We, women, have the most incredible bodies…
The changes that occur with every menstrual cycle are profound with the constant waxing and waning of various hormones.
And right on queue, as one hormone rises another falls and the circle begins again.
The average woman will have an astounding 450 – 500 periods in her lifetime.
That’s a lot of hormonal flux!
For many women, one to two weeks before her menstrual bleed the experience of bloating kicks in…
So I get asked a lot: Why?
First, it will help to look at the menstrual cycle in a little depth so we can also look at where things can go awry.
The first day of your bleed is considered the first day of your cycle.
Your reproductive hormones (like follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), oestrogen, progesterone and luteinising hormone (LH)) are each quite low at this time, allowing your endometrial lining to be shed.
After the first week, oestrogen rises to thicken the endometrial lining.
At around day 13, there is an increase in oestrogen plus the FSH and LH needed to prompt ovulation, after which these hormones fall.
As the month’s egg is released, the hole left in the ovary transforms into a gland called the corpus luteum and it is here where progesterone is produced.
As its name suggests, progesterone is pro + gestation and prepares the womb for possible implantation.
At around day 21, progesterone is at its highest and oestrogen rises again.
If in the following day’s implantation of a fertilised egg does not occur, these two hormones drop again to allow FSH and LH levels to slowly increase, the endometrial lining to begin breaking down, and a new cycle to begin.
But as regular as this may sound, the inner world for many women isn’t as straight forward as it might look on paper…
Enter premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
For one to two weeks before a period begins, many women experience PMS and, with it, complain of bloating.
Bloating is defined as “a swollen state caused by retention of fluid or gas” and in PMS it unhappily relates to both.
But where those with a regular cycle may sail through easily, those with oestrogen dominance are more likely to struggle…
Oestrogen dominance is a state where there is more oestrogen relative to progesterone.
In the menstrual cycle, as described above, progesterone may not hit its high point and oestrogen may not sufficiently dip.
This commonly occurs in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), for example, as a lack of ovulation means lower levels of progesterone.
Bloating: Fluid retention
While fluid retention is a little tricky to understand, the study Sex Hormone Effects on Body Fluid Regulation noted, oestrogens tend to increase plasma volume, while progesterone tends to decrease it.
So with higher oestrogen and lower progesterone, this likely spills over into elevated water and sodium retention and greater fluid retention leading up to the menstrual bleed.
And then there is the gut…
Bloating: Wind retention
An article in the journal BMC Women’s Health found that 73% of women experience gastrointestinal symptoms premenstrually with bloating the most frequent symptom!
So how are oestrogen and the gut linked and how does this cause PMS bloating?
The gut microbiota regulates our oestrogens through an enzyme called β-glucuronidase.
Excess oestrogen should be grabbed, bound, rendered inactive and then exit the body in the usual way.
However, if we develop a digestive dysbiosis and a leaky gut, this process can be affected.
An increase in the gut bugs that produce β-glucuronidase – the enzyme that can unbind oestrogen – can cause excess active oestrogens…
Add gut walls which ‘leak’ and reabsorption can occur allowing these active oestrogens to be reabsorbed and recirculated inside the body.
(Check out my article the 10 Top Signs You Could Have a Leaky Gut to see if you might have this common problem)
Plus sex hormones, particularly oestrogens, play a significant role in the way the gut works, including the regulation of its motor and sensory function (for example, tightening of its muscles (ouch) and how much digestive pain we feel).
So we end up with too much oestrogen, too much fluid, too much wind (produced by the altered digestive flora) and increased gut spasm and pain!
It’s no wonder you feel bloated!
As you can see, premenstrual bloating is common and complex and has both gut and hormonal components.
If you’ve been suffering from PMS-related bloating, you will need help unraveling this puzzle so it’s important you seek professional guidance from a natural health expert.
I’ve had too many women finally reach out to me after they’ve been unnecessarily struggling with this issue for far… too… long!
P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways I can help you get a leaner body:
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- Work with me privately
If you’d like to work directly with me to take you from where you are now to your dream body … just pop your details in the form below… tell me a little about your situation and what you’d like to work on together, and I’ll get you all the details! — Go Here