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Beat PMS Bloating

Published on: June 23, 2024

If you suffer from bloating that seems to show up every month at the same time, then it’s likely you have hormonally related bloating. 

Hormones or Not Hormones

There are a few key differences between bloating that is due to diet, food intolerance, digestive disorders, and just plain old overeating as compared to the type of bloating that happens every month, like clockwork, and doesn’t seem to have a cause or a solution. 

There is a cause and a solution, and it’s hormones. 

Non hormone related bloating usually takes some diagnosing by working with your doctor or gastroenterologist to determine if you have some underlying condition. These conditions range from IBS/IBD to bacterial overgrowth and should be treated accordingly. It’s time to visit the doctor when bloating is accompanied by chronic constipation (lasting longer than 5 days more than twice a month), sharp pain in your abdomen, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or rectal bleeding of any type. If you are bloated more often than not then go have the conversation with a medical professional. 

A small amount of bloating is normal and usually resolves within a few hours. If you can take an over the counter medication like GasX and the bloating goes away, simply take a look at your food habits and notice if there is a pattern or likely culprit. 

Another common type of bloating is swelling due to fluid shifts and not at all related to gas- this is also likely related to food habits like eating too much salt, not drinking enough water, or having a sudden and intense increase in protein. If bloating that extends to fingers, ankles, and toes happens talk to a doctor just to make sure there are no concerns. 

Hormone related bloating is predictable. 

Generally occurring at about the same time each month about halfway through the menstrual cycle (about day 12-17) and can last for a few days or a couple of weeks. Hormonal bloating is related to the normal and expected rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone that accompanies the peak of the menstrual cycle, or ovulation. 

Many women have a day or two of mild discomfort that can be solved by wearing clothes that fit better and being mindful of not eating foods that make the situation worse (I’m talking to you pizza, iced lattes, and brownies). Some women however experience a much more life-altering type of bloating and let me be clear- that’s not ok! You don’t have to suffer just because you’re a woman. It doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong, it’s simply your body giving you signs that something needs adjusting. The solutions can range from changing your lifestyle or eating habits to working with your doctor on a course of treatment that may include a medical intervention like hormonal birth control or antiemetic medications (to combat nausea). 

What to do when bloating is chronic

Most women will have months where the bloating is more intense, lasts longer, or is more noticeable. Usually it passes after a day or two without any need for treatment. When the bloating becomes cyclical and intense it’s a sign that there is an imbalance in hormonal rhythms- generally an excess of estrogen beyond regular peak levels, a lack of clearing excess hormones, or both estrogen and progesterone remaining high longer than usual. There is no reason to be concerned about this as there are many reasons that all of these situations can and will occur- diet, stress, perimenopause, over exercise, under exercise, stress (yup, it’s that important I feel I need to list it twice). 

If the bloating becomes the norm rather than the exception, consult with your gynecologist because chronic hormone imbalance shouldn’t be ignored if for no other reason than you don’t need to suffer every month. 

As soon as you notice a pattern, or even before you can identify the pattern, begin to track when the bloating occurs, any changes in diet, fitness, or stress, and if there are changes in BMs (your daily poop). Collecting data is the best way to start treating the reason and not just chasing the symptoms. 

PMS bloating protocol

The following are good monthly habits if you are prone to PMS or hormonal bloating: 

  1. Focus on fiber foods. Especially during the follicular phase of your cycle (after your period until about midway thru) typically days 5-12 give or take a few days. Foods like oatmeal, chia seed, and sweet potatoes contain fibers that help to remove excess hormones. 
  2. Love your liver. The liver metabolizes hormones as one of the many tasks it is responsible for daily. Sipping on a digestive blend tea or trying dandelion and chamomile combos during the day is supportive, as well as fasting between meals for at least 3-4 hours (no snacking), and 12 hours from dinner to breakfast. 
  3. Manage stress. Cortisol and reproductive hormones are very closely related. Add a daily walk, meditation, or some other kind of restorative activity – especially when you have no time or feel overwhelmed. 
  4. Support good poops. Eating probiotic foods, drinking more water, and eating ¾ of the plate as plants all support daily BMs- and by extension good digestion. 
  5. Yoga. A twisty, restorative flow is best to relieve bloating. Consider a routine where power yoga or vinyasa is broken up by a day or two a week with a restorative digestive type flow. 
  6. Consider supplements- sometimes a little help is needed. Keep in mind, most supplements are just that- supplemental- and should not be taken daily, but only in the time frame necessary to
    1. Fiber supplements- can be helpful to reduce constipation (daily when fiber from foods is low)
    2. Ashwaganda- a powerful adaptogen for resilience to stress (take for 2 weeks, break for 2 weeks)
    3. Milk thistle- a commonly used liver cleanse herb (take for 1 week when PMS is the worst (generally the week before your period)
    4. Magnesium- a go to for women, as we generally don’t get enough. Look for magnesium glycinate and talk to your practitioner for dose. 

Summary

The first step to managing hormonally related bloating is to identify whether or not there is a pattern. Begin with taking a look at your monthly habits and prioritizing self-care, even if it’s 10 minutes a day to prep some overnight oats or do a little stress relieving yoga. 

The links I have added are products that I enjoy and find to be helpful, I do not receive affiliate income or any benefit for recommending these products. 

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