The hormonal fluctuations associated with these symptoms are correlated with a delay in stomach emptying (which may result in nausea) and slower movement in the colon (which may result in constipation/diarrhea). Gas and bloating also roll with the hormonal tides, and as unpleasant as these conditions are, many women do not seek treatment because they only see these symptoms an annoying inconvenience.
There is no reason that women should have to live with digestive problems because there are many steps they can take to easily ward off symptoms. A healthy diet, exercise, and reducing stress (the standard recommendations) will certainly help. However, there is an additional factor in digestive health, often neglected and overlooked because of the nefarious reputation of its constituents: the balance of bacterial flora.
Our small intestine does a lot of work on its own with its towel-like projections called villi, which aid in sucking up nutrients broken down by enzymes secreted from the liver and pancreas. Our endogenous organs alone are not enough though; lactobillus is a critical bacterial symbiont that breaks down nutrients that we can’t.
The large intestine contains bacteria that aid us with more functionality than just breakdown assistance. The microbiome there is full of an army of over 400 species of bacteria that work for us; bacterial cells in the gut outnumber human cells by 10 to 1. There are some that convert nutrients to vitamins that we have the inability to make, like vitamin K (important for blood clotting and bone strength) and B vitamins (energy boosters). There are some that aid in maintaining the proper acidity of the intestinal environment, inhibiting pathogenic bacteria from establishing residence.
Should disease-causing bacteria start to grow in our gut, a condition called dysbiosis occurs. These harmful bacteria suppress the beneficial flora and may initiate bloating and gas. There is evidence that deliberately including more probiotics in the diet (either by custom-made supplements or by choosing culture-containing foods like yogurt) can ease gastrointestinal distress during menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy.
Hormones are annoying enough, not withstanding digestive troubles. It’s time to do something about it. So print out this article and be ready to hand it to the nearest woman (either yourself, wife, sister, or the hormonal, moody lady grumbling at you for whatever reason). There are also companies like ours that generate tailored products designed to address the body’s functionality (as opposed to products that band-aid symptoms) that you can tell them about. But beware! Be sure to wait until after her PMSing, morning-sickness, or the dreaded hot-flash so that she will thank you for the advice.
Kelly Daescu, MS
Sources (accessed June 26, 2016):