Are you plagued by bloating when it’s your time of the month? You’re not alone.
Up to 70 percent of women experience monthly bloating triggered by the hormone fluctuations that accompany menstruation, according to Diana Bitner, MD, NCMP, an obstetrician and gynecologist with Spectrum Health Medical Group.
If you have a medical condition, such as endometriosis or adenomyosis, your symptoms could be worse. Perimenopause can also be a factor.
Looking for a solution?
While some bloating may be unavoidable, many women find relief by adopting healthy habits and figuring out why their periods cause the increased bloating, Dr. Bitner said.
Dr. Bitner suggests these approaches to find relief:
- Stay hydrated. Aim for about 80 ounces of water a day, and more if you exercise. Staying hydrated helps your bowel movements stay regular. If coffee or alcohol are part of your day, drink extra water to offset their dehydrating effects.
- Get enough fiber. Try to get 35 grams of fiber each day for regularity. Start by eating a combination of soluble and insoluble fibers, including fruit, vegetables and whole grain foods. If that’s not enough, top it off with fiber pills or supplements to make up the difference.
- Exercise. “People who exercise have more regular bowel movements and fewer issues with constipation,” Dr. Bitner said. Of course, an active lifestyle has other benefits as well—it controls cholesterol, regulates blood sugar and weight, prevents disease and improves sleep.
- Limit caffeine. Excessive caffeine can cause bowel spasms and looser stools, which can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable.
- Beware of gassy foods. Some people are sensitive to foods such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts or lettuce, which can make gas and bloating worse. Others can eat these without problems. “Be aware of your own personal triggers and avoid them during the time of your period,” Dr. Bitner said.
- Consider the mind-body connection. “If you have a lot of anxiety, mood disorders and stress about unresolved issues, they can make your symptoms worse,” Dr. Bitner said. “The more things you’re dealing with at a given time, the harder it can be.” She recommends addressing problems and seeking emotional healing. Counseling can often help get unresolved issues “off your plate.”
- Explore over-the-counter options. Common pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen and Midol are antiprostaglandins, which can help reduce menstrual cramps. Be aware of the side effects, however, and don’t take them if they cause an upset stomach or acid reflux, or take them in moderation with food.
- See your gynecologist. If cycles are irregular or pain and bleeding are interfering with daily life, you may benefit from oral contraceptives or other hormone supplements such as oral progesterone or the Mirena IUD. Your gynecologist may also diagnose other underlying conditions that can be treated.
“Women should not have to suffer when there’s so much help available,” Dr. Bitner said. “Depending on a patient’s age, condition and specific diagnosis, there are many medical options that can help.”