Menstrual cycle and bowels

Originally Published: May 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 2, 2010
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Dear Alice,

Does a person's menstrual cycle regulate her bowels in any way? I have had some problems. The week before I get my period, I have loose bowels and the week afterwards I am quite constipated. Is this normal? Is there anything I can do?

Signed,
Regulated

Dear Regulated,

It is not unusual for there to be changes in a woman's bodily functions throughout her menstrual cycle. It's good that you have become aware of your patterns, and there are a few things that you can do to help around them.

First of all, you may want to pay extra attention to your diet, both before and during your period. Make sure to try to include foods that are varied, sufficient, and balanced. Many women find that it helps to eat more whole grains and whole flours, beans, vegetables and fruits, and less or NO salt, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. You may also benefit by eating smaller, frequent meals or snacks rather than two or three bigger meals (this is a useful tip even when you aren't menstruating). Adding different types of fiber to your diet will help with the diarrhea and constipation. Soluble fiber like pectin, found in many fruits, absorbs water thickens the stool, and insoluble fiber like bran from whole grains softens the stool. Try eating lots of fruit before your period, and then adding bran to your breakfast the week after.

It may take some experimenting and adjusting until you find the exact eating plan that works for you during those two weeks. Be consistent, and hopefully you will be more comfortable in the long run.

Alice