Often before your cycle approaches, you start experiencing a number of symptoms starting from cramps to mood swings and tender breasts. But among all the PMS problems, the one that seems to be the most unwelcoming is sudden weight gain! PMS symptoms are, in fact, experienced by more than 90% of people who menstruate. Let’s look into why weight gain happens and what you can do about it.
Is weight gain normal at this time?
It is completely normal to experience some changes in weight when your premenstrual syndrome hits and even when you start menstruating. Lots of women experience this phenomenon and even though it may be upsetting to some, there is no reason to worry.
How much period weight gain is normal?
During periods, most of the weight gained is due to water retention. So, on average, a woman can gain up to 2 kilos during her menstruation. The weight gain usually begins 3 to 4 days before she is about to bleed.
Does it go away on its own?
Since most of the weight is that of water, it automatically starts to go down once you stop menstruating. Usually, most of the weight goes down after 2 to 3 days after your period is over.
Why does it happen in the first place?
Period weight gain can happen due to several reasons. A lot of factors go into determining why a woman gains weight and how much she will be gaining. The reasons include:
- Hormonal fluctuations
The two main sex hormones in females are estrogen and progesterone. Before you hit your menses, the hormone levels start to rise, going down gradually as your period approaches. This fluctuation in estrogen causes indirect fluid retention in the body.
On the other hand, higher levels of progesterone affect a hormone called aldosterone, which makes the kidneys retain more salt and water. This can lead to water retention or oedema and weight gain, causing swelling in the face, breasts, abdomen, limbs.
Once the period is over, the retained fluid is drained as the hormone levels return to normal.
Water retention in the abdominal area and a buildup of gas caused by hormonal changes can give rise to the feeling of having gained weight. But, this is not due to the buildup of fat. The bloating can appear in other parts of the body as well, and not just the abdomen.
Usually, this begins before the start of your periods and can last up to the initial few days of your menstruation, post which it begins to subside and goes down by the end of your menstruation.
- Gastrointestinal problems
The same hormonal fluctuations can cause several gastrointestinal issues like constipation, diarrhoea, stomach cramps and gas retention. Some experts have linked constipation to the rising levels of estrogen, which slows down intestinal movements.
But, the more popular opinion is that as progesterone levels increase, the digestive system slows down, which creates similar difficulties in passing bowels. Moreover, progesterone rise also creates higher levels of hormones called prostaglandins which are responsible for inducing contractions in the uterus. When mixed with the bloodstream, it can have similar contractions in the intestine leading to tummy aches.
The combined effects of more bowels stored in the body and cramps can make you feel bloated, and gas retention adds to the feeling of weight gain further.
- Unusual food cravings
You must be aware of food cravings that arrive with the changes in your cycle. But why does your appetite increase? About a week before you’re about to bleed, there is a spike in progesterone levels, which is also the hormone that stimulates your appetite. So, you are hungry more often.
Also, with a drop in estrogen right as you’re about to bleed, the serotonin levels also go down because estrogen monitors this hormone. Serotonin is responsible for regulating mood and reducing appetite. Low levels of serotonin increase sugary food cravings as sweet foods help make more of this hormone.
Thus, when you give in to these cravings, you end up gorging on sugary foods that make you gain weight. With your metabolism rate also increased, you end up eating more high-calorie food at this time.
- Skipping workout routines
Rising levels of estrogen and progesterone before your periods cause fatigue and discomfort in your body, which, coupled with bloating and cramps make it very uncomfortable to exercise. And, skipping workouts coupled with eating high-calorie foods can make you gain weight.
- A drop in the body’s magnesium level
Magnesium is an important mineral in your body that helps in regulating your hydration levels. Lower levels of magnesium can give rise to dehydration, which the body masks as hunger, especially sugar cravings.
And, what happens when you eat more sugar? Weight gain, of course!
Is there anything you can do to prevent period weight gain?
You don’t have to resort to anything fancy to avoid period bloating and weight gain. Normal lifestyle modifications are enough to take care of this harmless phenomenon. Try some of these things to prevent weight gain:
Mostly caused by hormonal imbalances, period weight gain is very normal and common. By following the above-mentioned steps, you can even avoid this. But at the same time, remember that this is nothing to get depressed about. If anything, use this time to push yourself in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which will actually make you feel good about yourself.