Aunt Flo always brings a real basket of goodies when she visits. Sometimes, when we’re done with mood swings and stabbing abdominal pain, we get another PMS gift — weight gain.
Whether you feel just a little bloated or your pants fit like a too-tight sausage casing during your time of the month, period weight gain happens to lots of people.
Though suddenly sizing up your jeans can be unnerving, period weight gain isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Reminder: Bodies change all the time, and weight is not a primary measurement of health.
To better understand this phenomenon, we researched why period weight gain happens, what to expect, and how to manage the monthly shift.
Period symptoms vary from person to person. Some people breeze through without a care in the world, while others are bedbound, wondering if they crossed Satan and got cursed with cramps.
According to a 2014 study, up to 97 percent of women may experience PMS symptoms, and 65 percent may experience period-related swelling.
It’s perfectly normal for your weight to fluctuate a few pounds every day, even when it’s not that time of the month. During your period, your weight can fluctuate up to 5 pounds without any impact on your health. Can it be annoying to feel bloated for days? Yes. Is it unusual? Not really.
If you’ve gained more than 5 pounds or you keep rapidly gaining weight once your period is over, consider calling your doctor to see if another condition could be to blame. But if you have a little fluctuation, don’t fret.
Your hormone levels rise and fall during your cycle. When progesterone drops, bloating goes up (according to a 2011 study). Your body decides to hold on to extra water, which can cause you to gain up to 5 pounds.
This water retention might make your face look puffier, make your waistband tighter, and make you feel like a camel carrying around a hump’s worth of water.
Hormones may start the weight-gain party, but other PMS symptoms keep it going strong.
Imagine being tired, in a bad mood, and in mild to moderate pain all day. What kind of food would you reach for? Yep, kale and apple slices. Just kidding. You’d want a bag of Lay’s and a See’s Dark Truffle box!
That’s an exaggeration, of course, but a small 2008 study did suggest a possible connection between period hormone fluctuations and binge eating. Just being tired can make you crave salty or sweet foods, so the fatigue and hormones make for a cravings bonanza.
Ooh, we almost forgot the constipation! Hormonal fluctuations can impact your intestines, causing gas, constipation, or other toilet-related troubles.
In a 2014 survey of 156 women, 73 percent reported experiencing GI symptoms before or during their period. The extra gas and lack of poop can make your bloating even worse, which makes those waistbands feel snug.
Almost always, your weight will return to its original state. Water retention is most intense on the first day of your period but decreases quickly after that. Typically, your weight will be back to normal about 5 days after your period starts.
As best you can, try not to worry about period weight gain. For the most part, it’s just water, and it’s a normal part of life.
Still, bloating can be very uncomfortable, and there are ways to safely lose water weight:
- Take magnesium. A 2012 study found that taking 250 milligrams of magnesium per day helped reduce period water retention.
- Take vitamin B6. The same study found that a daily dose of B6 helped participants reduce their overall PMS symptoms, including bloating.
- Eat less salt. The more sodium you consume, the more water you retain. Limiting your salt intake can help you shed water weight faster.
- Get some sleep. Being well-rested will help you make healthier food choices and help your body function better as a whole. Try to get 8 hours of sleep per night. Or take power naps, catnaps, or “I take a nap right here” naps.
- Eat complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs keep you full longer and don’t trigger spikes in your blood sugar. This helps your body fight inflammation and might keep you from grabbing processed snacks.
- Limit coffee and booze. Caffeine and alcohol are inflammatory and tend to make PMS symptoms worse. Maybe avoid lattes and martinis when you’re playing ragtime.
If you can control your hormones with the power of your mind, then yes! But sadly, none of us have that power (and if there’s a Marvel hero with the power of hormones, we just bought tickets for that film).
You can reduce your water retention and discomfort with a few lifestyle changes.
Smoking has been shown to make period symptoms worse — though there are plenty of other reasons to stop smoking too. So if you smoke, try to quit. It can be a serious challenge, but it’s worth the effort.
Being active also helps relieve symptoms. Whether you do an at-home class or go for walks, getting regular activity throughout the month can make you feel better when it’s period time.
Oddly enough, a 2011 study found that runners experienced worse water retention on their period than nonrunners. That doesn’t mean you should stop running — overall, it’s still great for you. But you won’t be able to outrun period weight gain.
Lastly, try to keep your stress level down. Whether you meditate, journal, or talk to a friend, keeping stress hormones in check can make PMS symptoms less severe.
Period weight gain is normal and nothing to worry about. By eating less salt, increasing your magnesium, staying active, and getting enough sleep, you might be able to keep the bloating at bay.
But even if the scale goes up 5 pounds, it almost always goes right back down when Aunt Flo ends her visit.