Managing Diarrhea Before and During Your Period: Tips to Alleviate the Discomfort

It's not the most enjoyable experience, but it's normal to suffer from diarrhea before or during your menstrual cycle due to the hormonal changes that affect both your uterus and gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

While the condition typically isn't severe, taking proper measures can reduce or even prevent menstrual-related diarrhea.

Although it's unclear why some women suffer from period-related diarrhea and some don't, experts believe that it may be linked to an increase in prostaglandin hormones, which are released before menstruation. Prostaglandins cause contractions in your uterus and intestines, which results in a range of GI tract symptoms, including diarrhea. Additionally, prostaglandins decrease the rate of food absorption in your intestine, which moves food through your colon rapidly and increases intestinal electrolyte secretions, leading to diarrhea.

It's a frequent issue, with a 2014 study involving 156 women revealing that abdominal pain and diarrhea were the most common GI symptoms related to menstruation. Furthermore, 24% of participants reported diarrhea before their periods, while 28% experienced diarrhea during it. Women with anxiety or depression reported even higher rates of GI symptoms.

If you're experiencing period-related diarrhea, approach it the same way you would any other diarrhea episode. To replace the fluids lost during diarrhea, make sure you drink plenty of fluids until your urine is pale yellow. Also, avoid foods known to exacerbate diarrhea, such as artificial sweeteners, caffeine, dairy products, spicy foods, and sugary foods.

In rare cases, you may need to take over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicines like loperamide (Imodium), or try over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil) for cramping.

Birth control

Taking birth control pills can help regulate your menstrual cycle and alleviate diarrhea. Some women even skip the placebo week of pills entirely, resulting in fewer episodes of diarrhea during the menstrual cycle. Speak with your healthcare provider to determine what birth control method is the best fit for you.

Stress reduction

Along with the previously mentioned suggestions, reducing stress is critical. Stress and anxiety can exacerbate menstrual symptoms such as diarrhea and cramping.

Here are some helpful tips to reduce stress:

    Meditate. Spend 10 minutes a day meditating to help you focus your mind. If you're unsure where to start, try out a meditation app. Unplug. Stop answering your emails or watching TV at a certain time each night to help calm your mind and reduce stress. Get active. Physical activity can help alleviate stress, even if it's just a short walk outside.

    If you're having trouble dealing with stress, consider contacting a therapist or mental health expert who can work with you to develop coping strategies.

    Can diarrhea during menstruation be prevented? If you frequently experience diarrhea during your menstrual cycle, there are a few measures you can take to decrease your likelihood of having it.

    Begin by increasing your fiber intake a few days before your period. Eating sources of fiber like whole-grain bread, and fruits and vegetables with the skin on can add bulk to your stool, making it more solid.

    You might also want to try adding some probiotic foods like miso, sauerkraut, or yogurt to your diet. These foods contain healthy bacteria that may help alleviate your diarrhea symptoms.

    Lastly, you may consider taking ibuprofen a couple of days before your period. Doing so can reduce the effects of prostaglandins in your body.

    Having occasional diarrhea before or during your period is normal. However, if it interferes with your everyday activities, you may want to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.

    Reach out to your healthcare provider if you experience ongoing gastrointestinal symptoms, pain or cramping in your stomach or pelvis that’s resistant to over-the-counter treatments, or visibility of mucus in your stool. These could indicate an underlying gastrointestinal issue that tends to exacerbate during menstruation. Your healthcare provider can determine the cause and suggest treatment options.

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