What is Hormonal Bloating?
Have you ever noticed that your bloating follows your menstrual or hormonal cycle? If you have, you’re not alone. Research suggests that up to 75% of women experience abdominal bloating before and during their menstrual periods. Additionally, bloating is a frequent complaint during perimenopause and for sufferers of PCOS and endometriosis.
Female hormones can have a massive impact on bloating in many different ways! Hormonal bloating is a type of bloating that occurs as a result of hormonal changes in the body. It is most commonly associated with fluctuations in oestrogen / estrogen and progesterone levels during the menstrual cycle or perimenopause. Hormonal bloating can cause water retention and digestive symptoms such as gas and constipation. It is a normal and common occurrence for many women, but can be managed with lifestyle changes and sometimes medication. Understanding the relationship between female hormones and bloating can help you manage and reduce hormonal bloating symptoms.
The types of hormonal bloating
Perimenopause can be a challenging time for women, as their bodies undergo various changes due to fluctuating hormone levels. It's the period leading up to menopause when a woman's reproductive system starts to slow down, and hormone levels begin to change. Perimenopause usually starts in her 40s but can begin earlier or later. Bloating may occur more frequently in perimenopause than during menopause or postmenopause.
As the ovaries gradually produce less oestrogen / estrogen, the body's fluid balance can become disrupted, leading to water retention and bloating. Additionally, the decrease in oestrogen / estrogen levels can contribute to weakened pelvic muscles, causing digestive issues and constipation, which can further exacerbate bloating. As these digestive system muscles relax during perimenopause, digestion can slow down, leading to more gas accumulation and bloating.
2. Menstrual cycle
Many women experience bloating before and during their menstrual cycle, and it's a common symptom associated with the hormonal changes that occur during this time. Changes in progesterone and oestrogen / estrogen levels cause the body to retain more water and salt. Cells within the body can become swollen with water, causing women to feel puffy or bloated.
Additionally, the muscles in the digestive system may relax during the menstrual cycle, leading to slower digestion and increased gas accumulation. This can further contribute to bloating and discomfort. Women experiencing bloating during their menstrual cycle can take some measures to alleviate symptoms, such as increasing water intake, reducing salt and caffeine intake, and incorporating gentle exercises such as walking and yoga into their daily routine. Additionally, over-the-counter medications such as diuretics and gas relief products can help ease bloating symptoms.
3. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects many women. One of the common symptoms associated with PCOS is bloating, which can be caused by a number of factors. Women with PCOS may have high levels of androgens, which can lead to insulin resistance and weight gain, both of which can cause bloating.
Irregular menstrual periods is a very common symptom for women with PCOS, which can lead to a build up of oestrogen / estrogen in the body. High oestrogen / estrogen levels can cause the body to retain excess water and feel uncomfortable, puffy, and bloated. Some women with PCOS may also experience symptoms such as digestive issues like constipation and slow bowel movements, which can contribute to bloating.
this type of hormonal bloating is also known as endo belly. Endo belly refers to abdominal bloating linked to endometriosis which causes women discomfort, pain and swelling. Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that lines the uterus grows on the outside of it, leading to a variety of symptoms, one of which being bloating.
The bloating associated with endometriosis can be caused by several factors. The abnormal tissue growth can cause inflammation, leading to fluid accumulation in the abdomen. Endometrial implants can cause intestinal adhesions, which can lead to digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and bloating. Finally, endometriosis can also cause hormonal imbalances, leading to changes in fluid balance and causing water retention.
What causes hormonal bloating?
When a woman's oestrogen / estrogen levels increase while progesterone levels decrease, it can lead to water retention and bloating. Oestrogen / estrogen is a hormone that is known as a fluid retaining hormone, which means that it can cause the body to hold onto excess water. In contrast, progesterone has natural diuretic properties, which means that it helps to eliminate excess fluids from the body. Therefore, if there is an imbalance between these two hormones, it can result in the retention of fluids and the development of bloating.
The spike in oestrogen / estrogen levels and the drop in progesterone levels that occurs during the premenstrual phase is one example of when this imbalance can occur. When oestrogen / estrogen levels are high and progesterone levels are low, you may notice bloating from fluids in your body. In addition, just before menstruation, the uterus increases in volume, which can further contribute to a bloated stomach.
Hormones also interact with the digestive system, which can contribute to bloating. Oestrogen / estrogen and progesterone can each affect intestinal gas production by either slowing or speeding up the motility of the gut. This means that when oestrogen / estrogen levels are high and progesterone levels are low, it can lead to a slowing down of gut motility and an increase in gas production.
When oestrogen / estrogen and progesterone levels are thrown off balance, it can affect multiple aspects of the body, including fluid retention, and intestinal gas production all of which can contribute to bloating.
How can I prevent hormonal bloating?
1. Herbal teas
Herbal teas can help prevent bloating in a number of ways. Many herbal teas have natural diuretic properties, which can help flush excess fluids out of the body and reduce water retention. This can be particularly helpful during the menstrual cycle or perimenopause, when hormonal imbalances can lead to water retention and bloating. Examples of herbal teas with diuretic properties include dandelion tea, nettle tea, and parsley tea.
