“THIS IS NORMAL,” she wrote. “This is nothing to be ashamed of. Yes—it is very uncomfortable, and yes—it is really difficult to not feel like you must hide it and try to suck your stomach in.”
However, she says, she’s decided to stop trying to hide it. “I've decided that breathing is more important than what other people may or might think,” Malin wrote. “I've decided that my body's reaction to the hormonal change is not going to be an aspect that I let contribute to my already unstable mental state. Because when I have PMS, I already feel like dying. And I've decided to love my body no matter how I feel about life.”
Jessica Shepherd, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and director of Minimally Invasive Gynecology at The University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, says there are a lot of different reasons why women bloat around their period, but doctors can’t pinpoint one specific factor.
“We do know, however, that the hormonal changes with estrogen and progesterone do contribute to how you retain water during your period—and right before the first day of your period is usually when you’ll see the most bloating,” she says.
Your gut health can also play a role. Gut flora (i.e. the microorgasnisms that live in your digestive tract) are really sensitive and they respond to the inflammatory response in your body that your period causes, Shepherd explains.
“The gut can react to that with increased fluid retention, bloating, and gas in [the] bowel,” she says.
Bloating can become worse if you already have underlying digestive issues, like a lactose intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome, says Sherry Ross, M.D., women's health expert. Fibre supplements, certain laxatives, and even chewing gum can also lead to bloating, she adds.
Since Malin and so many other women cope with this monthly, she says it’s important to just embrace it and accept that there is nothing “wrong” with how your body looks when Aunt Flo is in town. “Yes—your body might experience discomfort due to hormonal changes, so instead of making it worse through shaming your body, try doing the opposite,” she says. “Realize that this is when you need extra self-care and self-love. Realize that you don't have to be ashamed and hide. You are perfect and your body is just doing its job.”
Other women applauded Malin in the comments. “I seriously thought I was the only one,” wrote one. “Lying in bed with awful cramps and seeing this,” another said. “It does help when we see just how similar we are, how we are all in this together.”
If you bloat around your period and it bothers you, Shepherd recommends exercising, decreasing your salty food intake, drinking more water, and trying out a daily probiotic to de-puff. It’s also a good idea to avoid certain otherwise healthy foods, like beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, whole grains, apples, peaches, pears, lettuce, and onions, Ross says, as well as cut back on alcohol, since that contributes to bloat, too.
Of course, Shepherd points that while there are some strategies you can use to deflate your belly, there’s only so much you can do. But Malin makes a good point: It’s an important time to give yourself some extra love—you deserve it.
This article was originally