Are you curious about the connection between ovulation and diarrhea?
Many people with a menstrual cycle experience alterations in their bowel habits throughout their cycle.
One study found that 73% experienced gastrointestinal symptoms before or during their period, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, or vomiting (1).
But the hormones around your menstrual cycle are very different from when you are ovulating, so it makes sense that your digestion may also work differently.
In this article, we will discuss what ovulation is, where it falls in the menstrual cycle, and uncover the science behind why ovulation might cause diarrhea.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation typically occurs around the midpoint of your menstrual cycle, about 14 days before your next period starts.
Ovulation is a key event in your menstrual cycle, and it involves the release of a mature egg (ovum) from one of your ovaries into your fallopian tubes.
At the beginning of your menstrual cycle, multiple follicles develop in your ovaries. Each follicle contains an immature egg.
As your menstrual cycle progresses, one follicle becomes dominant and continues to grow while the others regress. This dominant follicle releases increasing amounts of estrogen (2).
Around the middle of your menstrual cycle, a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) is triggered.
This surge matures the egg and causes it to release from the dominant follicle into the fallopian tube (2). This event is known as ovulation.
Ovulation marks the peak of a woman’s fertility – the time when conception is most likely to occur.
Why does ovulation cause diarrhea?
During ovulation, your body secretes prostaglandins, which have a role in the induction of the egg release from the follicle (2).
These prostaglandins also relax the smooth muscle tissue inside your uterus to facilitate the shedding of the uterine lining (causing the bleeding on your period).
Prostaglandins may also cause your intestinal muscles to relax, giving you loose stools (3).
But, it is important to note that not everyone will get diarrhea around this time in their cycle.
If you find diarrhea or other IBS symptoms are worse around menstruation rather than ovulation, you may want to check out our other blog: Why is my IBS worse during my period?
For a deep dive into the range of IBS symptoms experienced by women, check out our blog: IBS Symptoms in Females.
Endometriosis and ovulation diarrhea
Diarrhea during ovulation could be a sign of endometriosis, so if you are suddenly experiencing new symptoms, please consult your doctor.
Endometriosis is a medical condition where tissue similar to the lining of your uterus grows outside the uterus, forming adhesions in your pelvic region (4).
Endometriosis adhesions can affect your nearby organs, including the bowel, which may change your bowel habits.
Hormonal fluctuations which coincide with ovulation can also impact endometriosis symptoms, potentially contributing to gastrointestinal symptoms (including diarrhea) during that time.
How can I manage diarrhea during ovulation?
If you’re experiencing diarrhea during ovulation, there are several proactive steps you can take to manage and alleviate your discomfort.
But the principles are no different from managing diarrhea at any other time!
- Stay well-hydrated to counterbalance the fluid loss caused by diarrhea.
- Eat a well-balanced diet rich in fiber.
- Manage stress through relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or mindfulness.
- Trial over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications under your doctor’s guidance for temporary relief if needed.
Keep track of your ovulation cycle, and if the pattern of diarrhea persists, consider consulting with your healthcare provider for personalized advice and further evaluation.
What supplements are good to help diarrhea during ovulation?
You might be looking for supplements to help your diarrhea during ovulation.
Fiber supplements such as psyllium husk may also be beneficial to relieve diarrhea symptoms as they help absorb excess water in your intestines and add bulk to stool (5).
However, they typically take 2-3 days to work, so it may not be suitable if you only have diarrhea around ovulation!
Although it won’t help your diarrhea directly, you could consider oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes like sodium and potassium to support rehydration.
Head to our blog ‘Dietary Supplements which help IBS’ to explore which supplements work best for IBS.
How will my bowel habits change after ovulation?
You may be more likely to get constipated during the luteal phase (after ovulation). This is because progesterone dramatically increases in preparation for egg implantation.
Increased progesterone can slow down your gut motility (how fast food passes through your gut) as it acts as a smooth muscle relaxant (6).
If you suffer from constipation, check out our blog: What is constipation and how can you treat it?
Some variations in bowel habits in line with your menstrual cycle are normal.
Prostaglandins are likely the culprit for your diarrhea during ovulation, as they cause the intestinal muscles to relax.
You may also experience constipation after ovulation as progesterone levels increase in the run-up to your period.
However, if you experience diarrhea or constipation for prolonged periods or have significant changes in bowel habits, chat with your GP to assess what’s causing the problem.
Annabelle is a registered dietitian who has a special interest in the complex interplay between gut health and mental health. In her NHS role, Annabelle specialises in mental health and learning disabilities, seeing patients in hospital for their mental health as well as supporting people in the community. Annabelle has also been working with the Food Treatment Clinic as one of our writers since she was a dietetics student.