What’s Up With Period Poop? Why It Happens and What to Do About It

Period Poop: Essential Takeaways

  • Period poop — aka those frequent bowel movements alongside your vaginal bleeding — is a very real thing.
  • Everybody period poops, but if someone already has bowel issues, they may be more likely to have changes in bowel habits around menstruation.
  • There are things you can do to lessen the likelihood of period poop.
  • If you notice something is unusual for you, it may be time to call your doctor.

Let’s be honest. Period poop — aka those frequent bowel movements alongside your vaginal bleeding — is a very real thing. It can come with diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bloating during your period. And the first thing you need to know is, it’s completely normal. The second is that there are methods to help you avoid it.

Why Does Our Poop Change During Our Period?

“Digestive issues during your period are really common,” says Stefani Davis, a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP). “Helping my patients understand that this is a common complaint among women and being open about the causes helps alleviate anxiety that they may be experiencing something abnormal.” It’s particularly common during the first three days of our periods. Our digestion and stool are both influenced by our menstrual cycle. Additionally, the hormones that regulate our menstrual cycle are influenced by our gut.

What Causes Period Poop?

Two hormones: progesterone and prostaglandins. The first sets us up for pre-period constipation: "During the second half of the menstrual cycle, your body is making more progesterone, which happens after you release an egg," Raquel Dardik, M.D., clinical associate professor of gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center, says. That's a good thing, but it comes with a frustrating side effect: "Progesterone slows down contractions of the bowel, so it slows down how quickly food and gas move through. Everything slows down and backs up, so you feel bloated and constipated."

Read more: Painful Periods: When to See a Doctor

What are Prostaglandins?

Prostaglandins are responsible for menstrual cramping by way of strengthening uterine contractions, but they can also affect our bowels. Much like their effect on the uterine wall, prostaglandins cause contraction of the muscles in the intestines. This movement increases the activity of the bowels, which can result in loose stools along with painful menstrual cramps. Talk about an evil vengeance.

Once some women start their period, diarrhea strikes. “The diarrhea and cramping is a double whammy,” says Dardik. That’s because two things are likely happening. First, progesterone levels drop, which increases bowel contractions so food passes at a faster pace. Second, prostaglandins trigger cramping. Sometimes they cause pain; other times they give people diarrhea.

The good news for some of us is not everyone may notice this shift in stool patterns. One study found that around 50% of people with IBS or other bowel disorders experience a change in bowel habits around the time of their period. Only a third of women without bowel symptoms experienced a bowel change. Translation: everybody period poops, but if someone already has bowel issues, they may be more likely to have changes in bowel habits around menstruation.

Your Period Poop Action Plan

Period poop and its friends are very conquerable. Follow these tips to lessen the likelihood of period poop and soften the experience during.

  • Avoid junk food. The majority of premenstrual cravings tend to be for types of foods which can exacerbate bloating and digestive issues, like sugar or french fries. We know it’s hard, but stay away at all costs - your period bloating relief will thank you.
  • Up your fiber intake. For all you ladies suffering from menstrual constipation, upping your fiber and water intake in the middle of your cycle (when progesterone levels start rising) may help.
  • Add a probiotic to your diet. The beneficial bacteria from probiotics and prebiotic-rich food can help support digestion and prevent diarrhea.
  • Start taking magnesium. This supplement is a blessing for constipation. Additionally, 400-800 mg a day of magnesium glycinate (the most easily absorbed form of magnesium) will do wonders for preventing diarrhea.
  • Try ginger. Commonly found in our Elix herbal blends, ginger helps reduce prostaglandin production which, in turn, helps regulate your bowels.

When to See a Doctor for Period Poop

What you need to remember is, every single body is different. Variations in your cycle and body are normal and healthy - a normal menstrual cycle is different for everyone! If you notice something is unusual for you, it may be time to call your doctor. Additionally, you should call your doctor if you experience a change in bowel habits, pain, or distress. Gastrointestinal infections and food poisoning can also cause dramatic changes in bowel habits, so be sure to seek help if needed.

If you experience period poop, Elix may be able to help. More hormonal balance means less fluctuating bowel activity. Our herbs work to balance hormones and, therefore, help reduce big swings in GI activity. Not to mention, you’ll also receive a host of other benefits that come from regulating your cycle.

Curious if Elix can work for you, too? Take our online health assessment to discover what herbs can ease your symptoms and help you heal.

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This article was reviewed by Dr. Jessica Ritch.

Dr. Jessica Ritch is a board-certified and fellowship-trained minimally invasive gynecologist who specializes in the management of benign gynecologic conditions such as abnormal bleeding, pelvic pain, fibroids, endometriosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. She completed residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University, where she was selected as chief resident and received the prestigious AAGL Outstanding Resident in Minimally Invasive Gynecology award.

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