Most women have experienced bloating at one time or another, thanks to their monthly period. It is one of the most common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), affecting about 70 percent of women during their periods.
Period bloating can be not only uncomfortable and irritating but also a blow to your confidence. But the symptom is a natural part of the menstrual cycle and one that we should all learn to accept as normal. No matter how self-conscious it might make you feel, it is not something to be ashamed of.
But what causes period bloating? The answer lies in the changes in the levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen. Your levels of progesterone go down about a week before your period starts, which is what causes your uterus to shed its lining and leads to menstrual bleeding.
The fluctuation of these hormones also causes your body to retain more water and salt. When the cells of your body become swollen with water, it makes you feel bloated.
Symptoms of bloating usually begin around one or two days before the start of a period, but some women start feeling bloated up to five days before. It usually eases up when menstruation has started.
If you are one who regularly suffers from period bloating, you would be glad to know that there are ways you could prevent this from happening or at least reduce its symptoms. Here are some of the things that may help you with your monthly problem.
Foods rich in potassium can help reduce bloating because this mineral can lessen water retention in your body. It decreases levels of sodium while increasing the production of urine. Bananas are a good source of potassium, as well as dark leafy greens, tomatoes, avocados, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe.
Diuretic foods may also provide relief from bloating as these foods increase urine production, which can help your body get rid of water. Foods with natural diuretic properties include watermelon, pineapples, peaches, cucumber, celery, asparagus, leeks, ginger, garlic, and lemon juice.
Avoiding Foods that Cause Gas
Foods that contain the complex sugar called raffinose may lead to gas and bloating. This is because your body lacks the enzyme that helps break the sugar down properly. Avoid foods such as beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and lettuce in the days before or during your period.
Working out probably does not sound like much fun especially during your period or when you are having PMS. But regular exercise can actually help relieve your symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, including bloating. Just stick to lighter exercises such as yoga and swimming during your period, as higher intensity exercises may promote inflammation.
Avoiding Caffeine and Alcohol
Alcohol can exacerbate some symptoms of PMS such as bloating, tenderness of the breasts, and mood swings. On the other hand, caffeine can irritate your digestive tract or cause dehydration, which may lead to water retention. Avoid alcoholic and caffeine-laden beverages during that time of the month to help reduce your bloating.
Avoiding Carbonated or Sugary Drinks
Carbonated and sugar-laded beverages can cause you to feel more bloated. Avoid soda and other fizzy drinks, as well as beverages that contain natural or artificial sweeteners. Instead, stick to water and try to drink at least eight glasses of it a day.
Birth Control Pills
Unless you are planning to have a baby soon, using birth control pills may help cut down your bloating and relieve other PMS symptoms as well. These pills stabilize your hormones and have been shown to lower symptoms by over 50 percent. However, it is best to discuss this with your ob-gyn first, as contraceptive pills have different effects on different women. Some may even experience worse symptoms due to these pills. Your doctor can help you find the best type that would help ease your PMS symptoms.
Diuretic or Water Pills
You can also ask your doctor to prescribe a diuretic pill for you. A mild diuretic can help if your bloating is more severe or if you find that other remedies are not helping. It can also help with other symptoms caused by water retention, such as breast tenderness.
Avoid Processed Foods and Eating Out
Processed foods often contain plenty of salt, which can cause bloating. The same goes for a lot of restaurant foods. Preparing your own meals means that you can control the amount of salt that goes into your food. Not only can you help reduce your bloating with homecooked foods, but you can also make sure that you are eating healthier meals.
Avoid a Sudden Increase of Fiber in Your Diet
If you do not normally include a lot of fiber in your diet, suddenly increasing your intake during your period in an attempt to aid with your digestion might just make your bloating worse instead of reducing it. Too much fiber or an abrupt increase in your intake can cause gas, bloating, and constipation. You should add fiber to your diet gradually to give your body time to adjust.
Getting a Sufficient Amount of Sleep
Bloating and other PMS symptoms can be so bothersome as to affect the quality of sleep you are getting. However, getting a sufficient amount of sleep may help reduce your bloating. The excess fluid in your belly moves back into your body while you are asleep, helping to reduce the swelling.
Over-the-Counter Anti-Inflammatory Medication
The over-the-counter drugs ibuprofen and Naprosyn block the chemicals that cause inflammation, which may help reduce your bloating. Obstetrics and gynecology specialist Kelly Roy, M.D. from Phoenix, Arizona suggests taking around 200 to 400 milligrams every six to eight hours a couple of days before your period.
You can try any of these remedies to help control your period bloating. But if your bloating and other symptoms of PMS continue to bother or worry you, or if your bloating seems to be caused by something else other than your period, it may be time to see your doctor. A health professional can help you find the best way to address your bloating problem.