Can your period make IBD worse?


Today’s post is one for the ladies. Without offloading too much personal information on you all, I want to talk about periods and IBD. For me this is one of the worst things to happen to my IBD symptoms (even more than a massive plate of gluten-and at least that would taste nice!) but it’s very rarely mentioned. I’ve done a bit of research and wanted to explain to you a bit more about the link between IBD and periods.

Why do my symptoms feel much worse just before or when I’m on my period?

If you are experiencing this, you’re definitely not alone. I can pretty much track the symptom shift down to the exact day of my cycle. Doctors have acknowledged there is a link to hormones and IBD in the case of female patients- this can be an explanation for the disease beginning at puberty; change of symptoms (and spontaneous remission) during pregnancy  and symptoms worsening at various parts of your cycle.

This is something I have asked many doctors about why this is and they are yet to have a definitive answer; other than it is something they have noticed.This article is helpful in elaborating.

As for scientific studies the only one I have come across is Lim et al 2013 . They examined women with IBD and noticed that the number of times they went to the loo during their period definitely did increase- yet other symptoms specifically related to IBD did not seem to change; suggesting that the change in toilet habits could be because of a surge of hormones rather than disease activity. In turn, many women without IBD do also tend to experience loose stools, cramping and nausea during their periods. An interesting observation from the study is that it was noted  that symptoms of PMT were worse with IBD patients than regular controls.So it’s totally not our fault when we cry at tv adverts and demand chocolate.


Why are my periods irregular?

Many patients experience irregular periods with IBD- before diagnosis I went through about 2 years of zero period territory. This can be for several reasons. The clearest explanation my doctors gave me as when your body is fighting off an illness, it can divert attention away from the main body functions and shut them down as it is focusing on other things. Lack of nutrition and being underweight are also big factors in not having regular periods. 


Why do I have such cravings?

It might be just me here but when I am on my period I crave fatty foods and sugar (I’m pretty much unqualified to give nutrition advice during this week as my eating habits are terrible!) When I started to research this, I discovered that this is common for all women but crohn’s patients seem to eat more sugar than the general population- which made me think about whether there was some kind of link .(Here’s the study if you are interested in it) It explains that these sugar cravings can be due to deficiencies- possibly Zinc or Magnesium. I think this is an interesting area as the studies showed a noticeable difference in crohn’s patients but are yet to find a reason why. Perhaps our bodies are subconsciously trying to find calories?

How can I help?

IBD and periods is interesting topic and one that definitely suggests hormones play a role in this disease. I am planning a separate post on how to deal with stomach cramps soon but thought I’d drop a few more suggestions below:

  • Gentle Yoga
  • Dark Chocolate and cinnamon to help sugar cravings.
  • Lots of hot baths and heat therapy!
  • Peppermint tea
  • Primrose Oil


1 Comment

  1. Jc
    October 17, 2016 / 9:32 pm

    The symptoms of endometriosis, esp bowel endometriosis mirror those of ibd. Endometriosis is heavily linked to menstruation cycles and correlation between those with both ibd and endometriosis

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