Many, many women feel some bloating during their periods. The tummy feels full and tight to touch and might even be painful or at least cause some discomfort.
It is also common to pass gas frequently just before and during the days of menstruation. There are also women who experience intestinal symptoms which affect bowel movements – yes, the so-called period poop.
But why do women get so bloated and gassy during periods? It has a perfectly logical – albeit not very satisfactory – explanation. Read on!
What happens in your body?
During your cycle, a lot happens in your body, not just the week of your actual period. Hormones (and the changes caused by them) cause Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, stress, pain, and a myriad of symptoms. And – you might see where this is going – being bloated and gassy during your period is also due to hormones.
Oestrogen is ready to cause trouble
During your cycle, the levels of the hormone oestrogen will rise, peak, and then decrease. Simple, right? Well, not so much.
Oestrogen peaks around the 14th day of your cycle and then decreases steadily, but while doing it, it really does a number on your intestine. Oestrogen affects the receptors in your stomach and small intestine. Specifically, oestrogen reduces bowel motility, which means food moves more slowly through your intestine.
As such, it is common to experience some flatulence and constipation. And since your intestine is not working properly, there’s a build up of gas which causes bloating.
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And so is progesterone
As you know, progesterone levels will start rising and peak in the days before your period. As it happens, progesterone also has an effect on your intestines by either causing reduced bowel motility, like oestrogen, which translates into flatulence, bloating and constipation, or by causing diarrhoea. We know, why can’t our hormones give us a break, right? But that’s not all. High levels of progesterone can also trigger liquid retention which cause further bloating.
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What even are prostaglandins?
Yep, the party’s not ready without prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are eicosanoids but since this is not a pop-quiz, let’s just say that they act just like hormones, but aren’t hormones. Prostaglandins help your uterus contract to shed its lining every month, since one of their functions is to help muscles contract. Well, it happens that sometimes prostaglandins cause your intestines to contract as well, and this worsens gas build-up. And this is how you get bloating.
As you can see, a powerful combination of oestrogen, progesterone and prostaglandins is causing you to be bloated and gassy during your period. Sometimes birth control helps, but you should talk to your doctor.
How to ease the bloating during your period
While feeling bloated and gassy during your period is totally normal, it doesn’t make it nice. And unfortunately, there isn’t a magical way to stop the bloating and flatulence. However, there are small things you can do to relieve these two symptoms.
- Ease on the cravings: it is normal to have some cravings on the days before or during your period – yes, this is also the work of hormones – or increased appetite. Normally, what we crave are sugary or oily foods, which are not so friendly for the gut. Try to not give in to all the unhealthy cravings you feel, since they might be contributing for you feeling bloated and gassy during your period.
- Eat slowly: and since your appetite might also be heightened, you might have a tendency to binge or eat your meals too fast. Try eating more slowly – which means you’ll chew your food better and not stuff yourself – to improve your digestion and not feel so bloated and gassy during your period.
- Drink lots of water: besides hydrating, water can help ease digestion and that might decrease the bloating and flatulence.
- Forget carbonated drinks: carbonated drinks are the enemies of bloated and gassy tummies, for pretty obvious reasons.
- Exercise: exercising keeps your bowels active and moving, and because of that prevents constipation. And if your bowels move in the right way, so will the gas. Check the best exercises to do on your period.
- Watch out for gassy foods: there are some foods that, although healthy, might contribute to flatulence because they re rich in fibre. You might want to stay away from beans, onions, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, cauliflower, lentils or dairy to avoid being bloated and gassy during your period. But only on the days of your period or days leading up to it. Fibre-rich foods are normally very good for your body. Do you know what are the best foods to et on your period to reduce the symptoms?
- Try simethicone or activated charcoal: if your flatulence is serious, then you might want to try simethicone chew pills, or activated charcoal supplements. These two allegedly help with gas – but be sure to inform your doctor, as activated charcoal might interfere with some medication.
Apart from this, there is really not much to do about the menstrual bloating and flatulence. It is perfectly normal to break more wind when you are menstruating. But while it is normal to feel bloated and gassy during your period, as well as some cramps and low energy, extremely painful periods are not normal! Unbearable pain during periods can be a sign of endometriosis.
Take good care. Of yourself. Of your body. Of your period.