On any given day your poops are fantastic…you go twice a day and they are easy to pass, and are picture perfect with a nice shade of brown! However, once a month you find yourself with the sudden urge to go and it’s a sloppy mess. Not to mention it’s only 10am and you’ve run to the washroom three times already.
Without a doubt you’ve noticed that this occurs with the onset of your monthly period as if riding the crimson tide wasn’t messy enough why do you have to deal with number 2 giving you grief?
In practice my patients ask me this question all of the time, “why do I get diarrhea/loose poops when I get my period?” (They may not be forthcoming with the information, but if you have never been to a ND before expect that you will be asked about your bowels!). Often, these women think that there is something bigger going on with them, when in fact having a case of the period poops is more common than you think. Actually, according to one study, next to abdominal pain (58% of women experience this during menses) diarrhea is experienced in 28% of women during their menses. While it is not exactly known why this occurs we do know that there is a lot of hormonal activity going on at this time, which can affect the digestive system.
Going way back to sex ed class we learned that if an egg does not get fertilized there is no need for that extra lining of the uterus so it must be shed. Well, this layer is not just going to fall off, it needs some encouragement. In walk the Prostaglandins. These are hormone-like chemicals that have an affinity for smooth muscle and cause it to contract. So, as the uterus contains smooth muscle, prostaglandins cause it to tighten to help shed its lining. This tightening is what is also contributing to the cramps that come at this time of the month as well.
Problem is, the uterus is not the only organ to have smooth muscle. The intestines contain this type of tissue as well to encourage your poops through the innards and on to the external world. As your uterus is shedding, prostaglandins can enter the bloodstream and find themselves throughout the body. And in this case they stimulate the smooth muscle of the intestines to contract and expel its fowl contents.
What to do? Junk foods, food sensitivities and caffeine can worsen bowels so stay away from these as best as you can (I know, this is the time of month when you are craving these foods the most). Fill up on plenty of fibre, which can help to bulk up those bowel movements and remember to always drink lots of water to replenish what is being lost in your loose stools. Naturopathic medicine is great at helping you balance out your hormones and relieve you of unpleasant periods, so take a trip to a Naturopathic Doctor so that you can start feeling better during your time of the month.
Bernstein, Matthew T et al. “Gastrointestinal Symptoms before and during Menses in Healthy Women.” BMC Women’s Health 14 (2014): 14. PMC. Web. 6 June 2016.
Rodriguez, D. & Marcellin, L. “Can Your Period Change Your Bathroom Habits?” Everyday Health. Accessed June 6, 2016