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What is the Connection Between Menstruation and Weight Gain?

Article Details
  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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As menstruation approaches each month, many women find themselves feeling bloated, heavy, and sluggish. This is no coincidence, for research suggests there is indeed a connection between menstruation and weight gain. In most cases, this connection is due to the hormonal fluctuations which occur in the lead-up to menstruation, and which can cause both water retention and abnormal food cravings. Strategies like taking certain medications, exercising, and altering the diet help many women minimize weight gain during menstruation.

In most cases, the chief cause of the connection between menstruation and weight gain is fluid retention. This is an extremely common menstrual and premenstrual symptom which usually emerges approximately three to seven days before the period starts, when the body’s hormonal levels begin to fluctuate. These hormonal changes can affect the body’s normal fluid elimination processes, leading to an unpleasant, bloated feeling and a weight gain of as much as 3 to 6 pounds (1.3 to 2.7 kg).

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For some women, the link between menstruation and weight gain may be connected to the intense food cravings which sometimes occur in the days before the period begins. Again, changing hormone levels most likely play a part in these cravings. Fluctuating blood sugar levels may also contribute to this symptom. Even though some women may find themselves overeating or reaching for unhealthy food choices in the lead-up to their periods, some evidence suggests that the metabolism actually receives a boost during menstruation, thereby offsetting an increased caloric intake. Therefore, food cravings usually play a less significant role than fluid retention in the connection between menstruation and weight gain.

Several strategies may help women break the link between menstruation and weight gain. For some women, medication proves to be the answer. Diuretic pills can help eliminate excess fluid from the body, thus reducing period-related bloating and weight gain. Alternatively, oral contraceptive pills can help regulate the hormones by preventing ovulation, thereby reducing incidences of both fluid retention and food cravings.

Some women find that simply remaining physically active in the days surrounding their periods is all that is needed to stave off weight gain. Others report that altering the diet can be helpful in managing menstrual weight gain. Many find that eating several portions of vegetables and fruits each day, keeping salt intake to a minimum, avoiding highly processed foods, and drinking six to eight glasses of water daily helps them avert changes on the scale during menstruation.

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