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You may experience bloating during perimenopause and menopause. It may be the result of fluctuating hormones during this period of your life. You’re likely to experience less bloating after menopause when your ovaries stop making estrogen and progesterone, and your body maintains a lower level of hormones.

Bloating causes you to feel extreme fullness, tightness, or swelling in your abdomen and other parts of your body. It may cause discomfort. You can try to reduce bloating during perimenopause and menopause with adjustments to your lifestyle or with medications. You should see your doctor if you experience prolonged bloating, as it may be a sign of another condition.

Learn more: 11 things every woman should know about menopause »

Menopause symptoms can begin several years before you reach menopause. This time is known as perimenopause. Menopause is defined as the lack of a menstrual period for 12 concurrent months. This happens because your ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone. After menopause, you can no longer get pregnant.

Most women experience menopause in their early 50s, though you can go through it earlier or later. Once you haven’t experienced a period for 12 months, you’re considered postmenopausal.

Bloating may occur more frequently in perimenopause than during menopause or postmenopause. During perimenopause, your hormones are changing rapidly. That can lead to higher levels of estrogen. Estrogen causes your body to retain water, which can lead to bloating.

Bloating isn’t the only symptom experienced by women going through perimenopause and menopause. Fluctuating hormones can also lead to:

  • hot flashes
  • problems with sleep
  • vaginal dryness
  • mood swings
  • weight gain

You may also experience bloating during menopause because of built-up gas in your gastrointestinal system. This can be related to:

  • diet
  • exercise
  • stress
  • smoking
  • swallowed air
  • another health condition

It’s likely that bloating after menopause is related to one of these factors rather than hormones. That’s because after you go through menopause, your hormones don’t fluctuate as much as they did during perimenopause and menopause.

Read more: The best menopause blogs of the year »

You can reduce bloating by making various lifestyle adjustments. These changes in behavior may also help you prevent bloating from occurring.

  • Change your diet: Avoid foods that cause bloating. These include fatty foods, vegetables known to cause extra gas, and dairy products. Also, skip overly processed foods, which have high levels of sugar and salt.
  • Exercise more frequently: Try to work out several times a week, and keep your activity varied from cardiovascular exercises to strength-building ones.
  • Skip chewing gum and carbonated beverages: These can fill up your stomach with air, leaving you with a bloated abdomen.
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol: These can increase bloating.
  • Drink plenty of water: You may experience bloating if you don’t stay hydrated enough.

There are other ways to prevent and treat bloating that involve over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications:

  • Antibloating medication: These are available OTC. A pharmacist or your doctor may be able to recommend one to try.
  • Water-reduction pills: Also known as diuretics, these are only available by a prescription from your doctor. They can help your body avoid holding on to too much water.
  • Hormonal birth control pills: Birth control pills may help you with bloating and other premenstrual syndrome symptoms, if you’re still having periods, because they can stabilize your hormones. You’ll have to discuss what works for your body with your doctor.
  • Menopausal hormone therapy: This is a treatment that some women choose while going through menopause. It regulates your estrogen and progesterone levels. This therapy option should be discussed with your doctor because of concerns about side effects.

During perimenopause and menopause, you may be unsure whether you’re experiencing bloating or gaining weight. Hormonal changes during perimenopause and menopause may cause your body to gain weight more quickly than usual, particularly in your stomach area. This isn’t just a sign of menopause. You may also be gaining weight because of aging, lifestyle behaviors, and family history.

Bloating should occur for just a short period of time, likely around the time of your menstrual cycle if you’re in perimenopause or any time after you eat a large amount of food, eat very quickly, or eat foods that trigger bloating. Your stomach will protrude and change throughout the day with bloating. Your abdomen won’t fluctuate in size throughout the day if you’re experiencing weight gain.

Weight gain is a symptom of menopause, and you can adopt certain lifestyle changes to help avoid extra pounds. Eating a well-balanced diet low in salt and sugar, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly will help with weight gain, as well as bloat. Gaining weight puts you at risk for developing health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

Bloating leading up to your menstrual cycle or during the hormone fluctuations of menopause are usually normal symptoms. Prolonged or painful bloating should be reviewed by your doctor right away. Feeling bloated for weeks at a time may be a sign of ovarian cancer or another health condition.

It’s very likely that you’ll experience bloating at some point during perimenopause and menopause, or after menopause. There are several causes of bloating. Hormones may be the main culprit if you’re still experiencing your period. Bloating should diminish after menopause, which may provide you some relief.