Period bloating is a common and often frustrating symptom of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). It's that uncomfortable, swollen feeling that makes your jeans feel a bit too tight and leaves you longing for your comfiest pair of yoga pants. It may even make you feel like you've had weight gain come out of nowhere, even though you haven't, and it can be accompanied by other symptoms like PMS cramps, PMS headaches, and mood swings.
But the good news? You don't have to accept period bloating as an inevitable part of your menstrual cycle. This article will shed light on the causes of period bloating, provide manageable solutions to ease your discomfort, and empower you to take charge of your overall well-being during your menstrual cycle.
How to Get Rid of Period Bloating
Let's jump right into solutions. There are several strategies I use to help reduce bloating. Many can (and should) be used together to maximize results.
Electrolytes are minerals and salts in your body that help to balance fluids. When electrolytes are out of balance, especially higher sodium and lower potassium levels (potassium helps keep sodium levels in check and minimizes water retention), your body retains more water, causing bloating. Ever eaten super-salty foods and felt puffy the next day? This is the reason why.
Hormone changes may also add to the amount of salt your body holds onto, so balancing how much sodium is in your food can help reduce bloating. The simplest way to do this is to make sure you're getting enough potassium-rich foods in your diet, such as bananas, avocados, and leafy greens, and cut back on high-salt or packaged foods like chips and crackers.
Hydrate and Then Hydrate Some More
Even when you're holding on to excess fluid, hydration is essential. When dehydrated, your body tries to compensate by telling the kidneys to conserve fluid and reduce urine production so you hold onto more water.
Drinking plenty of water helps alleviate water retention (eliminating excess water) and supports regular bowel movements—both of which help eliminate that bloated feeling. Proper hydration also keeps your digestive system functioning optimally to prevent constipation, another contributing factor to bloating.
Carry a water bottle with you so that you stay hydrated. While the amount of water varies based on exercise, the climate you live in, kidney function, how much you weigh, and a myriad of other factors, two-to-three liters a day is going to be a healthy range for most people.
Ditch the Sugar & Refined Carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates (white flour, white rice, sugary cereals) and sugary foods may sound extra enticing as your hormones shift and cravings increase, but these foods aren't so great for period bloating. These foods undergo extensive processing that removes valuable nutrients and fiber, so your body quickly breaks them down. Glucose (sugar) is rapidly absorbed from the digestive system into the bloodstream, and blood sugar levels jump, triggering a rise in insulin levels from the pancreas.
Insulin's job is to move glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells for energy or storage, but the spike and drop in blood sugar from the changing levels of insulin release can affect energy levels, the levels of sodium in the body, and adds to how much fluid the kidneys hold onto, contributing to more bloating.
Opt for complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and legumes that break down more slowly (thanks to fiber), resulting in a gradual and more stable rise in blood sugar levels. This helps avoid the sudden spikes and crashes associated with refined carbs, promoting better energy levels, mood stability, and reduced bloating.
Need help with these diet changes and more to restore hormone balance? My free Hormone Starter Kit comes with a 7-day meal plan and recipe guide to get you started on the right path.
Give the Period Problems Kit a Try
Dr. Brighten's Period Problems Kit combines Balance Women's Hormone Support, Adrenal Support, and Women's Probiotic to provide a comprehensive approach to managing PMS so you can kiss bloating, PMS fatigue, and other period symptoms goodbye.
Bloating before your period is a common symptom, but that doesn't mean it should be just excepted as a normal monthly phenomenon. Focusing on optimal levels of estrogen and progesterone can help with fluid balance, as can providing the adrenal glands with additional support so they can function at their best. The adrenal glands produce the hormone aldosterone, which is a key hormone in maintaining fluid balance in the body.
Hormonal bloating can be due to both water retention and digestive issues, that's why focusing on these two factors is key to getting relief. Adding a high quality probiotic, like the Dr. Brighten Women's Probiotic, for additional gut health support can help address the digestive component of menstrual bloating.
Get a Move On
Regular exercise and physical activity improves circulation, positively impacting bloating and other symptoms of PMS. By increasing blood flow, exercise helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to the body's tissues and organs, including the digestive system. Physical activity also helps move food through the digestive system more efficiently, supporting regular bowel movements.
Movement is also a powerful stress and mood-managing tool as it promotes the release of endorphins-“feel-good” hormones. Some research suggests that people who exercise are less likely to experience PMS symptoms.
