Guide To Water Retention and PMS

Water Retention, Edema And PMS

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Swelling (Edema)

Premenstrual water retention (and weight gain) is a common side effect of the menstrual cycle in most women. This form of fluid retention causes temporary swelling or enlargement of the breasts, abdomen, ankles, and fingers. Premenstrual headaches and back pain may also be caused by edema swelling brought on by excess fluid in the disks between the vertebrae and the spine, as well as inside the skull. The excess fluid is typically lost in the first days of menstruation.

What Causes Premenstrual Fluid Retention And Edema?

Women have an increased risk of water retention and temporary weight gain during the run-up to a period, due to the rise and fall of hormone levels. Hormones alone, or in combination with other body chemicals, can cause edema due to increased fluid retention. Exactly how do these hormones cause premenstrual water retention? The answer is, we don’t know.

Some experts believe that the reduction in progesterone, in the week before menstruation, leads to more progesterone being broken down which signals the kidneys to retain water and sodium. As well as this, a water-retaining compound (an anti-diuretic hormone) may be secreted, which causes more water to be retained.

Other experts believe that PMS water retention is due to fluctuations in blood sugar. For example, when someone does not eat for many hours, blood sugar levels typically fall very low. This causes the body to secrete adrenaline, which tells the body to release stored sugar from cells in order to normalize the level of sugar in the bloodstream. However, when sugar is removed from the cells, they fill up with water, causing (it is believed) weight gain, bloating and water retention symptoms in premenstrual women. The point is, women with PMS tend to release adrenaline a lot sooner than do women at other stages of the menstrual cycle.

How To Reduce Premenstrual Fluid Retention

For patients who regularly suffer from cyclic water retention in the week before menstruation, dietitians and doctors usually recommend the following:

  • Limit sodium intake to 1000 milligrams a day. Focus on eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and avoid processed foods, including table salt.
  • Aim to get 1200-1350 milligrams of calcium each day. More evidence is emerging that higher-than-average calcium intakes help to reduce water retention and edema.
  • Eat small meals at regular intervals, no longer than 3 hours. Choose plenty of wholegrain carbohydrates (eg. bread, crackers, pasta, rice) to maintain adequate blood sugar levels and prevent cells from being depleted of sugar and refilled with water.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Water, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, herb teas and vegetable juices are best.
  • Enjoy plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, such as melon, grapefruit, bananas, leafy greens and tomatoes.

Note: Neither diuretics, nor supplements such as evening primrose oil, essential free fatty acids, and ginkgo biloba have been proved to be effective remedies for PMS fluid retention or weight reduction.