Check-up: Diarrhoea every time she has her period
Angela asks Lifeline what can be done to prevent her from experiencing diarrhoea every time she has her monthly period. In addition to her period pain, she also has frequent soft, even watery stools during her period time.
Women often experience a wide range of symptoms just before and during their monthly menses. This would include tummy cramping, bloating, nausea, headaches and, yes, loose stools. These symptoms have come to be known as the 'pre-menstrual syndrome'.
It is thought that there is actually a link between menstruation and diarrhoea. At the beginning of menstruation, the lining of the uterus begins to produce a chemical hormone called prostaglandins, which stimulates this lining to contract and be shed. When too much prostaglandin is produced, the woman will experience cramping abdominal pain. In addition, the excess prostaglandin can stimulate the nearby bowels to contract
and cause diarrhoea. Excess prostaglandins are also, in part, responsible for the headaches and nausea associated with menstruation.
The discomfort experienced can be lessened with healthy lifestyle practices. Exercise and avoid coffee and drinks and foods containing caffeine. Eat a well- balanced diet, rest with a heating pad on the abdomen or back, supplement with medications like Ibuprofen, which is anti-prostaglandin and can be obtained over the counter. This will make you more comfortable.
The prostaglandin-induced diarrhoea can be treated to further decrease the discomfort being experienced.
- Eat yoghurt to help balance the gut organisms, regulate diarrhoea and help digestion, or take a probiotic.
- Avoid caffeine and fast food. The fat content in fast foods encourages diarrhoea, and caffeine acts as a laxative for many people.
- Exercise increases blood flow and leads to release of the happiness hormones - endorphins - which just makes you feel better. The increased blood flow removes the prostaglandins from the site of action in the uterus, so cramps are less.
- Take anti-inflammatory painkillers which reduce prostaglandin production. Stronger non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are available with prescription, e.g. Cataflam, Voltaren, Arcoxia. This will decrease both pain and diarrhoea associated with the menstruation.
- Eat a bland diet near and during the periods, including plain foods such as white rice and bread, Irish potato, pumpkin and baked chicken and steam fish, which can help prevent loose stools.
- Drink sports drinks like Gatorade and Lucozade to maintain energy levels.