Is It Normal to Get Diarrhea During Your Period?

What causes diarrhea in the first few days of your period?

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By the time you reach your 20s, you probably have your own way of detecting an incoming period. For many women, it’s the dreaded menstrual cramps. For others, it’s when a few random pimples abruptly appear on your chin. And for others, the big clue that a period is starting is constipation and diarrhea.

Cramps and mood swings tend to get most of the attention when it comes to PMS symptoms, so you might worry that the wonky bowel movements you experience before and during your period are abnormal and problematic. Fear not: Upset stomach and diarrhea around the time of your period are very normal.

How common is diarrhea during your period?

A 2014 study tracked the gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms of adult women before and during their periods. In the study, 73 percent of participants reported at least one GI symptom. The most common symptoms were abdominal pain and diarrhea. Participants who experienced mood changes before their periods were much more likely to also experience abnormal bowel movements than those who didn’t have mood changes.

What causes digestive problems during menstruation?

The digestive distress comes down to hormonal changes during your cycle. Estrogen and progesterone fluctuate throughout the cycle. These hormonal changes can alter the speed of your digestion. Slow digestion can cause constipation. Faster digestion can cause diarrhea or just more frequent bowel movements.

Some women experience GI distress regularly, such as those with irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease. For these individuals, their symptoms may worsen during their periods. Plus, women with IBS and IBD are generally more likely than other women to report other PMS symptoms (like mood changes), according to a 2015 study in Gastroenterology Report.

What can help relieve upset stomach during your period?

Like other PMS symptoms, one solution to deal with period-related bowel changes is hormonal birth control. This includes the Pill, the patch, or hormonal IUDs.

These options may reduce cramps, mood changes, and upset stomach by evening out the release of hormones throughout your menstrual cycle. If that’s a solution that appeals to you, talk to your doctor to explore which birth control option is best for you and your specific lifestyle.

However, many patients simply accept constipation and diarrhea as part of their monthly routine and make adjustments to their diet and exercise habits. Avoid foods that trigger constipation, and focus on getting more fiber in your diet. Here are more habits to help relieve and prevent constipation.