Originally published for Black Doctor.org
Living with Crohn’s disease comes with its own set of challenges, and for many women, the menstrual cycle can add an extra layer of complexity to managing symptoms. In this article, we’ll explore how your menstrual cycle can affect Crohn’s disease and provide tips to help you navigate this journey with grace and self-care.
According to a research review published in Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology in 2020, more than half of women with IBD have worsening symptoms around their menses.
Futhermore, evidence suggests that hormones that fluctuate during your menstrual cycle — estrogen and progesterone — and hormonelike substances called prostaglandins can affect digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), including Crohn’s.
Many women with Crohn’s or UC experience enhanced symptoms during menstruation including irritability, nervousness, restlessness, headache, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, leg swelling, low back pain, constipation, excessive urination, abdominal pain, and fatigue.
“Women with Crohn’s disease, as well as women with irritable bowel syndrome, and even women with no bowel diseases, can have diarrhea just prior to and during their menstruation. This is likely caused by an increase in progesterone and prostaglandin levels made by our bodies during the premenstrual phase,” Jill K. Powell, MD, an associate professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and women’s health at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, tells Everyday Health.
Navigating Crohn’s and Your Cycle
If you have Crohn’s disease, there are several things you can do during your cycle to improve your symptoms.
1. Know Your Cycle
Understanding your menstrual cycle is key to managing its potential impact on Crohn’s symptoms. Track your menstrual cycle using apps, calendars, or journals to identify patterns and anticipate when symptoms might be more pronounced.
2. Hormones and Flare-Ups
Hormonal fluctuations during your menstrual cycle can influence Crohn’s symptoms. Some women experience an increase in inflammation and flare-ups during specific phases of their cycle. By identifying these patterns, you can work with your healthcare team to tailor your treatment plan accordingly.
3. Nutrition Matters
During your menstrual cycle, paying attention to your nutrition becomes even more critical. Opt for a well-balanced diet that includes