There are a number of reasons why you could be constipated, and one of them is your changing hormones.
You may find that you’re constipated before some periods and not others. Either way, it’s completely normal to have this and other digestive issues before or after your period.
Read on to find out why you may get constipated before your period, ways to find relief, and when to see a doctor.
Your menstrual cycle is the result of continued adjustments in your body’s estrogen and progesterone levels.
Not only do these hormones affect when you ovulate, they can also impact your digestive habits.
Some experts think that an increase in progesterone can lead to constipation. This usually occurs when you ovulate or a few days after.
Other experts think higher estrogen levels may lead to constipation. For example, researchers in
At the study’s end, the researchers didn’t observe an impact on bowel movements from progesterone. However, they found that higher levels of estrogen (which increase before your period) slowed intestinal movement and caused constipation. It’s important to note that this was an animal study. More research in humans is needed to determine if estrogen is a factor in constipation.
Regardless of the hormone that causes period-related constipation, most people find their symptoms get better after they start their period and these hormone levels start to go down.
You may find it helpful to try one or more of the following.
Focus on natural fiber sources. Fiber adds bulk to stool, sometimes by absorbing water. This bulkier stool stimulates your intestines to move, helping to overcome some of the effect period hormones have on your body.
Try adding one to two servings of fibrous fruits, vegetables, or whole grains to your diet each day.
Foods to try include:
- split peas
Increase your water intake. Drinking more water can make your stool softer and easier to pass.
Add in some exercise. Movement via exercise can also stimulate sluggish intestines. An example could be taking a walk after you eat.
Always use the bathroom when you feel like you have to go. Not going when the urge hits can disrupt your brain-body connection. It also gives more time for your stool to become harder and more difficult to pass.
Talk to your doctor about laxatives. Laxatives are meant to be a short-term solution to helping you go. Examples include lubricant laxatives, like mineral oil, or stool softeners, like docusate sodium (Colace). Always check with your doctor before taking these.
These tips may help keep period-related constipation at bay.
Avoid dehydrating drinks, like caffeine and alcohol, around your period. These drinks are natural diuretics and can reduce the amount of water in your body. This doesn’t leave as much available water for your stool to absorb. Making water a priority can help.
Maintain a healthy diet. Emphasizing a diet high in fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains is a great effort year-round, not just around period time.
Consider oral contraceptives. Birth control pills can help regulate your hormone levels. This may alleviate some of the more severe swings that cause extreme constipation one month and diarrhea the next.
Talk to a doctor about prescription medication. If your constipation starts to become the rule instead of the exception, see a doctor. They can prescribe medications to reduce constipation, such as linaclotide or lubiprostone, if your at-home efforts don’t seem to be working.
Constipation isn’t the only digestive woe that can plague you around your period.
Some people get diarrhea due to increases in prostaglandins (another hormone type) when you start your period. These hormones relax smooth muscle, including your intestines.
What you can do: Drink plenty of water to prevent diarrhea-related dehydration. Avoid foods high in lactose, sugar, or caffeine as they can make diarrhea worse. Medications are available to treat diarrhea, but are usually only used if it persists beyond a few days.
Increases in prostaglandins can also make gas more likely to occur.
What you can do: Avoid foods known to contribute to gassiness, such as beans and broccoli. Avoid carbonated beverages, which can also increase gas. You can also consider over-the-counter gas relievers, such as simethicone (Gas-X).
Increasing levels of estrogen and progesterone can cause water and sodium retention that leads to bloating.
What you can do: Avoid high-sodium foods that can make bloating worse. Drinking enough water can also help encourage the body to release some of the excess fluid.
If you aren’t sure of what is and isn’t normal regarding your period-related constipation, talk to a doctor or other healthcare provider.
They can provide reassurance and may be able to offer advice.
You should also see your provider if constipation lasts more than three days.
You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience severe cramping or any blood in your stool.