Periods can play havoc with your Digestive system. Especially if you already suffer from a digestive issue like Gastritis or IBS. This is mainly due to change in those pesky hormones especially Estrogen and Progesterone. Oh yes If actual period pains are not enough to deal with your body throws more joy at you.
In fact, a survey of 156 women in 2014 showed that 73% had Digestive issues such as Bloating, Diarreoah and stomach pain during their period, so you are certainly not alone.
If I didn’t actually know when my period was due, I would know it was imminent just from my digestive system. Bloating Constipation and Gas being the main issues a few days before my period, followed by stomach discomfort and slow digestion when my period starts. Before finally settling down around day two.
Prostaglandins and Gastritis
To help the uterus shed its lining each month, the body releases fatty acids called Prostaglandins. As well as helping the uterus to contract it can have the same effect on the digestive system, bowel and intestines, which often results in bowel changes and Gastritis symptoms.
Having Gastritis creates a problem as many of the OTC treatments for Menstrual pains and issues are not always Gastritis friendly. But over the years I have found several things that really help, and will not aggravate your existing digestive issues further.
Bloating during period
I always seem to bloat a few days before my period, it makes me feel so uncomfortable. In fact, my whole digestive system just seems to slow down. This is why I try and increase my fibre intake around this time and it does really help the bloat.
For more information on Bloating and Gas, see my post – 12 Tips to Avoid Bloating and Gas
Constipation with Period
Constipation is often a problem around this time too and can cause bloating so eating a high fibre diet can help keep your bowel movements regular.
High fibre foods that help
- Choosing whole grain over white is a good way to increase your fibre i.e brown rice, pasta and wholemeal bread.
- Fruits & vegetables, beans and walnuts.
- Dates and chia seeds really helpful and are generally tolerated by Gastritis sufferers too.
- Drink plenty of water, it helps keep things regular
- Prunes are brilliant if you are really suffereing, but avoid having them too often as your body can become reliant on them.
Do increase fibre intake slowly though if your body is not used to it or it can make matters worse for a while.
Foods to avoid
- Processed food – Such as biscuits and crisps
- Dairy products – particularly cheese
- Carbonated drinks – sparkling drinks and alcohol may increase gas and should be avoided.
- Caffeine – Coffee, tea and caffeine soft drinks.
Farting before period (Period Farts)
It’s not something people talk about much but smelly Gas is a problem for many women during their period too. This is caused by a change in the gut bacteria and can be quite unpleasant, saying that it’s perfectly natural and doesn’t usually last too long. But if it’s an issue for you, watching what you eat and how you eat can help reduce this happening.
- Eat slowly and have smaller meals – This will help your body digest the food quicker resulting in less gas
- Avoid gas-producing foods, such as Cabbage, Brussel sprouts, Beans and Cauliflower around the time of your period.
- Avoid becoming constipated as this will aggravate the issue ( see above )
- Try taking a probiotic. These help balance the Gut bacteria which can help with gas. I use Biocare probiotics and have seen improvements in many areas of my digestion and Gastritis.
Period pain (Cramps)
I have suffered from painful periods since I was 11 years old and I dread this time every month. I used to take Asprin and other OTC NSAIDs but after developing Gastritis this was off the cards. So I needed to find other ways of dealing with Period symptoms.
I find these do help and are generally safe for Gastritis sufferers. I try and take them just as the pain is getting really uncomfortable and then they will last for a couple of hours.
Heat Wrap/Hot water bottle
I honestly couldn’t live without my heat wrap. The heat increases blood flow to an area which helps relax the muscles that cause the period pains.
I have a wheat-filled bag that you pop in the microwave for a couple of minutes and it’s amazing when placed on my stomach or the small of my back. This relief is almost instant, mine also has a lovely lavender scent which helps with relaxing too. Zhu-Zhu Lavender Body Wrap – Microwavable Wheat Bag
If you aren’t at home, (or just find them easier)I find these heat patches brilliant. You can pop them on under your clothes and they release a lovely warming relief to your muscles. I use these ones that are specifically for Period pains. Cura-Heat Period Pain 3 patches
Similar to the heat wrap, a warm bath works really well by relaxing your whole body and helping ease the cramps. Add some Epsom Salts and Lavender oil too and it will help relax those muscles that cause the cramps.
Yes I know this is often the last thing you want to do when on your period, but exercise can really help, Exercise helps by releasing endorphins in the body, which act as a natural pain reliever. It’s especially beneficial if it’s something you do in the week leading up to your period too.
Herbal teas and Periods
Peppermint has long been regarded as a herbal tea that soothes the digestive system and relaxes the muscles. Studies have also shown it relaxes the gut and many IBS sufferers find it very beneficial.
As a gastritis sufferer I don’t tolerate Peppermint tea very well and I find Camomile tea much better and calming. I have a slice of Fresh ginger with my tea too, and it definitely helps with bloating and gas taken an hour or so after a meal.
Fennel has long been used to help with digestive issues such as bloating, constipation and stomach pain. They use the seeds of Fennel to make it and it has a very similar taste to liquorice.
I tend to add Ginger to my Camomile tea but it can also be taken on its own in hot water. It has amazing anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to reduce the production of Prostaglandins, helping with symptoms such as period pains (cramps ) and general PMS symptoms.
In fact, in a study it was shown that Ginger reduced the intensity and duration of pain, so it’s a great all-rounder for period issues.
Yoga and Periods
Yoga has been shown to help relieve problems with period symptoms and reduce pain. I follow Yoga with Adrienne on Youtube and as well as her fantastic daily Yoga sessions she has also done a specific session for Cramps and PMS which is brilliant Yoga for Cramps and PMS | Yoga With Adriene
Talk to your Doctor
If your symptoms are really bad every month, you could talk to your doctor about the contraceptive pill (Birth control pills). They can help reduce painful and uncomfortable period symptoms.