Your period can bring cramps that only a Netflix binge can treat, bloating that makes you grateful for your new WFH setup and cravings for those cookies you have stashed away — but, yeah, it can also make you fart up a storm, too. Great.
It's no consolation, but you're not the only one who's got gas — not by a long shot. People who menstruate often notice an uptick in gastrointestinal symptoms both before and during their period, according to a January 2014 BMC Women's Health study. The research found that about three-quarters of people experienced GI issues during PMS, while two-thirds experienced them during their period.
First, you might be gassy during the time just before your period. That's when levels of the hormone progesterone are elevated, which slows gut motility to a creep.
If the movement of stool slows or stalls, then stool hangs out in the colon longer — and more stool builds up. "The longer stool sits in the colon, the more fermentation takes place, and the more gas you make," says Michael D. Brown, MD, gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "There is a lot of excess gas passage with constipation. An empty colon doesn't have as much gas as one packed with fecal material," he adds.
But then another thing happens when you get your period and levels of both estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest. People affectionately refer to this time as the "period poops," because your BM habits can become so head-scratching.
"Women make prostaglandins when they have their periods, and these chemicals cause smooth muscle to contract," says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale School of Medicine.
That affects the uterine smooth muscle, leading to cramps, but it can also affect the smooth muscle of the gut and get things going faster, she says. Ultimately, some people experience more diarrhea, but they can also get stuck with other GI complaints, too. Ahem, mega farting. Or, you know, wet farting.
What's more, if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), be prepared that you might feel even worse when you have your period. Symptoms of IBS, including pain, bloating and diarrhea, also tend to increase just as your period starts, according to an August 2015 review in Gastroenterology Report.
How to Turn Down the Period Farts
Depending on what's going on with you, take these steps to fart less this month.
If You’re Constipated:
Take a gentle OTC laxative like Miralax or Colace to increase motility so stool moves through, Dr. Brown recommends. You likely will go back to your regular BM schedule soon, which is a good thing — these meds are designed to be short-term solutions to constipation.
Also, move more. It might be the last thing you want to do when you're feeling blah on your period, but getting yourself out there, even on a walk, can help. In another study in BMC Women's Health, this time in 2018, college students who did 20 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week lessened symptoms of PMS, including constipation, over an eight-week period.
If You Have Diarrhea:
"Taking these with your period can certainly help with cramping and gut issues," she says.
Is This an Emergency?
- Office on Women’s Health: “Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)”
- BMC Women’s Health: “Gastrointestinal symptoms before and during menses in healthy women”
- BMC Women’s Health: “The effect of 8 weeks aerobic exercise on severity of physical symptoms of premenstrual syndrome: a clinical trial study.”
- Gastroenterology Report: “Symptomatology of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease during the menstrual cycle”