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As many women are (unfortunately) all too aware, bloating can be a common and frustrating occurrence at various different times during their monthly cycle, and may become even more noticeable around ovulation. Ovulation occurs during the middle of a woman's menstrual cycle, approximately 14 days after the start of a monthly period. An egg is released from the ovaries, and it travels down the fallopian tube, ready for fertilisation by a sperm.

Bloating is a common symptom experienced by women during ovulation

There are a number of different hormones at play during a woman's cycle, including oestrogen and progesterone. A rise in oestrogen occurs just prior to ovulation, followed by a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH), and this marks the start of ovulation. These hormonal changes may disrupt your digestive tract and bring with them uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, mainly as a result of your body retaining more water.

Below are a number of ideas to help reduce bloating during your period of ovulation, and you might also consider these if you're experiencing bloating at any other point during the month.

Remove potential trigger foods

If you tend to suffer from bloating, either at typical or varying times during your monthly cycle, you may wish to try and identify certain trigger foods. The most common trigger foods are bread, dairy and refined sugar foods (why do the ones we love hurt us the most?!), and it may help to limit or avoid these in your daily diet.

Avoid xenoestrogens

Xenoestrogens are compounds, usually synthetic but sometimes natural, that mimic oestrogen. We might not be aware of them but are constantly exposed to these substances in our modern lifestyles. They are found in a range of everyday items, like pesticides, plastics, household products, and cosmetics, and they can potentially have a detrimental impact on our bodies. They are known to be hormone disruptive, by having an oestrogenic effect on the cells in our body. This means it can throw your natural hormone levels out of balance.

To limit your exposure to these compounds, you can look to buy paraben-free make-up and toiletries, choose organic fruit and vegetables, use chemical-free cleaning products, and limit your use of plastic containers or plastic wrap. You may also wish to avoid drinking from single-use plastic bottles, especially if the plastic has heated up.

Choosing organic fruit and vegetables can limit exposure to xenoestrogens

Support liver detoxification

The liver is one of the body's most important detoxification tools, helping to excrete toxins and old hormones. By supporting your liver you can help to optimise its function, which may in turn help to reduce a hormonal imbalance.

Bitter foods such as dandelion, artichoke, rocket, endive and chicory help to stimulate the production of bile in the liver, which in turn regulates digestion and reduces bloating. Likewise, foods rich in sulphur such as garlic, onions, leafy green vegetables and eggs are important for providing nutrients required by the liver in detoxification pathways.

It may also come as no surprise that alcohol places an additional burden on the liver. If you are experiencing symptoms of a hormonal imbalance and/or bloating, it may be advisable to avoid or certainly reduce your intake of alcohol. Alcohol also encourages us to retain more water and can cause dehydration, both triggers of bloating.

In terms of supplements, milk thistle has long been known for its liver-protecting properties. Taking milk thistle daily could enhance liver function, helping to excrete toxins and old hormones. (Before taking milk thistle, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health care professional if you have any medical conditions, or if you take other medicines or other herbal/health supplements).

A final, simple tip is to drink a glass of water with lemon first thing in the morning. This can help to stimulate digestion and bile flow, ultimately improving liver function.

Balance your bacteria

Certain probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52 or specific strains of the Lactobacillus plantarum species, have been shown in studies1,2 to help support those with symptoms of bloating. Probiotics aid in the stabilisation of our gut microflora, and so will help to replenish supplies of friendly bacteria, therefore balancing out numbers of bad bacteria that might contribute to bloating.

Moreover, friendly bacteria and overall good gut health has been linked to maintaining the balance of hormones such as oestrogen3, and so may be beneficial for those suffering from ovulation bloating in particular.

Drinking plenty of water can actually help regulate water retention, and reduce bloating

Reduce water retention and aid digestion

There are many natural diuretics that can help to reduce water retention and bloating, including a number of fruits, vegetables and herbs that work by increasing urinary output. For instance, lemons have natural diuretic properties, and bananas are rich in the electrolyte potassium which may help maintain fluid balance in the body.

Herbs such as dandelion and parsley are also fantastic at increasing urination, which may reduce water retention and bloating.
Although it may seem somewhat contradictory, drinking plenty of water is important in helping to ensure you are adequately hydrated and keeping your digestive system functioning optimally.

Some people find that herbal teas are helpful digestive aids: in traditional Chinese medicine, mint is regarded as a herb that can help the body cope better with stress, a factor which can also contribute to bloating. In addition, as a carminative herb, mint also calms and aids digestion, so you may find drinking peppermint tea after a meal helpful. Fennel tea is also great for aiding digestion and soothing bloating symptoms.

Conclusion

There are always a myriad of factors to consider for any issue, particularly ones relating to the female menstrual cycle, and so we hope that one or more of these will help you when that time of the month rolls around!


if you found this interesting, you might also wish to read the following articles:
References:
1. Nobaek, S. et al. (2000) 'Alteration of intestinal microflora is associated with reduction in abdominal bloating and pain in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.' Am J Gastroenterol, 95(5):1231-8
2. Hungin, AP. et al. (2013) 'Systematic review: probiotics in the management of lower gastrointestinal symptoms in clinical practice -- an evidence-based international guide.' Aliment Pharmacol Ther, 38(8):864-86
3. Lye, H-S. et al. (2009) 'The Improvement of Hypertension by Probiotics: Effects on Cholesterol, Diabetes, Renin, and Phytoestrogens' Int J Mol Sci, 10(9), 3755-3775


This FAQ has been answered by Nutritional Therapist Lorna Driver-Davies, BA (Hons), HD, DHNP.