In general, getting your period is not typically an all-expenses-paid trip to Maui — each month, we may have to contend with a whole week of cramps, pad-soaking heavy bleeding, pain from period-related issues like fibroids, or just the general inconvenience of trying to go about your daily business while all this blood is falling out of your vagular area. However, for many of us truly lucky period-havers, we also have a whole exciting secondary set of period symptoms that have nothing to do with our uteruses or what falls out of them, which start up way before our actual periods — problems like breast tenderness, acne, feeling bloated, or experiencing a drop in mood. We know all these period side effects are the result of the way that various hormone levels shift during our menstrual cycles, but we might not necessarily be clear as to why some of these symptoms occur.
Like, why can getting your period make you feel so bloated that it is as if you were a parade balloon that must masquerade as a human being for a week? Though we've established why periods make us farty, why do they make us retain water? Is there no limit to the foul sorcery our hormones will perform on our bodies for roughly 8-10 days each month? Why do so many of us get so damned bloated on our periods?
The technical name for the bloated feeling that a lot of us experience before we get our periods is "water retention" — because while it might feel like your body is full of gas, you're actually feeling extra water (as well as some gas) that your body is holding onto. Why? As usual, our hormones (those jokers!) are to blame. This time, the culprit is progesterone — which as Raquel Dardik, M.D., gynecologist at NYU Langone Medical Center told Shape, drops after your monthly fertile period ends without a pregnancy. This drop leads our cells to hold on to extra water — which, when combined with the gas that is a common premenstrual symptom for many of us, can make you feel like you are solely composed of water and farts, and that you will explode if anyone bumps into you on the street.
"Well, that's great," you may be thinking to yourself. "Good for progesterone, going out there and achieving its goals. But what about me? How can I have a normal human life in the week before and during my period?" The Mayo Clinic's website suggests avoiding salty foods when you're feeling bloated, which is both obvious and sensible (sodium draws and keeps water in the body, which is why a very salt-heavy meal can leave us feeling bloated, no matter where we are in relation to our periods).
And you can also try drinking more water, which I know sounds counterintuitive at first. But The Telegraph (UK)'s Sara Stanner writes that "While it may be tempting to drink less when you’re suffering from fluid retention, a low fluid intake causes you to retain fluid whereas keeping well hydrated promotes good kidney function." Stetter also advises cutting back on booze and caffeine, which can lead to dehydration, which also encourages the body to retain water.
None of this can entirely prevent bloating, alas — if your body is prone to it, you may be able to take steps to lessen it and feel more comfortable each month, but it might not completely go away. But now you know what exactly is going on in your body — so, even if you cant't totally eliminate your bloating, at least you know which specific hormones you should be cussing out when it happens.
Images: Andrew Zaeh/ Bustle; Giphy