Period poops and period diarrhoea are a hush-hush topic, which is why you may not have heard much about them. Unfortunately, societal taboos make it harder for people to openly discuss issues involving their bowels.
If you're concerned about how your bowel habits change around the time of your period, that's completely normal. And we're here to help you navigate that.
In this article, we'll discuss what period poop is, why it happens, when it's normal, and when you should see your doctor.
What Is Period Poop?
People use the term "period poop" to refer to the changes in their bowel habits that happen around that time of the month.
The most common changes you may notice include diarrhoea and constipation before or during your period. Some research shows that diarrhoea is more common during menses, while constipation is more prevalent before menses .
Some accompanying digestive symptoms you may experience during your menses include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and vomiting .
Why Do Period Poops Happen?
A common question people have is this; "Why do I poop so much during my period?"
Well, a hormone called prostaglandins may provide a link for us to understand the overlap between menstrual pain and gastrointestinal symptoms.
Prostaglandin levels increase quickly after you ovulate and peak during menstruation, triggering the constriction of blood vessels around your uterus [2, 3]. This hormone also causes your uterine muscles to contract, which aids in expelling the lining of the uterus. Hence, you may experience abdominal pain or cramps while on your menses .
That's enough trouble on its own, but prostaglandin may also be responsible for other changes in your body. Since prostaglandin can stimulate smooth muscles, it may also be possible for this hormone to affect the muscles in your digestive tract during menstruation. This may cause your digestive tract to pass out its contents faster than normal, leading to period diarrhoea. Nonetheless, more concrete research is still needed to confirm the role of prostaglandins in the development of period diarrhoea .
Some people may also experience constipation before their menses, and progesterone is thought to play a role here. While progesterone's effects may differ from person to person, progesterone most commonly slows down the movement of food in your gut .
Progesterone levels will increase shortly after ovulation and drop right before your period starts. Because of this, you may experience constipation before (rather than during) your menses .
Why Does It Hurt To Poop On My Period?
There are several reasons why it may hurt to poop when you're on your period.
Constipation may leave your poop hard and dry, making it harder to push out.
Diarrhoea may lead to loose, watery, and more acidic stool, irritating the skin around your bottom .
Having cramps while on your period may make straining and pooping more uncomfortable.
If the pain becomes worrying, it's best to take this concern to your healthcare professional.
Why Does Period Poop Smell Bad?
Your period poop might have an unpleasant odour, possibly due to the dietary changes you make while on your period.
Yup, you heard that right! Your hormones can influence your eating habits and cravings.
Well, have you ever felt tempted to down half a bar of chocolate during that time of the month? Maybe you tend to swap out a salad bowl for a couple of doughnuts as a snack?
Science has a possible explanation for that. After you ovulate, progesterone levels hike rapidly as you approach your menses, which can increase your metabolic rate .
And the result?—You may crave more sweet foods and carbs while nearing your period. Additionally, mood changes are common premenstrually, and giving into food cravings may actually improve mood . Cumulatively, this may alter your diet, and these changes in your diet can affect how your poop smells, especially if you'd normally practise a healthier diet.
Plus, period blood has an odour of its own, and adding that into the mix might make your poop smell even more unpleasant.
How Can I Deal With Period Poop?
There are several different ways to manage period poop. They are as follows:
Stick to a healthier diet.
We understand that period cravings hit hard—really hard. But practising a balanced diet may help you maintain regular bowel movements.
For instance, try to avoid having too many highly processed, high-sodium, or sugary foods. Avoiding these may reduce constipation and minimise smelly period poops and farts. Including more whole grains in your diet can also help regulate bowel movements .
Try to get enough fluids throughout the day. Of course, this may be harder if you're nauseous or bloated. But drinking enough water helps with constipation and can replenish the fluids lost if you have bouts of period diarrhoea.
Exercise is probably the last thing on your mind when you're down with menstrual cramps. But getting a little exercise may reduce symptoms of constipation . Plus, some research suggests that exercise may help alleviate menstrual cramps and period pain .
Since ibuprofen can lower prostaglandin production, taking it just before your menses start could help minimise cramps or abdominal pain .
Other than that, a gentle laxative or stool softener might promote bowel movements and combat symptoms of constipation nearing your period.
Your doctor may also recommend oral contraceptives, which reduce the fluctuations of your hormones that trigger period poo.
Note that it's always best to consult your healthcare professional before taking any medications, especially if you are currently on any medications or have any medical conditions.
Get things checked.
Try to see a doctor as soon as you can if you notice any of these signs:
- Your digestive symptoms are persistent and do not resolve after your period ends.
- Your cramps and period pain are still severe, even with the help of painkillers.
- You notice blood or mucus in your stool (of course, you might not be able to accurately check for bloody stools while on your period).
- You experience severe abdominal or rectal pain.
These could be signs of a more complicated underlying condition. But your healthcare provider will be able to assess your symptoms and offer more personalised advice.
Track your cycle.
Since your hormones are tied to some of the digestive symptoms you experience, understanding your unique curve helps you better anticipate and prepare for them.
By tracking your cycle, you can predict when your periods and symptoms will occur and detect any changes that may signal a more serious underlying problem.
inne helps you do just that.
The inne minilab is an at-home cycle-tracking device that uses saliva samples to track your hormonal curve and menstrual cycle. These tests are convenient, simple, and painless. Plus, you can download the inne app to store your cycle data, predict ovulation and menses, and track all your symptoms.
Ultimately, the minilab empowers you to understand your cycle and take charge of your hormonal health!
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