Gut issues and your period

Have you ever noticed that your period causes some er, interesting, gut behaviour? First of all, you’re not alone, and secondly, there’s a very simple, scientific explanation for this.

Most of us are aware that menstruation is all about shedding your womb lining (unless you’re on a form of hormonal birth control, but that’s another story for another time). But have you every really thought about how that process actually happens?

In order to actually shed that lining, your uterus needs to make some small, rhythmic contractions, to move the unneeded tissue down and out. This is a like a much, much milder version of what happens during labour and childbirth.

These contractions are caused by prostaglandins, which are a kind of chemical messenger. In the lead up to your period, prostaglandins hit the uterine muscles and send one loud, clear message: contract.

But your uterus isn’t the only organ that receives the “contract” message. Your colon also receives that message, and it really takes it on board. That’s why you might find yourself going to the bathroom more frequently during or just before your period. You might even experience diarrhoea, because all these extra contractions mean your poor colon has less time than usual to do its main job: absorbing water.

Normally, waste products move slowly through the colon, giving it plenty of time to absorb water, vitamins and minerals, ensuring that the resulting stool has the normal, healthy texture which you are accustomed to. But if you speed up the process, the colon doesn’t have time to absorb all the required water, and the resulting stool is looser than normal.

So if you’ve ever been worried about your changing bathroom habits during your menstrual cycle, fear not, it’s just prostaglandins!

Want to learn more about your reproductive system? Dr Anita Mitra is a London-based gynaecologist with a fantastic Instagram account – check her out at @gynaegeek. And here’s a great interview she did with Cosmo UK, where she went into this issue as well as a few other points.

Ashleigh Jones

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