The commonly experienced feeling of fullness in the abdominal area that gives women pain or discomfort is referred to as bloating. But what are the main causes of bloating?
Women usually experience bloating before period, during PMS or during menopause. This is either due to water retention or a lot of intestinal gas, or a combination of these two. Another cause is fluctuating hormones.While the intensity and duration of bloating varies from woman to woman, it is usually experienced by women aged 45-55 years, in the perimenopause or transitional stage before reaching actual menopause. Women experience the discomfort of bloating for a few days and then perhaps not for several months or a year. It is common for women to wake up with a normal flat stomach but experience bloating through the day.
Bloating before period
Why women experience bloating before menstruation
There are many reasons for women experiencing bloating before their period. Chief among them are the role of hormones.
- Hormones: Before perimenopause and menopause, when a woman is set to have her menstrual period, her estrogen levels rise, causing her to retain much more water in her body, causing bloating. At the perimenopause stage, estrogen levels become erratic, fluctuating all the time, causing water retention and a bloated feeling with increasing regularity. Women experience a flat stomach first thing in the morning and find themselves experiencing abdominal discomfort within a few hours as the feeling of fullness and tightness develops. Women burp a lot at this stage.
- Bile:When estrogen levels fall during menopause, automatically bile production also falls. In the absence of bile, which keeps the intestines lubricated, one has dry and hard stools, lending a bloated feeling and constipation.
- Flatulence: Again, due to hormonal fluctuations, menopausal bloating causes gas. Gas and a decrease in bile production and water retention contribute to a bloated stomach.
- Hormone Replacement Treatment (HRT): If HRT is taken as treatment for relieving the symptoms of menopause, the bloating is a side effect, along with others like headaches, mood swings, breast tenderness, fluctuating weight and bleeding.
- Weight gain: When women reach perimenopause,they put on weight, often about 2 kilos a year until they become menopausal. This is due to the action of androgen, the male hormone. This extra weight usually shows up on the waist and stomach which increases the bloated feeling.
- Insulin resistance: When menopause causes your estrogen levels to fall, your body looks out for other sources of it. Ultimately, the fat cells serve as a good source of estrogen with the body converting calories into fat to enhance estrogen levels. Often, this causes estrogen to over correct its level, causing weight gain, bloating and insulin resistance.
Are hormones to be blamed?
During menopause, the male hormones, testosterone and androgen and the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, continue to fluctuate. This means that it is going to be very difficult for women to lose weight.Estrogen:
This hormone is responsible for ovulation and regulating a woman’smenstrual cycle. However, the levels of this hormone begin to fall when a woman begins menopause which, in turn, stops ovulation.A woman’s ovaries produce estrogen, but with the onset of menopause, this level begins to fall, making the body look for alternative sources of this hormone. Fat cells are known to be a good source of this hormone. They produce estrogen, making a woman’s body work much harder to convert calories into fat which in turn will enhance estrogen levels.So, by eating more, women are likely to be able to convert calories into fat so that the body has more estrogen. However, fat cells aren’t as effective at burning calories as muscle cells can, making it easier to gain weight. To avoid such a scenario, it is important for women to monitor the amount of calories they eat each day so that their calorific intake doesn’t exceed the number of calories they expend.Progesterone:
During menopause, levels of this hormone also fall. This is manifest by symptoms such as bloating and water retention, both linked to pre-menstrual tension (PMT).As a result of bloating, women experience weight gain, though this comes back to normal once levels of progesterone are normalized.The weight gain caused by this hormone isn’t caused due to bigger food intake but due to bloating, which soon vanishes.Women who experience menstrual bloating will also feel their clothes tight when their progesterone levels are exceptionally low. To be sure that the bloating women undergo is due to hormonal fluctuations, they can maintain a diary of symptoms they experience and see if they can be related to their menstrual cycle.When hormones are responsible for menstrual bloating, these symptoms can be expected:
- Painful periods
- Too many variations in menstruation cycle
- Painful or lumpy breasts
- Reduced libido
- Difficulty conceiving
- Heavy blood flow during periods
- Spots on the face during the period
- Emotional sensitivity or mood swings
- Weight fluctuations
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or similar conditions
Diet and Lifestyle changes to combat this situation
About 70% of all women who are soon to be menopausal suffer from the uncomfortable feeling that bloating brings with it. That’s because they have hormone glands that are overproducing hormones causing the body to store fat like insulin and cortisol. Simultaneously, their bodies are under-producing hormones that do the least to prevent you from putting on weight, such as estrogen.This situation is worsened by stress that women go through. So, it would help if women stopped being stressful. Stress brings about fluctuating hormone production more than normal. Though it might be difficult for women to eliminate stress from their lives, yet some lifestyle changes can help minimize the situation that stress is causing.
Some lifestyle changes that can help reduce menstrual bloating include:
- Reduce alcohol intake: The ingredients that go to make up alcoholic drinks, and the foods eaten before and with alcohol contribute to a very uncomfortable bloated feeling.
- Limit carbohydrate consumption:A diet low in carbs and high in fat can bring relief to that gassy feeling.
- Few small meals: Instead of eating three large meals per day, five small meals can be eaten.The smaller the meal, the lesser the chances of insulin levels rising while a woman sleeps. This can reduce bloating. The stomach should also be kept empty three hours before bedtime.
