2023 11 28 digestion cycle header

Your digestion over the course of your cycle

You already know that every cycle phase is different. But you may be new to the fact that your digestion also goes through a lot during your cycle. So if you want to know why some digestive complaints can be linked to your cycle, then read on.

Constipation before
your period?

During the first half of your cycle, i.e. in your follicular phase, the time before ovulation, your digestion should not show any particular abnormalities under optimal circumstances (if you do not suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or other intolerances). However, this can change after ovulation as soon as you enter your luteal phase. As we have already explained in our Blog post about the luteal phase your oestrogen levels drop after ovulation and your progesterone levels start to rise. Progesterone relaxes the muscles and prepares the tissue for a potential embryo to implant. This can slow down the work of the bowels, which can lead to constipation, especially when stress is added to the mix. Flatulence can also be an unpleasant side effect, as the longer retention time of food can lead to the formation of gases.

Another "side effect" of increased progesterone levels can be cravings for fatty or sugary foods such as ice cream or chocolate, which you may have already experienced as a typical PMS symptom. If you suddenly consume a lot more fat and/or sugar than your body is normally used to, this can lead to your body having difficulty digesting these foods and this can cause symptoms such as diarrhoea.

Can a bloated stomach
be an early sign of pregnancy?

In this context, we would now like to address a question that is very much on the Internet's mind if you look at the figures from recent Google searches on the subject. Namely: Can bloating in the second half of the cycle be an indicator of a potential pregnancy?

To answer the question very briefly: Yes, a bloated belly CAN indeed be a symptom in early pregnancy. But, the emphasis here is on CAN. As we have just explained to you in detail, bloating in the luteal phase has to do with the increased progesterone levels. During pregnancy, the production of the hormone progesterone also increases, which promotes the relaxation of the muscles of the internal organs. This allows the uterus to stretch better in order to create enough space for the growing baby. At the same time, the bowel and digestive process slows down so that food stays in the digestive tract for longer. The purpose of this mechanism is to ensure that the nutrients it contains can be optimally absorbed by the mother and baby.

BUT: Your progesterone rises at the beginning of your luteal phase anyway, regardless of whether an egg has been fertilised or not. Therefore, the only valid way to find out for sure whether you are pregnant is to take a pregnancy test. This will give you certainty and you won't get caught up in speculation that could end up making you sad.

Diarrhoea during
your period?

Yes, you read that right. Diarrhoea can also be considered PMS symptom You may experience diarrhoea, but especially during your period, the chance of diarrhoea is higher than usual. Unfortunately, this is not so pleasant, but it is what is.

Prostaglandins are to blame. If you suffer from period pains from time to time, you may already be familiar with prostaglandins as pain messengers. These hormones trigger spasms in your uterus so that the excess uterine lining can shed during your period. And now that your intestines are not so far away from the uterus from a biological point of view, the prostaglandins can also trigger cramps there. These stimulate bowel function, which can lead to more frequent bowel movements and diarrhoea. Prostaglandins also reduce the body's ability to absorb water, which also makes the stool softer and increases the risk of diarrhoea. Stress or anxiety can also influence the release of prostaglandins and thus exacerbate digestive problems.

Progesterone levels, which have risen before your period to prepare your body for a potential pregnancy, also fall when bleeding starts and tension in the uterus decreases, which can also increase bowel contractions.

You are not alone!

According to a 2014 study in the journal BMC Women's Health published study which looked at gastrointestinal (stomach and bowel) symptoms before and during menstruation in healthy women, abdominal pain and diarrhoea were the significantly most common period-related digestive complaints. Of 156 women surveyed, 24% reported experiencing diarrhoea before their period started, and 28 % experienced diarrhoea after their period started.

2023 11 28 Digestion Cycle Image

Tips against cycle-related

Finally, we have some good news for you. There are indeed some things you can do to improve digestive problems before and during your period, at least a little.

1. eat lots of natural fibre, including fruit, vegetables and whole grains.

2. drink plenty of water - this can prevent constipation, keep you hydrated during diarrhoea and improve the overall health of your digestive system.

3. exercise regularly - exercise helps with constipation as it reduces the time it takes for digested food to pass through the colon and therefore reduces the amount of water absorbed by the body in the faeces.

4. try to minimise stress factors - stress can promote digestive problems.

5. avoid alcohol during your luteal phase - alcohol can irritate the stomach lining and lead to stomach pain and soft stools.

6. limit fatty foods - fatty foods can increase the intensity of natural bowel movements and thus lead to diarrhoea.

7. combat digestive problems with natural probiotics - you can find these in yoghurt, ginger, kimchi, chia seeds, sauerkraut, pickles or kombucha, for example.

8. track your symptoms - so you always have an overview of when which symptoms occur, can recognise patterns and consult a doctor if necessary. Did you already know? With the free femSense App you can easily track your symptoms with just one click and learn to understand your body better.

We hope you enjoyed our blog post. If there's anything else you'd like to tell us about the menstrual cycle and digestion, please feel free to write to us at Instagram write.


Nall (25/11/2023), Period and Bowel Movement

Zens (25.11.2023, Constipation before your period

Bernstein et al (25.11.2023), Gastrointestinal symptoms

Hüttemann (25 November 2023), Let's talk about digestion

Tina is the Marketing Manager at femSense and firmly believes that great things happen when women support and empower each other, because in this "men's-world" there clearly needs to be more sisterhood. She lives in harmony with her superpower aka her cycle and writes about all the topics that matter.

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