Why we bloat around our period, and 5 tips to ease the suffering!

You know that heavy feeling you get when your period is coming. You probably feel like a  cross between a sloth and a beached whale.  And so you shuffle to your closet to find a loose-fitting shirt and then throw on those high-waisted yoga pants, tucking that protruding tummy into those beauties like a sausage being stuffed in casing.  “Ugh,” you say back to your reflection as you sheepishly model it in the mirror.  

We have all been there.  In fact, nearly all of us go there every. single. month.  And here is why.

Blame the hormonal shifts of progesterone and estrogen. About a week before a woman’s period starts, levels of the hormone progesterone fall. This is what signals the uterus to shed its lining, which is what causes menstrual bleeding. Simultaneously, our estrogen rises. 

These fun hormonal swings not only cause temporary insanity, but they also cause the body to retain more water and salt. The body’s cells become swollen with water, causing the feeling of bloating.  To make matters worse, this coincides with the time we crave salty and sweet foods, compounding the bloat.

What’s more, progesterone elevates in the days following ovulation (before it drops to cue your menstruation), and this hormone can slow down digestion, and also cue you to eat more.  So you may be eating more and pooping less.  Uh, hello Mrs. Bloaty Pants.  So you may literally be full of shit leading up to your period. Fun stuff.

Here are five tips to help curb the bloat and make that time of the month feel a little more manageable.

1. Avoid salt (yeah right).  Okay, minimize salt as best you can.

Salt is made up of sodium and chloride, which are electrolytes that play a role in managing your body’s fluid balance. When you consume too much salt, your body retains fluid to dilute the excess sodium. The result is bloating, particularly around the midsection. To restore balance, drink more water, and ease back on those potato chips. I know it seems counter intuitive to add more fluids in when you feel fluid-filled, but you need that H2O to restore harmony in your body.

2. Up the potassium. 

Potassium is an important mineral essential for many body functions, including the promotion of normal digestion. Low potassium, on the other hand, can mess with digestion, and cause more cramping during your period. 

Load up on avocados, banana, dark leafy greens (like spinach and kale), sweet potato, peas, cucumber and cantaloupe. 

3. Utilize nature’s diuretics. 

Help your body flush the bloating with foods that naturally promote urine production.  Think asparagus (stinky, I know!), pineapple, peaches, cucumbers, watermelon, lemon juice, leeks, ginger, and garlic. These foods will help flush that sodium through the body and ease the bloat.

4. Drink lots of water.

Water helps flush the bloat by promoting kidney function. It sounds odd that drinking water helps prevent and eliminate water retention, but it’s a fact!  It also improve hydration levels, which in turns helps keep us energized, aiding us in better managing cramps. As a bonus, drinking warm water (like herbal tea or warm lemon water) increases blood flow to your skin and may relax cramped muscles. 

5. Exercise. 

I know it may feel counter-intuitive to exercise when you feel like a whale-sloth, but it actually helps! Working up a sweat helps you shed extra water weight. And, say hello to your helpful happy endorphins that are boosted through exercise.  This can take the edge off of cramps, and make life feel a little more tolerable.  

Bleeding for 5 days is already the pitts, so give your body a little love and support (and a heavy dose of…you go, girl). Happy menstruating, strong mamas. 

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