Lets face it – we’ve all experienced it at some time or other. It’s that time of the month and you feel like a bag of crap. If its not bad enough you feel mildly irritable, lethargic and generally intolerable of any male with a 15 mile radius of you – you bloat and generally feel like a baby hippo who’s been on a 2 week bender. To top it all off it’s a Saturday night and NOTHING fits!! Dress is thrown to one side and out come the jeans and baggy top. Anything to try and disguise that barrel/keggy shape you’re rocking. Sound familiar? Well it should. It’s all part of being a normal, healthy menstruating woman. That’s the bad news. The good news is there are ways to help reduce water retention, bloating and that general ‘I feel like a human keg’ we have to deal with every 28 days.
Step 1: Drink Water. And LOTS of it.
Sounds a bit contradictory I know. Buts it’s just like Pythagoras Theorem – appears to make no sense but its scientifically proven so therefore clearly it does and you’re just going to have to deal with. The shift in your hormones and rise in estrogen levels causes your body to store more water that normal – a process known as oedema – and the best way to reduce this is to flush it out with more water. Your body is storing excess fluid as it thinks you need it. It’s a natural survival mechanism developed back in the year dot. If your body thinks it needs extra water – it is going to conserve what you have and basically hold onto everything you’ve got. Taking extra water on board in the run up too and early days of your period will actually trick your body into releasing what you are storing thus reducing that bloated effect. Its like a reversal of the whole ‘want what you cant have’ mantra – give your body more water than it wants and boom – it doesn’t want it any more! Simple!
Step 2: Coffee Out Green Tea In
Ok so caffeine is a form of diuretic and coffee contains caffeine. Ergo drinking coffee should help reduce water retention right? True to some extent but NOT during your period. In fact during your time of the month coffee may actually make you feel WORSE. It raises your body temperature (and you may already feel like you’ve just had 15 sunbed sessions back to back) makes you feel more irritable, increases menstrual cramps and can actually make your feel more bloated. Negative craic. Green Tea on the other hand does none of the above. Thats because green tea contains two metabolites – Theobromine and Theophylline as well as a little amino acid known as L-Theanine which is known for its calming effects which lets face it wouldn’t go amiss mid cycle. Bargain! Theobromine acts as a natural diuretic and so helps rid the body of excess fluid. So science to one side – leave the coffee alone for a few days and indulge your inner (hippy) self with a cup of old school Green Tea.
Step 3: Eat more vegetables and increase protein intake
Vegetables that are rich in nutrients hydrate the body and as such are another useful tool in reducing water retention. As such it is important to throw a few extra vegetables into each meal in the run up to your period. Try to be smart about it and opt for vegetables that have a high natural water content such as celery, cucumber and onion as again the more water in your body the less likely you are to bloat.
Eating protein can also help to rid your body of excess fluid as it helps to draw excess water out of tissues. Plus many women actually don’t eat enough protein in their diet. So up your protein intake, eat more vegetables and say goodbye to that extra water weight.
Step 4: Avoid crappy nonsense food
In short avoid the foods you know you should avoid. It doesn’t matter if you start feeling teary eyed watching Simba’s big assed lion dad die in the ‘Lion King’ that’s no excuse to raid the cookie jar. Even if the girls on the Malteasers advert SWEAR that it is a ‘lighter way to enjoy chocolate’ doesn’t mean you need to give it a go. As well as by passing your morning coffee, latte, cappuccino etc leave the chocolate, fizzy drinks, crisps, all sugary goods – the works to one side. Avoid all foods that are high in sodium too – salt will just make you store more water. And finally avoid all foods that are prone to causing gas. These include cabbage, brussell sprouts, baked beans and many fruits – including apples, peaches and plums. Even chewing gum can add to that bloated crappy feeling. You are just swallowing air after all! In short avoid sugars, salts and gassy foods. End of.
Step 5: Exercise
Last but not least – exercise. And I’m not going to promote the whole ‘exercise increases your endorphin levels and so makes you feel better’ line that you have heard so many times before (even though it does by the way – but how and ever). Exercising in the run up to and during your menstrual cycle actually helps rid your body of excess water. To get ‘sciencey’ again exercise stimulates your lymphatic system which is that vital network of vessels responsible for regulating body fluids. In fact your lymphatic system actually moves through muscle expansion and contraction meaning the more you move the more active it becomes helping to drain your body of excess fluids. Again bargain!
Science aside increased exercise also activates your sweat glands (releasing excess fluids) and improves your metabolism and your rate of digestion. Basically if you can manage to improve the rate and ease through which food passes through your digestive system you can dramatically reduce bloating and all the discomforts associated with it,
In short no matter how crappy you may feel pre or mid cycle or how many different ways you try to get around it exercise can and does help to no end. Plus did I mention it also increases your endorphin levels . . . which is your happy hormone . . . which improves your mood . . . . . so you won’t feel as hormonal or crappy either ?
So that’s it! 5 simple steps to help dramatically reduce water retention and bloating during your menstrual cycle so that you don’t look or feel like a beached whale crossed with a baby hippo after a night out on the razz. Also Saturday night is dress night after all.