In as little as 30 minutes per day, you can start to banish the bloat and support your hormones. In fact, most experts agree that engaging in 10 minute spurts of exercise three times a day can deliver the positive effects of exercise and may even help with extreme bloating.
Skip the Alcohol
Alcohol can increase urine production and, in turn, lead to dehydration. When we're dehydrated, our bodies tend to hold onto water, which can contribute to bloating. Alcohol can also irritate the GI tract, causing inflammation, aggravating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and even an imbalance in your healthy gut bacteria.
I'm not saying you have to completely swear off alcohol forever. But if you're struggling with period bloating, it might be worth considering cutting back or completely avoiding alcohol for a cycle or two to see how you feel. Keeping a symptom diary and tracking how the recommendations in this article make you feel can help you dial in what's best for your health and keep you motivated.
Instead of reaching for that cocktail, opt for hydrating beverages like water, herbal teas, or a fun low-sugar mocktail. See the recipe below for some ideas.
Cucumbers, watermelon, and cranberries are all examples of natural diuretics that can help flush out excess water from your body. They work by increasing urine production, which can help reduce bloating caused by water retention.
Diuretic supplements are another option, but it's essential to approach them with caution. Certain herbal supplements, like dandelion or parsley, can have diuretic effects and are generally considered safe (I'm specifically talking about herbs and not OTC supplements often called “water pills”). However, supplements should be used under a healthcare professional's guidance, as they may interact with medications or lead to fluid and electrolyte imbalances if not used correctly.
Bye Bye Bloat Mocktail
- 1 cucumber, sliced
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 10-12 fresh mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon honey (optional, for sweetness)
- 2 cups of cold water
- Ice cubes
- Start by preparing the cucumber and lemon. Slice them thinly, removing any seeds from the lemon slices.
- Take a few mint leaves and gently crush them using a muddler or the back of a spoon to release their flavor.
- In a pitcher, combine the cucumber slices, lemon slices, and crushed mint leaves.
- Add honey if you'd like a touch of sweetness. You can adjust the amount of honey to your taste preferences or omit it entirely for a sugar-free option.
- Pour cold water into the pitcher, covering the cucumber, lemon, and mint mixture.
- Stir everything together to combine the flavors.
- Fill glasses with ice cubes and pour the Bye Bye Bloat Mocktail mix over the ice.
- Garnish each glass with a sprig of fresh mint or a cucumber slice if desired.
- Serve immediately and enjoy your refreshing Bye Bye Bloat Mocktail.
Get Stress in Check
Your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline when under stress as part of the body's natural fight-or-flight response. While this response can be helpful in short bursts, prolonged or chronic stress can throw our hormones out of balance, causing period symptoms and worsening PMS symptoms. Stress can also impact digestive health—all reasons to prioritize premenstrual syndrome self-care.
While stress may be an inevitable part of life, there are things we can do to help manage its effects on our hormones and digestion. One approach is incorporating stress-management techniques into our daily routines. Activities like yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or even a leisurely walk can reduce stress levels and promote better digestion. The bonus is that the activities that reduce stress can also reduce a bloated belly.
Supplements for Period Bloating and PMS
Alongside lifestyle changes, certain PMS supplements for bloating can be extra supportive during your period and throughout your cycle.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, plays a crucial role in hormone balance, and research has found it may help with PMS symptoms. Studies have shown that daily doses of Vitamin B6 can be beneficial in treating premenstrual symptoms and PMS depression, especially when combined with calcium or magnesium.
Vitamin B6 is a key ingredient in Balance Women's Hormone Support by Dr. Brighten. By incorporating this essential vitamin and other carefully selected ingredients for optimizing hormones, this product provides comprehensive support to restore balance and address PMS symptoms, including bloating.
Magnesium has been shown in research studies to help optimize blood sugar and insulin levels. As we discussed previously, elevated insulin levels and blood sugar issues can lead to feeling bloated. In addition, magnesium has also been show to help with the balance of fluids and bloating.
One of the remarkable properties of magnesium is its ability to promote muscle relaxation. This mineral helps to calm and soothe the muscles, including those in our digestive tract. By relaxing these muscles, magnesium can help alleviate bloating from period discomfort, plus it helps support regular bowel movements.
Magnesium is also a key ingredient in Balance Women's Hormone Support by Dr. Brighten and may work even better to help with PMS symptoms like bloating when combined with other nutrients like calcium and Vitamin B6.
