Twice a month, Yahoo Health’s Hormone Whisperer Alisa Vitti, HHC, is answering the most common questions about hormones and how they relate to weight, sex, acne, bad moods, low energy, and everything in between. Read her introductory column to learn more about Alisa’s approach to stopping hormonal chaos and getting into hormonal flow.
THE QUESTION: I get so bloated I have special PMS jeans. Is there a way to deflate my belly?
ALISA’S ANSWER: It’s so totally frustrating to gain a pants size the second half of the month!
The key to beating the bloat is to understand what’s causing it. There are three main culprits that cause the packing on of water weight, and once you can identify which is your main root cause, you can start eating to treat it. (More on that below.) Let’s face it: How many more times can we hear “Eat less salt and drink more water”? By the time we’re bloated, it’s too late — we’re deep in our PMS, and we’re craving more salt and all the other foods that add to the physical discomfort we feel.
PMS has many symptoms. If bloating is one that you see regularly, there’s a good chance you have a constellation of other annoying symptoms, including migraines, acne, and mood swings.
Related: 10 Bad Habits That Bloat You
FLO Science: What Is Your Bloating Type?
I want you to be able to treat your bloating with laser focus, so let’s first identify which type of bloating you have.
1. Estrogen-Overload Water Weight
Estrogen causes salt and water to be retained in the tissues — and these days, many of us are bathed in too much estrogen relative to deficient levels of progesterone. One way to know if this is your bloating type is if you have pre-existing hormonal imbalances like fibroids, endometriosis, PCOS, ovarian cysts, PMS, or difficult peri-menopause. If you do, then you have what is referred to as “estrogen dominance,” and during the luteal phase (PMS week), you have your peak levels of estrogen causing the bloating.
(Click here for more on the luteal phase and what you can do about it.)
2. Cortisol-Stress Puffiness
You know how when you’re stressed and you step on the scale, you seem to weigh 5 pounds more than you did the day before? That’s the effect of cortisol for you: It puffs you up due to its antidiuretic function, causing your body to retain sodium. How do you know if this is your bloating type? If you’re feeling chronically stressed, overwhelmed, stretched too thin, have low-grade fatigue all day, or reliance on caffeine, then this is very likely what’s at the root cause for you. (Click here for more on why caffeine is making your bloating and PMS worse.)
3. Magnesium Deficiency Swelling
The human body is like a battery that runs on a special electricity derived from four key electrolytes: calcium, sodium, potassium, and, of course, magnesium. Unfortunately, so many of us are missing an adequate supply of magnesium. How do you know if you’re low in magnesium? Aside from the bloating, you may also experience depression, migraines, leg cramps, facial twitches, and/or insomnia. Cramps are also a sign of low magnesium; if you need support with cramps, click here.
Related: 9 Nutrients Even Healthy People Miss
FLO Fix: 5 Ways To Beat The Bloat
Now that you’ve identified why you’re bloated, let’s look at what you can do naturally to feel like yourself again.
1. Eat more dark chocolate. I’m starting with my favorite superfood — I always love recommending this as hormone-balancing “medicine”! (Just make sure you opt for the 70 percent dark chocolate, or ones made with organic raw cacao.) It’s fairly high in magnesium, with 176 milligrams in a 100-gram serving. This is around half of your daily recommended intake. Adult women should get 320 milligrams every day, so some other good sources of magnesium that are lower in fat and sugar than dark chocolate include halibut, green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. There are so many yummy possibilities!
2. Balance your electrolytes. Try coconut water as a way to help you keep those electrolytes balanced for less fluid retention.
3. Try my “Anti-Bloat-ini.” Here’s a great juice to make to beat the bloat — it’s got beets, kale, and cilantro, and bonus points for serving it in a martini glass!
4 celery stalks
½ a cucumber
2 stalks kale
½ bunch cilantro
Making it is simple: Just juice everything and serve immediately. Bonus: This juice can actually help prevent PMS long-term! PMS is caused by higher levels of estrogen that go unopposed by enough progesterone – the kale, cilantro will help with this and the beets will provide healthy carbohydrates to prevent moodiness and fatigue. Drink it every day the week before your period. (Click here for more foods to help you conquer PMS.)
4. Jump on a mini trampoline. Exercise is a great way to beat stress and decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol. (I get on my trampoline at least once a day!)
5. Ask Your PMS/bloating what it wants. Now this might seem odd to do, when most of us feel like our PMS is out to get us. In my experience working with thousands of women all over the world with these issues, your body is never trying to cramp your fashion style. Instead, your hormones are trying to have a dynamic, interactive conversation with you. The challenge is that we haven’t been given the code to translate this hormonal language — so we walk around thinking these pesky symptoms are random and irrational.
I’d love for you to redefine the “PMS” acronym from “Premenstrual Syndrome” to “Prioritizing My Self.” When you think of it this way, then it becomes very interesting to notice if your PMS symptoms get worse when you chronically put other people’s needs first without scheduling in some time for your own self-care. In fact, the neurochemical changes that occur during the luteal phase with estrogen and progesterone prime us to prioritize things that we need to get completed as individuals. If you can’t do those things that allow you to take care of yourself first, you’re going to feel cranky fast. And PMS, including bloating, could be a sign that your body is trying to get your attention to put yourself first for a week.
Good things come in threes: I want to hear from you in the comments!
First, tell me what you’re going to try from my prescription above, and why.
Second, what are your top health questions for me, your trusty Hormone Whisperer? Your question could be featured in my column!
Third, everyone you know is hormonal: Spread a little good ovary karma and share this article with your friends on social media, and be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Need more Hormone Help? If you’re cranky and can’t lose weight, it’s time you started dealing with your hormones. Get out of symptom chaos so you can get back into hormonal FLO. Sign up here for a free download of my 4-Day Hormone Detox from my book ‘WomanCode.’
ABOUT ALISA: Alisa Vitti, HHC, is an integrative nutritionist, best-selling author of WomanCode, creator of the WomanCode System, and the founder of FLOLiving.com, a virtual health center that supports women’s hormonal and reproductive health. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Alisa has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, has a web series on Lifetime, and has been a regular contributor for CBS, Fox, Shape, Women’s Health, MindBodyGreen, and the Huffington Post. She’s also presented at TEDx, Talks@Google, Summit Series Outside, Hay House, WIE Symposium, and SHE Summit.