There isn’t a delicate way to phrase this, so we’re just going to be direct: Have you ever noticed that you fart more on your period than other times of the month?
If so, you aren’t alone. (Although you might have noticed fewer people in your immediate vicinity, if you catch our drift.)
While not all women get gassier during menstruation, “it’s definitely very common, and there are two reasons why: one is hormonal and one is anatomic," says Jennifer Ashton, M.D., board-certified ob-gyn.
Blame It On Hormones
“There are basically two stages of a woman’s period,” says Susan Wysocki, a women's health nurse practicioner, president of iWomansHealth, and board member of the American Sexual Health Association.
“Estrogen is the prominent hormone from the start of the menstrual cycle to ovulation. After ovulation, the prominent hormone is progesterone.”
This hormonal dance between estrogen and progesterone during menstruation doesn’t just impact your emotions—it has an effect on your gastro-intestinal system, too.
“The GI tract has receptors for progesterone, which may cause relaxation of the intestines—or spasms of the intestines, depending on what the level is,” says Ashton.
“A lot of the time, women will have diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements while they’re having their period due to the changes in progesterone levels.”
On the flip side, when progesterone relaxes the smooth muscles in the bowel, it could result in constipation.
“Then you might have built-up gas, causing flatulence to occur as a result,” says Wysocki.
The Anatomic Explanation
While Ashton says that the hormonal explanation is more generally accepted from a mechanism standpoint, there are anatomic theories about why your GI system is impacted by menstruation.
“Because the uterus is right in front of the intestines and the colon, some people theorize that there is direct contact of almost microscopic uterine contractions,” she says.
“This indirect content with the colon may trigger more frequent bowel movements.”
This could impact flatulence as well.
Learn more fascinating facts about the female anatomy:
While changes in bowel activity are totally normal during your time of the month, you can still take action to counteract this stinky situation.
“The relatively simple remedy is to be mindful of drinking plenty of water and increasing your fiber intake,” says Wysocki.
That can help things move along in your body so you can say goodbye to some of that gas.