Let's Talk About Period Poop
As you’ve likely noticed, we talk about poop all the time over here at DUDE HQ. So we’d hate to seem remiss by neglecting a particularly special set of bowel movements the people who get periods experience for five or so days every month.
Yes, we mean period poop. How is it possible for something to be both so smelly AND so frequently missing in action?
Turns out drastic changes in bowel movements at this time of the month are just as commonplace as all that other period-related stuff that gets discussed more freely, like cramping, bloating, and food cravings. So why should what’s simultaneously going down in the bowels get short shrift? Since we already blew open the lid on whether or not girls poop at all, we thought we’d come for period poop, too.
Why Period Poop Hits Different
Welcome to DUDE HQ, Hormonal Expert Division. Did you expect the first word out of our mouth to be prostaglandins? Prostaglandins are hormones that cause the uterine muscles to contract, thereby making it possible to shed the uterine lining every month. In doing so, they’re also what give people period cramps. They giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other, those prostaglandins.
Also on the taking side, prostaglandins mess with the gastrointestinal system, where interestingly and annoyingly, they can cause trouble at both ends of the spectrum. Fluctuations in prostaglandin seem to lead to water retention, which is behind that bloat some women might deal with every menstrual cycle. But on the other hand, by causing the muscles in the bowels to both contract and relax, prostaglandins can also cause extra pooping. Stuck dealing with full-on diarrhea at some point every month? Again, thank prostaglandins.
Basically, if you’re a lady who finds herself in typical period abdominal pain while experiencing digestive issues at the same time and wondering why nature decided to do this to the female biological anatomy, it’s probably the prostaglandins. At least an ibuprofen should help alleviate the cramps.
What About the Opposite of Period Poop?
You mean constipation? Ah, yes. Well, let’s let prostaglandin momentarily off the hook and shift to blaming the hormone progesterone.
The high levels of progesterone your body produces before your period can slow down the digestive system. And you know what that means: the disappearance of poop altogether. Staying hydrated, eating extra produce, and adding fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi to your diet (particularly between ovulation and the moment your period starts) can help.
Does Period Poop Smell Worse Than Normal Poop?
Turn the clock back a few days to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). What were you eating? For many women, the increase in progesterone also does a doozy on food cravings. If you were going for junkier options than you do the rest of the month or just eating more overall, it might affect how your poop smells. (Worse. It makes it smell worse.)
The good news is that once the cravings subside, your usual healthful diet should set things right in the scent department.
So Period Poop Sucks. Is There Anything I Can Do About It?
Not really. You can definitely keep some of our awesome wipes around — YES they are for ladies, too — in case you want something a little more refreshing than toilet paper on hand for pooping during menstruation. And scented candles are always nice.
On the other hand, if your gastrointestinal symptoms include constipation and extra fiber and probiotics aren’t helping, seek out over-the-counter relief. We don’t recommend messing around with laxatives without consulting a medical professional, but good old psyllium, the stuff in Metamucil, is a natural, tried-and-true digestive support that should help resolve bowel issues of the non-moving variety.
Does Birth Control Affect Period Poop?
It may! Hormonal birth control limits how much prostaglandin the body produces, potentially limiting menstrual cramps and any excessive period pooping. So if you’re on the pill, and you’re reading this, and you’re feeling smug about your unflappable digestive system, well, it might just be one of the better side effects of your contraceptive.
How Can I Tell if Period Poop Is a Medical Problem?
In all likelihood, bowel movement weirdness is just that—kind of weird at this time of the month. However, if you’re dealing with chronic diarrhea every time your period rolls around, you may want to check in with a medical professional about it. Period poop can also be particularly rough for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), so if that’s you and the cramping and diarrhea feel out of control every time you menstruate, don’t hesitate to bring it up with your doctor.
Also, just because it’s referred to as “period poop,” this does not mean it should be accompanied by blood. If you notice blood when wiping after a bowel movement (unrelated to changing a tampon), don’t worry—it could just be hemorrhoids. But it’s still worth seeking out medical advice just to be sure. Same with excessive pain. When abdominal discomfort doesn’t depart along with your actual period, check-in with your doctor to see if it may indicate an issue like endometriosis.
Women Need Wipes Too
Today’s post may seem aimed at the ladies, but if you’re a dude, we’re glad you read this. In addition to your newly acquired and quite scatologically niche expertise, go move your wipes to a highly visible location near the toilet. You know, just in case your girl’s over and wants to avail herself of them.
Really, do you think any iteration of period poop could possibly be grosser than an average day at a dude’s toilet? Yeah, we’d venture not.