Forget the app or calendar. If you deal with PMS bloating, all you need to know that your period is coming is your jeans — which go from fitting fine to uncomfortably tight, literally overnight.
Bloating — when your body retains extra water — is a classic pre-period symptom, and it’s also one of the most annoying. A puffed out belly shouldn’t be that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. And yet, it can leave you feeling seriously off.
The good news is there are ways to cope, and maybe even totally banish your bloat. The next time your top button feels like it’s about to pop, try one (or hey, all!) of these smart strategies.
Feeling like a cased sausage for several days out of every month definitely isn’t something you have to live with. Here’s how to reduce period bloating.
1. Check your salt intake
Having too much sodium in your system can cause your cells to hang on to more water, which can lead to puffiness. Sticking with a lower sodium diet, at least around your period, can go a long way toward keeping belly bloat at bay.
Make it a point to eat more whole, unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and veggies, which are naturally low in salt. Try to cut back on takeout or restaurant food and packaged or processed snacks, which tend to be salt bombs.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
When you don’t have enough water in your system, your body holds onto whatever precious H2O that’s around, which is a recipe for puffiness. Dehydration can also make you constipated, making belly bloat even worse.
So how much should you drink? There’s no one-size-fits-all rec, but recent evidence suggests you should aim for around nine 8-ounce glasses per day, in addition to eating lots of water-rich foods like fresh fruits and veg.
Again, that’s only a rough estimate. Your needs might be higher if you’re very active or if you spend a lot of time outdoors in a hot climate.
3. Get more magnesium
This mineral is an electrolyte, meaning it can help regulate the balance of fluids in your system. Older findings show that supplementing with 200 milligrams (mg) daily can ease mild premenstrual bloating.
Talk with your doctor about popping a magnesium pill or make it a point to get more magnesium in your diet in the days before your bloating typically strikes. Nuts, spinach, black beans, peanut butter, brown rice, and potatoes are all good sources.
4. Pack in the potassium
Like magnesium, potassium is an electrolyte that helps keep sodium levels in check and encourages the body to release excess water.
Most of us don’t get as much as we need, so hitting the recommended amount of 2,600 mg daily is a good habit to get into.
Bananas are a pretty good source, but you’ll actually get more bang for your potassium buck from dried fruit, lentils, acorn squash, and potatoes.
5. Beef up your B6
Vitamin B6 is kind of a PMS all-star. While research is limited and more quality studies are needed, B6 supplements may help ease PMS symptoms like bloating, breast tenderness, acne, and even mood changes like depression and irritability.
You can pop a vitamin B complex supplement (check with your doc first) or get more B6-rich foods like chickpeas, tuna, salmon, chicken, turkey, and bananas.
6. Get moving
Exercise keeps things in your gastrointestinal system moving, making it a go-to bloat fighter in general.
It might be especially beneficial for bloating triggered by PMS since it boosts the production of hormones that normally take a dip right before your period. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity most days of the week — and more if you can swing it.
7. Say so long to stress
Women with higher perceived levels of stress are more likely to have disruptive PMS symptoms, bloating included. Finding ways to relax and unwind can help tame the tension, and as a result, stave off some puffiness.
Start hitting up yoga more often, carve out time for meditation or journaling, schedule a massage, or get in the habit of sniffing some calming essential oils. If it helps you feel more chill, it works.
As you might suspect, it all comes down to hormones. The body’s level of hormones like estrogen and progesterone take a steep dive in the days before your period. It’s that sharp drop, experts think, that can trigger PMS symptoms, including water retention that makes you feel bloated.
Knowing when the bloat is about to begin can help you take steps to stop it before it starts — or at least keep the pressure and puff to a minimum. In general, you can count on PMS symptoms to start up around 5 days before your period is expected to start — and ease up around when your period arrives.
Of course, every woman’s cycle and pre-period experience are a little different. If you track your symptoms for a few months, chances are you’ll start to uncover a pattern for when your bloating typically starts up.
Keep a journal or use a period tracker app — as long as you’re consistent about recording your symptoms, either will get the job done.
Mild period bloating that sticks around for a few days and then goes away generally isn’t a cause for concern. If it’s to the point where your bloating or other PMS symptoms are affecting your quality of life, you should definitely give your doc a heads up.
They might recommend prescription diuretics or water pills that can help keep fluid buildup to a minimum. Birth control pills, which can reduce PMS symptoms overall, can be another good option.
You should also call your doc if your bloating is accompanied by other symptoms, like spotting in between periods, weight loss, bloody stool, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn that doesn’t go away, or a fever. Those could be signs that the bloating is caused by a condition other than PMS.
Bloating is a common PMS symptom, but there are plenty of steps you can take to keep it under control before your period. Drink plenty of water, watch your salt intake, stick with nutrient-rich foods, exercise, and try not to let your stress get out of control.
If at-home measures aren’t helping, reach out to your doc. They can recommend prescription treatments that can do more to keep the bloat in check.