Past research has already shown that women with gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, such as IBS and Crohn’s disease, can experience flare-ups of these disorders around menses.
Now a new study of 156 women without GI disorders in the journal BMC Women’s Health found that a whopping 73% reported experiencing at least one digestive complaint in the five days prior to menstruation, 69% reported experiencing at least one during their period and 31% were hit with two or more stomach woes either before or during menstruation. This means nearly three-quarters of the women in this study struggle with at least one cycle-related tummy trouble and nearly a third get struck with multiple cycle-related digestive issues.
Want to know the most common problems experienced by all women in the study? Bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Sound familiar?
Get painful periods? The women in this study with a history of moderate to severe menstrual cramps were more likely to experience abdominal pain, diarrhea and nausea premenstrually and abdominal pain and nausea during menstruation. So, if your cramps are intense, chances are, you’re more likely to experience more stomach complaints, too.
Now here’s where things get a little more interesting (as if discussing bloating, nausea and loose stools wasn’t fascinating enough!): This same study found a connection between emotional symptoms and stomach symptoms. Specifically:
* Women experiencing the blues premenstrually or during their period were also more likely to experience diarrhea on these days.
* Women experiencing anxiety before or during menstruation were more prone to nausea on these days as well.
* Women experiencing the blues, anxiety or fatigue prior to or during their period were more likely to battle two or more stomach issues on these days whereas those without emotional symptoms or fatigue were more likely to experience just one GI complaint.
While more research is needed to figure out why there may be a connection between moods and cycle-related GI symptoms, the researchers propose several theories: It may be that depression, pain and gut motility share some of the same mechanisms in the brain and body so that when one gets imbalanced, the other gets imbalanced, too; it may be that you’re more sensitive to pain and discomfort during this time of your cycle; you may be more sensitive to hormone-related changes in certain parts of the body that trigger GI woes; or a rise in hormone-like chemicals called prostaglandins (which prompts uterine spasms that cause menstrual cramps) could be behind the digestive disturbances.
Whatever the cause, you can rest assured that if you experience gut-related problems before or during your period, they may be annoying, but they’re also pretty normal.