Why do I get diarrhoea when I'm on my period?
If you’ve never had diarrhoea during your period then we truly salute you. Those double cramps, attacking both your uterus AND stomach, are the worst and don’t even get us started on the number of tampons we end up going through… We know it’s gross, but diarrhoea has no respect for tampon strings.
Oversharing aside, why the heck does this influx of period poop actually happen? Well, after getting in touch with the Society For Menstrual Cycle Research, we were able to speak with Amy Sutherland, MA, who had plenty of insight to share with us.
Check out what Amy had to say below, including her top tips for lessening that period poop flow, ASAP.
Hey Amy! Is period diarrhoea normal?
“While I don’t want to classify diarrhoea during your period as ‘normal’, I will say it is a very common symptom. Our menstrual cycle is a delicate fluctuation of different hormones that can cause various symptoms throughout our cycles. Underlying health issues or food allergies aside, it is safe to assume your diarrhoea is caused by the sudden decrease in progesterone.
“Progesterone is the dominant hormone during what is known as the luteal phase. The luteal phase comprises those 10-16 days between ovulation (mid-cycle) and the start of your period. Ironically, progesterone slows down our digestive tract during the luteal phase and can even cause premenstrual constipation. However, when progesterone dips – as it does right before you get your period – it can cause a sudden increase in digestive activity, and therefore diarrhoea.”
How the heck do we stop the diarrhoea?
“If the diarrhoea you are experiencing is cyclical diarrhoea, there isn’t really anything you can do to stop it, but there are a few things you can do to not aggravate it:
- Make sure you are getting plenty of fluids. Experiencing diarrhoea, for even one day, can lead to dehydration.
- Avoid foods that are naturally high in fats: butter, fish, olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, etc. These foods can exacerbate your diarrhoea.
- Avoid fruits and vegetables that are high in fibre: broccoli, apples, berries, etc. Fibre is meant to stimulate your digestive tract and, if you are experiencing diarrhoea, you don’t need any stimulation.
- Cut back on caffeine. Caffeine can also stimulate the digestive tract in some people. If you’re one of them, maybe switch your morning latte to herbal tea until you are feeling better.
- As a final resort, if your diarrhoea is affecting your ability to go to class, work, or fulfil any of your other daily responsibilities, you can consider taking an over-the-counter anti-diarrhoea medicine like Imodium. However, this often triggers a diarrhoea-constipation cycle and can wreak havoc on your digestive tract. Execute this option with caution.”
Should we be worried if it happens every month?
“While cyclical diarrhoea can be common for a lot of women and is usually harmless, there are a few warning signs to look out for:
- Diarrhoea that lasts for more than 36 hours
- Is accompanied by severe cramping or rectal pain
- It contains blood or looks black/tarry
- Is accompanied by a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- If you are severely dehydrated
If you are experiencing any of the above warning signs, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.”
Can it be affected by taking the pill?
“If you’re on the pill, there is a possibility that it is the culprit of your digestive upset. A 2013 study published by the British Medical Journal found that women who have taken the Pill for five years or more were at a three times higher risk of developing Crohn’s Disease (if they are genetically predisposed). Crohn’s Disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that leads to chronic diarrhoea. So, if you have a family history of inflammatory bowel disease and are a long-time Pill taker whose diarrhoea is relatively new, the Pill may be causing your symptoms.”
So there we go. If you suspect your period diarrhoea is being caused by something more serious than a progesterone drop, consult your doctor. Otherwise, when you’re stocking up on tampons and pads, just make sure you grab plenty of loo roll at the same time.