Stomach problems and periods can seem to go hand in hand – whether it's menstrual cramps or period poos, everything can feel a bit squiffy in your tummy at *that* time of the month. But why?
Today, leading digestive health expert Linda Booth talks us through time-of-the-month tummy trouble, and what you can do about it...
Why does my digestion get screwed up?
"Hormones affect every system of the body including our digestive system and gut, so when hormones are out of balance during your period, you may find that you lose your appetite or feel ravenous. It's common for women with IBS to experience a worsening of their symptoms during menstruation."
Why do I get stomach cramps?
"Chemicals released during your period, in particular prostaglandin, cause the uterus to contract so that it can expel the blood. This can be uncomfortable. Apply a hot water bottle or heat pack."
Why do I experience diarrhoea when I'm menstruating?
"These same chemicals can also cause our intestines to contract causing diarrhoea."
Sometimes I get constipation too, Is this related to my period?
"As the hormone progesterone begins to slow down to allow ovulation to happen, it affects the smooth muscle tissue of the intestines. This can lead to constipation. Drink plenty of water, increase fibre and try to do some gentle exercise."
What are the best foods to eat on my period?
"Hummus is made from chickpeas, olive oil, lemon and garlic. These ingredients are known to be anti-inflammatory and pain relieving. Hummus is packed full of fibre too so get some carrot and cucumber sticks and tuck in. Celery is fab as it's full of water so good for hydration, and pineapple as it helps to relax your muscles. Avocado is full of healthy fats, fibre, magnesium, potassium and vitamin B6. Eat half or a full avocado daily to help balance out hormones."
What foods should I avoid during my period?
"Caffeine can make periods worse. Don't have more then one cup a day or ditch it completely 7 days before and during your period."
How do I beat the bloat?
"Bloating, trapped painful intestinal gas, diarrhoea, constipation, gurgling can be due to the fluctuation in hormones during our period but also can be an indication we have an imbalance in our gut bacteria. Try eating fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi. A daily probiotic capsule like Just For Tummies Live Bacteria can also help reduce these symptoms."
What else can I do to help myself?
"Fill up on magnesium rich foods. Magnesium helps to prevent painful spasms of the uterus and intestines. Eat dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, beans and pulses (but not if you have IBS). Magnesium is also a natural painkiller easing tension in blood vessels and muscles. Nourish the body with hot soups and nourishing broths, together with anti-spasm herbal teas such as ginger or chamomile."
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