You will be happy to know you’re not the only one who rushes to the toilet every hour to poop leading up to your period. And not just a regular poop; we are talking diarrhoea!
Period diarrhoea is extremely common, and the chemical, prostaglandins is to blame. Prostaglandins are responsible for bowel cramps and the resulting diarrhoea. You can poop more when you eat certain types of food, drink caffeinated drinks or take medication.
We will try to answer as many of your period poop questions as possible and give you some ways to manage them.
How to tell the difference between a bowel cramp and a period cramp?
You may experience period cramps accompanied by diarrhoea, both of which are PMS symptoms. But can you tell the difference between cramps you get with diarrhoea or the cramps you experience when menstruating?
When menstruating, your body prepares to shed your uterus lining every month, so it makes sense that your body undergoes some changes and experience some discomfort.
It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between a period cramp and the need to poop as both the cramps can feel similar at this time. The cramp you feel in your bowel can produce diarrhoea and is brought on by the same chemical as your period cramp.
The medical term for period cramps is dysmenorrhoea. Dysmenorrhoea is usually low-level pain in the lower abdomen, back and sometimes, thighs.
The discomfort you feel is influenced by the chemical, prostaglandins, making you want to go to the toilet to poop. You may feel the urge to go but it may not occur.
Therefore, the only way to distinguish between a period cramp and a bowel cramp is to let nature take its course!
The cramping you experience when menstruating is sometimes hard to differentiate as the uterus and bowel can both be affected by the same chemical.
Why do we get diarrhoea in the days leading up to our period?
Not every woman gets diarrhoea when they have their period. But if your body turns into a pooping machine every month, you are not alone. It is more common than you think.
Every 28 days, your body produces a hormone-like chemical named prostaglandins, responsible for causing uterine contractions and pushing out the endometrium (uterus lining) each month.
Prostaglandins can also enter your bloodstream and interfere with the lining of your intestines which can cause bowel disturbances and diarrhoea in the days leading up to your period. Prostaglandins can also reduce food absorption in your gut, which means food passes through your colon faster, resulting in loose stools or diarrhoea.
There has been some evidence to suggest that prostaglandins produced during your period can cause electrolyte secretions which are also known to cause diarrhoea. This study also found that healthy women's bowels and intestines were regularly disrupted during menstruation.
In extreme cases, you could have endometritis, an inflammatory condition of the uterus and the bowel in rare cases.
Endometritis can be another cause of diarrhoea when you are menstruating. This type of infection requires medical treatment and antibiotics.
When you have your period, diarrhoea can result from prostaglandins entering your bloodstream. The presence of prostaglandins in your intestine can interfere with the lining of your bowel and cause contractions, reduce food absorption and cause electrolyte secretions.
What you eat and drink might be making your diarrhoea last longer
As with most symptoms of PMS, what we eat, and drink can influence how our bodies respond. Reducing the time we spend sitting on the toilet is the desired outcome.
Sometimes the food you eat or the beverages you drink could be causing your diarrhoea to last longer. PMS can make you want to eat comfort food, which is not always the healthiest option.
Let's have a look at what you should try to avoid or eat more of to reduce diarrhoea.
Avoid these foods and beverages that can make diarrhoea worse
I usually reach for a coffee first thing in the morning so let's begin with caffeine. Caffeine is well-known for its laxative effect.
Coffee or caffeinated tea in the morning can get your bowels moving along nicely, but it's probably best to avoid or reduce your intake if diarrhoea is an issue for you when you have your period.
Besides, the food you crave when you are menstruating is usually comfort food. Processed foods high in fats are generally top of the list and should be avoided for general health and a preventative for diarrhoea.
Other foods and beverages to avoid before and during your period include:
- Citrus fruits
- Spicy foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- Milk and dairy products
- Sweet cakes and biscuits
- Pork and veal
- Onion and garlic
- Raw vegetables
Foods you can have to settle your stomach and calm your period diarrhoea
If you are wondering if there is anything you can eat or drink, yes, there is. If you stick to a diet of bland foods that are easy to digest and can help absorb some of the fluid from your bowel, you should see a reduction in diarrhoea and a return to more solid stools.
