Updated: Jul 12, 2022
Why do I poop so much on my period? They’re called period poops and it’s not just you—they’re a part of menstruation many people with periods experience. When it comes to PMS the first thing many of us think of is period cramps but the digestive changes that occur with menstruation are widely experienced, too. Whether it’s a stomachache, diarrhea, constipation, or just a funkier odor than usual, you’re not alone! So, let’s talk about some of the common digestive/bowel-related concerns people experience around their period.
Why Do Period Poops Happen?
Changes to our digestive system and bowel movements happen around our period due to hormonal changes. There’s a hormone called prostaglandins, which not only contributes to period cramps, can wreak havoc on our bowels.
During periods, the body releases prostaglandins to cause the uterus to spasm and contract in order to pump out the lining (our period). The thing is, our body doesn’t target only the uterus with inflammatory prostaglandin hormones—they are released into the body as a whole¹.
This means that prostaglandins are travelling through our digestive tract as well, causing spasms and inflammation, which can lead to urgent bathroom trips and looser stools.
Why Do Period Poops Smell So Strongly?
You may notice that bowel movements and flatulence on your period have a fouler odor than usual. There are a couple of contributing factors to the unique aroma that accompanies period poops:
PMS Food Cravings: Right before our period, the body releases the hormone progesterone, which leads to symptoms like cravings. Often these cravings are for sugary, sweet, foods that we may not be used to eating in excess throughout the rest of the cycle. The change in foods consumed leading up to the menstrual week may impact the way the food is digested and add to the smell of bowel movements.
Change in Gut Bacteria: It’s been found that the microbiome in the digestive tract changes in response to estrogen fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. This means foods may be digested differently and have different bacteria present to break it down on our period, leading to a different, more pungent smell²!
Why Do I Get Diarrhea During My Period?
Back to those prostaglandins that cause cramping in the abdomen, not only do they make us have to go to the bathroom more frequently but can also cause diarrhea. The spasms happening in the intestines can cause stool to move through the system much too quickly, leading to loose bowel movements.
Those that drink caffeine may find they experience diarrhea around their period more than those that don’t due to its additional laxative effect. If you’re someone that experiences period diarrhea it’s important to ensure you’re hydrated as loose stools can be dehydrating to the body!
Why Do I Get Constipated On My Period?
While many folks experience increased bowel movements around their period, some people find the opposite. Constipation can also be a result of hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. This generally happens in people with low levels of prostaglandins and higher levels of progesterone.
High levels of progesterone have been found to slow digestion and the rate that food is processed through. This means that bowel movements may be less frequent and harder³. If you’re someone that experiences premenstrual constipation, ensure you’re having adequate amounts of fibre in your diet!
Why Does It Hurt More to Poop During My Period?
There are a few reasons bowel movements may feel more painful during your period:
Constipation: If you are someone that has less frequent bathroom trips on your period, it may be more difficult to pass the harder stool.
Period Cramps: Menstrual cramps while going to the bathroom may make it feel more painful to go to the bathroom.
Lowered Pain Tolerance: Pain receptors are more sensitive during menstruation making everything feel heightened, including discomfort on the toilet.
Pre-existing Conditions: Certain conditions like endometriosis, cysts, and IBS may add to the pain factor of period poops.
Hemorrhoids: These can develop from spending too much time on the toilet (whether diarrhea or constipation) and can cause pain when passing a bowel movement.
What Can I Do to Manage Period Poops?
There’s only so much you can do to help period poops as the body does need to fluctuate hormones to complete the menstrual cycle. Some studies show that anti-inflammatories such as Naproxen and Ibuprofen may help with frequent bowel movements as it helps to reduce the inflammation and spasms going through our digestive tract⁴. A fibre-rich diet can also help to regulate bowel movements!
At the end of the day, you can take solace in knowing that millions of people experience period poops every single day. They’re generally a nuisance but nothing to worry about, however, if you are experiencing any rectal bleeding or extreme bowel movement changes it’s always helpful to get a professional opinion from your healthcare provider.
Ricciotti, E., & FitzGerald, G. A. (2011, May). Prostaglandins and inflammation. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology.
Kautzky-Willer, A. (2018, July 10). The Relationship of the Intestinal Microbiome and the Menstrual Cycle.
Liu, C.-Y., Chen, L.-B., Liu, P.-Y., Xie, D.-P., & Wang, P. S. (2002, April). Effects of progesterone on gastric emptying and intestinal transit in male rats. World journal of gastroenterology.
Dawood, M. Y. (1981, July 22). Dysmenorrhoea and prostaglandins: pharmacological and therapeutic considerations.