It seems like every month before I get my period, I get really constipated. Then as soon as my period comes, I have a day or two of acute stomach upset. What's going on and how can I make it stop? (The stomach discomfort is severe enough to prevent me from carrying on my normal daily routine.)
As women's hormone levels fluctuate each month, there is a long list of symptoms that women may experience as part of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). These include headache, irritability, breast tenderness, skin changes, bloating, weight gain, and, yes, constipation.
Many women also report food cravings (like for chocolate!) and may indulge in more simple carbohydrates (sugar) to satisfy the urges. There is actually research that says women crave sugar due to lowering levels of serotonin before their menstrual period. So there may be a method to the madness of the food cravings many of us experience. But, an increase of sugar can cause abdominal bloating and constipation. Hormonal fluctuations may also play a role here as well.
What to do about it? Try some of the following, and see if any changes you make help with your symptoms.
- Regular cardiovascular exercise helps your circulation and promotes bowel regularity: Make an extra effort to get a workout in as your period approaches.
- Increase your water intake.
- Increase intake of fiber.
- Watch (and moderate) your intake of sugar.
- Watch consumption of alcohol and caffeine
- Be aware of where you are in your cycle to help with making good food choices.
- If you have a history of recurring bowel problems, talk to your doctor about other possible causes.
- If these other approaches don't improve your comfort, talk to your doctor about using a gentle laxative to prevent constipation.