The effects of periods can be quite varied. Most menstruating humans know to expect cramps, pimples, fatigue, and maybe even some mood swings. But a good portion of us also get bloating and some pretty stinky period farts.
According to a 2014 study published in BMC Women’s Health, seventy-three percent of menstruating women suffer from some sort of gastrointestinal symptom. The fact that our menstrual cycles can affect digestion is pretty clear, even though there doesn’t appear to be much research specifically about period gas.
Period gas is caused by certain factors
It is believed that it is because of a chemical messenger called prostaglandins, says gynecologist Nicole Bullock, DO, of Abilene, TX. During pregnancy, prostaglandins increase inflammation in the uterus.
It has a wide range of functions throughout the body, and is found in almost every tissue of humans and animals. Every woman experiences these chemicals as part of her normal menstrual cycle. As uterines contract, they shed the lining, thus leading to the “blood” we see (actually a mix of blood, vaginal fluid, and tissues). Your cramps can be attributed to prostaglandins.
Gas and bloating can also be blamed on them. Period cramps tend to accompany GI issues in women who are prone to them. According to Dr. Bullock, you produce more prostaglandins and inflammation than someone without arthritis. While you are on your period, your uterus can create excess prostaglandins, which can lead to extra lipids being formed in the surrounding tissue. In this case, “period poops” are the result of prostaglandins reaching your digestive tract, causing your colon to contract like your uterus and move waste through your system too fast.
However, prostaglandins can also relax smooth tissue and increase electrolyte secretion, both of which may cause gas. Now that all your bowel movements have relaxed, you are flooded with electrolytes. Period farts are caused by these two factors, Dr. Bullock says. If you drink too much magnesium—which is a very popular supplement right now—you will be upset if you have taken Pedialyte or Gatorade too much. However, an excess of electrolytes, even those used for treating upset stomachs, can lead to bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
Period farts can be eased in several ways
It is crucial to practice good, old-fashioned birth control in the first place. The prostaglandins are down-regulated by hormone birth control, says Bullock. Period farts are less likely to occur when prostaglandins are lowered. If hormone birth control isn’t for you, Motrin can be a good period standby.
As prostaglandins are created in the uterus through its COX receptors, the uterus is a source of prostaglandins. Motrin and Advil, which contain ibuprofen, block the COX receptors, inhibiting the production of prostaglandins. As a result, Dr. Bullock recommends Motrin instead of Tylenol (Acetaminophen) for people who experience period cramps or gastrointestinal symptoms. You’ll feel less gassy and inflammation will be reduced.
To avoid gas, you can make a short-term or a long-term lifestyle change. Firstly, do not eat anything you know makes you gassy. Sarah Toler, DNP, is the content lead for the period-tracker app Clue. She says when it comes to food, most people suffer from stomach discomfort at least once. Perhaps you should take a break from beans, cauliflower, cabbage, and whatever else triggers your gas. Next, you need to eat foods that are good for you. Salty foods, such as broth, as well as sports drinks (just not too much), Toler suggests. “This may assist in reducing bloating by removing some of the water from the body,” she says. Rather than equally salty pizza or chips, Toler suggests broth and sports drinks. So tread carefully when eating processed foods.
You can also put an exercise regimen into place, take probiotics, and eat a low-sugar, low-processed food diet to reduce inflammation all month long.
Bloating and period farts can be medically serious
Period farts can be uncomfortable (and smelly), but are not typically harmful. Dr. Bullock says a lot of these symptoms are very much typical of PMS. She suggests discussing birth control with your gynecologist to minimize gas and bloating, and to track PMS symptoms by visiting your doctor every year. She suggests that you tell your doctor about your periods.
Period farts are generally not a cause for concern. If you have a lot of gas and bloating or experience complications like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or endometriosis, you should consult your doctor.
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