How to beat the bloat during your cycle
by Allison Clark, nutritionist and holistic health coach
Something we have discussed many times is the importance of exercising in order to feel better before and during your period, but nutrition is also key and it deserves its own new chapter. Improving your knowledge when it comes to this matter can help you choose the best options for your diet. Knowing more about how what you eat affects your body will give you the tools to fight one of the most uncomfortable symptoms of your menstrual cycle, that terrible bloating.
To guide us on this path, we are fortunate to count on nutritionist Allison Clark, who is joining AURA in our mission of learning how to take better care of ourselves as women. Today Allison gives us tips on how to combat bloating with a proper diet, and we are happy to share them with you:
So your period approaches and suddenly your pants barely fit because you’re so bloated. Or maybe it is around ovulation, in the middle of your cycle, when you experience major bloating. Anyways, whenever this happens to you just know that it’s normal. No, you didn’t just eat a huge burrito (even though that would have been nice). So, what’s the deal with the bloating? Your hormones are likely the ones to be blamed.
As you already know, estrogen and progesterone are the main female hormones that come to play throughout your menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels peak before ovulation to then drop, which stimulates the sharp rise in progesterone. These hormone fluctuations can cause the body’s cells to retain more water. Moreover, hormones regulate fluid and sodium levels.
Bloating tends to be worse on the first day of our period, although it can be experienced up to a week before. If you experience bloating during ovulation -usually day 11-14 of your cycle- it may last a few days, usually in conjunction with other ovulation symptoms such as increased fertile cervical mucus, sex drive, energy, and possibly pain on one side of your abdomen (from the ovary that’s releasing the egg).
Besides making you feel like you’re 7 months pregnant, bloating can be very uncomfortable. Especially when it occurs along with other PMS symptoms like cramps and mood swings. In order to choose the best way to fight this discomfort, it’s important to identify the type of bloating you suffer:
Excess estrogen causing water retention:
Many women have their hormone levels somewhat unbalanced, having excess estrogen in relation to progesterone. Some signs of having high levels of estrogen include: a more pronounced PMS, fibroids, ovarian cysts, headaches, migraines, endometriosis, depression, tender or swollen breasts, and bloating before and during your period.
Beat the bloat by:
- Drinking plenty of water and exercising daily. Aim for any type of movement even if it’s just walking or practicing gentle yoga to keep your bowels moving. Also make sure you go to the bathroom daily, it’s a great way to eliminate excess estrogen!
- Reducing soy, dairy and meat (especially non organic varieties) consumption, which can increase estrogen levels.
- Supporting the body’s detoxification of excess estrogen during the luteal phase of your cycle, (usually 10-14 days before your period), by:
- Eating foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, watermelon, strawberries, kiwi, and broccoli which helps support the liver in detoxifying estrogen.
- Including cruciferous vegetables into your diet such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale which regulate estrogen receptors in our cells.
- Consuming magnesium rich foods (cacao, nuts, leafy greens, sunflower seeds) or a magnesium bisglycinate supplement.
- Eating 1-3 tablespoons of ground flax seed.
- Adding rosemary to your favourite dishes.
Gut micro-biome associated bloating:
Our intestines contain trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut micro-biome or intestinal flora, that affect several aspects of our health including synthesising vitamins and neurotransmitters as well as regulating our immune system, digestion, metabolism and estrogen levels. There is a specific group of bacteria called the estrobolome that metabolises estrogen. An imbalanced intestinal flora can disturb these bacteria’s ability to metabolise estrogen leading to PMS, acne, nasty poops, foggy thinking, mood imbalances, and bloating.
Beat the bloat by:
- Reducing or eliminating your intake of inflammatory foods that can cause irritation to your intestines such as dairy, gluten, sugar, food additives, and alcohol.
- Our gut microbes love fibre! Consuming at least 25g of fibre per day to make sure you’re pooping daily. If your current diet is low in fibre, it is advisable to start increasing it slowly since a sudden excess in its consumption could cause more bloating.
- Taking a probiotic daily to increase the amount of beneficial microbes in our intestinal flora. In fact, studies have shown that Lactobacillus strains can balance estrogen levels.
Poor diet and digestion associated bloating:
While you could be tempted to order pizza and reach for that beer when your period comes, you may want to think twice about your diet choices and how they affect your hormones. Eating processed salt and sugar can make your body retain more water leading to bloating, so you probably should swap those chips and cookies for more gut friendly options such as fruit and raw nuts. Yeah, sorry cookies.
Beat the bloat by:
- Limiting salt intake from processed foods. While I am a fan of eating natural sea salt like Himalayan pink salt or Celtic salt due to its high mineral content, eating salt in excess makes you retain water leaving you feeling puffy. Instead, experiment with seasonings that aid digestion such as lemon juice in your water or on salads, turmeric, ginger, peppermint and cinnamon.
- Consuming potassium rich foods like dark leafy greens, bananas, avocado, melon, squash, potatoes and tomatoes that may reduce sodium levels.
- Eating diuretic foods such as cucumbers, pineapple, leeks, ginger, celery and asparagus.
- Chewing your food well! Eating slowly and chewing your food properly allows your digestive enzymes to work more efficiently so you can digest and absorb your food better instead of being left with a big lump in your stomach.
- If you don’t have symptoms of excess estrogen, you may want to eat less gassy foods such as beans, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
- Drinking green tea instead of coffee. Green tea is a natural diuretic that doesn’t have the unpleasant laxative effects, that later leave you dehydrated making you retain more fluids.
Diuretic smoothie recipe:
1 cup of milk of choice (almond, oat, cow, etc)
1 handful of spinach
1 cup pineapple
½ cup peeled cucumber
1/3 - ½ avocado
1-2 tablespoons of raw cacao
1/4- ½ teaspoon of grated ginger root
1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon
juice of half a lemon (optional)
1 tsp raw honey (optional)
Blend all the ingredients together and enjoy!
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