Ladies, it’s time to lay it all out on the table. Every month, we’re blessed (cursed?) with a visit from good ol’ Aunt Flo, and our hormones run amok around our insides. Your head hurts, you’re literally weighed down with belly bloat, you’re craving all kinds of junk food (the greasier the better, bonus points if it’s chocolate-coated), and you might be pooping, like, a lot. If you’ve ever wondered why you poop more on your period, the hard truth is, it’s yet another symptom of the lovely female subscription service otherwise known as PMS, delivered to your uterus monthly. Sounds just delightful, doesn’t it?
I wouldn’t be surprised if more than half of you reading this just scrunched up your nose in disgust, or let your jaw drop in shock. Fair warning, friends, I’m not shy when it comes to bowels. When you grow up with a digestive disorder like I have, bathroom talk isn’t dirty; it’s a daily occurrence, and it's something I’ve become super comfortable with. It’s also something I believe more of us should be comfortable with, because the less we talk about it, the less educated we are on the subject. If you don’t know the how or why period poop happens, you won’t know how to combat the symptoms, and that’s just unproductive, don’t you agree?
I guess the thing to remember is everybody poops; the real question is, how much and how often do women have to go during their periods? Of course, if you’re uncomfortable gabbing to your girlfriends about the dire need to go, or even lack thereof, you can always talk to your OBGYN about the symptom and how regular — or not — your bowel movements are during this time of the month.
Diarrhea on your period is caused by the same crap (pun fully intended) as cramping.
In order to figure out why some women experience painful poops during their period, Elite Daily reached out to U by Kotex for some insight. It turns out that the reason why some women experience bouts of diarrhea during that special time of the month isn’t actually all that special. It all stems from the same place as menstrual cramping.
U by Kotex partner and family nurse practitioner Sandy Kanuf tells Elite Daily that when the estrogen and progesterone hormones dip a few days before your period starts, they're replaced by prostaglandins, which are chemicals that are released during your cycle to give your uterus and intestines leeway to contract. Vice reports that when excess prostaglandins leak (*cringe*) into the bloodstream, they basically give soft muscle tissue the green light to squeeze and release, causing the colon to follow suit and let it all out. Pretty soon, you're gettin' intimate with your toilet. How romantic, right?
On the flip side, a spike in the hormone progesterone during your cycle could actually result in a rough patch of constipation, rather than diarrhea.
When you have your period, your body goes through four different phases: the menstrual phase, which is when you bleed; the follicular phase, during which an egg cell matures; ovulation, when an egg falls into the fallopian tubes; and the luteal phase, which readies your body for menstruation. According to Devon Loftus, founder of baked goods delivery service Moon Cycle Bakery, which develops treats specifically for a woman’s menstrual cycle, the hormone progesterone increases during the luteal phase to thicken the lining of your uterus, while at the same time decreasing your magnesium levels. When your magnesium is low, the body responds via constipation or bloating.
It’s bad enough that you’re bleeding out of your vagina for days at a time, and at least if you’re going to the bathroom, you’re, well, going to the bathroom, but when your period makes you constipated, you don’t just feel blocked up; it can be excruciatingly painful.
To put this in perspective, Dr. Jessica Shepherd, MD, MBA, a gynecologist and U by Kotex partner, tells Elite Daily that prostaglandins “increase nerve sensation, potentially also increasing sensitivity to pain and discomfort.” If that doesn’t sound good to you, yeah, it’s really not.
When progesterone and estrogen levels increase during your menstrual cycle, Dr. Shepherd explains “rectal pain can be common,” and because the uterus is in such close proximity to the rectum, inflammation caused by these hormonal changes can also lead to “some ‘butt pain.’” Luckily, Dr. Shepherd says, over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen and Midol can ease the pain and treat symptoms, but if the discomfort is borderline unbearable, don’t hesitate to call your doctor, as this could be a sign of something more serious, such as endometriosis or internal hemorrhoids.
So what can you do when if you’re pooping too much, or too little, on your period?
Because the root cause of period poop is the same as menstrual cramps, you want to nurse menstrual diarrhea as you would tend to standard cramping. Kanuf tells Elite Daily that those who experience this symptom should stick to their regular exercise routine, drink a lot of water, cut back on junk food (no matter how hard your cravings are, there's always a healthier, yet equally as tasty alternative), use a heating pad, and get enough sleep.
As far as constipation goes, Loftus says, upping your magnesium intake will be your saving grace. Lucky for us, dark chocolate is loaded with the macro-mineral. “One reason we may crave chocolate during our cycle is because cacao is high in magnesium,” she tells Elite Daily. “Eating non-processed dark chocolate or adding a magnesium supplement to your diet can help decrease bloating and help keep you regular.” Fiber, she adds, will also encourage regularity, so make sure you’re incorporating fiber-rich foods like almonds, broccoli, lentils, black beans, avocados, and sweet potato into your diet throughout your cycle (and beyond).
Long story short, sh*t happens (or, you know, sometimes it doesn't) during your period. It's completely normal, and we all go through it. It's a pain in the ass, but at least there's always an end (or beginning) in sight.