Tips to Help Avoid PMS-Related Constipation
Do you suffer from “periodic” bouts of constipation―that is, constipation that occurs in the second half of your menstrual cycle? If so, that’s not coincidental. Your hormones likely play an active role in these episodes. After you produce an egg through ovulation, and before your period begins, your production of the hormone progesterone accelerates. This happens in order to prepare the uterine lining so it will be ready for implantation of a fertilized egg. The problem is, progesterone is a muscle relaxant.
In order to move stool through your intestines, a process called peristalsis must occur. That simply means the muscle lining in your bowels must contract in a wave-like motion to move waste along. However, when progesterone levels are high, contractions occur less easily. The process of peristalsis is inhibited, causing the transit of waste through the bowels to slow. As a result, fecal matter can back up.
Progesterone is also one of the reasons why many women experience constipation during pregnancy, especially during early pregnancy when progesterone levels rise to help the uterus prepare for and maintain a fertilized egg.
Constipation can be accompanied by abdominal discomfort or pain, swelling, and uncomfortable bloating. If no fertilized egg arrives and no pregnancy occurs, your progesterone levels will drop, which usually relieves the constipation, but doesn’t make it any more pleasant while you’re in the midst of dealing with it each month.
How Can You Avoid PMS-Related Constipation?
The more you support your body through healthy practices, the less likely you are to experience constipation and other symptoms of PMS. Here are some steps you can take to help maintain regular bowel movements during this time:
- Avoid simple carbohydrates, gluten, sugar, and fried and processed foods and focus on whole foods instead, including plenty of green, leafy vegetables.
- Drink lots of water―water is essential to proper digestion, and dehydration promotes constipation. Warm water with lemon is not only soothing but a great way to help keep things moving.
- Choose fiber-rich foods―soluble fiber such as oatmeal, apples, blueberries, peaches, and prunes and insoluble fiber such as whole grains, seeds, fruit skins, and celery help move waste along.
- Eat only when you’re hungry and stop eating within two to three hours of bedtime.
- Go when you feel the urge—holding a trip to the bathroom when you feel the urge can make constipation worse.
- Avoid over-the-counter or prescription laxatives, which can come with side effects and can make the problem worse over time.
- If you’re taking an iron supplement, talk to your healthcare provider about switching to a dosage or formulation that will be easier on your gastrointestinal system.
- Get regular exercise, which helps support healthy bowel function.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you should be taking magnesium, which can help with constipation and even cramps.
If you’re experiencing regular constipation, a physician within the BodyLogicMD network who is extensively trained in nutrition and hormones can help you address the problem with recommendations for diet modification, supplements to support healthy digestion, testing to detect related food allergies and sensitivities, and restoration of optimal hormonal balance. Contact a physician within the BodyLogicMD network today.