Well, this is uncomfortable. Not because the dull, consistent pain in your abdomen is menstrual cramps but because it’s straight-up constipation. Severe cramps, you’ve been there before. Bloating, that’s annoying. But constipation AND period pain—what is this Mercury-retrograde madness going on in your body?
Is period constipation normal?
Relax. Constipation during periods is completely normal. Even though it may be embarrassing, know that your secret searches for relief aren’t alone. Constipation is one of the most common digestive problems in the U.S., characterized as having less than three bowel movements a week. Constipation while on periods also include hard, dry, or small bowel movements that can be painful—only amplifying the period cramps you may already feel.
While it may be easy to blame your eating habits, the culprits for your constipation during periods are your hormones. For women beyond their 30s, ovaries begin producing more estrogen and less progesterone. Some experts believe that higher levels of estrogen may lead to constipation because it can slow intestinal movement.
However, other experts suggest that it’s an increase in progesterone that’s to blame. According to Dr. Corina Dunlap, a naturopathic physician specializing in women’s health, the second half of a woman’s cycle—right after ovulation—includes spikes in progesterone growth.
“Sometimes women don’t do well in the second half of their cycle and we can see this in the form of PMS, mood stuff, depression, anxiety, irritability, and this can be so debilitating,” Dr. Dunlap told LOLA.
Is there relief for bloating and constipation before periods?
Your body may face a variety of hiccups during the second half of your menstrual cycle, including digestive issues. A quick internet search for “ways to relieve constipation during periods” will lead you down a lot of rabbit holes. While some remedies like eating prunes or drinking prune juice still work, others can be downright dangerous.
For starters, stay away from laxatives if you’re not sure how to remedy your bloating and constipation. There are many inherent risks for taking laxatives and you should seek the advice of a medical professional before going down that route. Good news is, many experts would argue that focusing on a healthy diet may just do the trick.
Increase your water intake to help make your poop softer and easier to pass. Add 2-3 more servings of natural fiber to your diet including fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, carrots, broccoli, and other greens. Substitute white breads for oat or wheat bran, which are infamous for getting things moving.
Can probiotics help constipation?
Yes, this is also a good time to set your gut microbiome right. Loading up on probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir can introduce more “good” bacteria into your gut and help shorten the time it takes to move things through your digestive tract.
Robyn Youkilis, AADP, Wellness Expert, TV Host, and author told LOLA that chewing your food is at the root of your digestion. She recommends slowing down, really chewing your food, and consider taking digestive enzymes to help get some relief.
“Digestive enzymes are great to take before meals. They help break up your food so your belly doesn’t have to do all the work (less work for your belly also means more energy for you!),” Youkilis added.
So, why do we have such weird period side effects?
PMS affects nearly 75 percent of women with regular menstrual cycles. Constipation and period pain are only a few of the weird period side effects women face—every single month. The short answer is that your hormones have a mind of their own and their temperament changes as you age. Know this—you’re not alone. You got this sh*t.