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Period & Gut Health: Why Women Get Diarrhoea Or Constipation During Their Periods & How To Deal With It

Tummy troubles during periods are quite common. Apart from dealing with painful cramps, women also experience bloating, constipation, and diarrhoea, which are all common side effects during that time of the month. Although it is very normal, women may not discuss it due to the unpleasantness and embarrassment but understanding why it happens will help them deal with this issue. To talk about the same we are joined by Dr. Astha Jain Mathur, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynecologists’, Motherhood Hospitals, Indore. 

Understanding Tummy Issues And Periods

1. Why Does It Happen? Hormones Are The Culprits.

Just before your periods, there is an increase in the level of hormones called prostaglandins. These are the same hormones that cause contractions leading to the uterus shedding its lining every month. Prostaglandins are also responsible for contractions in the intestines, which cause several gastro-intestinal (GI) issues like bloating, constipation and of course diarrhoea to name a few. You may face these GI symptoms before or during your periods. The increase in hormones may also cause stronger cramps, headaches and nausea.

Apart from prostaglandins, the fluctuations in hormones like progesterone and estrogen during periods are also a likely cause

2. What Can Be Done About It?

To manage constipation and diarrhoea you can take the following steps:

Increase your fibre intake: A healthy clean diet rich in fibre will be the first course of action. Fibre will make the stool solid by adding bulk to it. This helps it move easily through the digestive tract which is quite important during your periods. Foods that you can include in your diet could be apples, pears, lentils, leafy vegetables, whole grains etc

Stay Hydrated: There will be loss of fluid due to diarrhoea during your periods. To tackle this, make sure we drink plenty of fluids. Soups, fruit juices, and water can help reduce both constipation and diarrhoea. You can also drink warm water with lemon in it.

Exercising: You may not find the motivation to engage in physical workouts when you are already dealing with painful cramps and digestive issues, but physical movements are helpful to get the contents in your intestines moving. You don’t need to do any vigorous exercise, even simple ones like a small walk for 20 minutes will prove to be helpful.

Things to avoid: Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms like dairy items, caffeine, spicy foods, artificial sweeteners.

Reduce your stress levels: Anxiety and stress tend to make menstrual symptoms like constipation and diarrhoea worse. It is important to relax your mind and have some time for yourself, especially during your periods. Try to unplug from your work for a while and try to engage in meditation for at least 20 minutes every day. If you find it hard to deal with your stress levels, you may also seek the help of a therapist.

Medications:  There are certain medications that can control the release of prostaglandins (hormones that lead to diarrhoea during periods). Then there are other medications which act as stool softeners and help in dealing with constipation. However, medications should be taken after a consultation with your doctor.

Are There Any Preventative Measures?

If gastrointestinal problems are a regular occurrence for you during your periods, then you can start eating more fiber before your time starts. You can also consume probiotic foods like yogurt, soy milk and pickled vegetables that will boost the healthy bacteria in your gut and prevent diarrhoea.

When To Visit The Doctor:

Experiencing diarrhoea and other GI symptoms during periods is completely normal, however you may want to consult a doctor in the following cases as they may be indicative of other underlying conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or endometriosis

  1. There is mucus or blood in the stool
  2. The symptoms are persistent and get in the way of your day-to-day activities
  3. Stomach pain and cramps are not controllable through over the counter medications

But, in most cases you need not worry. Your bowel movements will return to normal a few days after your period starts.  

These yoga poses for irregular periods are a life saver.

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