Why do I bloat and gain weight during my cycle?
Do your jeans start to feel a bit tighter in the days leading up to your period? Many of us may notice a slight weight gain before periods and bloating throughout our cycles – in fact, it’s very common.
Period bloating and sometimes weight gain are, unsurprisingly, just other symptoms of PMS to add to what may seem at times like an already long list! Period bloating usually occurs just before you start your period and may extend a few days into it. Around 70% of us experience bloating as a PMS symptom, so if you do feel a little puffier around your cycle, you’re not alone. Some women will experience more extreme bloating before periods than others. We’re all different. Many even report symptoms of ovulation bloating and weight gain during ovulation.
Read on to find out exactly why period bloating happens, along with some tips to help relieve and reduce any discomfort.
What causes period weight gain and bloating?
As with most side effects relating to your period, weight gain and/or bloating is caused by a change in hormones which occurs around 5 days before you start your period.
As your hormonal balance varies throughout your menstrual cycle, so does this bloated feeling, meaning that these symptoms usually go away during the first few days of your period. If you are constantly feeling bloated or have a swollen abdomen, you should always check in with your doctor for a medical opinion.
How oestrogen and progesterone can cause period bloating and weight gain
An increase in oestrogen occurs in the days leading up to your period, which causes your body to retain more water and salt. The added water retention swells the cells in your body, and this sometimes results in some minor weight gain before your period, along with the feeling of being bloated and slightly puffy.
Equally, a decrease in progesterone, which occurs just before your period, can also slow down your digestive system and cause bloating. Low progesterone can also cause ‘period diarrhoea’; this is another great example of how everyone’s body reacts differently, So, it’s really just a matter of getting to know and understanding your own body and what works for you. Which period products do you like to wear when feeling bloated? Trusty period pads or perhaps a tampon, so you feel like you have more space in your clothes?
Does period bloating go away (and when)?
Bloating during your period (and possibly other stages of your cycle, such as ovulation) may cause some discomfort or fluctuations in your weight. But the physical changes are temporary and tend to ease off during, or as soon as you start your period.
That said, see below for how to help relieve the bulge, when the symptoms of period bloating strike.
How to relieve period bloating and weight gain
Any weight gain in general doesn’t change who we are. Rather, all our bodies change throughout our lives, and it’s something we should be aware of as opposed to fear. How about using a period tracker or a period diary, to help keep on top of where you are in your cycle?
However, if you have been advised by a health professional to watch out for any extra weight gain or if bloating makes you feel uncomfortable or affects your self-confidence, here are a few useful tips:
Try to avoid salty food that leads to water retention and period weight gain
Even though crisps and other salty foods taste delicious, they can also increase the amount of water your body retains. Try opting for non-processed foods, or even channel your inner chef by making food yourself at home so you can control the amount of salt you add.
Stay away from refined carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates such as white flour, bread and pastries are not only hard to digest but they also spike your insulin levels, which causes the body to retain more water. Try swapping out refined carbohydrates for unrefined ones such as quinoa, beans and whole grain rice in the days leading up to your period. We know unrefined carbohydrates may seem like the more boring option, but you can always get creative by trying new recipes and cooking techniques!
Meanwhile, there’s no need to ditch chocolate: see more tips for eating right and relieving period pain here.
Wear comfortable clothes
A constrictive waistband can cause discomfort and pain when bloated and coming on your period, so use the time to kick back and relax in your favourite tracksuit. This is also a fabulous excuse to stay in comfortable pyjamas all day!
Go bananas for food rich in potassium
Potassium-rich foods, such as bananas help counterbalance the amount of sodium in your body, so are useful to relieve period bloating. Next time your belly feels a bit swollen, why not snack on a banana or include one of these foods in your diet:
- Leafy greens, such as spinach
- Sweet potato
Drink plenty of water
Drinking water aids your body in countless ways, and it also helps to prevent period bloating! Water will not only neutralise the amount of sodium in your body, but it will also assist it in flushing out any trapped liquid which could also be contributing to your bloating.
Not a fan of water? How about lemonade?
In some cases, you may want to take a diuretic. A diuretic is basically a substance that will help you to flush out any extra water in your system by increasing the amount you pee. Some foods are natural diuretics such as lemons, cabbage, ginger and garlic. But you can also be prescribed a medical diuretic by your doctor.
Even though exercising when you’re feeling bloated or on your period may be the last thing you want to do, it can really help to get your digestive system moving and prevent bloating. Why not try a low intensity activity, such as a long walk with a friend or light Pilates?
While period bloating is a normal and often temporary symptom of PMS, it can disrupt your everyday life. And it can cause many to feel self-conscious or uncomfortable, due to the physical changes in their bodies.
Try not to compare yourself to others or let bodily changes drag you down – you’re worth a lot more than your outside appearance! Hopefully our tips, from eating well and moving gently to finding your fit, will help you adapt to any stage of your cycle where you’re feeling bloated or as though heavier.
The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.