8 things you should know about period weight gain

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Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@emmatalkshealth
@EmmaThornton
Ask Emma


22 August 2018

1) Cause: bloating

If you’re unlucky enough to experience weight gain or bloating during your period  you can blame it on your fluctuating hormones! Just before your period begins your oestrogen levels drop and this can make your body retain more water. As a result, bloating, followed by a slight weight gain in some cases, can become noticeable.

Once your period has begun, the production of oestrogen starts to build as the body is no longer preparing for pregnancy and so you might expect this to bring an improvement to any bloating. However, although less common, an excess in oestrogen may also give rise to excess a bloating, a common symptom often associated with PMS.

On top of this, these hormonal changes can cause the digestive system to form and then retain excess gas thus further contributing to bloating. So, in this instance hormones are at the root of the problem rather than how much you eat.

2) Cause: cravings

Does your period have you reaching for the chocolate and crisps in order to see off cravings? Well, you are definitely not alone here as hormonal changes make this a common problem during menstruation. However, salty and sugary snacks can encourage water retention meaning it’ll worsen any bloating and, therefore, potentially weight gain.

On another note, unhealthy foods such as crisps, chocolate, chips and microwaveable meals often provide a distraction and some comfort when we are suffering from painful symptoms like cramp. Plus, at a time when we are lacking in energy this kind of food requires little effort to make and eat. However, if you regularly opt for these kinds of foods it definitely won’t do your body any favours and could be associated with weight gain.

3) Cause: constipation

It’s not uncommon for menstruation to turn our toilet habits upside down – it’s just one of many surprising period symptoms. Once again we can put this down to hormonal changes (they really do have a lot to answer for!) as falling oestrogen and higher progesterone can risk slowing things down in the lead uo to your period.

Progesterone is released from the corpus luteum (ruptured egg sack) during the week or twoo before your period begins, in order to tell the uterus to maintain its thickened lining in preparation for a fertilised egg. As your body accumulates a bit of extra waste, constipation can also contribute to a slight weight gain during your period.

4) How long does it last?

The most important thing to remember about weight gain during your period is that it’s usually not permanent – it should really be called a fluctuation in weight! It’s often most prominent in the week before your period begins as this is when progesterone levels are at their highest, although as we now know, it can continue into the first few days of your period when oestrogen levels begin to climb too. 

As weight gain during menstruation is closely linked to hormonal changes, once these settle down the problem will too. Therefore, the problem is short-lived and rarely lasts longer than any bleeding.

5) How much is normal?

First off, let’s not stress a great deal over how much we put on during our period! It’s usually just water after all, rather than problematic fat. However, if you are curious to know how much is normal then I’ll just say as a very rough guide, it can often vary from between zero to five pounds. Although, just as period symptoms differ from one person to the next, weight gain does too!

I'm not a huge believer in getting bogged down by the numbers on the scales though, it's more about how you feel!

6) Self-help tips: avoid foods that encourage bloating

Diet has a huge part to play in whether or not bloating develops during your period. As I already mentioned, foods high in salt and sugar can contribute to the problem, as does alcohol and caffeine as these components can ignite our stress response.

Fortunately though, there are a number of things that can ease the problem too such as magnesium. This tackles bloating and therefore weight gain so it is a must-have mineral during menstruation! Bananas, dark chocolate (with at least 70% cocoa content) and pumpkins seeds are just a few natural foods that have high magnesium content.  

If you feel your diet isn't providing you with enough magnesium though, you could opt for a magnesium supplement.

Our Balance Mineral Drink may come in useful, for example, as it contains a mix of magnesium, plus potassium zinc and vitamin D. The mineral potassium is also super important for helping to protect against water retention.
Balance Mineral Drink has a tasty strawberry flavour so makes a refreshing drink at any time of the day!

Also, I know it’s tempting to give into those pesky cravings during your period but this is only likely to make bloating worse. My advice would be to make healthier and more natural food choices instead of opting for salt-heavy and sugar-rich foods which are usually heavily processed. Why not snack on fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds instead? Or, at the very least, swap your usual bread, rice or pasta for a wholegrain variety that’ll be friendlier to your stomach due to their lovely fibre content. 

Finally, remember one of the best ways to avoid bloating is to stay clear of big meals and eat little and often instead. 

7) Self-help tips: exercise a little

When you’ve got cramps and little energy I realise the last thing you want to do is go for a run or workout in the gym. Don’t worry though, I’m definitely not suggesting you do either of these things! However, gentle exercise such as a walk outdoors could still be beneficial.

Not only does this keep your body in shape, if you manage to work up a sweat this will help you lose some excess water too. Also, exercise produces endorphins which can boost mood and ease cramp so it’s definitely worthwhile to get yourself moving!  

8) Self-help tips: stay hydrated

Yes, I know I said that weight gain can be down to water retention so it might seem like a bit of a contradiction to tell you to drink more. However, the body tries to hold onto things it thinks it is short of so if you keep yourself hydrated, it won’t think there’s a water shortage and, as a result, this can actually help to reduce bloating.  

Drinking plain, still water is the best way to stay hydrated but if you want a little more flavour you could add some fruit like lemons and oranges to it.

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A traditional herbal remedy used to relieve the symptoms of PMS
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