Do you experience stomach bloating just a few days before your period? Out of nowhere, your stomach just bulges out and will not go away until a few days after the periods? Many women do experience bloating before and at the start of their menstruation.
Table of contents
- What is bloating?
- What causes period bloating?
- How to reduce period bloating
- 1. Dietary Alteration
- 2. Regular exercise or do yoga
- 3. A home remedy
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What is bloating?
Bloating is unusual distension of the stomach. When bloating happens, you might feel that your stomach is full and tight, some abdominal growling might also be there.
What causes period bloating?
Most women of reproductive age have one or more emotional or physical symptoms in the premenstrual phase of the menstrual cycle. The symptoms are mild, but 5–8% have moderate to severe symptoms that are associated with substantial distress or functional impairment (Yonkers, 2008).
Period bloating is one of several premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms that can occur 1-2 weeks before a woman’s period along with stomach cramps, backaches and other symptoms. Women feel their abdomen is heavy and swollen just before and at the start of their period. This can be sore and maybe distressing bloating might cause swelling and weight gain causing their stomach to stick out.
Many women observe alterations in liquid retention or “bloating” during their menstrual cycle(White et al., 2011). Several research studies reported peak fluid retention at the onset of menstrual flow (Meaden et al., 2005; Heitkemper et al,2009).
In particular, the symptoms of bloating as well as other premenstrual symptoms (PMS), are triggered by fluctuations of sex steroid hormones including progesterone and oestrogen (Yomkers et al.,2011). High levels of prostaglandins, in the body, can also lead to bloating (Bernstein et al.,2014). Prostaglandins are normal body chemicals, which are generated in the lining of the uterus and they help the uterine wall to contract and shed the lining during periods.
During our period, prostaglandins trigger muscles in the uterus to contract. These contractions help expel the uterus lining. Higher levels of prostaglandins can cause more severe menstrual cramps, and severe contractions may constrict the blood vessels around the uterus. Bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhoea are all side effects of these prostaglandins
How to reduce period bloating
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid bloating in general and more so during periods. Below are a few tips that may prevent bloating or offer some relief.
1. Dietary Alteration
i. Lower your sodium intake
Sodium is a mineral that is important for maintaining normal fluid balance in the body. It is found naturally in foods and is also added to certain foods. Sodium in foods increases the body’s water retention. The main source of sodium in our diet is table salt. Salted and processed foods have higher amounts of added sodium. Cut down on these and try to add more fresh ingredients to your meals.
ii. Include more Potassium-rich foods in your diet :
Potassium-rich foods can help lessen period bloating by reducing sodium levels and increasing urine production. This can reduce water retention and improve period bloating. Leafy greens, beans, nuts, dairy foods, and vegetables like winter squash are rich sources of potassium. Bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, grapefruit and some dried fruits, such as prunes, raisins, and dates, are also high in potassium.
iii. Stay away from alcohol and caffeine
Avoid or cut down your tea, coffee and alcohol intake. Do not indulge in carbonated drinks too, instead drink more water.
iv. Eat the right foods
- Cut down on refined carbohydrates: Refined carbohydrates can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. This increases the level of insulin in the blood, which causes the kidneys to retain more sodium. Increased sodium levels lead to more water retention.
- Include more:
- Unrefined whole grains – whole wheat or multigrain bread, brown rice, barley, quinoa, bran cereal, oatmeal.
- Non-starchy vegetables – spinach, green beans, Brussels sprouts, celery, tomatoes.
- Legumes – kidney beans, baked beans, peas, lentils.
- Nuts – peanuts, cashews, walnuts.
- Fruit – apples, berries, citrus fruit, bananas, pears.
- Some foods act as natural diuretics to increase urine production to get rid of water, thus helping reduce water retention. Vegetables and fruits such as, pineapples, peaches, asparagus ,cucumber, leeks, ginger, garlic etc are some of the foods that can be used as natural diuretics..
2. Regular exercise or do yoga
Studies repeatedly show regular exercise might help improve PMS symptoms. As period bloating is a PMS symptom, regular exercise or yoga may help to reduce it.
3. A home remedy
I have found that drinking carom seeds tea or ajwain tea helps a lot to relieve my bloated stomach. Carom seeds (ajwain) is said to help people suffering from chronic flatulence due to their carminative properties.
For most women, period bloating is troublesome but does not stop them from leading a normal life. However, if period bloating affects a woman’s day-to-day life, she should consult a physician immediately. If your bloating does not go away naturally after a period, or there are other symptoms associated, it could be pointers to other health conditions that will require medical advice.
Bernstein, M. T., Graff, L. A., Avery, L., Palatnick, C., Parnerowski, K., & Targownik, L. E. (2014). Gastrointestinal symptoms before and during menses in healthy women. BMC women’s health, 14, 14. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6874-14-14
Heitkemper MM, Chang L. Do fluctuations in ovarian hormones affect gastrointestinal symptoms in women with irritable bowel syndrome? Gend Med. 2009;6(Suppl 2):152–167. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
Meaden PM, Hartlage SA, Cook-Karr J. Timing and severity of symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle in a community-based sample in the Midwestern United States. Psychiatry Research. 2005;134(1):27–36. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
White, C. P., Hitchcock, C. L., Vigna, Y. M., & Prior, J. C. (2011). Fluid Retention over the Menstrual Cycle: 1-Year Data from the Prospective Ovulation Cohort. Obstetrics and gynecology international, 2011, 138451. https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/138451
Yonkers, K. A., O’Brien, P. M., & Eriksson, E. (2008). Premenstrual syndrome. Lancet (London, England), 371(9619), 1200–1210. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(08)60527-9