Can your weight really be affected by periods?

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed on February 28, 2019

Weight can be quite a concern for women as they are found to be more susceptible to obesity in comparison to men (1). Being obese or overweight is not the main problem — the issue is basically with its underlying outcomes that can be the development of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t be underweight either as it also has its effects such as heart palpitations, osteoporosis, and low blood pressure. Not only that — but your body’s reproduction system also relies on body weight.

Among other factors that can impact your weight that include fluid retention, psychiatric disorders, consumption of excess sugar, feeling tired, drugs, stress, aging, and changes in diet (2, 3), periods are another factor that can result in affecting your weight.

Before looking at how your weight is affected by periods, it is necessary first to have a general look at the mechanisms of menstruation.

Menstruation

Most of the females are expected to undergo periods for about 35 to 40 years during their entire life. Periods are basically a sign that your body is capable of having a baby. This process occurs every month in which the thickness of the lining of your uterus increases and an ovum, which is basically an egg, is released by your ovaries. Afterward, the vagina emits this tissue, which is the menstruation blood, if the egg has not been fertilized by that time. This entire process makes up the menstrual cycle, which has four phases, i.e., menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation phase, and the luteal phase.

Now that we know about what periods really are, it’s time to move on to the real concern — how actually is weight affected by periods.

The relationship between Weight and Periods

Menses and stomach ache may be the most noticeable effects of the menstrual cycle, but it can also affect your body in a number of other ways, which might not always come into one’s attention. In particular, we are going to discuss the various effects of the menstruation cycle on weight. It is also important to note that periods can’t only result in increasing your body weight, but decreases in the weight might be observed as well.

Weight and the Magnesium Level of Your Body

You can say that periods can result in decreasing the magnesium levels of your body. However, periods are not the actual reason for this drop. Technically, the drop in the magnesium levels takes place prior to your menstruation cycle. Even though the magnesium of your body may not affect your body weight, it can certainly cause your body’s insulin levels to drop (5).

In a similar way, these lower levels of insulin don’t directly affect your body weight either. What really affects it is the need for glucose that results from this lack of insulin. These food cravings can make you go for stuff that has a lot of sugar, thus affecting your body weight.
The low levels of magnesium can have psychological effects as well, such as stress (5). It has now become a well-known fact that a lot of people tend to have more food when they are stressed. Accordingly, the low levels of magnesium can have an impact on your weight in a number of indirect ways.

For making yourself insusceptible to weight fluctuation due to the lack of magnesium, you can try going for foods containing sufficient magnesium or magnesium supplements. Nuts, chocolate, and green leafy vegetables are some of the popular foods that contain magnesium, while the optimal magnesium supplements include bisglycinate and magnesium glycinate. As the magnesium levels of your body become balanced, no weight fluctuations or stress will be experienced.

The Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

A number of effects are inflicted to your body due to the premenstrual syndrome, which includes the mood or physical changes experienced by women prior to their menstruation cycle (6). The premenstrual syndrome, which is also sometimes called PMS, is experienced by almost 75% of all menstruating women (7). This syndrome also comes with its effects, which can be either psychological or physical.

This syndrome can result in both increasing and decreasing your body weight. How? Well, let’s first discuss how it can cause your body weight to drop. PMS comes with a number of symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, headaches, bloating, and food cravings. The first three of its symptoms can greatly contribute to the loss of appetite. It is often the case that you stop wanting food when you’re either anxious, depressed, or suffering from a headache. This can result in a drop in your body weight.

It is also important to discuss how you can gain weight due to the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. This syndrome comes with a major symptom, that is you start wanting foods that have a great amount of sugar or salt. In addition, there can be a gain of approximately five pounds in your body weight due to this symptom of the premenstrual syndrome.

Slow Metabolism

Bloating, indigestion and constipation are some of the most common symptoms of the premenstrual syndrome. Because of all these abnormalities in the digestive system, the metabolism can slow down accordingly. With a slow metabolism, your body starts gaining weight (8).

Basically, what happens is that when your metabolism slows down, your body starts consuming everything you eat in the form of fat, which ultimately causes your body weight to increase. In addition to that, a slow metabolism also elevates the stress levels of your body, resulting in inflammation. Afterward, this inflammation also contributes to your body’s weight gain. For making your metabolism work better, it is recommended to drink iced water and have foods that contain more protein and calcium.

