A woman's weight gain during her period is often part of the common symptoms she experiences while having premenstrual syndrome (also known as PMS). Experts at the Penn State's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center state that up to three-quarters of women are affected by PMS, and symptoms may appear 5-11 days before their period. Other symptoms of PMS include bloating, abdominal cramps, and irritability.
Weight gain during a period is usually due to water retention in the tissues. Although it is not a serious condition, women may be alarmed that they can gain a few pounds, ranging from one to six pounds. Others can gain as much as ten pounds, even if they feel that they have not done anything to increase their weight.
Causes of Weight Gain during Period
Weight gain during the menstrual cycle has certain causes, including water retention, bloating, overeating or food craving and drop in magnesium levels.
Water retention. The most common cause of weight gain during your period is water being retained in the tissues. Water retention or edema is influenced by fluctuations in hormonal levels which occur during the menstrual cycle. Women often feel bloated, and it is often experienced before the period and during menstruation. Changes in bowel movements can also lead to water retention, but the sudden decrease in progesterone levels is the most likely cause.
Bloating. Another symptom associated with menstrual periods is bloating, which is usually related to an increase in the volume of gas in the intestines. Periods of inactivity around the time of menstruation can also cause bloating. Menstrual cramps are often associated with bloating, and these can be severe. Another common symptom is constipation, which can also lead to a bloating sensation.
Food cravings and overeating. Aside from water retention, real weight gain may be associated with an increase in food intake during one's period. Food cravings and overeating during this time of the menstrual cycle are due to hormonal changes and an increase in levels of metabolism. These are perceived by the brain as a lack of glucose which leads women to consume around 100-200 extra calories, especially on the days when they bleed heavily. Fortunately, food cravings and binge eating are temporary and may disappear with the end of the period.
Fall of magnesium levels. Before the start of your period, your serum magnesium levels may drop. This may lead to low insulin levels which increases sugar craving as the brain perceives a drop in glucose levels. This in turn leads to increased sugar consumption and a gain in weight.
Treatment for Weight Gain during Period
Weight gain during a woman's period is often transient, but it may be a cause of concern especially for those who are trying to reduce their weight. Here are some ways to control weight gain during periods.
Regulate Hormones. Hormonal fluctuation during the menstrual cycle can affect the levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) in the brain. Studies suggest that serotonin levels can influence depression and can lead to increases in appetite during a menstrual period. Consult a doctor about the use of birth control pills to regulate your hormonal levels, which may help relieve PMS symptoms including water retention and bloating.
Dietary Modification. Water retention often leads to weight gain. To avoid this, experts recommend limiting one's salt intake before and during the period. This means avoiding processed foods and junk food that contain large amounts of salt. Instead, eat more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, unsalted nuts and low-salt foods. Limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption and stick to drinking 8-10 glasses of water daily.
Exercise. Being physically active during your period helps reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Exercising also relieves stress, prevents depression, and reduces your appetite. Severe cramps may be limiting, but these can be reduced by doing some simple stretching such as those used in yoga or tai chi. Swimming is another good exercise, which increases metabolism without overexertion.
Take Medications. Over-the-counter pain medications like paracetamol or ibuprofen can help relieve painful cramps and uterine swelling. Ask your doctor to prescribe stronger pain relievers if ibuprofen does not provide adequate relief. You can also ask for a prescription for a diuretic to reduce excessive water retention.