Menstruation, period, ‘that time of the month’ – regardless of what you call it, this is a monthly event no woman really looks forward to. This is an unpleasant time that can include crying hysterically because your partner brought home the WRONG chocolate, becoming irritated at anyone lucky enough to cross your path, the urge to eat everything in arms reach, and wanting to take the whole week off work because it feels like there is a small dinosaur clawing away at your uterus (cramps are a killer!). Have I sold you on the joys of womanhood yet?
In addition to the lovely events listed above, many women also experience symptoms similar to those with IBS during menstruation. This includes bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, stomach cramps, and flatulence. So does this mean women with IBS experience more severe symptoms during their period?
IBS symptoms during menstruation
Just when you think that time of the month can’t get any worse, for some it can. Unfortunately, many women with IBS experience more frequent and more severe IBS symptoms during menstruation. Around the time of their period, many women also report being more sensitive to trigger foods – such as FODMAPs. Menstrual cramps themselves may also be more painful for women with IBS. This is all likely due to hormonal changes experienced at different stages of the menstrual cycle.
Managing IBS around that time of the month
There are a few strategies you can put in place to try improve IBS symptom management during menstruation:
- Be extra cautious with following a low FODMAP diet. Even if you have found some FODMAPs don’t really trigger your symptoms, it may be a good idea to minimise your intake of these around the time of your period when your sensitivity may be higher.
- Exercise! Whether it be a scenic walk/run, a gym session, or playing sport – exercise is great for symptom management for both IBS and menstruation.
- Avoid high intakes of alcohol, caffeine and high fat foods during menstruation. High intakes of these are all known to trigger gut symptoms in susceptible individuals, particularly those with IBS. Try not to go overboard around the time of your period.
- Relax with a heat pack/hot water bottle. This can be great for reducing the severity of both menstrual cramps and stomach pain.
- Keep a diary! Log when you get your period each month and record the days where symptoms are worse. Some women find symptoms worsen before bleeding, others during, and others afterwards. Logging a diary can help prepare for symptom management in the future, as you will have an idea of when you’re likely to experience them.
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