Apart from all this, there can also be an increase in your metabolism when there are a few days left to your menstruation (9). Because of this fast metabolism, you may experience symptoms that affect the way you eat, making you consume much fewer amounts of food.

Increased Food Cravings

Although it is not yet known why women tend to crave for more food during their periods, it can definitely be noticed that this fact is actually true. Most of the women that are going through their periods are seen to consume more foods than usual. According to researchers, these craving could be an outcome of the high progesterone levels that are encountered during periods. Pregnant women also have higher levels of progesterone; therefore, we can see this effect with pregnant women as well, as they also tend to crave more food than they normally do.

Another reason why women crave more food may be the stress that results because of the premenstrual syndrome. Consequently, women end up consuming foods that contain a lot of sodium and sugar to get rid of that stress. The stress may be eliminated, but the resulting increases in the blood glucose levels and water retention can add up more weight to your body.

If you don’t want to gain weight and also satisfy your food cravings, it is recommended to go for either dark chocolate, which is mostly made up of cocoa, or peanut butter protein balls as they have a lot of protein in store for your body.

Water Retention

It is said that some women only feel like they retain water during their periods, but the fact of the matter is that you actually do retain water and gain weight accordingly. Let’s see how this mechanism really works. Essentially, there are a lot of great hormonal changes in your body throughout the menstrual cycle. As a result of these changes, your body tissues retain the water that is present in your body, resulting in water retention or edema. Ultimately, there is a fluctuation in your body weight due to all this water being conserved. Apart from the hormonal changes, the bowel movements and drops in the progesterone levels of your body can also cause water retention.

Women suffering from water retention can also experience bloating and other such symptoms. It is also necessary to mention that you will also rapidly experience weight loss when your body releases all the stored fluid. The best thing you can do to prevent water retention to some degree is that you stop having foods that contain sodium during the second half of your periodic cycle.

PCOS

PCOS is an abbreviation for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which is a disease that causes a hormonal imbalance to create abnormalities in one’s reproductive processes. According to statistics, every one out of ten women of child-bearing age is susceptible to this disease (10). In addition, its symptoms include weight gain and irregular periods. Therefore, it is best to get yourself checked for this disease if you encounter the aforementioned symptoms, as it can lead to dangerous effects, such as depression, diabetes, and even infertility.

Alongside the other effects of this disease, such as heavy or missing periods, you can also gain some weight as a result of this syndrome. This is due to the fact that women with this disease produce excessive insulin for maintaining the blood sugar levels of the body, which results in insulin resistance. This resistance makes it harder for your body to convert its glucose into energy, thus increasing the chances of developing obesity.

Abdominal Cramping

Abdominal cramping is the most noticeable symptom of periods and can be quite painful for the women who experience it. Women can encounter cramping both during and before the periods. Because of this resulting pain, women often tend to leave a lot of their activities, such as going to work and hitting the gym. As a result, they aren’t able to burn that many calories and even put on some extra weight.

Alongside that, cramps can also lead your eating habits to utter chaos. Consequently, you may either want to eat a lot of food or not eat any food at all. Henceforth, abdominal cramping can contribute significantly to weight fluctuation during periods.

Conclusion

After all this discussion, it’s certain that your periods actually do affect your weight. However, there are measures you can take to prevent it to some extent. Drinking lots of water, reducing your salt and caffeine intake, exercising regularly, and taking your daily meals are bound to do the trick, but some women also prefer having supplements that are rich in vitamins, omega-3, magnesium, and calcium. In addition, it is also important to note that period weight gain usually goes away after a few days if you don’t consume excessive amounts of food containing sugar and calories. Accordingly, you should not worry that much about this periodic weight fluctuation as it happens to all women.

References

(1) https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes/index.htm
(2) https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/nine-medical-reasons-for-putting-on-weight/
(3) https://www.livestrong.com/article/423960-what-are-the-causes-of-rapid-weight-loss-in-women/
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15319146
(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507250/
(6) https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Premenstrual-Syndrome-PMS
(7) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premenstrual_syndrome
(8) https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/does-metabolism-matter-in-weight-loss
(9) https://www.livestrong.com/article/288746-weight-loss-during-the-menstrual-cycle/
(10) https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome

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