IBS During the Menstrual Cycle

Alright ladies, I know I’m not alone when I say my IBS is the WORST during my menstrual cycle. Knowing what I know now, I without a doubt had IBS as a child. Then add to it the most painful periods from the very beginning, it was definitely a disastrous recipe that went untreated for years. I tried to explain my symptoms to several doctors who either down-played the complaints or would prescribe me a medication that only made it worse.

A tell tale sign of my soon-to-be starting menses is an IBS flare-up. I don’t know how many of you can relate to this, but it does not matter if I eat, don’t eat, watch what I eat, my IBS goes haywire. It is a miserable mixture each month and often takes a while to return to normal, just in time for it to start again! Often the medications that relieve menstrual pain are also ones that tend to upset the stomach!

Now, I’m a nurse, so I know the general mechanisms of both, but I haven’t always been educated on how they work together. I believe it’s always important to educate yourself, as well as seek advice from a medical professional. Once I educated myself on my conditions, I was able to be a better advocate for myself and the care I was receiving from my physicians.

So how do IBS and the menstrual cycle relate?

During your menstrual cycle, IBS symptoms are more common when hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, levels are at their lowest.1 I found this shocking and interesting, to say the least. Studies also show that many women living with IBS experience more painful menstruation, as well as heightened premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms.2

What can we do to relieve our symptoms?

If you’re like me, nothing seems to help, regardless of what I do or don’t eat. Interesting enough, some women report problems with FODMAP-approved foods. It is suggested to limit FODMAPS, even if specific ones do not typically trigger your symptoms, as well as foods high in fat, caffeine, and alcohol. Another great suggestion I read is to keep a diary or log of your symptoms. This will help better manage your future symptoms and be more prepared! This has been a learning experience for me, and after researching I realized that the correlation is very real and lots of people suffer with this. It always helps to know you’re not alone!

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