In addition to their diuretic properties, some herbal teas can also help improve digestion and relieve bloating caused by gas. Peppermint tea is a common choice for this purpose, as it contains menthol, which can help relax the muscles in the digestive tract and promote the release of trapped gas. Ginger tea is another popular option, as ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the digestive system and ease bloating caused by gas.
Certain herbal teas can also act as a natural laxative, helping to promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation, which can contribute to bloating. Examples of herbal teas with laxative properties include senna tea, cascara sagrada tea, and aloe vera tea.
It is important to note that while herbal teas can be helpful in preventing bloating, they should not be relied on as the sole treatment for any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to bloating.
2. Peppermint oil capsules
Peppermint oil capsules have been shown to have a relaxing effect on the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract, particularly in the area where the stomach and small intestine meet. This relaxation can help to relieve symptoms of bloating and discomfort by reducing the amount of gas and abdominal distension in the digestive system.
Peppermint oil contains an active ingredient called menthol, which has antispasmodic properties that can help to reduce muscle contractions in the gut. This can help to prevent the buildup of gas and bloating that can occur when the muscles in the digestive system are overactive.
In addition, peppermint oil can also help to stimulate the flow of bile and digestive enzymes, which can aid in the breakdown of fats and other food components. This can help to prevent the buildup of undigested food in the gut, which can contribute to bloating and discomfort.
Overall, the use of peppermint oil capsules may help to alleviate bloating and other digestive symptoms by relaxing the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract and improving digestive function. However, it is important to note that peppermint oil can have side effects for some people, such as heartburn, and should be used with caution.
Antacids can help prevent bloating by neutralizing stomach acid and reducing the buildup of gas in the digestive system. When we eat, our stomach produces acid to break down the food. However, sometimes the stomach can produce too much acid, which can lead to indigestion and bloating. Antacids contain ingredients such as calcium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide, and aluminum hydroxide that can quickly neutralize the acid in the stomach, providing relief from bloating and other digestive symptoms. Additionally, antacids can help reduce the amount of gas in the digestive system by breaking down the gas bubbles that can cause bloating. Some antacids also contain simethicone, which is an ingredient that can help break up gas bubbles in the stomach and intestines, making them easier to pass out of the body. Overall, antacids can be a useful tool in managing bloating and other digestive symptoms, especially if they are caused by excess stomach acid or gas buildup.
4. Magnesium supplements
Magnesium supplements can help prevent bloating by promoting regular bowel movements and reducing water retention. Magnesium helps to relax the muscles in the digestive tract, which can help to ease constipation and promote regular bowel movements. By promoting regular bowel movements, magnesium can prevent the buildup of gas and waste in the intestines, which can lead to bloating.
Magnesium can also help to reduce water retention, which can be a cause of bloating. When the body is low in magnesium, it can cause the kidneys to retain more water than necessary. This can result in bloating and swelling. By supplementing with magnesium, the body can better regulate its fluid balance, reducing the amount of water that is retained and helping to prevent bloating. It is important to note that excessive magnesium intake can also cause diarrhea, which can worsen bloating.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial for the gut microbiome and digestive health. They can help prevent bloating by improving digestion and reducing inflammation in the gut. Probiotics work by restoring the balance of good bacteria in the gut, which can be disrupted by factors such as antibiotics, poor diet, stress, and certain medical conditions.
When there is an imbalance in the gut microbiome, harmful bacteria can multiply and produce gas, which can lead to bloating. Probiotics help to increase the number of beneficial bacteria, which can outcompete the harmful bacteria and reduce gas production. Probiotics also help to break down and digest certain types of food, such as complex carbohydrates, that can be difficult to digest and lead to bloating.
Additionally, probiotics have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects in the gut. Inflammation in the gut can cause bloating and other digestive symptoms. Probiotics can help to reduce inflammation by modulating the immune system and preventing the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals.
Overall, probiotics can be an effective way to prevent bloating and improve digestive health. They are available in various forms, including supplements, yogurts, kefir, and fermented foods. It is important to choose a high-quality probiotic with strains that have been shown to be effective in clinical studies.
6. Digestive enzymes
Digestive enzymes are proteins that break down large molecules in the food we eat into smaller, more easily absorbed ones. When we lack certain digestive enzymes, we may experience bloating and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Digestive enzyme supplements can help break down specific types of food, such as lactose or gluten, that some people have difficulty digesting. These supplements can reduce the amount of undigested food in the gut, which can contribute to bloating and gas. Additionally, digestive enzymes can help improve overall digestion and reduce the amount of time that food stays in the gut, which can also help alleviate bloating.
7. Regular exercise
Regular exercise can help prevent bloating in several ways. First, physical activity helps stimulate the digestive system and increase bowel movements, which can prevent constipation and reduce the buildup of gas in the intestines. Exercise also increases blood flow and oxygenation to the digestive organs, improving their function and reducing the risk of bloating. Additionally, regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce excess abdominal fat, which can put pressure on the digestive system and contribute to bloating. Exercise also helps reduce stress, which can have a positive impact on digestion and reduce the risk of bloating. However, it is important to note that excessive exercise or sudden changes in exercise routines can also cause bloating, so it is important to engage in physical activity in moderation at low intensity and listen to your body's needs.