How to Deal With Period-Related Digestive Changes

  • Period poop usually tends to involve diarrhea that should clear up when your period ends.
  • This happens because your changing hormones can cause your digestive tract to speed up.
  • About 10-16 days before your period, you may also experience constipation due to ovulation.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

Throughout your menstrual cycle, you may notice a difference in your poop since changes in hormones affect the way your bowel functions. Typical changes can include constipation shortly before your period and diarrhea during.

Here’s how hormonal fluctuations before and during your period affect your poop and what you can do to feel better.

Before your period

Constipation is common around the time you’re ovulating, which occurs about 10-16 days before your period. 

This happens because your body starts to release more progesterone, which acts as a muscle relaxant

When the muscles in your large intestine relax too much, waste moves more slowly through your bowel and causes constipation.

During your period

“When the period starts, many women tend to have diarrhea,” says Felice Gersh, MD, an OB-GYN and founder/director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine.

There are two main reasons why this change happens:

  1. Your levels of progesterone and estrogen drop during the first couple of days of your period. When this happens, you digest food more quickly, giving your body less time to reabsorb water from the stool. This tends to result in more liquid stools.
  2. You have increased levels of prostaglandins, which can trigger intestinal contractions. This can speed up your digestion and can cause diarrhea, Gersh says.

These symptoms generally last for only a few days, Gersh says, and should clear up as your period ends.

How to manage period poops

Whether you experience more constipation or diarrhea during your period, there are several ways to at least ease symptoms.

For constipation, Gersh recommends:

  • Drinking more water and other fluids to make sure your stool isn’t too dry.
  • Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat, as these are rich in insoluble fiber, which makes stools easier to pass.
  • Taking a stool softener can help by adding moisture to your stool. You can find over-the-counter stool softeners like Ex-Lax and Dulcolax at just about any pharmacy.
  • Exercising can help trigger your bowels to contract and push out stool.
  • Chamomile and ginger teas can also be helpful, as they have a mild laxative effect.

For soft stools and diarrhea, Gersh recommends:

  • Eating foods with soluble fiber, like oatmeal and psyllium, can absorb fluid in your bowel and relieve diarrhea.
  • Avoiding greasy, sugary, and spicy foods that can irritate your bowel.
  • Taking encapsulated peppermint oil, which may help relax the muscles in your bowel and slow down your digestion.
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol, as they can have laxative effects.
  • Eating low-fiber foods like bananas and white rice can help make your stools more solid.

Insider’s takeaway

In the days before and during your period, hormones like estrogen and progesterone fluctuate and you may have symptoms like constipation and diarrhea. Changing your diet and taking over-the-counter medications can help manage these symptoms and bring your poop back to normal.

“Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle have major effects on gut function,” Gersh says, “Knowing this and being prepared for the consequences can make the situation very manageable.”

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