Natural Treatments for PMS Bloating
Do you suffer from bloating prior to your period? If so, you are DEFINITELY not alone. Although we often associate PMS with symptoms like mood swings, food cravings, headaches, irritability, and fatigue, the most common symptom women often report is bloating. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, up to 85 percent of women experience some form of PMS symptoms. But, what causes bloating during PMS and is there anything to do to relieve your bloat? Let’s dive in!
What Causes Bloating During PMS?
Bloating 1-2 weeks before and during your period are most often due to hormonal fluctuations in your sex hormones, primarily estrogen and progesterone. This is also why popping yet another Tums likely won’t help your bloating. Not only does this fluctuation in hormones, especially progesterone lead many women to feel bloated but researchers have found that changes in progesterone and estrogen cause the body to retain more water and salt. This is why many women will report feeling bloated but also feeling as though they are “inflamed”.
Natural Treatments For PMS Bloating
So although bloating can be caused by hormone fluctuations, there are a few important lifestyle changes that you can take to help reduce water retention and ultimately improve your bloating for good!
Use Food As Medicine
We know that what we eat is way more than just calories in and calories out. In fact, more and more research is finding that the food we eat, how we eat and when we eat provides our body with a variety of informational signals that impact everything from our sugar control, hormone signaling and even the response of our cells on a cellular levels. So if there is one thing to prioritize in your life in order to avoid PMS bloating, it most likely starts with what is at the end of your fork. Focusing on incorporating anti-inflammatory based foods, high quality proteins, omega-3 rich fats and a variety of fruits and vegetables are not only a great way to support anti-inflammatory pathways but it can help stabilize your blood sugar and support regular bowel movement. Regular daily bowel movements are essential for our body to eliminate unnecessary toxins but also an essential way our body is able to metabolize estrogen. So in other words, if you are not having 1-3 fully formed bowel movements per day, this is likely contributing to your bloating and could be making it more difficult for your body to balance your hormones. Aiming to incorporate healthy fats like nuts and seeds, high quality oils like coconut, avocado and extra virgin olive oil, as well as high quality plant and animal proteins with every meal alongside fresh vegetables is a great way to maximize digestion.
If you struggle with bloating and are looking to increase your fiber intake by increasing your vegetable intake, consider incorporating vegetables that are lightly steamed or sauteed as raw vegetables can often worsen bloating. This is why “just eat a salad” isn’t the most valuable advice for those suffering from PMS bloating.
Don’t Forget to Drink Water!
I know this one might sound simple, but when’s the last time you had a sip of water? Between lattes and busy days in the office or with the kids, life can get a little hectic and we can forget to incorporate one of the most essential steps we need to optimize our health… Water. Aiming to drink between 60-80oz of filtered water per day is often well tolerated by most adult women. We recommend investing in a stainless steel 40oz water bottle to make it easy to keep track of your water intake. No more thinking about how many glasses you had, just aim to fill up your 40oz water bottle twice a day and you are good to go! And for those who say they “don’t have time for water during their busy day” consider opting for your 40 oz of water while you drive to and from work. If you are used to enjoying your coffee while finishing your commute, consider drinking all 40oz prior to your coffee to help you reach your goal before the day even starts! You can do the exact same thing on the way home, and just like that you can consistently hit your 80oz of water intake without really thinking about it. (We all get busy and we totally understand the decision fatigue you are already facing. No need to add yet another task to your to-do list. Make it automatic and take the decision making out of the equation).
Listening To Watch Your Body Needs
So we know PMS can impact your hormones but did you know it can impact your brain too? Ever notice those PMS craving coming on a little strong? This is just one example of how powerful hormones can be not only in initiating your period, but even impacting the way you think and act. Be mindful of your food craving is essential, so before you go rummaging through the cabinets for that bag of chips, take a moment to ask yourself, “Am I hungry or am I bored”? Now, some days you may actually be hungry while other times you may notice you are using food as a form of comfort. By acknowledging your relationship with food, you will be better equipped to give your body what it needs. Does it need food as fuel, or do you actually maybe need to step away from your desk and would benefit from a quick walk around the block. Listening to what your body needs is always step one. The second step will be to make sure to give your body the fuel that it needs. This usually comes in the form of a healthy fat and protein. Not only can a snack containing healthy fats and proteins satisfy your cravings but it can help stabilize your blood sugar and help you combat other unwanted PMS-related symptoms like food swings.
Avoid Salty Foods
Not only are most salt containing foods processed, but they can make bloating worse. Avoiding salty foods can not only decrease water retention but improve PMS related bloating. Since many processed foods and fast food restaurants contain high levels of salt, cooking meals at home using fresh ingredients is an important and simple way to avoid excess salt. Don’t have time to cook or not a chef in the kitchen? No worries! Consider opting for a meal delivery service, like Sunbasket to help you build confidence in the kitchen without wasting hours trying to make one meal. Sunbasket has a variety of clean and organic meal options that can be made in 15 minutes or less!
Are You Getting Enough Potassium?
Researchers have found that potassium is an important way to decrease sodium levels and increase urine production. Eating foods rich in potassium is a great way to reduce water retention and that unwanted PMS bloat. Foods high in potassium include:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Dark leafy greens
Additional Digestive Support
If you are struggling with bloating during PMS and have tried increasing your fiber intake only to find yourself experiencing even more bloating, it may be time to consider adding digestive enzymes to your supplement routine. Unlike TUMS, digestive enzyme supplements contain naturally occurring digestives normally found throughout the GI tract to help your body breakdown and assimilate the nutrients from your diet. Adding a digestive enzyme supplement with each meal can be a great way to provide your body with additional digestive support and help reduce the effects of undigested foods that can lead to worsening of bloating.
Move Your Body Everyday
I know this might sound counterintuitive, especially since we mentioned that PMS can cause fatigue, but exercise is actually one of the BEST ways to reduce your PMS related symptoms, especially bloating. In fact, a 2013 study found that regular exercise (about 20 minutes per day) could combat the symptoms of PMS. So although you might have seen a recent ad for a new supplement to try, start with the basics and get moving! Many of the supplements currently on the market claiming to improve your PMS symptoms have never been studied for efficacy or quality standards. Exercise on the other hand has and its benefits are clinically significant. But don’t just take our word for it, researchers agree as well.
For those of you who may remember, before castor oil grew in popularity for hair, skin and nail benefits, it was commonly known as “labor balm”. Decades ago, women would use castor oil to help stimulate uterine contraction to induce labor. Unfortunately, this quickly fell out of favor, as it would often cause diarrhea in these women and let’s be honest, labor is intense enough, no need to add in explosive diarrhea. Although “labor balm” is no longer used, castor oil topically still appears to contain similar antispasmodic properties that can be helpful not only for those suffering from constipation but also for PMS related bloating as well as menstrual cramps. Now again, due to its powerful antispasmodic properties, castor oil should be used only topically on the abdomen or belly.
About the Author: Meet Dr. ZenAlissia Zenhausern- Pfeiffer, NMD, FABNE, (commonly known by her patients as Dr. Zen), is a licensed naturopathic doctor board certified in naturopathic endocrinology and the founder of NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, a premier naturopathic medical practice that focuses on helping women to take a proactive approach to their hormone and fertility health. Dr. Zen has been featured as a lead expert in Forbes, Shape Magazine, and Instyle and is deeply passionate about bridging the gap between traditional and natural medicine in the world of fertility. She works with a variety of hormone related issues including PCOS, endometriosis and unexplained infertility. Her goal is to help more women get back into the driver’s seat of their own health to make lasting transformational changes to their health to bring more cute and adorable babies into this world. Read More About Dr. Zen...