- Acupuncture: There are some people who swear by the power of acupuncture for relief from menstrual bloating.
- Daily exercise: By exercising, blocked gas can pass through easier, thereby reducing bloating. The sit-ups and stretches of Yoga help move gas around your body and out of it.
How an altered diet helps get over bloating before period
A woman’s diet plays an equally important role in eliminating bloating as lifestyle changes do. For instance, if a woman eats a high-protein diet, it can give her bloat because the body can’t digest it entirely.By adding Beano aid to their diet, such as tofu and soy products, they eat a balanced diet and food rich in protein. A balanced diet includes eating vegetables, fruits, meats, dairy products, bread and fats. This helps get rid of bloating.
Increase intake of:
- Asparagus:It keeps the colon in good working order and fights stomach bacteria so that ingestion of food is done well.
- Fiber: Intake of fiber should be increased to relieve bloating. Fiber is present in nuts, whole grains and fiber-based cereals.
- Yogurt:Like asparagus, yogurt too fights bad bacteria in the stomach and stimulates the growth of good bacteria so that it fights excessive gas.
- Celery:This vegetable flushes out excess water and promotes stomach health, thereby preventing menstrual bloating.
- Pineapple:It contains an enzyme that aids stomach bloating relief and helps with good digestion.
- Kale, spinach, and lettuce: They are very low-cal foods and filled with fiber, so they aid water retention.
Reduce intake of:
- Beans and cruciferous vegetables:They cause gas and make their ejection very difficult, due to the ensuing bloating. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage,legumes, Brussels sprouts, peas, onions, potatoes, beans, etc are foods that increase gas retention leading to bloat.
- Caffeine drinks: They excite the digestive tract and cause a build-up of gases there, leading to bloat.
- Dairy products:People who suffer from a lactose intolerance end up with a bloated feeling. A reduction of dairy foods will make a difference.
Here are some dos and don’ts that women can adopt to eat right and avoid bloat:
- Eat five small meals per day: This will keep their metabolism on track and stave any weight gain. Besides, they won’t feel hungry every so often.
- Eat only whole grain carbohydrates:Women should eat whole grain carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole grain pasta and whole wheat bread to avoid bloating.
- Eat gas reducing foods: These include watermelon, watercress, yogurt, eggs, bananas, peanut butter, hard cheese and cucumber.
- Drink water:By drinking about six to eight glasses of water each day, all the toxins in the body will be flushed out and the chances of bloating will be minimized.
- Hot pepper and black pepper – cayenne pepper and black pepper are both a natural cure for gas and bloating. Try adding a dash of cayenne pepper to a drink or using black pepper as your seasoning on food. Add a pinch of black pepper to herbal tea.
- No crash diets: By eating carbohydrates, the body will retain more water, leading to bloating.
- Salt:Intake of salt should be reduced, including eating convenience, processed, fast and salty foods. Salt in the body helps retain water which contributes to bloating.
- Baking powder: It helps neutralize stomach acid and produces carbon dioxide which causes one to burp and bring relief.
Natural supplements to eliminate bloating
Bloating occurs due to several reasons, including menstrual issues. So, it helps to determine exactly what’s causing that bloated feeling. If it is menstrual issues, it would help to take certain vitamins, herbs or minerals to reduce it.Calcium:
If bloating is diagnosed to be related to pre-menstrual tension, calcium can play a huge role in reducing or eliminating it. In the first phase of PMS, calcium supplements can reduce bloating, reduce food cravings and regularize moods. It can also help one’s problem of water retention. Both calcium and magnesium work together and balance out each other. When used together, ensure that the ratio of calcium to magnesium in some supplements is 2:1. There are others that are in a 1:1 ratio.Magnesium:
Magnesium plays a stellar role in reducing bloating, weight gain and breast tenderness. It also reduces water retention which helps reduce bloating. Foods rich in magnesium that one can switch to include nuts, green leafy vegetables and whole grains.Dandelion:
The root or leaf of the dandelion plant has the potential for reducing bloating, muscles spasms and breast tenderness. Since it is also a diuretic, it is instrumental in eliminating any excess water that a woman’s system may be holding that causes her to bloat. But the good news is that dandelion also contains potassium, so it helps retain this nutrient, unlike other diuretics. It can be taken in the form of tea, made with dried leaves or with its dried root.Herbal tea
: To get rid of menopause bloating, drink herbal tea, such as ginger tea or green tea. Though green tea contains caffeine, it is still a very good diuretic,so it takes away that bloated feeling from excessive fluid retention.Cranberry juice: A very good
natural diuretic, cranberry juice should be drunk as much as possible to avoid water retention.Cabbage leaves:
Also a good natural diuretic, it should be taken in its raw form for relief from water retention.Garlic:
Garlic needs a special mention as one of the most effective natural diuretic food. Garlic not only helps in getting rid of excess water and toxins from the body, but also contributes to the breakdown of fats. This makes it double effective in combating water retention and associated obesity. A moderate intake of garlic is very effective home cure for water retention.
So when bloating occurs before period, don’t think that you have gained weight; it is just a temporary change in your body. By using some of the tips mentioned here, women can get much-needed relief from bloating before period and lead a happy and pain-free life.You can read more about this over here