Bloated? Your hormones are to blame. Here’s what you can do about it

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The good news is that bloating is relatively harmless, and women shouldn’t worry too much about it.

Mums, do you constantly feel as though your belly is about to explode? You’re not alone. Many women experience bloating at some point or another.

Not only is it unsightly, making you look like you have ingested two extra meals, but it is also annoyingly uncomfortable.

Published in International Scholarly Research Notices, Gastroenterology, a study revealed that 10 – 25 percent of healthy people experience bloating. However, more women suffer from it than men, and it has something to do with their hormones.

Menstruating women can attest to that.

“You can blame your hormones," says to Dr. Carrie Smith, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, in a TODAY story. "Before menopause, for most women, bloating generally is a monthly occurrence, and follows a pattern.”

Part of the menstrual cycle which causes bloating is called the luteal phase, which begins right after ovulation and lasts for about two weeks.

The uterine lining starts to prepare for a possible pregnancy during this period, and estrogen then takes a bit of a nose-dive and then begins to rise and remains high.

Another hormone also kicks in: Progesterone.

All these changes play havoc on women’s digestive tract.

"When estrogen is high, women seem to retain more water," said Dr. Holly Thacker, director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Specialized Women's Health.

Water retention equals bloat.

The TODAY report also says: “Some of the effects of progesterone—when it's high, like during the luteal phase of menstruation, right after ovulation—include what doctors call delayed GI transit time, which means exactly what you think it does: food moves more slowly through your intestine, resulting in constipation and bloating.

“However, when progesterone decreases and bleeding begins, you may experience an increase in bowel activity. That means some women may get diarrhea and bloating.”

Not only that, women bloat through the ages, whether you’re a young woman or already in your mid-ages.

Dr. Lori Tishler, medical director for the Phyllis Jen Center for Primary Care at Brigham and Women's Hospital says that when women’s estrogen begins to fluctuate at peri-menopausal stage (mid-forties), it results in water retention, gas, bloating.

It’s common for pregnant women too to bloat. "There are higher levels of progesterone and your intestine slows down," she says. "Basically, slower contractions mean potential constipation, gas, and bloat."

The good news is that bloating is relatively harmless, and women shouldn’t worry too much about it.

"Many women worry that something really bad is going on, and part of our job as doctors is to reassure them that sometimes bloating is really nothing more than just bloating," Dr. Tishler says. "But we all know it's not much fun."

To alleviate the discomfort of bloating, Dr. Tishler suggest taking in more fiber to help stool move smoothly through the intestines, as well as doing more exercise and taking in more water to hydrate.

"That's all the stuff that people don't want to hear, but it does work," she explains.

 

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