Bloating and weight gain are common PMS symptoms that can occur up to a fortnight before a woman’s period. Bloating during PMS may be related to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can worsen before and during menstruation. Bloated feelings and weight gain can also be caused by hormonal changes that lead to increased water retention in the body.
What can be done to ease bloating during PMS?
Here are several strategies to help reduce bloating in the lead-up to your period:
Consume bitter foods
Dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa), leafy greens such as rocket, radicchio, kale, and herbs including rosemary, sage, and thyme have bitter qualities that act on the tongue’s taste receptors to stimulate the release of digestive enzymes. This helps to reduce bloating by promoting optimal digestive function.
Take time to relax before meals and practice mindful eating
Rushing your meals and not chewing properly can overwhelm the digestive system and increase the risk of bloating. Eating when stressed means your body is in ‘fight or flight mode where blood flow is directed away from the digestive system. This means your gut has to work harder to digest your food and absorb the nutrients.
Take time before your meals to slow down and relax. Put your work away and take some deep belly breaths, think about the food you are about to eat and how it is going to nourish your body. Eating mindfully is about noticing the tastes, textures, and aromas of your food and how it makes you feel. Your gut will thank you for it.
Bloating may be a sign that you are constipated. Factors that can contribute to constipation include:
- Lack of fibre
- Not drinking enough water
- Not consuming enough calories
- Not going to the toilet when you need to
- Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle
To combat constipation:
- Engage in gentle daily movement to encourage healthy bowel movements.
- Consume fibre in the form of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. If you are not used to eating many of these foods, start by introducing small amounts to avoid further digestive upset.
- Hydrate with herbal teas or water; women aged 14+ should consume 1.4 – 1.6 litres of fluid from drinks per day.
- Manage stress by setting time aside for relaxing activities.
Wear loose clothing
Avoid tight, restrictive clothing when you feel bloated to avoid putting extra pressure on your already sensitive stomach. Instead, wear clothes that feel relaxed around your waist to help you feel more comfortable and to enable food and gas to move through your digestive tract easily.
Avoidance of caffeine is sometimes recommended to help alleviate PMS symptoms including bloating, although the evidence for this is mixed. However, if you notice you feel more bloated after caffeine consumption then it may be helpful to reduce or avoid caffeine consumption before and during your period.
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