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Why Do I Feel Uncomfortable in My Stomach During Menstruation?

by HwangAlex 19 Feb 2024 0 Comments

Why Do I Feel Uncomfortable in My Stomach During Menstruation?

Various factors contribute to stomach discomfort during menstruation, often termed "period poops." Nausea, bloating, and flatulence may also occur during menstruation and the premenstrual period. While the exact cause of these digestive issues during menstruation remains uncertain, hormones and diet are believed to play significant roles.

5 Reasons for Stomach Discomfort During Menstruation

The female body is incredibly complex, and science only understands a fraction of what goes on inside us. "Period poops" and "period farts" typically accompany other symptoms of premenstrual syndrome or dysmenorrhea (painful periods). Bloating is also a common issue, and I've discussed many remedies for bloating in the blog "Why Am I So Bloated During My Period?" So, let's delve into 5 potential reasons that may lead to digestive issues during the premenstrual and menstrual periods. While this list isn't exhaustive, it can provide insight into the complexity of the issue.


Many medical professionals believe this might be related to prostaglandin hormones, which can cause spasms associated with menstrual cramps. They also induce contractions in the intestines, leading to digestive issues like nausea, bloating, flatulence, constipation, and diarrhea – the dreaded "period poops." These prostaglandins are actually quite helpful during menstruation as they assist in the shedding of the uterine lining, resulting in monthly bleeding. When out of balance, however, these prostaglandins can also cause digestive discomfort and menstrual pain. But as a naturopathic doctor, I'm always curious about what causes these prostaglandins to be problematic for some but not for others. That's where diet comes into play – a diet rich in animal fats and proteins can help elevate prostaglandin levels.


Fluctuations in Estrogen and Progesterone

Estrogen and progesterone naturally rise and fall throughout our cycles. It's believed that the increase in progesterone during the latter half of the menstrual cycle can slow down our intestines, leading to constipation. However, there's an emerging theory suggesting that estrogen might actually be the culprit. What we do know is that hormones may play a role, and when imbalanced, these digestive symptoms may worsen.


Unhealthy Diet

A diet high in sugar, salt, refined grains, and overly processed foods wreaks havoc on our entire bodies! These foods themselves often lead to indigestion, and we might just notice them more during the premenstrual phase. Generally, we're more sensitive to pain in the days leading up to menstruation, so this could be one reason why some women experience more digestive discomfort during this time. The drop in magnesium levels during the week before menstruation makes us more sensitive to pain, and a poor diet exacerbates that sensitivity – ironically, so does taking more painkillers! A diet rich in processed foods also lacks fiber, which helps maintain bowel movements. Fiber is also vital food for our healthy gut bacteria. On the flip side, sugar is the fuel of choice for the bad guys, so an unhealthy diet lacking fresh plant foods may lead to dysbiosis, or an imbalance in the microbiome. A healthy microbiome is crucial for many aspects of our health, and dysbiosis could contribute to digestive discomfort. Some healthy bacteria also metabolize our hormones, so it plays a role in all PMS symptoms, not just digestive issues. As I said, everything is connected!


Gut-Brain Connection

The gut-brain connection refers to the link between our brains and digestive systems. That's why we feel butterflies when we're nervous or excited! 90% of our serotonin (the happy hormone) is produced in our gut, not our brains. Research has found a connection between depression and digestive issues during menstruation, while another study asks whether indigestion might cause mood swings, and vice versa.


Hormonal Contraceptives

The use of oral contraceptives has been linked to inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. If you're taking hormonal contraceptives, it's worth considering that they might also contribute to digestive discomfort before or during bleeding. You can discuss this issue and potential alternative contraceptive methods with your healthcare provider.

What to Eat During Menstruation to Relieve Stomach Discomfort?

Many articles online and many doctors seem to recommend using hormonal contraceptives to treat symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, including digestive issues. Hormonal contraceptives are a fantastic resource for women who don't want to get pregnant, and I'm glad we have that option now. However, using these synthetic hormones to address symptoms caused by deeper imbalances is what we call suppressing symptoms. This may lead to more problems in the future, including the larger issues and more severe menopausal symptoms now referred to as post-birth control syndrome. As mentioned earlier, birth control pills can also cause digestive problems. I find the most profound healing occurs when people are ready to take control of their health and lives and make necessary dietary and lifestyle changes. These changes aren't always easy, but they're incredibly beneficial! If your symptoms are severe or the following methods don't help, then it's worth seeking out natural therapies or herbalists who can assist you on your journey.


Drink Herbal Tea

Let's start with something simple! Herbal teas are a delightful and soothing addition to your diet. Some particularly helpful ones include:

- Ginger – excellent for easing nausea, bloating, and any digestive or menstrual pain.

- Peppermint – highly effective for bloating, flatulence, and headaches.

- Chamomile – anti-inflammatory, prebiotic, calming to the digestive and nervous systems, beneficial for bloating and flatulence, and helps balance hormones. Wow, herbs are amazing!!

Reduce Processed Foods

In a world filled with junk, it's easier said than done! I find the simplest way is to add more healthy foods and only eat one junk meal or snack at a time, once a day.


Eat Simple, Warm, Cooked Foods

Both Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Indian traditional medical system Ayurveda recommend eating warm, cooked, and easily digestible foods during menstruation and the days leading up to it. Excessive cold foods are believed to cause pain and stagnation and should be avoided. Soups and stews are both great options! Check out recipes for delicious Ayurvedic kitchari dishes made with rice, lentils, and healing spices. It's perfect food for when you're on your period and feeling uncomfortable in the stomach.


Embrace Bitterness

Most of us are indeed lacking in bitterness in our diets. Bitter foods and herbs are a great way to kickstart digestion and help rebalance an uncomfortable gut. Dandelion, chicory, and endive are good ways to incorporate them into your diet. You can also try some herbal bitters like gentian, wormwood, or Digestisan drops (a combination of dandelion and artichoke). A few drops of water before meals can greatly ease intestinal discomfort.


Reduce Stress

As we've mentioned, stress can be a significant contributor to stomach discomfort, especially during the time when symptoms of premenstrual syndrome may appear. Doing what you can to reduce stress is indeed helpful, although we know it's not always easy. Here are three top tips for reducing stress:

- Try to carve out some time every day just for you. Whether it's just five minutes of meditation, or half an hour of reading or taking a hot bath. Create some space for your relaxation and emotional well-being.

- Talk to someone. They say, "A problem shared is a problem halved," and there's a lot of truth to that, so if dumping your burdens on someone feels good, go ahead and do it. You can also write it down – journaling is great for getting all your feelings out on paper so you can mentally leave them behind at the end of the day.

- Do a digital detox. A quick scroll through social media is enough to understand why we're all so stressed! Sometimes we all need a break because we know our feed will still be there waiting for us when we get back. Going for a walk outside – without your phone – can do wonders for you.


Try Some Gentle Movement

When you're menstruating and feeling nauseous, you might not feel like doing too much exercise. If that's the case, it's best to listen to your body. Some gentle movement, like a stroll in the fresh air or doing yoga, can be helpful. Simply rotating your hips in a circular motion can provide genuine nourishment.Wear Beautikini period underwear during your workouts without worrying about leaks.