Ladies, we are all so fortunate to have that wonderful time EVERY month (sarcasm) in which Aunt Flo comes to town and can wreak havoc in our lives!

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) usually occurs a week or two before your period actually starts and has a range of both physical and emotional symptoms to accompany it. PMS symptoms can include headache, breast tenderness, mood swings, constipation and my personal favorite…..bloating, ughhhh!

Although everyone experiences different symptoms from mild to severe we can all agree that they can be annoying and darn right inconvenient at times. I know I am not the only one who hopes and prays that their period doesn’t coincide with a major event. Sometimes I even grab the calendar and count it out just so I can mentally prepare myself ahead of time if it does.

I personally have had issues with PMS bloating, like literally sometimes I look like I am 4 months pregnant and it sucks!

So what causes this dreadful bloating???

This particular bloating comes from fluctuation of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone during the menstrual cycle. Higher levels of estrogen can lead to fluid retention and hence bloating. Another culprit are prostaglandins (tissue hormones) which help the uterus contract and shed its lining. This can also lead to bloating and cramping as well.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about naturally occurring hormone fluctuations but you can eliminate factors that may contribute to this bloating and make it worse. You can also include certain substances in your diet that help minimize the amount of bloating you experience during this time.

In order to keep bloating at bay you may want to reduce or eliminate the following:

Sodium Intake:

Sodium is an important mineral that helps the body to function normally so it can’t be eliminated altogether but too much can lead to excess bloating and other serious health issues. Many processed foods have excessive amounts of sodium so be sure to read your food labels. According to the FDA sodium should be limited to no more than 2300mg/day.

Alcohol Intake:

Alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration so your body will try its best to hold onto as much water as possible, ultimately leading to bloating. Mixing alcohol with sugary, carbonated liquids can also compound the bloating effect. If you are going to drink, be sure to drink plenty of water and avoid sugary mixers.

Avoid too much sugar:

Certain artificial sweeteners such as xylitol and sorbitol cannot be digested and naturally occurring sugars like fructose are hard to digest. Avoid items like reduced calorie food and drinks. Diet/light drinks, sugar-free gum and dried fruits such as prunes, raisins, apricots and pears can lead to bloating. Certain fruits such as apples, mangos, grapes, pineapples and cherries have high levels of fructose so be careful in consuming too much in one sitting.

Avoid starchy foods:

Carbohydrates can be hard to digest and form gas as they are broken down in the large intestines. Certain carbs like pasta, bread and white potatoes can also cause water retention. You pretty much want to avoid anything made with white flour at this time to help reduce the amount of bloating you experience.

Avoid actions that cause you to swallow excess air:

Chewing gum, drinking from a straw, drinking carbonated beverages, eating too fast and sucking on hard candy can all lead to swallowing excess air. Swallowing excess air into the Gastrointestinal (stomach and intestines) tract can lead to more gas and bloating.

Avoid greasy fatty foods:

Obviously greasy fatty foods aren’t good for you but they are also harder for the body to digest. As a result, these foods linger in the digestive tract and cause bloating.

Avoid caffeine:

Now I know sometimes we need caffeine to even muster the strength to deal with other humans, believe me I know! Totally not a morning person! But caffeine can lead to dehydration in turn leading to boating. So try to reduce the amount you consume during this time. I like to drink green tea which has less caffeine than coffee and has been shown to help weight-loss!

Avoid gas causing foods:

Certain foods have a tendency to cause excess gas and this leads to excess bloating. During this time try to avoid consuming foods like broccoli, beans, cabbage and cauliflower.

So now that I have taken away everything in life that you love, let me tell you what you should consume to help reduce bloating. Just remember I’m not suggesting to do this forever, just during the one to two weeks while experiencing PMS.

In order to keep bloating at bay try to incorporate the following:

Drink more Water:

Now this may seem counterproductive but if your body is not properly hydrated then it will retain water causing you to puff up. Drinking water will also get your intestines moving so you will not become constipated, so drink up!

Potassium-rich foods:

Potassium helps to regulate fluid retention so consuming foods rich in potassium can help with bloating. Foods such as bananas, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes and cantaloupe are potassium rich and can help combat fluid retention.

Calcium and magnesium:

Magnesium can help to reduce fluid retentions and is used to help metabolize food to produce energy. Calcium has been shown to help with fluid retention as well. The two minerals work together to help balance each other out so it is best to take together.  Magnesium can be found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains and dark chocolate. Calcium can be found in oranges, kale, almond or soy milk and greek yogurt.

Vitamin B6:

This vitamin has been shown to help reduce water retention so it would be a good idea to consume foods such as bananas, spinach, chicken, garlic and sweet potatoes.


Even though you may not feel like exercising during this time, doing so can help reduce bloating and not to mention creates a “feel good” sensation due to endorphins being released. Exercise can help to keep you regular, relieve stress and induces sweating which helps excrete excess sodium and fluid. Just be sure to drink water if you sweat too much as this can lead to dehydration.


Sleep is so important for our overall health. This is the time when the body is able to reset and heal itself, which is why it is recommended to get plenty of rest when you are sick. Getting plenty of sleep can also control hydration levels and minimize water retention. It is suggested to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.

Natural Diuretics:

Diuretics, also known as water pills function to increase the amount of water and salt eliminated from the body in urine. Certain foods have a natural diuretic effect such as celery, cucumber, watermelon, lemon juice, garlic and ginger. Consuming these foods can help naturally rid the body of excess fluids.

One thing to remember, these are all suggestions and it is up to you to decide what items you want to reduce, eliminate or incorporate into your diet. As always, be sure to speak with your doctor before eliminating or including new items into your diet.

Good luck in fighting PMS bloat, we are in this together!!!

Find Health in Every day,

Dr. Lindsay

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