By Mia Abrahams
This gif is the cutest thing about this article, just warning you (via GIPHY)
Being a woman (or real menstruating human) who bleeds is a magic, fulfilling, powerful experience. Mostly. There is another very real part of the period experience that involves painful bloating or desperately running to the bathroom, like, a lot. Know what I’m talking about? It’s not just you!
So what’s that about? Well, our bodies and the hormones they produce are very powerful. So powerful, in fact, that, in addition to mood swings, the hormones we produce leading up to and during our periods can affect our stomachs too.
After ovulation and right before your period hits your body produces progesterone. Quick recap: Progesterone is one of the things your body needs to get pregnant and gets the endometrium (lining of your uterus) ready for a baby, baby! If you don’t get pregnant, the endometrium sheds and ends up in the bottom of your THINX. But, another thing progesterone does is slow down the contractions of your bowel. When it’s all backed up it can make you feel bloated and constipated.
Estrogen (another hormone involved in getting your uterus lining ready to catch and grow a baby) can also cause water retention, which = bloating before your period. It’s also the reason it feels like you totally put on weight.
But wait! There’s more. Once your period starts, you can experience the opposite (eg. diarrhea). Cool! Because you aren’t pregnant (remember?), progesterone levels drop and your bowels get back into the swing of things. Just maybe swingin’ a little too hard there, nahmean?
The other culprit? Prostaglandins, which help your uterus contract and expel uterine lining if you aren’t pregnant. So, we defs need them (I already asked). But, they tend go a little overboard. Prostaglandins cause cramps (if your uterus is contracting too hard) and when they come into contact with other nearby organs, like your bowels, they give them the same message as your uterus, which is: GET OUT, GET OUT! The result?
Well, it’s the old “holy shit I need a toilet NOW.”
So, what can we do about it? Obviously the ultimate goal is hibernation, sweatpants, and a couch, but for a lot of us, work/life/kids means we actually need to leave the house during our ~moon time~.
If you’re super bloated, **generic health advice alert**, drink lots of water! Seriously though. That includes herbal teas, sparkling waters, or water with lemon or mint if you are feeling particularly lifestyle bloggy. Also, cut out foods that are difficult for your body to digest, like certain veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts), milky things, salty stuff, and corn and potatoes (unless you have diarrhea, and then starchy foods can be helpful). Foods high in potassium can help with bloating, so go to town on bananas, sweet potato, and cantaloupe (weird salad combo, but you never know).
If you’re feeling backed up, eat fiber rich food: veggies, whole grains . . . you know the drill! It can also help to do some light exercise (check out some period appropes exercises here), which will reduce stress and help get everything running more smoothly.
If you’re poopin’ too much, try eating starchy foods like potatoes, pasta, crackers, cereal, aka all the stuff you were eating on your period anyway! So there’s some good news. But, try and stay away from fried food (sorry) coffee (super sorry), anything too salty or sweet (I mean, I really am sorry), and alcohol (👋🏼👋🏼👋🏼)—your stomach needs a break. (This also helps reduce bloating.) And, let me say it again: drink lots of water! All that toilet action can leave you dehydrated. Of course, if your diarrhea really isn’t manageable, you should check-in with your doctor to make sure something else isn’t going on (like IBS).
Like we always say, periods are great moments for self-care, chill-time, you-time, whatever-you-need-time—so don’t be too hard on yourself. If you need a break, take it. And drink more water.
Tell me, what other tips and tricks do you have for combatting stomach ~issues~ during your cycle?