How the menstrual cycle affects digestion: insights and solutions

The human body is an amazing, complex system controlled by hormones. These hormones not only play a crucial role in reproduction, but also influence numerous other biological processes in the body, including digestion. Especially during menstruation, these hormonal changes can have a variety of effects on our bodies, including our digestive system.

Why do diarrhea and bowel problems occur during menstruation?

Various factors can cause diarrhea and other bowel problems during menstruation. One of the main reasons is the increased release of prostaglandins that occur during menstruation. These chemical compounds have the dual effect of signaling muscle contractions in the uterus and the bowel. This can lead to increased bowel movements, diarrhea, and softer stools.

In addition, hormonal changes, particularly a drop in progesterone levels shortly before menstruation, can affect intestinal motility and lead to digestive problems. Psychological factors such as stress or emotional strain can also affect the bowel and lead to discomfort during menstruation.

Bowel problems during menstruation: what are the causes?

Prostaglandins are tissue hormones, i.e. they are produced by cells in the tissue and not by specific glands. There are several groups, some of which have opposing effects. Group 1 prostaglandins, for example, have an anti-inflammatory effect, while group 2 prostaglandins promote inflammation and increase the perception of pain. Group 2 prostaglandins are increasingly released during menstruation in order to start a natural inflammatory process and shed the lining of the uterus. However, these prostaglandins have a dual effect - they signal both muscle contractions in the uterus and the intestine. This can lead to increased bowel movements, flatulence, diarrhea, and menstrual cramps.

What influence does progesterone have on digestion?

Our sex hormones, especially progesterone, do more than just play a decisive role during pregnancy. An often undesirable effect of this hormone is constipation, as it paralyzes the muscles of the intestine to a certain extent. During pregnancy, progesterone is constantly produced by the placenta, which is why many pregnant women suffer from constipation during this time. Shortly before menstruation, if the egg has not been fertilized, there is a significant drop in progesterone, which additionally stimulates digestion and promotes diarrhea.

Will hormones make my digestive problems worse?

Women who already suffer from gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may experience increased symptoms during their menstrual cycle. Progesterone and prostaglandins can increase intestinal inflammation and lead to abdominal pain, bloating, and other discomfort.

Cravings and dietary changes

During the menstrual cycle, hormonal changes can lead to increased hunger and cravings. This can lead to changes in our eating habits, which in turn can affect the gut microbiome and lead to changes in stool consistency and frequency.

What can I do to relieve the symptoms?

If you suffer from digestive problems during your cycle, there are some steps you can take to alleviate these symptoms:

  • Diet: Eating a balanced and anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce digestive discomfort. Avoid highly processed foods, sugary snacks, and caffeinated drinks. Instead, focus on fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. These can promote bowel health and reduce constipation.
  • Hydration: Make sure you drink enough water to keep your body hydrated. This can help prevent constipation and aid digestion.
  • Exercise: Moderate physical activity, such as walking or gentle yoga, can improve bowel motility and reduce stress, which can have a positive effect on digestion.
  • Stress management: Stress can exacerbate digestive problems. It is therefore important to incorporate stress reduction techniques such as meditation, mindfulness or relaxation therapy into your daily routine.
  • Heat therapy: A hot water bottle or a warm bath can have a soothing effect on menstrual cramps and gastrointestinal complaints.
  • Natural remedies: Some natural remedies such as ginger tea, peppermint tea or herbal teas can be helpful in relieving digestive discomfort.
  • To relieve abdominal cramps and bloating during menstruation, ibuprofen or aspirin can be helpful in addition to taking magnesium regularly. These medications inhibit an enzyme that promotes the production of prostaglandins. As prostaglandins play a role in the development of menstrual pain, ibuprofen and aspirin can also be effective against common menstrual pain

How can Daysy support me?

One possible solution could be to record and monitor your cycle with Daysy. If you record when - or more precisely - how your bowel movements change, you will be prepared if you are once again plagued by stomach cramps before menstruation, constipation or diarrhea 5 days before menstruation, or diarrhea shortly before, after, or during menstruation. You can log gastrointestinal symptoms throughout your cycle in the DaysyDay app to make it easier for you to understand how your body reacts to the different phases of your cycle.

To summarize, the menstrual cycle can have a significant impact on our digestion. By understanding these connections, you can take targeted measures to alleviate discomfort and improve your quality of life during your menstrual cycle. However, if you have persistent or severe digestive problems, it is important to consult a doctor to rule out possible illnesses.

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