While it can serve as a monthly reminder of the incredible power of the female body, your period can also bring some not-so-pleasant symptoms. The usual culprits that many women experience like cramping, bloating or mild moodiness can also be accompanied by mild to severe diarrhea. Read on to learn why diarrhea during menstruation is actually quite common, and how to deal with it.
What Causes Diarrhea During Menstruation?
While there are a number of variables to consider, two of the most common culprits of diarrhea during menstruation are prostaglandins (too many of them) and progesterone (not enough of it).
Prostaglandins, also referred to as cyclical fatty acids, are lipids (fats) that play an important role in menstruation. During your period, prostaglandins line the wall of your uterus and trigger the muscles in your uterus to contract or squeeze. These contractions help expel the uterus lining. In the process of expelling the uterus lining, prostaglandins are released and can sometimes leak into your bloodstream, and send that same “squeeze” message to all soft muscle tissue, including the colon. And this squeezing effect can sometimes lead to diarrhea.
The other common culprit is a lack of progesterone, a key female hormone that is actually best known for slowing things down and causing constipation. During your period progesterone levels are lower, which could also play a role in increased frequency in bowel movements or diarrhea during menstruation.
How to Combat Diarrhea
The good news is that there are some simple yet effective strategies that can help minimize diarrhea during your period:
- Balance Your Hormones — In general, the uncomfortable symptoms commonly experienced before and during your period can be minimized by supporting the proper balance of hormones. There are two easy ways to do this: first, ensure you are getting enough sleep – while every body is different, shooting for 8 hours is still the gold standard, and second, make sure your diet is meeting your body’s nutritional needs – that means a diet filled with adequate protein, plenty of healthy fats and limited sugar and refined grains.
- Manage Stress — Often easier said than done, stress can worsen diarrhea before and during your period. Whether it’s carving out some time during the week to make a yoga class, take a walk, or even just 5-10 minutes of deep breathing each day, learning ways to lower your stress levels is key.
- Eat Enough Fat — This one is worth repeating, as dietary fat plays a huge role in hormone regulation. Coconut oil and other medium chain triglycerides such as avocado, olives, olive oil, and fatty fish like salmon are all fat “superstars”. Consider supplementing your usual diet with a few extra servings of healthy fats in the days leading up to your period.
- Get Enough Sleep — Inadequate or poor quality sleep can raise your cortisol levels. Cortisol is your body’s main stress hormone, and higher than normal levels can wreak havoc on your hormones, and potentially worsen diarrhea before and during your period.
With these tips, you can help minimize the likelihood of experiencing diarrhea before and during your period. If you do experience diarrhea, remember to stay well hydrated and allow your body time to rest and recover. And if your diarrhea persists beyond 2-3 days or is so severe that it interferes with your daily life, don’t hesitate to call your doctor.