Period bloating is a common condition that occurs when your belly feels full or tight before or during your period. This uncomfortable symptom is believed to be caused by falling hormone levels leading up to your period.
Common premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms like bloating, headaches, and moodiness usually start to improve a few days into your period when hormone levels start to rise again.
This article will describe the causes of period bloating, as well as remedies to relieve it.
How Menstruation Actually Works
Definition of Bloating
Bloating occurs when the belly is swollen or distended. It can cause an uncomfortable feeling of tightness. Bloating may be caused by several factors including constipation, swallowing air, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux, digestion problems, and celiac disease. Rarely, certain cancers may lead to bloating as well.
Period bloating is very common. In fact, over 90% of people who menstruate report experiencing symptoms like bloating before or during their periods. PMS symptoms can begin any time after your first menstrual period, but usually by your early 20s. Some women experience more severe symptoms in the late reproductive years.
Common symptoms of period bloating include:
- Distended belly
- Tight or full feeling
Other common period symptoms include:
- Mood changes
- Cramping pain
- Lower back pain
- Breast tenderness
- Food cravings
Tips to Reduce Bloating
Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to reduce period bloating, which include:
- Physical activity: Getting regular physical activity has been proven to relieve PMS symptoms like bloating. Aim to exercise most days of the month.
- Diet: Avoid foods that can cause or worsen bloating. Stay away from foods that contain caffeine, salt, or sugar right before and during your period.
- Eat slowly: Eating too quickly can lead to swallowing air, which causes bloating. Try to slow down at meal times and avoid chewing gum and carbonated drinks, as these foods can also result in swallowing air.
- Sleep: A lack of sleep has been linked with increased PMS symptoms. Aim for seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep if possible.
- Stress reduction: Women who report feeling stressed are more likely to experience PMS symptoms. Try relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and massage to improve your symptoms.
- Avoid tobacco: Smoking may worsen PMS symptoms like bloating.
Ways to Relieve PMS Symptoms Naturally
Why Bloating Happens
When it comes to just about any period symptom, you can blame it on the hormones. Changing hormone levels leads to a variety of changes in the body. Each month that you do not become pregnant, your body’s estrogen and progesterone levels fall significantly. This rapid decline in hormones can lead to water retention and bloating. After a few days of your period, these hormones start to increase again, relieving most period symptoms.
What Is the Period Flu?
Most people who menstruate experience symptoms around their periods. The following risk factors can increase your chances of period bloating:
- Age: Women in their 30s are more likely to experience period symptoms. These symptoms may worsen with age as well. This is because of the hormone changes that take place as the body prepares for perimenopause and menopause.
- Stress: Women who report high levels of stress are more likely to have period symptoms like bloating.
- Health history: A history of postpartum depression has been linked to an increased risk of monthly PMS symptoms.
- Family history: A family history of depression is associated with a higher risk of PMS symptoms.
- Diet: A diet high in salt and processed/fatty foods causes water retention and bloating.
- Smoking: Tobacco use can worsen bloating and other PMS symptoms.
Certain gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be exacerbated by PMS symptoms. You may notice that you experience bloating, constipation, and diarrhea around your period. Talk with your healthcare provider about how to manage the symptoms.
Hormones Can Affect Your Digestive System During the Menstrual Cycle
If you have tried to improve period bloating with lifestyle changes and are still uncomfortable, you may be considering a home remedy. It’s important to note that you should always talk with your healthcare provider before beginning a new dietary supplement. Home remedies that may improve period bloating include:
- Water: Staying hydrated is a simple way to improve bloating. Drinking an adequate supply of water can help to improve water retention and prevent constipation. Constipation is a common cause of bloating.
- Vitamin B6: Taking a vitamin B6 supplement may ease bloating during your period. Vitamin B6 can be found in fish, poultry, potatoes, certain fruits, and fortified cereals.
- Magnesium: A magnesium supplement may decrease water retention during your period and improve bloating symptoms.
What to Eat to Reduce Bloating
Changes in your diet may improve period bloating and other period symptoms. Consider eating six small meals rather than three large ones. This could help to reduce bloating and keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day. Other diet changes to try include:
- Choose fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to prevent constipation. Avoid fiber supplements as these can lead to more bloating.
- Eat complex carbohydrates to give your body energy and fiber throughout the day. Examples include whole-grain bread and cereal, brown rice, and barley.
- Make sure you’re getting enough calcium with foods like yogurt, cheese, and leafy green vegetables.
- Limit your intake of sugar, salt, and fatty foods.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before and during your period.
When to See a Healthcare Provider
If period bloating has become so severe that lifestyle changes do not help and you are unable to keep up with your daily activities, talk with your healthcare provider or gynecologist. They will likely ask you to keep a symptom diary to understand when the bloating starts and what (if anything) helps it.
Your healthcare provider may recommend taking diuretic medication around your period to relieve water retention and bloating. It’s important to note that diuretics should never be taken with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) because of the risk of kidney damage.
Period bloating is a condition that occurs before or during your period. It causes a distended belly and an uncomfortable, tight feeling. Period bloating is believed to be caused by the hormone changes that take place each month during your period. Tips to relieve bloating include engaging in physical activity, drinking plenty of water, and managing stress.
A Word From Verywell
If you tend to experience period bloating each month, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Just because this symptom is so common does not mean that you have to always live with it. Try making some lifestyle changes like increasing your activity level or eating a healthy diet to see if your symptoms improve. If not, talk with your healthcare provider.
Frequently Asked Questions
What age does menopause start?
Menopause usually starts with a transition period known as perimenopause, which often begins in the mid-to-late 40s.
How long does period bloat last?
Period bloating can affect everyone differently. You may experience it before your period or during the first few days of your cycle.
When does bloating go away after your period?
Bloating usually resolves on its own a few days into your period. This is due to changing hormone levels.
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Office on Women’s Health. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
MedlinePlus. Abdominal bloating.
Office on Women’s Health. Physical activity and your menstrual cycle.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Office on Women’s Health. Menopause basics.