Can PMS make IBS worse? Tackling the dreaded duo

There is something nobody talks about, yet lurking in bathrooms all around the world there are many silent sufferers. All these sufferers have two things in common: they have both IBS and PMS. What is the cause of this silent yet deadly embarrassing phenomenon? Two words: “period poop”.

Once a month it strikes and renders you attached to the toilet. Not only is your period causing a gushing feeling but so too is the contents of your bowels. You ask yourself, “What did I do to deserve this? Yet, you are too scared to tell anyone – perhaps, not even your closest inner circle. But you truly need to stop suffering in silence. And we are here to show you how!

What is period poop and why is IBS worse before period

Can IBS be triggered by hormones?

We all know about the effects of our hormones, but normally we associate them with affecting our mood. But that’s not the main role of a hormone. Around your period, you may experience period poop even if you do not have IBS. This is because of hormones called prostaglandins which are at high levels during people’s periods. They help the womb muscles to move and pulsate to release the lining, but they also help other muscles to get pumping too and that includes the muscles of the gut. Supercharging those muscles can lead to pooping more, looser poop and diarrhoea.

Prostaglandin overload also causes stomach cramps and when it’s both your bowels and your uterus cramping up- that can be particularly painful! It can also make it hard to tell if you need to poop or you are simply having period pain. You may rush to the bathroom, only to realise you do not need to poop since it was just a flare of period cramps.

But what about constipation?

Prostaglandin is not the only hormone which rises during this time. The hormones progesterone and oestrogen are also at high levels. These two can make stool firmer and induce constipation. So, feeling constipated is something you may commonly experience around your time of the month as well. In this case, you may find yourself spending more time in the bathroom trying to open your bowels.

What about the smell and gas?

You may notice that you have smellier farts around your period. That’s because progesterone levels can increase compulsive emotional eating before your period. You may start munching on your favourite comfort foods before your period and this can lead to overdosing in sugary foods which make your gas smell foul or make your poop more smelly than usual.

Can PMS make IBS worse?

Research has shown that IBS symptoms are worse when you are on your period. This includes things like bloating and tummy pain. It also showed that for people with IBS you literally feel more pain in your backside than people who do not have IBS. The research shows that it hurts more to poop during your period! And this flare-up does not happen in people who do not have IBS.

So, what can you do about it?

Whatever you do - do not suffer silently! Period poop and flare-ups of IBS around your period are extremely common so rest assured that you’re not the only one with this problem and it’s ok to talk about it. Talking about this can normalise it and help not only you but people everywhere!

Here is our guide to dealing with period poop:

1) Talk to your doctor about it

If you get loose stools, they may recommend a painkiller similar to ibuprofen which can counteract prostaglandins- but always talk to a doctor before starting any medication! This type of medication will help both your period cramps and your tummy problems.

2) Drink lots of water

Drinking lots of water will help you stay hydrated if you’re suffering from diarrhoea and if you’ve got constipation it will help with opening your bowels.

3) Be kind to yourself

It is easy to blame yourself for or to blame your symptoms on certain foods you ate and start to feel guilty, but this only makes things worse. It is important to realise that these symptoms are not your fault and to treat yourself with kindness during this moment. Self-compassion is a great way to deal with stress and has been proven to be linked to better mental health. This could be simply treating yourself to a massage, or tackling negative self-talk or it could even be some loving-kindness meditation. If you want some tips on how to make your body feel loved in 2021- you can read more here.

4) Channel your cravings

As the progesterone levels rise it can induce emotional eating as a way of dealing with the mood changes you experience. It’s absolutely ok to give into these and eat what you crave but if you want to prevent a binge, you can channel your cravings into doing other activities which also give you pleasure. This could be watching your favourite TV show or having some cuddles with loved ones.

5) Exercise

This is a great way to help with period cramps as well as gut symptoms that may flare-up. Gentle exercises like yoga can be a great way to stretch the muscles and provide relief. We have lots of Yoga for IBS poses in Zemedy. But once again, doing what you enjoy and what you can manage is the important thing. So whether it is a little dance to your favourite tunes or going for a walk you will hopefully see the difference in your symptoms.

6) Munch on some fibre

Most people do not eat enough fibre and this can cause issues with bowel health. At Zemedy we recommend mixing soluble and insoluble types. One of our favourite recommendations is having some oats (soluble fibre) with a range of toppings you can mix and match: flax seeds (insoluble), nuts (insoluble), apples (soluble), pears (soluble), figs (soluble), strawberries (insoluble), raspberries (insoluble).

Hopefully, these tips will help you manage period poop with ease. Simply realising that you are not alone can also make a big difference and remember you can always vent about your period and bowel troubles with the Zemedy community. There are also lots of tools in Zemedy which allow you to get instant relief during a flare-up - so give it a go!

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