Bloating is a common complaint of many women before the start of their period. Fluctuating hormones, water retention, cravings, and digestive issues can make your abdomen feel heavy and swollen. Bloating starts a week before your periods usually and goes away after of few days of your periods. However, if your bloating is not related to your periods, it may be a cause for concern.
In this article, you will learn about what causes bloating, and ways to prevent or treat it.
What causes bloating before periods?
Hormones are the main reason why women experience bloating. But they are not solely responsible for your bloating. These are some of the common reasons you may experience bloating during the days leading up to your periods.
1. Hormonal fluctuation
The levels of progesterone start falling about a week before your periods start. This lowered progesterone level is what causes the menstrual lining to shed and cause menstrual bleeding. The changes in progesterone and estrogen, also cause the body to retain more salt and water, which leads to bloating.
The progesterone build-up in the body before periods can cause the food to move slowly through your intestines, which results in constipation. When your stool becomes backed up in the large bowel, it can cause bloating and a feeling of acute discomfort. Excessive gas may also build up behind the stools, making the bloating worse.
The falling levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body also impact other hormones. The levels of serotonin can fall, and the levels of cortisol can rise. These hormonal changes can leave you feeling low and craving comfort foods.
Comfort foods are generally rich in carbohydrates and salt, leading to water retention in the body. Eating food rich in refined sugar can also cause your body to retain salt and water, which can increase bloating.
When does period bloating occur?
You can start feeling bloated well before your period starts. This feeling of bloating increases around five days before your period and reaches its peak on the first day (1).
Some women experience bloating every month, while others may experience it once in a while or not at all. Once your period starts, you may experience relief from bloating after a few days.
Ways to treat period bloating
You can make several dietary and lifestyle and changes to prevent period bloating. These include –
1. Avoid eating salty foods
You should avoid eating foods like processed food that contain too much salt. Avoiding salty foods can decrease water retention and improve period bloating.
The American Heart Association recommends that you should not consume any more than 2,300 mg of salt per day and move towards an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg of salt per day for most adults (2).
2. Eat foods that are rich in potassium
Potassium reduces sodium levels in the body and increases urine production. So eating foods that are rich in potassium can reduce water retention and decrease bloating. Some foods that are rich in potassium include banana, avocado, tomato, green leafy vegetables, and sweet potato.
3. Try natural diuretics
Diuretics increase urine production and reduce water retention in the body. Some foods are natural diuretics and can thus help reduce bloating.
Asparagus, pineapple, peaches, cucumber, leeks, ginger, and garlic have natural diuretic properties. If you want to reduce your period bloating, try adding these to your diet. Your doctor may prescribe diuretics in the pill form if these foods do not help, and your bloating is severe.
4. Avoid refined carbs
You must avoid eating refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates lead to spikes in blood sugar levels. These spikes cause an increase in insulin, which makes the kidneys retain more sodium. Increased sodium levels cause water retention, which then leads to bloating.
5. Drink more water
Drink more water during the days before and during your period. Drinking more water improves kidney function, which helps to reduce bloating. How much water you should drink per day depends on the weather, personal health, and other factors. Experts generally recommended eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day.
6. Reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption
Both alcohol and caffeine can contribute to bloating during periods. Instead of your morning cup of coffee, have a caffeine-free alternative like green tea. You can also opt for a decaffeinated coffee.
7. Avoid fizzy or sugary drinks
Fizzy drinks make you feel better for some time, but you will end up feeling even more bloated later. The same is true for sugary drinks like Gatorade. Water is your best bet. You can add some peppermint or fennel tea to feel better.
8. Exercise everyday
Regular exercise can help reduce bloating. Exercising helps to move the built-up gas through the digestive tract. Less gas means less bloating. Exercise also helps to strengthen the stomach muscles. Exercising releases endorphins, which helps to reduce the perception of pain and other PMS symptoms.
You should aim to get around two or three hours of exercise every week. Lighter workouts like walking, swimming, or yoga are your best options, as high-intensity workouts can increase inflammation.
9. Avoid foods that make you gassy
Broccoli and Brussels sprouts are healthy, but they can also cause gas and bloating. They contain a complex sugar called raffinose, which humans can not break down properly, leading to gas. Beans, cabbage, cauliflower, and lettuce can also lead to gas.
10. Get more sleep
Sleep plays a vital role in keeping your body healthy. It also helps to deal with bloating during your periods. When you sleep, your body repairs itself, and that includes moving the excess fluid from your belly. So make sure you sleep well.
When should you go to your doctor for period bloating?
If your bloating does not go away after you get your period or your bloating is severe and affects your daily activity, it is time to visit your doctor. Your doctor may suggest taking birth control pills to reduce your PMS symptoms. Birth control pills help to stabilize your hormones and can help reduce bloating as well.
Your doctor may also prescribe a mild diuretic to help with the bloating. Bloating can sometimes be a sign of something more severe, like irritable bowel syndrome and endometriosis.
Home remedies to get rid of bloating fast
These tips can help reduce bloating and make you feel better.
- Sip some lemon water
- Drink coconut water
- Eat asparagus; it is a natural diuretic
- Drink ginger tea or peppermint tea
- Try some cayenne pepper and turmeric
- Eat spinach; it is rich in fiber
- Eat probiotic foods like kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, and sauerkraut
- Eat ripe bananas
Abdominal bloating is a common premenstrual symptom that many women experience. Hormonal fluctuation, constipation, and craving for comfort foods are the common culprits for abdominal bloating.
Abdominal bloating increases around five days before your period and reaches its peak on the first day of your period. Once your period starts, you may experience relief from bloating after a few days.
You can reduce bloating by making some changes to your diet. Avoid eating foods that are high in salt and refined carbs. Eat foods like asparagus, pineapple, peaches, cucumber, leeks, ginger, and garlic have natural diuretic properties. You should also eat foods rich in potassium. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, fizzy and sugary drinks. Exercise regularly and sleep well.