Why Do You Have Gas and Diarrhea During Your Period?

Returning to the Hot Issues section, I ask the experts to answer the questions you are too confused to tell about yourself. Today’s installment is for all people with uterus who spend too much time in the bathroom once a month.

Here’s a short and sweet question without a clever moniker. It came to my inbox before I started asking for smart names, so I forgive the mistake.

Okay, I’ve always wondered why I have terrible gas in the first day or two of my period. Seriously. What does the reproductive system have to do with my colon?

This is a very relevant question, I want to know you, because when I told my Facebook friends that I was looking for weird health questions, one of them immediately replied, “Let’s talk about recurrent diarrhea, ladies.” If you don’t take anything away today, do it this way: recurrent diarrhea and a period of nuclear farting are definitely a thing . It’s not just you.

And Dr. Ellen Stein , a gastroenterologist at Johns Hopkins, knows why. “I can give you a monosyllabic answer: prostaglandins.”

“Tell me more,” I said.

She explained thatprostaglandins help the cervix open during menstruation and help the uterus to expel its contents. Prostaglandins are hormone-like chemicals that are naturally produced by our bodies, and even when they target the reproductive tract, they can also infect the intestines.

Since your uterus is squeezing out its contents, your gut may have an idea to do something similar. On the other hand, during pregnancy (you need to hold the baby) these prostaglandins are not enough, which can lead to constipation.

Some people are more sensitive to the action of prostaglandins than others. If this is you, you will have spastic diarrhea and, yes, gas at this time of the month.

So what to do with prostaglandin damage? Ibuprofen is a good option, says Dr. Stein, not only because it relieves pain, but because its anti-inflammatory effect also helps to slightly reduce prostaglandin production. The hot water bottle also relaxes the intestines and is enjoyable.

But remember, your menstrual cycle is a month long. Hormones fluctuate all the time. So the chances are that if you have diarrhea at this time of the month, you may very well be constipated at another time of the month. Tracking your periods and symptoms, or a simple grid in your diary can help you figure out if there is a pattern.

Once you get the hang of your monthly bowel routine, start paying attention to “scary foods” that make you more gas. You should avoid them a day or two before your period. But at the beginning of the month, when you are more likely to be constipated, do not hesitate to eat more of your favorite fiber foods and drink them with plenty of water. Probiotics can help too (Dr. Stein mentioned Activia). And if you’re worried it won’t be enough to keep things moving, over-the-counter chair softeners can help.

That’s it for this Burning Questions series. I’m sure we haven’t gotten to the bottom of the barrel of poop, sex and toes yet, so please drop me a line of what’s on your mind. Either email me at beth.skwarecki@lifehacker.com (please include a COOKING QUESTION in the subject line) or write them anonymously at bethskw.sarahah.com . Until next time, keep your fart-containing meal plan wisely.


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