Gastrointestinal (GI) issues right before the menstrual phase are super common. One study showed that 73% of healthy women have at least one GI symptom pre-menstrually, and 31% have two or more! The GI symptoms looked at in the study included abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. Abdominal pain is the most common primary symptom, and diarrhea is the second. Surprisingly, more healthy women get GI symptoms than any mood symptom, including anxiety, depression, or fatigue.
The research shows that more than half of us have stomach dysfunction every month before we get our period! Even though we may be healthy, we can use cycle syncing to reduce symptoms of hormone dysfunction and maximize our health and energy. It wasn’t that surprising to me to learn that fatigue was strongly correlated to having more than one GI symptom. When we don’t feel right, it saps our energy!
What causes GI distress before and during our period? The theory is that prostaglandins are to blame. Prostaglandins are a type of lipid (fat) that acts similarly to hormones. There are many of them, and they do different things in our bodies. The specific prostaglandin that causes GI distress is called PGF(2alpha). This prostaglandin is strongly related to inflammation. PGF(2alpha) will bind to cells in our uterus to cause it to cramp and shed the lining, which causes our period to start. It can also attach to your GI tract and cause GI symptoms.
Since excess prostaglandins are causing GI symptoms, reducing them will help reduce GI symptoms before our period. How do we reduce prostaglandins?
- Eat high fiber foods – The best way to get high fiber foods is from healthy carbohydrates! Loading up on beans, sweet potatoes, lentils, and fruits will help your body fight inflammation. It also feeds your beneficial gut bacteria, which will reduce inflammation. These foods are all recommended in the luteal phase. The higher fiber diet will help eliminate cravings for sweets and keep inflammation down. And the best part is you’re less likely to get GI symptoms.
- Lower estrogen level – One of the most significant benefits of cycle syncing is optimizing your estrogen to progesterone ratio. Cycle syncing helps your body produce the appropriate amount of estrogen. And higher levels of estrogen are correlated with chronic inflammation.
- Eat honey – PGF2a was reduced by 31% two hours after honey ingestion, and 14% three hours after. Adding honey to your diet can improve premenstrual GI symptoms.
- Reduce omega 6 fats – Omega 6 fatty acids are a precursor to prostaglandins. By reducing Omega 6s in your diet, we can potentially reduce the prostaglandins as well. Junk food contains high amounts of omega 6s, think chips, fast foods, and cured meats. But there are also healthy sources to be aware of below.
- Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, Pumpkin seeds, Peanuts (including peanut butter!), Almonds, Cashews
- Grapeseed oil
These four things are all suggested by cycle syncing! When we learn to eat, exercise, and live according to our cycle phase, all aspects of our health can be improved.