Foods that can help with your diarrhoea during period include:
- Hot cereals such as porridges made from oats, rice, or wheat
- Plain white rice
- Bread or toast
- Boiled potatoes
- Plain crackers
What to drink when you have period poops
When you are dehydrated from constant diarrhoea, you may experience dark-coloured urine, tiredness, thirst, light-headedness, and dry skin. Replacing lost fluids is vital.
Staying hydrated is essential when you have diarrhoea. Water is always your priority, followed by other fluids such as naturally refreshing coconut water and a selection of delicious teas.
These beverages are all naturally caffeine-free and can help keep you hydrated and assist with other symptoms of PMS, including cramps and bloating.
- Coconut water
- Aloe vera juice
- Watermelon juice
- Electrolyte water
- Valerian Root Tea
- Hibiscus Tea
- Lemon Balm Tea
- Fennel Tea
- Liquorice root tea
- Broth – chicken, beef, or vegetable
Avoiding certain foods and beverages such as caffeinated drinks and junk food can help to reduce the amount of time and the frequency of diarrhoea when menstruating. Having a diet of bland foods and decaffeinated beverages can help you to maintain healthy hydration and settle your bowels.
Medication could be making your diarrhoea worse
If you have noticed that you are experiencing looser stools than usual when you have your period, it could be because of medication you have been prescribed or have bought over the counter.
Some prescription and over the counter medications can worsen your diarrhoea when you have period diarrhoea. Loose stools are listed as a common side effect of most drugs. There are, however, some medications that are more likely than others to cause diarrhoea.
- Magnesium supplements
- Ibuprofen and anti-inflammatory drugs
If your medication is an over-the-counter treatment such as magnesium supplements or antacids, you could try reducing intake when menstruating. Some health care providers recommend having probiotics (healthy bacteria) when taking antibiotics to prevent diarrhoea.
If you believe your prescribed medication is causing you to have diarrhoea or making your period diarrhoea worse, see your medical professional to discuss an alternative.
An extensive list of prescribed and over the counter medications list diarrhoea as a side effect. Reducing or changing your medicines on your GP's advice could help ease your period diarrhoea and the side effects of the drugs.
Ginger and chamomile tea could help soothe your stomach when you have diarrhoea
When you have diarrhoea, you can also experience an upset stomach and abdominal cramps. The belly cramps you could be experiencing during your period can be helped by sipping natural teas to relieve the symptoms.
The intestinal disruption caused by the chemical prostaglandins can cause your stomach to feel unwell and cramp, resulting in diarrhoea. Drinking ginger and chamomile teas can be a natural and delicious way to treat and alleviate period and stomach cramps.
Ginger tea for an upset stomach
Ginger tea has long been used as a treatment for an upset stomach, and it can be a soothing treatment for the symptoms of PMS, including diarrhoea that goes with an upset stomach and period pains.
The active ingredient in ginger, gingerol, is responsible for soothing your cramping belly. Gingerol has anti-inflammatory qualities, and it can be an effective treatment if you have loose poop.
This study shows the positive impact of consuming ginger tea daily when menstruating.
If ginger is not to your taste, you could try Rose Tea to treat an upset stomach when menstruating.
Chamomile tea to calm your cramping stomach
Chamomile tea before bed is the relaxant you need to calm your cramping stomach and get you a good night's sleep.
This tea is also an anti-inflammatory and, as this 2006 study shows, can lower the production of gastric acids in your stomach. Less acid means less poop!
Check out this article to find out more about the wonderful properties of chamomile.
The Best Teas For Diarrhoea Relief
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Some of the teas listed above are also known for aiding digestion and helping with gastric acids in your stomach. Read up more about them here.
Alternatively, you could also try this delicious blend, Siam Ginger Lemongrass tea, combined with tasty orange and safflower to target menstrual cramps by lowering prostaglandins.
Natural teas such as ginger and chamomile can soothe your stomach when you have period diarrhoea. The relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties of these teas can help reduce stomach acids and lower the effects of prostaglandins on your body.
