Think back to a time before you had a period. If you’re like us, back then, the sight of blood made you squeamish, pooping was something “other people” did (we mean, as far as your crush was concerned), and piercing your ears was the most excruciating physical pain you’d ever experienced. Fast forward to your period-full present day and…LOL, what innocents we all were. But just because we now know what to expect from menstruation, doesn’t mean we don’t have a few more questions. And something we’ve always wanted to ask (but have been afraid to): What’s the deal with “period poop,” and why do we poop more during our periods?
For as long as we can remember, period poop has been a tapoo…sorry, taboo topic. Sure, we know what a normal period is. Not to mention much of what everyone needs to know about pooping. But pooping often takes on a different quality for people on their period, especially when it comes to bowel movement frequency.
So what’s the difference between the poops we pass regularly and the ones we pass periodically when we menstruate?
We asked New York-based gynecological expert Dr. Alyssa Dweck to get the poop, er…scoop on Aunt Flo’s other monthly “gift.”
First things first: Is it our imagination, or do we really poop more during our periods?
For Dr. Dweck, it makes sense that many people experience changes in their bowel habits right before their period, in part because of pre-menstrual hormonal shifts. Take progesterone, for example, the hormone that prepares the body for conception and pregnancy as well as regulates the monthly menstrual cycle.
“The hormone progesterone, which has an effect on intestinal motility, surges at the end of the cycle, so for some people, this gives symptoms of irritable or frequent bowel movements,” Dr. Dweck told HelloGiggles.
But hormones aren’t the only things that might be messing with our monthly movements.
According to Dr. Dweck, pre-menstrual changes in diet (read: an increased appetite for sweet and salty foods) and exercise habits could be to blame, too.
“People don’t usually run to have more kale right before their period,” said Dr. Dweck. “Lots of people, during their pre-menstrual time, naturally and without thinking [indulge in] diet cravings for sugary and salty foods, and that can alter their intestinal movements. Changes in exercise habits, as well as hydration status, can also alter intestinal habits.”
So what can we do to make the easiest passage possible for our period stools?
“Number one, keep a period tracker,” Dr. Dweck said. “This way, a couple of days or a week in advance of your period, you can make a conscious effort to avoid [indulging] in your usual PMS eating habits and avoid foods high in salt and sugar, and lactose products like ice cream, that might give you sensitivity.”
Drinking healthy amounts of water and adding more fiber in our diets can help keep it all moving smoothly, though.
And Number Two?
“Number two, exercise more,” Dr. Dweck said. “That tends to really help keep things on track.”
Now we know what’s fact and what’s crap. And ahhh…we feel so much better.