gut health issues. For many people, these are things like spicy cuisine or foods that are very fatty but you might have a certain intolerance to something unique to you. Keep a note of what you have eaten on days your period poo is out of control and you might be able to identify the culprit!
There are many natural remedies for bloating and gut health issues- things like ginger which is anti-inflammatory and magnesium and peppermint oil which can calm down muscle contractions. It might also be with investing in a good probiotic which can make sure your gut bacteria (and hormones) stay nice and balanced.
Endometriosis and gut health issues
If these remedies don’t work and you are constantly struggling with serious period poo issues, alongside other symptoms like painful, heavy bleeding, there may be a chance you are living with endometriosis.
People may think that endo is simply painful periods, or even just a condition impacting our reproductive system, but the link between endometriosis and gut health is very real. In fact, many people report being misdiagnosed with IBS because the symptoms can be so similar.
If you are struggling with constant painful bloating or bowel problems it could be something known as Endo Belly. If your symptoms happen every time you have a period - or at other times of your cycle - definitely consult your doctor.