Bloating is a common early symptom of menstruation that many women experience. It may feel like you’ve gained weight or like your abdomen or other parts of your body are tight or even swollen.
Bloating generally occurs well before your period starts and will go away once you’ve been menstruating for a few days. You may not be able to prevent bloating completely, but there are some home-based treatments you can try to reduce it. Here are some ways to reduce period bloating:
- follow a low-sodium diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein
- drink lots of water
- skip caffeine and alcohol
- limit processed foods
- exercise regularly
- take a diuretic
- talk to your doctor about whether birth control pills may help
If your bloating is extreme or affects your daily activities, you should talk to your doctor.
How can you treat and prevent period bloating?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all cure, several lifestyle modifications may reduce it before and during your period.
1. Eat the right foods
You should avoid eating too much salt. How do you know if your diet is too high in salt? The American Heart Association recommends limiting your daily salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg.
Processed foods contain a lot of salt as well as other ingredients that may not be the healthiest for you. Instead, focus on eating fruits and vegetables, as well as other healthy foods like whole grains, lean protein, nuts, and seeds.
2. Drink lots of water
Make sure you drink plenty of water on the days leading up to your period. Try carrying a water bottle around with you, and aim to fill it up several times a day. There’s no single recommendation for the amount of water to drink each day. The amount varies from person to person and depends on the environment, personal health, and other factors. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a minimum of eight 8 ounce glasses of water a day. Many reusable water bottles hold 32 or 24 ounces. So depending on the size you use, you may only need to drink 2 to 3 bottles a day to get your 64 ounces.
3. Skip alcohol and caffeine
Experts believe that both alcohol and caffeine contribute to bloating and other symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Instead of these beverages, drink more water.
If you have a hard time skipping your morning cup of coffee, try replacing it with a drink that has less caffeine, like tea, or substitute some of the caffeinated coffee for a decaffeinated type.
4. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise is key to reducing your PMS symptoms. Experts recommend that you aim for one of the following:
- a few hours of moderate physical activity a week
- an hour or more of vigorous activity a week
- a combination of these levels of activity
For an optimal fitness plan, add some exercises to build your muscles a few times a week.
5. Consider medication
If home remedies don’t reduce your bloating before and during your period, you may want to talk to your doctor about other treatments. Some of these include:
- Birth control. Taking birth control pills may help you reduce PMS symptoms. You should talk with your doctor about the best birth control method for you.
- Diuretics. These pills help reduce the fluid your body stores. Your doctor may prescribe them to ease severe bloating.
When does period bloating occur?
You’ll likely experience bloating well before the start of your period. Bloating is considered a very common symptom of PMS. Symptoms of PMS can begin a week or two before your period starts. You may bloat every month, once in a while, or not at all. Relief from bloating may occur immediately after you start your period or a few days into it.
You may have other PMS symptoms. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state that up to 85 percent of women report physical symptoms related to their period. Besides bloating, other common symptoms include:
- food cravings
The symptoms you have can also change from month to month or as you get older.
Why do periods cause bloating?
The short answer is hormones. PMS occurs during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle. That’s when the hormones estrogen and progesterone can fluctuate. It’s also when the lining of your uterus gets thicker. If you become pregnant, the fertilized egg attaches to your thickened uterine lining. If you’re not pregnant, the thickened lining leaves your body, and you have a period.
Hormones may not be the only reason you have physical symptoms leading up to your period. Other causes for your symptoms may relate to:
- your genes
- the type and amount of vitamins and minerals you take
- your diet, especially if it’s high in salt
- the number of drinks and foods you have with caffeine or alcohol
When should you see a doctor?
You should talk to your doctor if your bloating:
- does not go away after your period
- is severe enough to affect your daily activities
Severe bloating may be a sign of a medical condition or may need to be treated differently.
What’s your outlook?
Mild to moderate bloating that begins before your period and goes away soon after your period starts is generally nothing to worry about. As long as you’re able to function normally and your symptoms occur around your period, most likely all you need to do to reduce the symptoms is try some lifestyle modifications. However, if you have more severe bloating that gets in the way of your daily activities, talk to your doctor.
Q&A: Cranberry juice and period bloating
I’ve read that cranberry juice can relieve symptoms of bloating because it’s a natural diuretic. Is this true and are there other natural diuretics I can try?
There is no strong evidence to show that drinking cranberry juice will reduce period bloating. Cranberries are high in potassium, which helps prevent water retention, but the evidence is not strong enough to recommend cranberry juice specifically to prevent or treat bloating before your period.Rachel Liberto, RNAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.