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Irregular periods: How poor gut health may affect your menstrual cycle

Don't ignore your gut health if you want to have regular period every month. Turns out, gut health affects menstrual cycle.
Link between gut health and periods
Know the link between gut health and periods. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 25 Aug 2023, 14:30 pm IST
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Our gut can influence our ability to digest, absorb nutrients needed by our body and metabolism. Our gut health also affects our menstrual cycle. A 2014 study published in the US National Library of Medicine showed that an imbalanced gut microbiome can be linked to hormonal imbalances. This, in turn, is responsible for irregular periods. So, if you want to have regular periods, you will give importance to gut health too.

Poor gut health

The gastrointestinal system, which most of us simply call the gut, digests foods we eat and absorbs nutrients that support our body for various activities to be performed. There is balance in both good and bad bacteria in gut. Poor gut health is the imbalance of the microbiome, the complex community of microorganisms that includes bacteria, virus and fungi residing in our digestive tract, says Dr Aruna Kumari, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynecology, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bellandur, Bengaluru.

Woman with gut health problems
Gut health affects menstrual cycle. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

This imbalance can be due to factors like a poor diet, stress, lack of sleep and excessive antibiotic use. When the microbiome is imbalanced, it can lead to various digestive issues and potentially impact overall well-being.

Signs of poor gut health are:

• Chronic bloating sensation after eating
• Loose stools
• Chronic constipation
• Heart burn
• Nausea
• Loss of appetite
• Vomiting
• Tiredness
• Poor sleep
• Skin issues
• Bad breath

How gut health affects periods

Gut health and menstrual health are interconnected. Here’s how:

1. Hormonal regulation

Female sex hormones, mainly estrogen levels, are regulated by gut microbes by regulating the levels of hormone binding globulins, says Dr Kumari. They determine the free levels of hormone in blood circulation. It is the gut microbiome that can impact hormone metabolism. Hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are metabolised in liver conjugation and gut flora plays a key role in process of their excretion. Imbalanced microbiome might affect these hormone levels, potentially leading to irregular periods or hormonal imbalances.

2. Inflammation

A disrupted gut microbiome can lead to chronic inflammation, which can impact the menstrual cycle. You can end up with irregular periods, heavier bleeding or worsened premenstrual symptoms.

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3. Immune system

Quite a big portion of the immune system can be found in the gut. An imbalanced gut microbiome might affect immune responses, and immune dysfunction can influence menstrual health. Autoimmune conditions and immune-related issues can impact the menstrual cycle.

4. Nutrient absorption

When it comes to nutrient absorption, a healthy gut lining is very important. Nutrient deficiencies can indirectly affect menstrual health by impacting hormone production and overall body function, the expert tells Health Shots.

5. Stress response

There is a strong connection between your gut and brain. An unhealthy gut can impact stress responses and mood regulation. Stress, in turn, can influence the menstrual cycle and exacerbate premenstrual symptoms.

6. Influence on body weight

Gut health can impact metabolism and body weight. Excessive weight gain or loss can disrupt hormonal balance and menstrual regularity.

Stomach pain
Improve your gut health by eating balanced diet. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Tips to improve gut health

Controlling the gut health can help to balance your hormones, says Haripriya N, Executive Nutritionist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, T Nagar, Chennai. Include these foods in your diet:

1. Anti-inflammatory foods

Such foods can help to decrease hormone-disrupting chemicals and balance the blood sugar and insulin levels. These are the two important factors in regulating hormones and reducing overall inflammation.

2. Whole foods

Whole grains and legumes should be incorporated in routine diet to support the production of neurotransmitter and calm the gut-brain connection, says Haripriya.

3. Fermented foods

Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi are high in polyphenols and fiber-rich foods. They can all feed the gut microbiome and support healthy digestive function, which can help ease digestive symptoms during menstruation.

4. Soluble fiber

If you have loose stools during menstruation, go for soluble fiber like oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots and barley. It attracts water and forms a gel during the digestive process. This slows down the bowel movement and changes the consistency of stools, says Haripriya.

You can also practice stress-reduction techniques to promote a healthier gut-brain connection, drink plenty of water to maintain proper digestive function and support the gut lining.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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