Full Moon Over Troubled Waters, Backing The Bus Out Of The Garage, Auditing Your ASSets…yup, today we’re going to talk about poop!
Do you experience constipation after ovulation?
Do bouts of diarrhea seem to come out of nowhere right before and during your period?
Do you feel like the only time you have somewhat normal poops is during your follicular phase?
When we talk about the psychological and physiological changes that we experience within each phase of our cycle, there’s one area that tends to get overlooked; our poop!
The menstrual cycle has a very direct and predictable effect on your digestive system, and if you understand what is happening you can take steps to mitigate any frustrating digestive problems that might crop up.
Why do we have normal bowel movements in the follicular phase?
The bowel moves stool and waste (wish there was a better word for that!) through the intestines using a process known as peristalsis. You can see all the action in the video below.
Through peristalsis, muscles lining the bowel contract and relax in a rippling, wave-like motion to move things through the intestines.
As estrogen rises in the first half of your cycle, it also increases smooth muscle contractions in the digestive tract. This will keep things moving in the follicular phase.
Why do we experience constipation after ovulation?
The hormone progesterone is the main player when it comes to the changes in our digestion each month. One of progesterone’s key jobs is to stimulate the growth of the uterine lining to prepare it for the implantation of a fertilized egg, so our progesterone levels are at their highest in the luteal phase of our cycles, directly after ovulation. It’s during this phase that many women experience constipation.
So what’s going on here?
One of the properties of progesterone is that it’s a muscle relaxant. In fact, it’s commonly given to pregnant women to delay labor and preterm birth because its relaxing effects are so effective that it can reduce uterine contractions. It’s this relaxing effect that can make us feel all clogged up.
When there is more progesterone in our bodies, the relaxing effect this hormone has on our muscles makes it more difficult for the bowel to contract, thus making it harder to move things along.
As your progesterone levels drop in the run-up to your period, your constipation should subside. However, now that you know what’s going on, you can get proactive and do something about it!
Here are some tips to alleviate constipation during the luteal phase:
- Magnesium: If there was one mineral that I would recommend to women, this would be it. It plays a part in over 300 enzyme reactions in the body and it’s the bee’s knees for constipation, cramps and even PMS. Magnesium glycinate is the most easily absorbed form of magnesium, which will prevent diarrhea. Follow the dosage instructions on the label. However, I LOVE Natural Calm, which is magnesium citrate and not absorbed as well as glycinate, which is why it helps constipation. Just put it in water each night and your constipation (and even your PMS & cramps) will likely disappear! If you take more than 350mg of citrate you may experience diarrhea, so just experiment and see what works for you.
- Ditch the refined sugar and carbs: Cutting out sugar and refined carbohydrates literally removes any chance of constipation happening to me, and I’ve seen it work for tons of clients as well. These foods are so inflammatory that they disrupt the gut microbiome causing a chain reaction response in the gut. Added bonus – if you have period pain, I can guarantee you’ll see a massive improvement in that too!
- Get that fiber in: I know, this reminds me of those commercials in the 80’s featuring some old person raving about fiber. However, few of us consume enough, so I gotta talk it up. Fiber is a bulk-forming laxative that promotes colon health, but fiber needs water to work, so increase your water intake concurrently. Long gone are the days of super gross Metamucil – now you have much better fiber options. You can add a tablespoon of chia or ground flax seeds to your smoothie. Or you can try Garden of Life Organic Fiber.
Why do we experience diarrhea during our period?
Progesterone also plays a role in the diarrhea that many women experience during their period, albeit an indirect role.
Right before your period, progesterone levels drop dramatically causing the uterine lining to shed. This process releases a large amount of pro-inflammatory substances called prostaglandins, which constrict blood vessels and stimulate muscle contractions in the uterus. Higher levels of prostaglandins will cause more severe uterine contractions, which can lead to the painful cramps that are familiar to many of us. Prostaglandins can also trigger menstrual migraines too.
Due to its close proximity to the uterus, the bowel is one of the first organs to be affected by prostaglandins. Once they infiltrate the bowel, their effect is the same as it is in the uterus. They contract the muscles in the intestinal wall causing that wave-like ripple effect in the video above to look more like this…
We’ve all been there! And again, this will pass once the prostaglandins are out of your system and your period is over. But if there are ways that we can avoid these “uh oh” moments then I think we would agree that we’d prefer to live without them. One of these ways is to go through the 6-week program in my book Fix Your Period.
While progesterone may predispose you to constipation in the second half of your cycle, and its subsequent drop before your period might mean diarrhea, just know that once you start healing your gut using the 6-week program in my book Fix Your Period, you’ll likely begin to see an improvement in both of these super-disruptive problems.
Here are some tips to alleviate diarrhea during your period:
Prostaglandins, the main cause of diarrhea during your period, are pro-inflammatory agents so the best way to limit their impact is to add more anti-inflammatory foods to your diet. Here are some suggestions:
- Curcumin (a powerful ingredient in turmeric) – I recommend making a turmeric paste and eating it every day. You’ll find many recipes online and you can add it to meals, soups and smoothies! Or take it as a supplement.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – especially those from fatty fish like wild salmon and sardines. I love Designs for Health OmegAvail. And Rosita Extra-Virgin Cod Liver Oil.
- Antioxidant-rich foods – think blueberries, blackberries, orange colored veggies and dark leafy greens. In terms of supplementation, think Vitamins A, C, E and selenium.
