Health Topics

Healthy Living

August 2011
Weighty Issues in Periods
Dr Shakti Bhan Khanna
Apart from the most common complaints of stomach cramps, uneasiness, back and lower back pain, leg pain, etc. during the menstruation period, the issue of weight gain is emerging as a forerunner on this front. However, the increase in the body weight gained during the period (the pre-menstrual phase) is not only temporary, but can easily be shed off.

This weight gain is particularly due to water retention,alterations in electrolyte balance and glycogen storage.Water retention makes women feel bloated during this time accompained with the feeling of lethargy or even swollen limbs because of fluid retention.Weight gain,water retention,food cravings and overeating are reported during the one to two weeks before the menstruation occurs.

Causes of Weight Gain During Periods

Water retention:
Water retention or fluid retention is the most likely reason for weight gain during menstruation. The weight gain, however, is usually minor and temporary. Water retention can be lessened during this time period by making small dietary changes, like reducing sodium (table salt). Fluid retention is normally caused due to hormonal changes, which happen during this period. The symptoms include a ‘bloated’ feeling. Water retention is also caused during the periods because of the problems with bowel movement. Many women experience the water retention, one or two weeks before menstruation when there is a drop in the level of progesterone and a rise in the estrogen. Estrogen further increases the secretion of aldosterone, which stimulates the kidneys to retain more water.

Bloating: Bloating during menstruation is due to gas accumulation in the intestine, due to inactivity before and during the menstrual cycle. Bloating can also cause severe menstrual cramps.

Overeating and food cravings: Popular perception is that women tend to overeat during periods, due to an increase in the metabolism levels. Usually, women by indulging in binge eating, consume about 100 to 200 calories more than what they regularly consume. Food cravings are common during certain times of the menstrual cycle especially with respect to high carbs (sweets) and have been reported to be directly associated with the Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS).

Inactivity during menstrual cycle: Women tend to become sedentary and inactive while avoiding exercise prior to and during the menstrual cycle. This often also leads to the weight gain.

Treating Weight Gain During Periods
  • A small change in the diet including a cut off in sodium and a boost in calcium intake can help in alleviating water retention problem.
  • To satisfy your food cravings, eat small meals at regular intervals, rich in fibre and lean protein instead of that full of sugar.
  • Cut down on your caffeine and drink fresh fruit juices.
  • Keeping your body hydrated is very important to a fitness program but even more so during your period. 
  • Exercise, especially walking, helps to decrease inflammation and relieve bloating.
Dr Shakti Bhan Khanna is Senior Consultant And Clinical Co-ordinator Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Gynae Oncology Apollo Indraprastha Hospitals,New Delhi
  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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