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Periods are rough. Pooping on your period is an entirely different level of rough. For many of us, when we have our periods, we’re in hell. Like, let’s not lie about this. No matter how much effort you might put into having a less wild period, it’s just a hard experience. Your body is literally shedding itself: your uterus is contracting to push blood out of your body. And no, it’s not in a beautiful, easy stream of red.
It’s in big creepy clumps and explosions the moment you dare stand up or sneeze or god forbid, laugh. It’s gonna hurt. As if that doesn’t sound awful enough, this leads to a number of other issues. You get cramps. You get headaches. Your legs and lower back hurt. You kind of want to throw up.
And, of course, you start shitting your brains out.
Despite random confused men thinking it’s possible for women to turn their periods on and off on cue, those of us who have periods are well aware of just how unpredictable they can be, period poop included. It might be something that happens solely on day one of your period, but it’s more likely to be a sort of sporadic thing.
You’re at work in a meeting, or you’re running on the treadmill, or you’re reaching for that third cookie (because chocolate really is a period essential) and then it hits you: the period shits.
But why do we poop so much on our periods?
First things first: you’re not imagining things.
You really do poop more when you’re on your period.
“It’s not in our heads that we, as women, with working menstrual cycles, would feel like we poop more during our periods,” explains Jenifer La, MS, RD, LDN. “There are two main reasons attributed to this – hormones and diet.”
And yes, it really is that bad. “The two hormones that could affect period poops are prostaglandins and progesterone,” Dr La explains. “Prostaglandins help our uterus to contract, in preparation to effectively push out blood. You can consider prostaglandins as Lord Walder Frey, from Game of Thrones, as it can cause not only just uterus cramping but the ‘Red Wedding’ scene in a toilet bowl (a.k.a. period diarrhoea). Oh, the betrayal.”
“Another hormone is progesterone, which helps our bodies prepare itself for contraception and pregnancy, as well as regulating our menstrual cycle. Progesterone can either slow down or speed up our GI system, leading to symptoms of either irritable or frequent bowel movements.” So your butt might be mad at you, or your butt might be ~doing its thing~ more than usual, or BOTH. So. Much. Fun.
You can blame it on the location of your uterus.
“Okay, so the science behind period poops, to my understanding as a person who talks almost exclusively about my uterus and my b-hole, has a lot to do with your bodily logistics,” Her Campus News Editor/Resident Poop Expert Katie Speller explains. “Your uterine lining is obvs thick and your hormones are going wild — and your uterus is located near your colon. So, the wild chemistry experiment going on in your uterus can have some effect on your poop-making materials, leading you to either never be able to poop or have to poop aggressively.”
One of the worst things about period poop is that it doesn’t give a fuck about what else you have going on in your life. You’re probably very busy. You probably don’t want to tell your boss/professor/date you can’t come anymore because you’re stuck on the toilet. But your period continues on, poop included.
Because we love you, we asked how women deal with these shitty moments.
While it’s always good to hear from professionals and experts when it comes to body issues, there’s something comforting about hearing from Real Live Women. Felicity explained, “TBH, I always forget that period poops are a thing until they happen every month. I always confuse my actual period cramps and period poop cramps and then it just feels like a clusterf*ck of cramps that I don’t understand. I never know if I need to take, like, 3 ibuprofens or just need to sit in the bathroom for a half-hour. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the gas that comes before — literally feel like my stomach is going to blow up from the pressure.”
“My period poop survival tips?” Katie says, “I strongly suggest having in your underwear collection undies that are either dark (Period Panties are a fave), White (bleachable) or just crappy, so you don’t mind that they might get some kinda racing stripe action (shit happens, leaks happen. Get used to it.)”
“Lots of water w/ lemon makes it worst temporarily, but then you like flush it all out, and you’re okay,” Sarah says.
While chocolate and crying are all good and well, working out and eating veggies will help more.
What you eat does matter when it comes to having a better period. “Maintaining your fibre-rich diet will ease your period diarrhoea symptoms,” Dr La says. “The fibre will help bind your stool to solidify itself. Fibre keeps us regular and our GI system happy! Gradually increase your fibre intake throughout the week and make sure you are drinking plenty of water to help ease any more symptoms of constipation.
Do you really have to work out, or can you just sleep on your heating pad all week? According to Dr La, you should get moving to get it moving (har har. But really). “Healthy bowel movements also require physical activity. If we choose to wallow in our sorrows of bleeding, we aren’t helping our symptoms of cramps, bloating, and constipation/diarrhoea.
Don’t be embarrassed – not with your friends, and especially not with your doctor.
Suffering tends to be a bit less sucky when we suffer together and without shame. I asked Dr La how we can stop being so freaking embarrassed about talking about our periods, and all that comes with it. “Period poops are normal – they happen. We should not be embarrassed about something that happens naturally! Plus, there are far more disgusting things than period poop.”
Dr La is all about sharing, regularly and proudly. “I would highly recommend speaking to either your primary care physician or obstetrician/gynaecologist for further questions if you believe your cycle and bowel movements are far more irregular than usual. It is important to talk about our periods, and all that it encompasses (i.e. bloating, cramping, and period poops for that matter) as it is all related to women’s health.”
You won’t know what’s up unless you talk about it. “I have met both friends and patients who had undiagnosed conditions such as endometriosis because they grew up thinking their symptoms were normal since they ‘never talked about it,'” Dr La says. “You truly won’t know if something is ‘normal’ until you speak up and openly discuss it with your friends, parents, and health care team!”
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