YAY for targeting these pro-inflammatory trouble makers at their roots. Read all about prostaglandins and painful periods here.
Digestive issues related to my period used to be the bain of my existence! But knowing why they happen and when they are most likely to occur changed my life!
To get a clear picture of your own specific digestive changes throughout your cycle, I recommend that you track your bowel movements so that you can isolate these patterns. Most period tracking apps have a feature that allows you to include this kind of information so I recommend using these tools to help you demystify your defecation! (OMG I really just said that!).
Videos provided by Coloplast UK.
24 thoughts on “Periods and Poops: Why we experience constipation after ovulation”
Thank you for the article! I find that I get constipated like clock work right before ovulation. What could that mean? This happens even when I’m eating whole foods, fermented foods, drinking plenty of water, getting adequate fiber. I’m thinking it must be hormonally related.
I am so happy that I’m not alone! Thank you!!
Great article, Nicole – knowing the “why” behind the connection of progesterone to the bowels is incredibly helpful and also comforting to know some of these things are normal!!!
Hey Nicole, I’m starting to feel like my ovulation week is nearly as bad as my PMS and periods. I’m on a plant based diet and have been taking Shatavari consistently for a while to support my hormones, but I sometimes get constipation in addition to pain and inflammation, slight weight gain, fatigue and acne when I’m ovulating. Often I have 1-2 days of nausea right on ovulation day, why is this so bad for me? Everyone talks about pms and periods, so when I have another week of this discomfort, I’m running out of “normal” weeks! Does this happen more often than people realize?
Hi Nicole – Thanks so much for reaching out! I feel for you, it does sound like you’re running out of “normal” weeks! The first place I recommend you start is my article on histamine intolerance. Keep me in the loop on how you do!
Did you ever get to the root of it? I have the same exact problem. I get horrible cramps and very nausea during my ovulation. Sometimes I feel its worse than my period. Everything you described I get. I also get horrible diarrhea right after my period but a few days before the ovulation begins. I also feel like I am running out of good weeks. I can’t take the horrible digestive problems anymore.
Thank you for this helpful article. It’s difficult to explain to people how I can literally feel my intestines refusing to move. It doesn’t seem to matter how much chia or water I consume – sometimes it just won’t budge during my luteal phase. It’s almost like the nerves in my gut have been numbed. I don’t even feel the uncomfortable cramping that usually accompanies my constipation. I just feel a lifeless, bloated blob in my gut and I’m not really motivated to eat because nothing will move.
Hi Kim – I understand exactly where you are coming from and I feel for you. I know the discomfort you are experiencing is nothing less than miserable. HOWEVER I do have good news for you! I encourage you to take my quiz so that you can find out what could be going on with your health. From there, you’ll receive the free 7 day course which is a great first step to feeling better. Don’t lose hope, there is a solution 🙂
Lol I did a plank for 2:00 and then had sex before my period started because I didn’t know it was coming and then ya it me like a ton of bricks. I had errr um tummy troubles -constipation and horrible stomach cramps…like didn’t want to get out of bed, and had to struggle through my kids bedtime routine. I still read his story though! Good to know it will pass and I’m not dying. 🙂
Hi. I get pain and bloated when ovulating for about 4 days then a few days later constipated. Then really bad gas before period like trapped gas Then like the day before my period dhiareah. But then constipation and trapped gas again during the middle to end of my period… then it goes away. Its horrible but good to know when youre ovulating.
This has been beyond helpful to me. Thank you.
Very helpful and well explained.Thank you.
Love this! Thanks, Nicole!
Thank you so much for this!! Over the past 7 months I have been struggling with severe pelvic pain and bowel movements… doctors told me it was Peristalsis and gave me a few things to take! The fact it happens every 10 weeks was worrying me but this just shows I’m not on my own suffering.
So much appreciation for this xx
Dear Nicole, I have found that my digestion get’s really messed up (loose stool, diarrhea) a week before, up to, my ovulation. What could be the reason for that? My digestion is great in the luteal phase (no constipation). Thank you so much for your help!! Sarah
Who ever you are you are awesome..you have so much information and it’s not boring. I like you, I’ve read many of your reports
Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been wondering about this for such a long time and women ask me all the time!! So glad to finally know why!!
You are sooo welcome Maria! 🙂
Thank you for the great article. This is a really helpful resource when trying to draw connections for my patients with pelvic pain. What app do you recommend for tracking periods and ovulation?
Hi Aisling, thanks!! I love Kindara, Ovatemp, Clue, Glow and Groove apps. 🙂
You’re my go-to gal whenever I or my clients have period questions. Love this article because so many women experience this and it’s great to get some answers! I also thought the part about menstrual migraines was interesting. When folks tell me they have headaches/migraines, my initial thought is food all erodes or stress/lifestyle, but now I know to address their menstrual cycle as well. Thanks for continuing to put out great info!
Wow, I have been suspecting lately that my digestion and periods are linked. This is fascinating, and the first time I have read anything on this. I also have noticed I get headaches or migraines each and every time I experience constipation….I have been wondering if there is a connection there. Thanks for writing about this (hard to write about!) topic!
My wife has been constipated also when she have menstrual cycle. She has tried all you have been suggested here but it seems does not effective for her. Her doctor recommended her this Digestic from Mimonis and fortunately she was relieved with constipation. Good thing it is applicable to all members of my family.
Hi Nicole! What happens when you have the opposite going on? Usually when I get a smiley I also get diarrhea. Do you know why? And what I can do to help? Thanks so much for being so helpful!! Jo