Other things you should know about period diarrhoea
We know you probably have many questions about your diarrhoea, so we will aim to cover some of the more embarrassing questions about which you may not feel comfortable talking to your friends.
If you have ever wondered whether you are producing too much poop, what is causing blood to come from your anus, or why your poop smells so bad, you have come to the right place. Women all around the world are also experiencing the same things you do.
How much poop is too much?
As you know, what you put into your body must come out! If you have diarrhoea, make sure you follow some of our food and beverage suggestions to minimize the output.
There is no general rule as to how often we should be pooping. It could be up to three times a day or, in some cases, three times a week. When you have period diarrhoea, you could be pooping more often than you usually do.
So long as you don’t feel that your pooping is a sign of something more serious than PMS, you can poop as much as you need.
If you feel that your diarrhoea is particularly severe and can't keep anything in your stomach, make sure you replace electrolytes and seek medical advice if you are concerned.
Is this normal if my poop during period smells worse than usual?
When you are going through menstruation, the hormone changes can make you crave those comfort foods we talked about earlier, making your poop smell worse.
If you eat a whole lot of junk food, high in fats and sugars, or you overeat food you don't usually include in your diet, it can lead to your poop smelling particularly awful. This is perfectly normal, and smelly poop is not a reason for concern.
Therefore, keep to a balanced diet of food that will calm your bowel, and try not to overeat. While we can't promise your poop will smell like roses, it may smell a little less intense.
What is causing the blood in my poop?
Once you have ruled out the likelihood that you have mistaken period blood for blood in your poop, there are a couple of reasons why you could be seeing blood in your stools.
The presence of blood in your poop could be caused by endometritis or hemorrhoids. Both complaints are indirectly related to PMS and the symptoms you experience when you have your period.
Not everyone is affected by endometritis and hemorrhoids, but it is not uncommon. Both can cause pain and discomfort.
If you have particularly painful periods and have developed endometritis, one of the symptoms is bleeding from the rectum or even blood in your urine.
Endometritis is a common disorder in women aged 25 and 40. It is caused by the tissue that lines your uterus growing outside the uterine cavity, including the abdomen and bowel. This can cause blood to be present in your stools.
Another common reason for blood around your rectum could be haemorrhoids. Enlarged blood vessels can appear around your anus following a bout of diarrhoea or constipation. Once again, the prostaglandins are responsible for this uncomfortable condition.
Both complaints are reasons to seek medical help or advice from your GP.
How to safely poop and wipe when you are wearing a tampon?
Tampons are super convenient and allow women to exercise and participate in activities without the bulk of uncomfortable pads. A safe way to poop and wipe will keep your tampon firmly in place and stop any bacteria from passing from your rectum to your vagina.
The string on a tampon can become soiled with urine and poop, which means it needs to be tucked up before you go. You can do this by bundling up the string and tucking it into your labia.
Once your string is out of the way, you can poop and wipe from front to back without contamination. Some women remove their tampons before pooping, but this can be painful if your tampon is still dry.
Do not be too concerned about peeing on your string; urine is pretty much sterile and won't cause you any issues.
The questions you wanted to know the answers to but were too afraid or embarrassed to ask are covered in this section. We have looked at how much poop is too much poop, why your poop smells bad, why you might see blood in your stools, and the question of where to tuck your tampon string while you poop.
When you have your period, diarrhoea is entirely normal and very common. Because it is all about poop, we don't always discuss it with our friends. There are ways to manage this awful symptom of PMS and some signs to look out for if you think it is more than just period poop.
Eating a diet of bland food and drinking beverages that won't aggravate your already disrupted intestines can help reduce the time you have diarrhoea and make the symptoms less explosive. Making sure you are adequately hydrated and close to a toilet at this time will go a long way towards making you feel more comfortable.
Next time you and your girlfriends are having a conversation about your periods, bring up the topic of poop, and I guarantee almost everyone will have a story. Sharing stories is how we feel better about our own bodies. It's time to start talking about poop!