Hormones, Menstruation and IBS Symptoms

April 10, 2021 , ,

If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) you may know that a low-FODMAP* diet can help you to reduce your digestive symptoms. You have also probably been recommended to begin practicing a relaxation activity such as yoga and meditation in order to help you better manage your emotions and stress, both of which can exacerbate your gastrointestinal disorders. But have you ever thought that your hormones might also be involved?

In effect, there is a strong link between IBS symptoms and one’s sex hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone in women. Therefore, it is no wonder that IBS affects twice as many women as it does men.

When menstruation is approaching in their fertility cycle, many women also see an increase in their digestive problems such as: diarrhea, constipation, bloating…

Why is this?

During a menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone levels vary. Before a woman’s period, levels of these hormones drop and digestive symptoms tend to increase.

It should be noted that sex hormones influence the regulatory mechanisms of the brain-intestinal axis which is involved in the physiopathology of IBS. Hormonal fluctuations will have an impact, among other things, on visceral sensitivity, gut motility and transit time. Thus, as menstruation approaches, it is not surprising women might feel more bloated, have more gas or suffer from diarrhea, constipation or abdominal pain.

In addition, due to these hormonal fluctuations, serotonin levels (wellness hormone) will decrease and some women will notice variations in their mood, which can make digestive symptoms more difficult to live with.

Changing your eating habits

As mentioned in a previous article, during menstruation a woman might find that her appetite increases, leading her to more frequent snacking and eating heavier, bigger meals. These changes in eating habits can impact one’s digestive symptoms, and even more so if your choices lean towards fatty, sugary or FODMAP-rich foods.

*FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates that are partly responsible for causing symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For more info, read this article.

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Jennifer Morzier
Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian graduated from the University of Montreal in December 2018 and is a member of the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec (OPDQ). She believes that the quality of our food choices has a direct impact on our health and energy level. Her goal? To help people improve the quality of what they put in their plates, for their better well-being and greater pleasure.

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