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Pre-Period Bloating: Causes and Solutions

health

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5 min read

Pre Period Bloating

by Team Thinx | 06/11/2024

As a person who menstruates, you know the unique set of challenges that come with your period each month. But sometimes, those challenges can arrive earlier than expected. If you’ve been wondering, why am I so bloated before my period, don’t worry—bloating is a common symptom of early PMS.

Although bloating can be uncomfortable, it certainly doesn’t have to ruin your day. In fact, we’re here to help make sure it doesn’t. Read on for our comprehensive guide on the causes of period bloating, adjustments you can make to fend it off, and when it’s time to call your doctor.

prevalence of bloating before periods

Do you get bloated before your period? If you do, you’re certainly not alone. Physical symptoms are reported by 85% of people with periods, and bloating is one of them. It’s also the symptom that often shows up first during your cycle. If you're wondering how long period bloating can last, it depends however, it's typically up to two weeks before your period starts and may continue for the first few days of your period.

Bloating is usually the result of hormonal fluctuation during the luteal phase of your cycle—a time between ovulation and your period when estrogen and progesterone levels are in flux. During this time, your uterine lining also thickens, preparing for a fertilized egg. This can create an uncomfortable, bloated feeling.

While bloating is common in general, its nature varies across individuals and their menstrual cycles. Factors that affect if and how you bloat can include: 

  1. Genetics

  2. Whether you’re taking any vitamins or supplements

  3. Your diet (especially if it’s high in salt or includes a lot of alcohol or caffeine)

causes of premenstrual bloating

Several causes may be to blame for your premenstrual bloating—and in fact, they often work together.

hormonal fluctuation

Right after ovulation (about two weeks before your period begins), your progesterone levels begin to spike. A common side effect of high progesterone levels is what’s called “delayed GI transit time,” meaning food travels through the digestive tract at a significantly slower rate. This unfortunate phenomenon often leads to bloating and constipation.

water retention

Another side effect of elevated progesterone levels is a propensity for water retention. Progesterone activates another hormone called aldosterone which causes the kidneys to retain more water and salt. This can cause bloating and swelling all over the body, including in the abdomen, arms, legs, breasts, face, and pubic area.

If you feel you’ve gained weight or your clothes are fitting tighter in the weeks leading up to your period, water retention may be at play.

diet

Certain foods can also cause bloating, especially since your premenstrual body is more prone to retaining salt and water. For this reason, it’s best to avoid salty foods to decrease bloating—try to keep your daily sodium intake to 1,500mg or less.

Instead, opt for foods rich in potassium, which helps reduce sodium levels and water retention. Examples include:

  1. Bananas

  2. Spinach and other dark leafy greens

  3. Sweet potatoes

  4. Avocadoes

  5. Tomatoes

In general, choose whole foods and home-cooked dishes over processed meals, which often come pre-packed with excess sodium. Additionally, choose complex carbohydrates (like fruit and whole grain bread) over refined carbs (like pastries and sugary cereals), which cause spikes in insulin and, in turn, increase sodium retention.

stress

An increase in stress levels, even weeks before your period, has been proven to exacerbate PMS symptoms, including abdominal bloating. During the week or two leading up to your period, be mindful of easing your stress levels where possible. Implement mindfulness techniques like breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga, which can also help alleviate other symptoms like anger, anxiety, and decreased concentration.

managing premenstrual bloating

Premenstrual bloating can be uncomfortable, but there are plenty of ways to prevent and reduce it. During your next luteal phase, try:

  1. adjusting your diet – As mentioned, cutting back on sodium-rich processed foods and replacing them with whole, potassium-rich foods can do wonders for bloating and water retention. It’s also best to avoid gas-inducing foods (ex: high-fiber foods, dairy, artificial sweeteners, fatty and fried foods), caffeine, and alcohol, too.

  2. staying extra hydrated – Drinking lots of water can help flush your kidneys, thereby reducing water retention. Hydration is also key for healthy digestion, especially when dealing with delayed GI transit time. 

  3. wearing supportive underwear– Supportive period underwear can help you feel secure and comfortable, even while bloated.

  4. taking diuretics – Diuretics (whether in the form of a pill or naturally diuretic foods like pineapples, cucumbers, and ginger) help increase urine production, which can ease water retention and provide bloating relief.

  5. reducing stress – Be mindful of the stress you add to your plate during your premenstrual phase, and try to engage in stress-reducing activities like meditation, breathwork, and yoga.

  6. getting some cardio in – Research has found that aerobic exercise training can help combat premenstrual bloating by reducing aldosterone levels. Regular exercise can also help reduce other common PMS symptoms, like fatigue. If you’ve been off your workout game, try to incorporate a few more gym sessions during those luteal weeks.

Fending off your PMS bloating can be a trial-and-error process, especially if multiple factors are causing it. Experiment with these methods until you find the combination that works best for you!

when to seek medical advice

Bloating is one of the most common symptoms of PMS, but if it persists after your period ends or if it keeps you from carrying on with daily life, it’s best to alert your doctor. Severe, persistent bloating could be a sign of an underlying condition. 

Track your PMS symptoms with an app or in a notebook to keep tabs on changes in severity. This can also be helpful in terms of noticing when certain symptoms present during your cycle, and you can reference your notes when consulting with a healthcare professional.

beat the bloat with Thinx

You might have noticed bloating early in your cycle and wondered, can you get bloated before your period? The answer is unfortunately yes—bloating is one of the most common symptoms of PMS, and it often shows up the earliest. However, bloating doesn’t have to be a pain—several small adjustments to your daily routine can help reduce period bloating.

If you’re looking for a little extra support during that time of the month (or even before it), Thinx has you covered. Our period underwear is discreet but hugs you comfortably in all the right places. It’s also made with leakproof technology and can hold up to 12 regular tampons’ worth of liquid. 

Before the bloat arrives, be sure your underwear drawer is stocked with your strongest supporters—Thinx

sources

American Family Physician. Premenstrual Syndrome. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2003/0415/p1743.html 

Healthline. 5 Tips for Managing Period Bloating. https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/period-bloating#timing 

Today. Bloated belly? Why your hormones may be the secret cause. https://www.today.com/health/bloated-belly-why-your-hormones-might-be-secret-cause-t100733

Medical News Today. Weight gain during period: What to know. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327326#overview

Medical News Today. Seven tips for relieving period bloating. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319579

National Library of Medicine. Differential aerobic exercise-induced changes in plasma aldosterone between African Americans and Caucasians. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2729146/

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Frequently Asked Questions: Gynecologic Problems. https://www.med.upenn.edu/womenswellness/assets/user-content/documents/faq057.pdf

National Institutes of Health. Prior stress could worsen premenstrual symptoms, NIH study finds. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/prior-stress-could-worsen-premenstrual-symptoms-nih-study-finds

Gastroenterology Associates of San Antonio. Patient Education: Gas and Bloating. https://www.gastroconsa.com/patient-education/gas-and-bloating/

National Library of Medicine. Physiologic and psychologic symptoms associated with use of injectable contraception and 20 µg oral contraceptive pills. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3558973/

by Team Thinx

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