Period Bloating: The What, Why and How to Help
Ah, periods. We get surges of emotions, we cramp, we bleed more than we would like to (but thanks to leak-proof underwear from PantyProp, that is less of a headache than in yesteryear) and many of us bloat, too. It’s just not fair, is it? On top of everything else, now we have some clothes that just don’t quite fit. Occurring anywhere in the days leading up to our periods and during the actual week itself, bloating is a headache for many women, causing stomachs to stick out, hips to puff and jeans to not quite button right.
WHAT IS BLOATING?
Specifically, period bloating is a heaviness and swelling of the abdomen in particular that many women experience right before and during their period. It is categorized as a PMS symptom, too, meaning you can start feeling and seeing bloating as much as two weeks in advance of your period.
WHAT CAUSES BLOATING?
As is usually the culprit of many a menstrual issue, hormones are the ones to blame for causing bloating. Around a week ahead of your period starting, progesterone levels dip low, signaling the uterus to shed its lining. Additionally, estrogen levels fluctuate wildly and can spike around this time.
These hormone surges and dips do not only cause menstrual bleeding, they actually cause the body to retain both more water and more salt. Cells in the body swell up with this excess water, leading to bloating. Generally, women tend to retain the most water (and therefore experience the most bloating) on the very first day of their period.
HOW CAN YOU COMBAT IT?
Fighting against water retention is an ongoing battle during this time, but there are some remedies that tend to work.
Many women start by taking a diuretic pill (such as Midol, which also offers relief from other period symptoms.) A diuretic pill works to flush excess water from the body by increasing urine production. Many foods are also natural diuretics, so it is worthwhile to try chowing down on snacks such as asparagus, pineapples, peaches, and cucumbers.
And while you are focusing on your diet, it is best to avoid salty foods as much as you can. Since salt only adds to water retention, cutting back a little can only help. Another food group to try and avoid is carbohydrates. Processed carbs like white flour and refined sugar cause spikes in blood sugar levels which increase insulin levels, leading the kidneys to hold on to more water as a result.
Additionally, eating foods that are high in potassium levels can also help. Studies have shown that potassium works to decrease levels of sodium as well as increase the body’s urine production. You can find good amounts of potassium in avocados, bananas, leafy greens such as spinach, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
Simply drinking a lot of water is a great remedy as well. While this may seem counter-intuitive, keeping your body hydrated means it is less likely to go crazy with holding onto water. Further, drinking lots of water can help improve kidney function which aids in water retention.
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