Aunt Flo’s visit. The curse. The crimson wave.
Need we go on, ladies?
Menstruation can be painful, emotional, and downright uncomfortable for any woman. But it can be difficult to tell if diarrhea, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, etc., are part of the cycle or indicators of a functional bowel disorder, like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
Since April is IBS Awareness month, here are some warning signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Changes in bowel movements
- Bloating and excessive gas
- Lower belly pain
- Mucus in stools
You may also experience these non-gastrointestinal symptoms if you’re suffering from IBS:
- Unpleasant taste in mouth
- Sleep problems, such as insomnia
- Sexual problems: pain during sex or reduced sexual desire
- Heart palpitations
- Urinary symptoms, such as a frequent, urgent need to urinate, trouble starting the urine stream, or trouble emptying your bladder
**While these may not be symptoms of IBS, they may be associated with IBS or trigger IBS.
During the typical menstrual cycle, abdominal pain and diarrhea tend to increase in the premenstrual period and hit their peak discomfort on the first/second day of the menstrual flow. Bloating and constipation tend to increase post-ovulation (day 14) and stay increased until the first day of the menstrual flow.
But if you’re struggling with IBS, these symptoms can be more frequent and severe during menstruation. You may also experience greater discomfort associated with fatigue, backache, and insomnia, and may have increased sensitivity to particular foods, such as gas-producing foods, around menstruation. Studies have also shown that increased pain sensitivity during menstruation can play a role in functional bowel disorders and inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
On the other hand, some of your symptoms–such as constipation–may actually improve during menstruation.
But if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms on a regular basis or for a long period of time, consult a gastroenterologist today. Self-medication of IBS symptoms with OTC medications may not be effective. Some of the remedies may not help or create more trouble down the line (no pun intended) if left untreated. There is “no one size fits all” treatment. Each patient and their symptoms are unique. Talk with a specialist today and create a treatment plan tailored to your unique symptoms.