How To Stop Stomach Pain During Periods | Healthhunt
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Why You Get An Upset Tummy During Your Period

Lakshmi Devan
3 min read

Why You Get An Upset Tummy During Your Period

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Oh, this is what you’ve been waiting for, your whole life! We finally know what goes on inside.

Well, it’s time for Aunt Flo to knock on the door. She’s almost here, and you know it. You have been dreading her since she visited last. What will follow varies from person to person, but if you’re less fortunate like I am, then when God was giving out period symptoms to women, he felt super generous towards you. It’s as if you went to a restaurant and ordered 1 of each from the menu. Cramps – check, headache – check, bloating – check, flatulence – why yes, definitely check. Whatever be the analogy, the truth is that we all know that there’s no running away from it.

But do you wonder why you get an upset tummy besides cramps, nausea, bloating, flatulence during your period?  Why does everything bad have to happen together?

Here’s the answer you deserve.

I’d like to state in the very beginning that the link between gastrointestinal troubles and menstrual processes are still not absolutely understood, and what scientists have done so far is only attempt to guess closely, and co-relate.

Hormones of the period cycle

The menstrual cycle is the product of a carefully balanced activity of hormones throughout a woman’s reproductive cycle. Oestrogen facilitates ovulation, and progesterone shoots up right after, to thicken the uterine lining in preparation of the zygote, in case fertilisation occurs. Then this progesterone declines, to trigger menstruation. Progesterone is known to cause bloating, flatulence, and constipation. Now, as soon as menstruation begins, prostaglandins take the stage.

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Prostaglandins are hormone-like chemicals that affect the tissues they come in contact with locally; and during periods, their job is to lead uterine contractions to slough off old tissues and blood. They are the primary reason behind the tummy cramps and discomfort that periods bring along. In a published study that involved women on their period, it was found that cases of diarrhoea during this time were present in women who had higher levels of prostaglandins. Thus, one could infer that prostaglandins have a direct link to the ‘true period experience’, by seemingly causing increased contractions, and movements of the smooth muscle of the digestive tract.

It’s also common for women to be constipated right before their period begins, and have it resolved within a few days of starting it. Studies also suggest that women with irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or any other chronic bowel conditions have more digestive troubles, as compared to women with no digestive conditions. In addition, women with dysmenorrhea (excessively painful period cramps), or women who take non-steroidal, over-the-counter pills that are meant to help pain (like ibuprofen) experience more GI disturbances. But there’s hope.

Here are a few things to make your periods a better time:

  1. Diet help – Altering your diet and lifestyle to include lots of high-fibre foods, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can be helpful most of the times. So can limiting your intake of salt (aggravates water retention), dairy (easily upsets stomach), sugar (causes mood swings and fatigue), alcohol (dehydrates you), spicy foods (upsets your stomach), and caffeine (causes dehydration).
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2. Out with stress – Try and manage stress by using relaxation techniques, including yoga, meditation, and long but rejuvenating walks. Regular, but light exercise is also recommended during your premenstrual and menstrual period.

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3. Note it down – Lastly, keep a period diary to identify any patterns of symptoms and food/exercise/behaviours that help. A diary can provide precious information that can be developed to optimise or avoid certain things, and ultimately minimise discomfort. 

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