Do you ever struggle to go for a poo just before your period is due to start?
Well, don’t worry, it’s normal.
Getting constipation before you are due on can be pretty uncomfortable, but it is actually a pretty common side effect of changing hormones during the progression of your cycle.
But why does it happen?
As obstetrician, gynaecologist and Medical Advisor at Flo, Dr Iryna Ilyich explains, constipation before a period can be caused by cyclic hormonal changes, and sometimes it can be a symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
This is caused by the hormone progesterone, which is a natural muscle relaxant.
‘The levels of this hormone drastically increase immediately after ovulation and during the second part of the cycle, before it drops right before the start of the period,’ Dr Iryna tells Metro.co.uk.
The rise of progesterone can slow down your digestive system and ‘essentially leads to constipation by delaying the movement of food through the bowels,’ Dr Iryna adds.
The consequence of this means that more water is being taken back into your blood, this leads to the slower movement of food and drier stools, which both contribute to constipation, Dr Gareth Nye, a specialist in Endocrinology (conditions related to hormones), tells Metro.co.uk.
How long does it tend to last?
It should only last a few days as your hormonal cycles fluctuate, but this can vary according to your individual cycle, Dr Gareth explains.
Once your ovary has sent an egg to the uterus, oestrogen levels drop, but progesterone levels increase.
‘As a result, your gut relaxes, meaning some people find their constipation eases just before their period starts,’ says Dr Iryna.
‘On the flip side, others might find their constipation actually worsens during their period, due to higher progesterone levels, which slow the bowels down.’
What can be done to help ease pre-period constipation?
When it comes to unblocking your pipes, there are some things you can do to get the poo moving.
‘Adding more fibre to your diet and drinking plenty of fluids will definitely help with this issue,’ recommends Dr Gareth.
Dr Iryna suggests trying to incorporate whole wheat bread, high-fibre cereals, and a wide assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet.
‘At the same time, it can be helpful to avoid fatty and sugary foods,’ she adds.
If possible, you should also try to limit your intake of dehydrating drinks such as coffee.
‘Exercise and other forms of physical activity might also be helpful in preventing constipation.
‘Movement improves blood and oxygen circulation, which helps keep the bowels active.
‘Regular exercise not only alleviates constipation before your period, but it could also tackle other premenstrual symptoms as well.’
Dr Gareth particularly recommends exercises such as running or swimming as they have been shown to improve digestive motility, but he notes that if you are really struggling, you can also seek laxatives.
Why do some people experience diarrhoea once their period begins?
Once the bleeding starts, it’s quite common to experience softer, runnier stools.
‘Some people can experience temporary diarrhoea when the levels of progesterone rapidly drop before and during your period, and other chemicals similar to hormones called prostaglandins are released,’ Dr Iryna explains.
‘These are what make your uterus contract and expel its lining during your period, and these hormonal shifts can also cause diarrhoea.’
This is why it tends to be more common to need the bathroom when you are on your period.
If none of the above tips work for relieving constipation before your period and you still have irregular bowel movements or you are experiencing more frequent loose stools, Dr Iryna says you should make sure to speak to your doctor.
‘A health care provider will be able to investigate potential digestive disorders,’ she says.
When it comes to other PMS symptoms, if you find they are impacting your daily life, then you should speak to your GP to discuss ways you can manage them.
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