It’s not true that irritable bowel syndrome can affect menstruation.
“IBS, while a disorder that can cause rather inconvenient symptoms, is not a dangerous disease, and is not associated with any increased risk for other serious diseases,” says Michael Blume, MD, a gastroenterologist at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, Baltimore.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Your Period
“If one is having menstrual problems, it is usually caused by some other issue, not related, except perhaps peripherally, to IBS,” says Dr. Blume.
“What I mean is that the IBS itself is usually not the immediate cause of menstrual problems.
“It would suggest that there is some other issue going on that is not only causing the menstrual abnormalities, but also contributing to that person’s IBS-like symptoms.”
In short, two issues going on at once does not mean there is a causal relationship between the two. There may be a third issue at hand, causing the first two issues.
For any suspicious gynecological or gastroenterological symptoms, always see the appropriate medical specialist.
The Reverse: Worsening of IBS Symptoms from Menstruation
IBS can become worse during menstruation – according to subjective reports by patients in a study by Whitehead et al. However, the mechanism – if one even exists – of how a woman’s period can amplify her irritable bowel syndrome process is not known.
Cause and effect, or any kind of direct association between IBS and menstruation is challenging to decipher.
What makes the investigation into this so vexing is that irritable bowel syndrome and the monthly cycle have a symptom overlap.
For instance, the monthly cycle can cause diarrhea and lower abdominal cramps.
It’s also notorious for causing bloating. Some women report constipation as well.
A study in the British Medical Journal found that in women with IBS, menstruation increased rectal sensitivity.
The study authors believe that this suggests that patients with IBS respond differently to the fluctuations in hormones when compared to subjects without IBS.
In practice for 20+ years, Dr. Blume treats over 65 conditions including abdominal pain, appetite loss, blood in stool, celiac disease, colon cancer, esophageal and liver disease, gas and IBS.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.