Probiotics can help with a myriad of hormone and digestive issues, including abdominal bloating. Research suggests probiotics can positively impact gut health, digestion, hormone balance, and immune health—and gut health can impact your menstrual cycle. When our digestive system functions optimally, it reduces the likelihood of experiencing bloating symptoms before and during your period and throughout the month.Not all probiotic supplements are the same, as there are so many different types of beneficial bacterial strains. Women's Probiotic by Dr. Brighten combines specific strains of beneficial bacteria that support women's health, including gut, vagina, and urinary tract balance. In addition, in contains prebiotics, which help feed the good organisms and helps alleviate bloating before periods.
What is Period Bloating?
Period bloating is a premenstrual symptom characterized by abdominal discomfort and a feeling of fullness. It often occurs in the week leading up to menstruation and can result from hormonal changes, specifically shifting estrogen and progesterone levels.
Bloating can be accompanied by other physical and emotional symptoms of PMS like:
- Mood swings
- Headaches or migraines
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Low back or leg aches
- Food cravings
- GI discomfort
Is It Normal to Bloat the Week Before Your Period?
It's not normal to experience bloating the week before your period, but it is common. One study found that more than 50 percent of women experience bloating before or during their period.
If you have mild bloating a day or two before your period, that isn't a cause for concern. However, if you feel like you need an entirely separate wardrobe during the week before your period, that is cause of concern.
If the bloating continues after bleeding for three to five days, occurs sporadically throughout the month, feels like severe bloating, or is accompanied by severe PMS symptoms, consider meeting with your doctor to rule out any other causes.
What Causes Period Bloating?
Period bloating and PMS, in general, are primarily attributed to changes in hormonal levels, particularly the rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone as you get closer to your period. These hormonal shifts can lead to the retention of water and salt by cells, causing the abdomen to feel swollen and uncomfortable.
Some research suggests that people who experience more symptoms of PMS, like bloating, may be extra sensitive to the rise and fall of these hormones around menstruation. Whether you experience bloating in the days leading up to your period versus at the beginning of your period can also vary between individuals.
Bloating When on Period
While bloating when on your period isn't the most common time to experience these symptoms, there are individuals who do find their period brings the worst bloating.
At the very beginning of your period, progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest point (this fall is what triggers menstruation). While women often report experiencing bloating a week or so before the start of their period, one small study on 62 women found that scores for fluid retention (what the analysis used to measure bloating) were highest on the first day of participants' period. These scores dropped to the lowest during the mid-follicular phase (the phase that follows your period before ovulation) and then gradually increased again.
And interestingly, in this study, neither estrogen nor progesterone levels were linked to premenstrual fluid retention scores—meaning the hormone levels didn't necessarily predict the severity of bloating. Keep in mind this is a small study and doesn't mean everyone will have the same experience. Overall this simply points to the fact that each body is different and genetics may be a key factor in what individuals experience. You may respond differently to changing hormones than someone else, so understanding the patterns of your body is what matters most. Keeping track of physical symptoms in a diary can help you understand how your cycle affects you.
Bloat Before Period
If you experience bloating a week or so before your period, but not necessarily during your period, it could be related to progesterone. Progesterone helps prepare the uterus for pregnancy and affects various other parts of the body, including our digestive system. Research suggests that progesterone inhibits gastrointestinal motility—the contractions that push food down your digestive tract— making you more prone to period bloat and constipation.
Progesterone also contributes to food cravings and increases your appetite, making you feel more hungry than usual. Some research suggests that progesterone can even exacerbate compulsive eating for people already prone to it. Eating more often or larger meals and snacks than your body needs can add to feelings of discomfort and fullness.
Instead, focus on 25 grams daily of fiber and include lots of water in your diet. Regular exercise can also help alleviate slow digestion and the feeling of bloating.
How Long Does Period Bloating Last?
Usually, bloating before and during your period will improve once you've had your period for a few days as hormones begin to rise again.
If you're still feeling bloated or uncomfortable for more than a few days after your period has ended, it's a good idea to check in with your doctor.
How to Get Rid of Period Bloat Takeaway
Fluctuations in hormones like estrogen and progesterone play a significant role in period bloating. You can find relief by making lifestyle changes, like exercising, choosing fiber-rich carbs, and staying hydrated. Additionally, supplements for bloating to support gut health and hormone balance can help reduce bloating and other PMS symptoms.
It's common for some people to experience more bloating in the days leading up to their period, while others may notice it more on the first day or two. Usually, bloating associated with menstruation subsides a few days into your cycle, but if you're feeling uncomfortable for a prolonged period, it's a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider for guidance and support.
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