Your stomach rolls and gurgles. You feel torn between hitting the office vending machine for a chocolate bar and eating the healthy salad you brown-bagged. You’re spending way more time in the bathroom than usual. What’s going on?
More likely than not, it’s just dear old Aunt Flo getting ready to fly into town. Many women suffer from digestive problems before period weeks, so you’re far from alone. But what causes gastrointestinal upset before your period and how can you alleviate it?
What Causes Digestive Problems Before Period Weeks?
When you ovulate, your levels of progesterone rise. And if you don’t get pregnant, your hormones shift again to signal your body to shed the uterine lining it has built up. This shift in hormonal levels doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Your levels of insulin, for example, impact the way estrogen and progesterone operate in your body. Everything works together symbiotically.
The way hormones interact spells both good news and bad news. The good news is that by making lifestyle changes, you can regulate your periods naturally. For example, simply having sex before your period stabilizes your level of luteinizing hormones, making all internal clocks tick in sync.
The bad news is, everything from your diet to your stress levels can negatively impact hormones and increase digestive problems during period weeks. This puts additional pressure on you to make lifestyle changes that help calm your upset tummy.
How to Minimize Digestive Problems During Period Weeks
Minimizing digestive problems during period weeks requires modifying your diet, taking regular exercise and managing stress. Dietary changes include switching to a plant-based diet, as the hormones used in raising meats impact human hormones in ways researchers don’t yet fully understand.
Choose nuts and seeds such as walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts have anti-inflammatory properties that relax your uterus, easing menstrual cramps that can worsen gastrointestinal upset. Additionally, nuts and seeds contain high levels of magnesium: a mineral that helps stabilize moods that’s useful if you feel depressed or anxious before your period.
After you ovulate, your estrogen levels drop quickly, leaving you feeling tired. One of the best ways to boost energy and ease mild digestive upset is taking moderate exercise. Exercise increases blood flow to your internal organs. If you tend to suffer constipation and bloating, getting your body moving can have a similar impact on your bowels.
Additionally, exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Even if you do still experience a bit of tummy trouble, you’re better able to laugh it off when you’re feeling good.
Many women lead stressful lives between managing their careers and home life. But excess stress can result in hormonal disruptions that increase digestive problems before period weeks. Establishing a healthy self-care routine proves critical to regulating tummy troubles naturally.
Practicing yoga and meditation offer great ways to relieve stress and reframe negative thoughts. Spending five to 10 minutes upon waking and before going to bed can help you manage stress. Other ideas for managing stress include keeping a positivity journal, taking walks outdoors or relaxing in a hot bath.
When to See Your Physician
Sometimes, digestive problems before period weeks indicate a more serious underlying health disorder. For example, if you experience stubborn weight gain despite exercising and eating healthfully, you may suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). In PCOS, you produce higher levels of male hormones. This causes cysts to grow on your ovaries, which then fail to release mature eggs.
Uterine fibroids — large, tumor-like growths — can cause symptoms such as frequent urination, constipation and abdominal distortion. One woman in Ireland spent three years appearing pregnant after being misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. In reality, she suffered a huge uterine fibroid. Uterine fibroids often require surgery to treat, but in many cases, doctors do not need to perform a full hysterectomy.
Endometriosis occurs when the endometrial tissue — the tissue lining the uterus — grows on other organs, including the bowel. Many women with endometriosis also receive incorrect diagnoses of irritable bowel syndrome, as the condition can cause constipation and diarrhea. Fully 60 percent of women with endometriosis develop a case of the runs.
Sadly, because many physicians still fail to take female pain seriously, many women suffer for years before getting an accurate diagnosis. Therefore, seek treatment early and advocate for yourself. It can take as long as a decade to receive a diagnosis of endometriosis, for example. This, along with other conditions of the female reproductive tract, can impact your fertility.
Protect your child-bearing ability by seeking a second opinion if your original physician’s suggestions bring no relief.
Dealing with Digestive Problems Before Period Weeks
The good news is that you can eliminate many common digestive problems before period weeks by making lifestyle changes. By eating a healthy and primarily plant-based diet, taking moderate exercise and alleviating stress, you can ease the tummy trouble that goes along with the cardinals’ monthly visit.