Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a common condition that many women experience before menstruation. It can cause both physical and mood changes.
While there are a number of emotional and physical symptoms of PMS, gastrointestinal issues are also quite common.
Gastrointestinal issues that are experienced in the days before, and sometimes during and after, your period are similar to the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These include:
- abdominal bloating
- abdominal cramping
- diarrhea or constipation
- excess gas
For some women, the fluctuation of hormones estrogen and progesterone can cause abdominal bloating and gas before and during their periods.
Rising levels of estrogen in the days leading up to your period affect estrogen receptors in your stomach and small intestine. These higher estrogen levels can cause:
- build-up of air and gases in the intestinal tract
Estrogen and progesterone can also affect fluid retention. When estrogen levels rise and progesterone levels decline, women tend to retain more water than they typically do. This commonly results in bloating.
Some conditions, such as IBS, can be intensified by your period. Talk to your doctor if you think you have IBS.
Four ways that may help you with gas before and during menstruation are birth control, exercise, diet, and over-the-counter (OTC) remedies.
The birth control pill may be an option for you. A 2008 study indicated that the pill may help improve bloating during your period. Because the effects of the pill vary among women, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor.
Regular exercise may also relieve some of the discomfort. A
Although the gas associated with your period isn’t totally food related, certain foods are known to cause gas and can add to the discomfort.
Limiting your intake of these foods before and during your period can help. The Mayo Clinic identifies a number of foods that can contribute to excess gas and bloating, including:
Beer and other carbonated drinks can also contribute to excess gas.
For many people, OTC products are helpful for reducing gas symptoms. Some remedies that are available without a prescription include:
- Activated charcoal. Although not supported by clinical research, activated charcoal (CharcoCaps, Actidose-Aqua) taken before and after meals may reduce gas symptoms. Talk with your doctor before using these products, as activated charcoal may affect medication absorption.
- Alpha-galactosidase. Alpha-galactosidase (BeanAssist, Beano) is a supplement that you take prior to eating. It assists your body in the breakdown of carbohydrates in beans and vegetables.
- Simethicone. Although there’s little supporting clinical evidence that it relieves gas symptoms, simethicone (Mylanta Gas, Gas-X) helps break up gas bubbles and may help gas move through your digestive system.
- Lactase supplements. These supplements (Lactaid, Colief) are digestive enzymes that help your body digest lactose, the sugar in dairy products. If you’re lactose intolerant, they can reduce gas symptoms. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, don’t take these supplements without first discussing them with your doctor.
Abdominal bloating and excess gas are common symptoms of PMS. You can reduce the discomfort by making changes to your diet — such as limiting your intake of foods known to cause gas — exercising regularly, and taking OTC medications.
If you find that the bloating is disrupting your daily life, discuss your symptoms with your doctor.