Period weight gain is completely normal. This article discusses why this happens and some strategies to decrease feelings of bloating and swelling.
Many women notice that right before they start their period and during the first couple days of their period, their clothes are a little more snug. This leads to questions like “do you gain weight on your period?”.
Weight gain during period is completely normal. Many women will gain a few pounds but will then lose this after a few days into their period with the average weight gain during period being 3-5 pounds (1.3-2.3 kg). The reason for this is because of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
PMS is a term used to describe a number of physical, behavioral, and emotional symptoms that affect women before they start their period, including period weight gain.
Now let’s discuss the causes of PMS-associated weight gain.
Women can experience increased water and salt retention when they are about to start their period. This is a result of fluctuations in two hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Both of these hormones are involved with regulating levels of another hormone called aldosterone, which is involved in fluid release and retention (1).
Before your period starts, aldosterone levels increase, which causes the renal (kidney) system to excrete less water through urine. This means that your body is holding on to more water.
When the body retains more water, this can cause bloating and swelling, especially in the face, breasts, abdomen/pelvic area, arms and legs (2).
Before your period starts, there are fluctuations in progesterone. These fluctuations can cause GI issues like diarrhea, constipation, and diarrhea.
Constipation and being “backed up” can cause temporary weight gain because this means that extra mass is being held in your body. Luckily, this will go away after a few days, but it can cause a temporary weight gain (3).
These fluctuations in progesterone also can change your appetite and cause you to eat more food. It can also cause cravings for certain foods that contain a lot of salt (4).
Salty food like chips and fried food, can cause the body to retain fluids. This means that your diet can contribute to bloating and swelling (5).
PMS not only causes feelings of bloating and discomfort, but many women experience abdominal cramps and feelings of irritability and tiredness. This can cause even the most active women to take a break from working out or going to the gym.
While it’s completely fine to take a break from being active, exercising causes us to sweat and helps the body lose excess water weight.
This means that we will have a harder time helping our bodies get rid of that extra retained fluid.
Here are a few tips for avoiding weight gain before period. But keep in mind that everybody is different so what works for one person may not work for you.
Yes, exercising while feeling uncomfortable can be challenging. But exercising for about 20 or 30-minutes can help you sweat out some excess water while helping your body to release some endorphins to help with feelings of irritability. You might also feel more energized (6).
Try going on a walk, doing yoga, or some light stretches to get some movement.
This might sound counterintuitive but drinking sufficient quantities of water can actually help minimize excess fluid retention (7). The body will actually conserve water when we are dehydrated so supplying it with water can help decrease water retention.
Try drinking at least 8 glasses of water each day.
Try avoiding eating too many salty and sweet foods. Both of these types of food can increase water retention, meaning they can contribute to bloating, swelling, and temporary weight gain.
Period cravings can be tough to ignore so try to pick and choose. For example, try eating a healthy dinner but allow yourself to eat that donut for breakfast. Balance is key!
Avoiding foods that you know gives you gas can help as well. Many people can get gas from legumes (beans), cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts, and other high-fiber food like bran.
Period weight gain is completely normal, and many women will gain a few extra pounds right before starting her period.
This weight gain is the result of fluctuations in hormones that causes extra water retention, gas, constipation, and food cravings.
While this may be uncomfortable, those extra pounds should go away once your period starts or a few days into your period, meaning this isn’t permanent weight gain.
1. Stachenfeld NS. Sex Hormone Effects on Body Fluid Regulation. Exerc Sport Sci Rev [Internet]. NIH Public Access; 2008 [cited 2021 Nov 18];36:152. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC2849969/
2. Tacani PM, de Oliveira Ribeiro D, Guimarães BEB, Machado AFP, Tacani RE. Characterization of symptoms and edema distribution in premenstrual syndrome. Int J Womens Health [Internet]. Dove Press; 2015 [cited 2021 Nov 18];7:297. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC4362892/
3. Bernstein MT, Graff LA, Avery L, Palatnick C, Parnerowski K, Targownik LE. Gastrointestinal symptoms before and during menses in healthy women. BMC Womens Health [Internet]. BioMed Central; 2014 [cited 2021 Nov 18];14:14. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC3901893/
4. Souza LB De, Martins KA, Cordeiro MM, Rodrigues YDS, Rafacho BPM, Bomfim RA. Do Food Intake and Food Cravings Change during the Menstrual Cycle of Young Women? Rev Bras Ginecol Obstet [Internet]. Rev Bras Ginecol Obstet; 2018 [cited 2021 Nov 18];40:686–92. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30485899/
5. Rakova N, Kitada K, Lerchl K, Dahlmann A, Birukov A, Daub S, Kopp C, Pedchenko T, Zhang Y, Beck L, et al. Increased salt consumption induces body water conservation and decreases fluid intake. J Clin Invest [Internet]. American Society for Clinical Investigation; 2017 [cited 2021 Nov 18];127:1932. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC5409798/
6. Basso JC, Suzuki WA. The Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood, Cognition, Neurophysiology, and Neurochemical Pathways: A Review. Brain Plast [Internet]. IOS Press; 2017 [cited 2021 Nov 18];2:127. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC5928534/
7. Negoianu D, Goldfarb S. Just Add Water. J Am Soc Nephrol [Internet]. American Society of Nephrology; 2008 [cited 2021 Nov 18];19:1041–3. Available from: https://jasn.asnjournals.org/content/19/6/1041
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