You would be surprised by how many emails I get from women sharing the intimate details of their potty habits across their cycle.
From constipation and diarrhea to the shape, size, color and… well, I’ll just leave it to your imagination.
So, I thought since so many gals have so much interest in their bathroom time–and questions about why and when things change across the menstrual cycle–I’d tackle this toilet topic today:
There are generally two distinct shifts in bowel movements and urinary excretion that occur during your menstrual cycle:
1. During Week 1 of your cycle–your period week: THINGS ARE FLOWING OUT
This will likely come as no surprise to most of you: You’re prone to get loose stool during your period.
Researchers speculate it may be due to a build-up of prostaglandins–hormone-like chemicals that help expel the uterine lining during menstruation by stimulating contractions (the cause of menstrual cramps). These prostaglandins may enter the bloodstream, then make it to the intestines where they expel the contents.
And there’s probably a lot of contents to expel due to constipation–or at least slower emptying–caused by progesterone in the second half of your cycle (see below).
You may have also noticed you’re urinating more frequently right before or during your period. This is likely due to a drop in progesterone, which had caused water retention during your Week 3 and most of your Week 4 (see below). Without progesterone holding things in anymore, you’re passing all that water more easily.
Now, personally, I love this part of my cycle because I enjoy getting rid of the excess heaviness in my belly that comes from a slowdown in bowel movements and urination. By Day 2 of my cycle, I feel lighter and all cleaned-out. Very refreshing.
You, however, may view this phase a bit less positively.
I think this is one of those “Do you see the toilet half-full or half-empty?” kind of situations.
If frequent diarrhea is really interrupting your day, you may want to try the natural remedy I use in these situations, which is taking 500 mg. of calcium twice daily. This mineral is known for clogging things up down below by slowing down movement in the intestine and hardening stools. But, if you can, it’s probably far better to simply let things run their course so it’s all out of you.
2. During Week 3 of your cycle–the week after ovulation–and some of Week 4: THINGS ARE STAYING IN
A rise in progesterone in this week prompts two key changes in bathroom behavior: It makes it more difficult for you to move your bowels by triggering constipation and hard stools. And it prompts water retention, leading to bloat.
What’s more, while your body’s level of progesterone starts to drop in your premenstrual Week 4, because this hormone is still present–though in lesser amounts–you may continue to experience constipation, hard stool and water retention right up to a couple of days before your period or until your Week 1 actually begins.
So, why is progesterone being so greedy with your food and beverages, not allowing them to easily pass through in this phase of your cycle?
Researchers believe that progesterone wants your body to hold onto whatever you ingest longer as a way to sap more nutrients from them in case you got pregnant during ovulation and now need nutrients for two.
If constipation is bothering you, there are two study-proven remedies to help you get regular to try before resorting to drugstore treatments:
The first constipation remedy is rye bread. In a 2010 study in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that rye bread works more effectively than laxatives and probiotics at relieving constipation thanks to a type of fiber that ferments in the intestine and triggers contractions that move contents along. What’s more, it does the job without cramping or other uncomfortable side effects.
Not a rye bread fan? A 2011 study from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine shows that prunes (now called by the less geriatric-sounding moniker “dried plums”) work more effectively than psyllium-containing fiber additives (like Metamucil and Fiberall) at making you regular again thanks to their sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that has a mild stool-softening effect.
Personally, I reverse progesterone-triggered constipation with 250 mg. of magnesium twice daily plus a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Careful if you try this remedy though: Sometimes, it can work a little too well. If it’s too effective for you or you need a milder boost down below, then try taking just one 250 mg. dose of magnesium and half a teaspoon of olive oil.
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