Period Bloating: What Is it? Why do we get it & how can we soothe it?

Emma Matthews

You know the drill. At some point during the month, you pull on your favorite jeans… And they won’t do up. The zip is fine, nothing’s caught and you’re pretty sure you haven’t shrunk them. Your stomach is swollen, you’re deeply uncomfortable and you’ve got the ankles of a particularly unwell elephant. Yup, it’s the dreaded period bloat. And for many of us, period bloating means a regular trip to the pile of trackies and slip-ons we keep for this exact purpose. It’s a massive pain in the you-know-what… But we’ve got some tips and tricks to help you navigate swollen tummies and trapped gas. Oh yes. That too.

PMS symptoms, the known and the less well-known ones

We’re all aware of the well-publicized symptoms of PMS:

  • mood swings,
  • insomnia,
  • sugar cravings, and the like.

There are, though, other symptoms that we rarely mention:

  • Hormone-related water retention,
  • puffy skin,
  • trapped gas,
  • constipation,
  • and diarrhea

Also come under the PMS umbrella. And then we have the our PMS on steriods which is PMDD but you can read more about that here.

Period bloating can include one, some, or all of the aforementioned joys. Generally, however, it falls into two equally horrendous camps.

Fluid retention

The first is fluid retention. No one is really sure of the why, but the how comes down to excess water causing the tissue to swell. That mostly occurs in the lower legs and ankles, although we’ve all seen the results in our faces at one time or another. For the most part, the extra fluid drains away once your period starts and is mostly excreted through peeing.

Trapped gas

Period bloat’s second form comes in the shape of trapped gas. Again, no one’s really sure why, but there is a definite connection to hormone fluctuation. Whatever the reason, it can result in a swollen stomach, deep discomfort, and pain. Trapped gas makes any restrictive clothing a torture device and the idea of moving or breathing too hard can be too much to bear. These symptoms can last for days, but they, too, should ease off once you start bleeding.

How can we reduce the symptoms of period bloat?

So what can you do to help alleviate the discomfort of period bloating? Luckily, there are some tried and tested therapies that just might work. But before we get into that, here’s the serious stuff. If you labor under period bloat for three months, and none of these things offer any respite, please tell someone.

The symptoms we associate with period bloat can also be caused by other conditions and even some medications. So, if nothing is working for you, it might be time to rule out, among other things, kidney disease and thyroid conditions.

How to reduce fluid retention

To help with fluid retention, first and foremost, watch your salt intake. The sodium it contains binds to liquid and can make the whole thing worse. Make sure your fluid intake stays the same, though – drinking less water can also increase retention.

Then there are vitamins and minerals. Magnesium, Vitamin B6, and Potassium are great at combating bloat and are found in dark chocolate, bananas, and tomatoes respectively. Exercise is a must, as is raising your legs a few times a day to improve your circulation, which is crucial. And we know this is easier said than done, but try not to spend too long on your feet.

How to reduce the trapped gas

Now, where swollen tummies are concerned, the advice differs slightly. Exercise is a must, but of the gentle, stretching, yoga kind. Cut out certain gas-creating veggies, including onions and broccoli. But do add some oats and linseed to your diet, as well peppermint, which can help with digestive issues.

Good luck and let us know how you get on. Let’s beat the bloat!


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Emma Matthews

Emma Matthews

Emma Matthews is a seasoned freelance writer and editor who first became obsessed with hormones following a Graves Disease diagnosis age 21. She has, since then, discovered that obsessing about her health doesn’t pay the bills, so she put her other obsessions - TV, True crime - to good use. She’s written for, among others, the Den of Geek, Buffy, CSI, Supernatural and Stargate Magazines, as well as the Crime and Investigation Network. She’s currently lamenting the coming end of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but thanks the universe that we’ve still got Drag Race. Even if Michelle Visage won’t talk to her…