Raise your hand if you’ve ever Googled, “Why do I poop so much on my period?” or “Why does it hurt to poop on my period?” *Slowly raises hand*
It’s something that a lot of menstruating people experience: 73 per cent reported period-related bowel movements, according to one study. See? You’re not alone! “The period poop phenomenon is quite anecdotal,” says Amanda Laird, author of Heavy Flow: Breaking the Curse of Menstruation, meaning, there isn’t a ton of research on the topic, but if you ask your menstruating friends, they’ll likely know exactly what you’re talking about. But if you’re too shy to ask, we’re here to help answer all of your period poop-related questions! You can thank us later.
What are period poops?
“I classify period poops as any type of diarrhea or loose stool,” Laird says. “It’s not unusual to have GI [gastrointestinal] issues or any type of digestive upset [on your period].” According to a study conducted by Apple and Harvard, diarrhea is a common symptom, reported in 37 per cent of participants, Plus, let’s not forget about abdominal cramps (83 per cent) and bloating (63 per cent), which could also be signs of period-related gastrointestinal upset.
Why are our bowel movements different on our period?
“When we have our period, we have these hormone-like substances in our uterus called prostaglandins,” Laird says. In short, they tell our uterus to contract, which helps shed its lining. This is the same function that happens during labour (read: it can be quite painful). That’s why a lot of people experience stronger, more frequent contractions which causes cramping. “In our pelvic bowl, our uterus sits right next to our bowels,” Laird adds. “Prostaglandins also tells our bowels to contract, to make us go to the bathroom.” That’s why it’s quite common to have diarrhea or looser stool during that time of the month.
What does period poop tell us about our health?
“I’m a big fan of knowing yourself and knowing your cycle,” Laird advises. Try using a period tracker app like Flo, Eve by Glow or Clue, so you know where you are in your cycle when these symptoms crop up. Is it the week before your period starts? During? “Understand your cycle and what’s normal for you,” Laird says. This way, you’ll also notice when abnormal symptoms arise or if symptoms are getting worse.
What can you do to ease the discomfort?
Small lifestyle changes to our stress levels, diet and sleep “can help to bring the general inflammation level in our body down,” Laird says. Drink lots of water and make sure you’re getting enough fibre (brown rice, legumes, oats, broccoli, bananas), healthy fats (salmon, avocado, nut butters, tofu) and probiotics (yogurt, pickles, kimchi, kombucha) according to Laird, who has a background in holistic nutrition.
“When we’re on our period, we might be eating different things,” Laird adds. “We often crave fattier foods and sweet foods. That’s fine and perfectly normal. We have a tendency to be more hungry and eat a higher caloric intake leading up to our periods and during our periods because we’re losing a lot of blood.” If you notice something that you’re eating more frequently during your period, that might be the cause of your GI issues. Experiment with taking it out of your rotation.
And remember: if you aren’t seeing an improvement in your symptoms, it could be a sign of something more serious, and might be worth talking to your doctor.
When should I see a doctor?
“Is it interrupting your life?” Laird asks. “Are you experiencing so much diarrhea or so much pain that you’re staying home, or you can’t go to work or you can’t go about your normal life?” If so, it’s definitely an indicator that there might be something more serious going on. People with endometriosis will often times experience GI issues due to the inflammation, scarring or endometriosis growing on the bowels, according to Laird. Bottom line: you know your body (and your flow) best, so if something isn’t feeling quite right, bring it up with a trusted medical professional.
You may also like: My story: how a life-changing surgery helped my endometriosis.