No one gets out of a consult with me, without being asked about their bowel habits. As naturopaths, we are a little obsessed with poop – but for good reason! It tells us so much about various elements of health, and contributes to many commonly seen symptoms. Period health is no exception. Having regular bowel movements (at least once daily, complete evacuation, formed & easy to pass) means you are mostly likely to be moving ‘used’ hormones like oestrogen out of your body. Oestrogen is definitely a ‘use once, then get rid’ kind of hormone, otherwise it can re-absorb through the bowel wall & re-act on receptors to create a potential excess. This can promote symptoms such as tender breasts, fluid retention & emotional imbalances in the lead up to your period.
Alternatively, too frequent bowel movements, loose rather than formed, with the presence of urgency or discomfort can also point to different kinds of issues. For example, nutrient deficiencies, inflammation from certain foods or stress, bacterial or parasite presence, or even dehydration. This can contribute to symptoms such as increased period pain, heavier bleeding, fatigue & fuzziness in the PMS week.
Lots of the symptoms are there for a number of reasons, so it is important to get help to figure out what is going on for you individually. If you are having poop issues – it could be time to fix it!
Marshmallow can be helpful – but if you are thinking of the yummy sugar marshmallows, unfortunately not…although the root extract was originally used for making them (and when I make home made marshmallows I do use it!). Because it has a mucilage/demulcent (slippery) quality it is great for helping reflux, ulcerations or inflammation of the gut. This also applies to the bowel, where it can soothe inflamed mucous membranes and is used effectively for IBS type symptoms. Because of its slippery-ness it is more effective for constipation prone situations. Marshmallow also helps to modify the bowel flora to improve the micro biome and therefore immune health. It is naturally sweet so makes tea blends taste delicious! Although for patients with sluggish bowels, I recommend a cold infusion – adding the root to room temperature water & letting it steep overnight before drinking through the next day. You can even add it to your smoothie instead of other liquids, to make it extra medicinal.
Licorice – but no, not the sweetie type I’m afraid! Though if you crave licorice, this could be a sign you could benefit. I love this plant for its variety of uses, including digestive & adrenal support. The two are often so closely linked together. Do you get tensed up & constipated when you are stressed? Licorice is a natural (mild) laxative, as well as an adrenal tonic. It provides minerals and electrolytes, curbs sweet cravings and helps your body absorb magnesium more efficiently. Magnesium is calming, relaxes muscles including your bowels to help you ‘go’. Licorice also provides a demulcent action, helping to soothe & calm inflammation in the gut. It is naturally sweet – brew your root tea for at least 20 minutes to allow the rounded flavour to come through. It will raise blood pressure when used regularly, so be aware if this is something you need or not. I also use it regularly for specific hormone imbalances such as for those with PCOS or excess androgen (male) hormones, along with other synergistic herbs. So.. if you do crave licorice, it can be a sign that you need some adrenal nourishment & a few extra minerals, maybe even a little bowel support. Try some on a daily basis and see how you feel.
There are many ways to help your bowels, and having a consultation can help determine the reasons behind bowel dysfunction. Contact me if you would like to explore your health further.