How do periods affect weight?
Have you noticed a few extra pounds on the scale or even just your jeans feeling a little snug during your period?
Your weight can be expected to fluctuate during the later stages of your cycle, this is a completely normal symptom of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome). On average, an individual can gain between two to six pounds during their period. However, this can be a temporary symptom, with your weight likely to return to normal once your period has ended.
To help you understand period weight gain a little better, we’ve gathered some insight to show you exactly where that extra few pounds are coming from.
One of the biggest and most obvious reasons for weight change is your hormones. Oestrogen levels are at their highest just before the start of your period, this change causes your body to retain fluid a lot more than usual, which causes the bloated feeling you may experience.
Increased progesterone in your body also slows down digestion and causes food to move much slower through the intestines, which lead to constipation and further bloating.
Dr Deborah Lee of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy says, “Overall, 92% of women complain they suffer from premenstrual swelling. This can affect many different parts of the body, such as the breasts, lower abdomen, legs, arms, wrists, and hands. The pressure of the extra fluid in the tissues can cause premenstrual breast discomfort. It can also make you feel bloated and result in discomfort at the site of the swelling - in the pelvic region, the legs, arms and wrists.”
Do you find yourself craving the most unhealthy snacks during your period? It is likely due to your magnesium levels which drop whilst on your period. This can lead to cravings for foods high in sugar and salt which is not the best when trying to manage your weight!
Instead of turning to packets of crisps or sugary sweets high in added sugar and artificial sweeteners, try to incorporate some more magnesium high foods into your diet, such as spinach, avocados, bananas and even dark chocolate. Not only will these foods help to combat your cravings, but they can help reduce other period symptoms such as cramps.
Although fizzy energy drinks and a big cup of coffee may seem tempting after a restless night on your period, caffeinated and carbonated beverages can worsen your symptoms and make bloating last longer. Instead, make sure to stay hydrated in the days leading up to your period and drink plenty of water during your cycle to help fight bloating and flush out your system.
Also, don’t worry if you are feeling hungrier than usual on your period. Your body uses more calories leading up to and during your cycle; on average about 100-300 extra calories a day, so don’t be afraid to be generous with your portion sizes!
Dr Deborah Lee added, “Try to eat more in the way of complex carbohydrates – these are long-chain carbohydrate molecules that take longer for the body to break down into glucose, than simple carbohydrates. Complex carbs are brown rice, wholemeal bread and pasta, oats, barley and buckwheat. Say No to white bread, white rice and white pasta. Eating more complex carbs can help stabilise blood sugar levels and reduce food cravings.”
Lastly, another likely reason for weight gain during periods is reduced movement and exercise. Understandably, workouts on your periods are not the easiest thing as cramps, period pains, and reduced energy levels can make heavy movement very tricky. However, not only will exercise help to burn off any extra calories you have been consuming, but the endorphin boost can actually help to reduce cramps and other PMS symptoms.
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Dr Deborah Lee commented, “Exercise is good for health as it improves blood circulation, ensuring all the body tissues are well oxygenated, correctly supplied with nutrients, and that waste products, dead cells and debris have been removed.”
She continued, “Exercise also helps combat stress, and lowers resting levels of adrenaline, slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure. Exercise is recommended for those suffering from stress and anxiety."