Whenever my period is about to start, my gut recognizes its imminent presence well before I do. TMI, but everything (and I mean everything) I eat causes my stomach to throw a hissy fit. While the regularly-scheduled ordeal still makes me want to shake my fists at the sky and yell "Whyyyy???", I now know that my hormones are to blame for less-than-cute period poops.
At a panel for the launch of The Better Period Food Solution, written by Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD, a panel of menstruation experts talked all things cramps, PMS, and more. The topic of digestion came up and Alyssa Dweck, MD, explained why your GI tract might turn against you in the days leading up to your cycle. "Right before your period, there's a massive nosedive of estrogen and progesterone," she said. (These two hormones are the main drivers of your menstrual cycle.) "Progesterone alters the motility of your intestines."
In non-doctor speak: Changes in progesterone levels can affect how well things move through your bowels. Specifically, the drop in progesterone right before your period can cause constipation, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. (Um, thanks a lot for abandoning me in my time of need, progesterone.)
Ta-da: These are the best foods for easing period cramps:
Normally, I would say that knowledge is power. Unfortunately, while it's frustrating to feel a lack of (bowel) control, Dr. Dweck says there's not much you can do about it beyond taking extra care with your diet and exercise until the next phase of your cycle rolls around. Most people, she says, crave and subsequently increase their salt and sugar intake right before their periods. Dr. Dweck says that can be balanced out by drinking extra water, which can help flush out bloat-causing salt and keep constipation at bay. It's also important to be mindful of caffeine consumption during this time, since caffeine (particularly coffee) can have a laxative effect that could make existing period poops even more unpleasant.
As for exercise, you can incorporate cortisol conscious workouts into your routine for a little extra Zen. Yale Medicine reports that you may also find yourself sleepier than usual during the menstrual phase, so try eating some energizing foods.
Hey, if your trips to the bathroom are going to be decidedly un-chill, you might as well make the rest of your day-to-day life as seamless and easy-breezy as possible.
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