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Why You Feel Bloated During Your Period And What To Do With It

Why You Feel Bloated During Your Period And What To Do With It

No matter how hard you pull at the seams, regardless of how much you suck in, your favorite pair of jeans just won’t fit. Mother Nature’s monthly gift is limiting your outfit choices yet again.

Is this extreme discomfort normal?

Yes. Not only is it normal to experience bloating from your menstrual cycle, on average 8 out of 10 women share this recurrent anguish.[1]

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In general, bloating can be caused by numerous factors, some related to diet and eating habits, while others can be attributed to hormonal changes. With regards to periods however, bloating is primarily due to hormone fluctuations.

The culprit of this undesired, excessive abdominal fullness is called the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.[2] This phase lasts for roughly two weeks following ovulation, and is characterized by the uterine lining preparing for a possible pregnancy.

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The uterine lining is the lining shed in the process of menstruation, and thus must be ready for release when the time comes.

In order to prepare, a key female hormone, estrogen, first decreases significantly, then gradually increases and remains at high levels. Progesterone then increases, and the combined presence of more hormones causes a high water retention, which manifests as bloating.

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Estrogen modulates growing and development of the uterine lining, and therefore plays a critical role in the weeks leading up to the bleeding period. Progesterone, on the other hand, works to counteract some of the effects of estrogen, aiding in the control and maintenance of the uterine lining.[3]

These two hormones are ultimately the source of bloating. The underlying reason why water retention inflates is not well understood, but is believed to be caused by a slower digestive process.

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How to fix and prevent bloating:

Since bloating as a result of the menstrual cycle has a hormonal basis, the best prevention and alleviation can be through controlling external factors that add to it.

Some immediate actions that may help:

  • Reducing salt intake: Excessive salt adds to fluid retention when your body receives more salt than it can readily dispose. The body utilizes massive amounts of energy stores trying to metabolize the extra sodium, overwhelming elimination systems. Therefore, water is unable to be excreted and accumulates in areas such as the abdomen.
  • Staying hydrated: This may seem counterintuitive, but when your body determines it is dehydrated, it clings to the water it has, avoiding excretion. Thus, more water remains in your system than usual, collecting in certain areas.
  • Reducing tea, coffee and alcohol: These beverages are all metabolized through the liver. Your liver is also responsible for eliminating unnecessary hormones, but has a much harder time doing this when occupied by these other toxins.[4]
  • Reducing sugar intake: Sugar directly increases blood sugar levels. More sugar in the blood triggers the adrenal glands to release more hormones in order to metabolize and store the sugar appropriately. These hormones released cause an imbalance, which effects other hormones, specifically the ones capable of inducing water retention.
  • Exercise: Exercise increases circulation, which can decrease bloating. Moreover, exercise can improve strength of your abdominal wall which has been shown to relieve gas and bloating.
  • Eating a healthy diet: Adding more vegetables, in particular leafy greens, and fresh fruits to your diet have been shown to help control bloating.[5]

Beyond these easy, actionable interventions, several alternatives exist. These include:

  • Supplements: Vitamins and minerals can reduce water retention, with one of the most beneficial being vitamin B complex group. These are responsible for various physiological processes aiding in cellular metabolism. They also contribute to balancing electrolytes, which can affect urine output and water retention.
  • Herbs and bitters: These help expedite the digestive process reducing bloating due to a slowed digestion. Some of these include peppermint tea, chamomile tea, fennel, turmeric, and many others.
  • Heating pads: Applying heat allows gases to release, and the pressure building up to subside.

Featured photo credit: Everyday Health via everydayhealth.com

Reference

More by this author

Lindsay Benster

Student pursuing a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of San Diego

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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