Bloating Before a Period: Causes, Treatment Options


What is bloating before a period?

One of the most common PMS symptoms, bloating occurs just before your period is about to start. But, it’s not necessary that you will experience bloating every month. It often feels like you have gained weight, with parts of your body like the abdomen tightening or swelling.

It usually goes away after you bleed for a few days and while you can’t prevent it completely, there are steps you can take to reduce it.

Is it weight gain?

Traditionally, weight gain refers to the deposit of fat in your body. In bloating, you may gain a kg or 2 temporarily, but it is not due to fat deposit. Bloating occurs when your body retains water and a number of factors influence how much bloating you will experience:

  • Your genetic makeup.
  • The amount and type of the vitamins and minerals in your diet.
  • How salt-rich your diet is.
  • How much you eat while consuming caffeine or alcohol.

What causes it?

The usual reason for bloating is due to the hormonal fluctuations experienced during the luteal phase of your cycle. The changes in the levels of progesterone and estrogen causes the body to retain more salt and water, as the cells in your body swell up with water and cause bloating.

In a study conducted in 2011, it was found that for most women, bloating was the worst on the first day of their period, when their bodies retained the most amount of water.

What can you do about period bloating?

You probably can’t eliminate bloating entirely, but a few lifestyle changes can help retain lesser water, which can reduce how much bloating you experience. Try these to minimize bloating and see if they work for you:

  • Keep moving - Some studies have shown that exercising regularly helps with managing PMS symptoms, which includes bloating. In order to remain healthy, you should aim at getting around 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week.
  • Avoid salty foods and refined carbs - Salt contains sodium, which increases the level of water retention in your body. Processed foods are very high in salt content and you should aim at avoiding those, while using less salt during cooking in order to minimize bloating. The daily recommended salt intake is around 1500 mgs per day, which keeps you healthy and is best achieved by eating home cooked meals.
  • Drink lots of water - There is a common belief out there that drinking more water can help with water retention by improving the kidney functions and thereby, reducing bloating. However, even though there isn’t enough evidence to support this claim, it’s definitely worth a try because staying hydrated has a lot of health benefits.
  • Eat the right kind of food - Potassium and other diuretics help in decreasing sodium levels in your body by increasing urine production. When your body passes more urine, it gets rid of the excess water, making you bloat less. Try foods like sweet potatoes, asparagus, bananas, avocados, tomatoes, cucumber etc to minimize bloating.
  • Refrain from caffeine and alcohol - Coffee and alcohol are known to worsen PMS symptoms, including bloating. It is best to avoid these, especially when you are about to bleed. If you find it hard to go without coffee, try substituting it with other beverages like tea and decaffeinated coffee around your periods.
  • Try birth control pills - There are some women who benefit from birth control pills in terms of bloating, while others complain of feeling more bloated when on the pill. Each person is different and there are numerous choices of birth control in the market, so it’s best to consult a doctor before getting on the pill.

Can bloating be a sign of pregnancy?

While bloating is primarily a PMS symptom, it is also a sign of early pregnancy because in both cases, your body experiences a fluctuation in estrogen and progesterone. In order to know if it’s pregnancy that’s causing your bloating, try looking out for other pregnancy symptoms and if your periods don’t come in some time, consider getting a pregnancy test.

Should you see a doctor?

Generally, bloating is very harmless and does not require any medical attention. But if it’s severe enough to interfere with your daily activities or it does not go away even when your period has ended, it may be a sign of an underlying condition that requires a visit to the doctor.

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