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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 December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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