Like a bill hastily rushed through Congress, your period comes with lots of bullshit attached. There's the bloating, the mood swings, the being banished to a tent on the outskirts of town because your elders fear you'll bring drought. And of course, the period shits. As if you didn't have enough stuff gushing out of you, some women find their periods cause diarrhea like none other.
This is, obviously, the worst, but it also makes some sort of twisted sense. The first few days of your period, it can feel like your pelvis is trying to push everything out of your vagina—up to and including your skeleton. You know those toothpaste dispensers that have the three colors? You ever try to get just one color to come out? It doesn't work.
"When I'm on my period, I poop like crazy," a woman who understandably prefers to remain anonymous tells Broadly. "One time I was visiting my boyfriend in Portland when I got my period. I lived in the bathroom that weekend. And sometimes it hurts too, like I'm being stabbed up my butt." This is a pretty common complaint. Inflammation, food sensitivity, and nausea can all sing backup for your cycle.
The chemical culprit is prostaglandin. Prostaglandin is a lipid that your body uses to prevent blood loss and promote clotting; it works by narrowing the blood vessels in your muscles, which can cause them to contract. (A synthetic type of prostaglandin is given to women to induce labor.) After ovulation, the walls of your uterus get packed with prostaglandins. When this tissue breaks down and you start menstruating, the prostaglandins are released and send a message to the smooth muscle tissue in the uterus. That message: "Squeeze, damn you!" Excessive prostaglandins are the cause of cramps. Your uterus is squeezing too hard, cutting off blood flow, and generally overexerting itself. If prostaglandins leak into the bloodstream, they send that "squeeze" message to every piece of soft muscle tissue it can find. So then your colon thinks it's a uterus and goes into overdrive.
Progesterone also has a hand in this dirty business. Progesterone is one of the hormones that controls our cycle. It thickens the walls of the uterus, clogs the cervix, causes constipation; generally, it gums up the works. When you're on your period, you're not making as much progesterone. This leads to things in both your uterus and your gastrointestinal tract moving much more freely.
As we've seen, the GI tract and the reproductive system are linked. This link extends to disorders of both systems, though science has yet to determine how and why. Sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are more likely to have severe cramps and diagnosable premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and their IBS is also harder to manage during the monthly visit. Researchers have also found links between IBS, period pain, and endometriosis. "Clinicians need to be aware that these conditions often co-exist," says the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.
There are things you can do to manage the period poops. Hormonal birth control regulates the amount of prostaglandin being produced in your body. If the pill isn't for you, eating a fiber-rich diet will help, as will taking ibuprofen. According to Health magazine's Dr. Roshini Raj, ibuprofen helps with inflammation in the uterus and bowels. "Besides relieving other menstrual symptoms, it's an effective prostaglandin inhibitor."
So there you go, your body is a drippy wonderland.