Menstrual Breast Discomfort and Bloating
Health LibraryMenstrual Symptoms and Causes
Menstrual Breast Discomfort and Bloating

Menstruation is a natural process that involves various hormonal changes within the female body. Alongside menstruation, many individuals experience uncomfortable symptoms such as breast discomfort and bloating. These symptoms can significantly impact a person's well-being during their menstrual cycle. In this article, we will explore the causes of menstrual breast discomfort and bloating, as well as their intricate relationship with hormones.

Causes of Menstrual Breast Discomfort

Menstrual breast discomfort, also known as cyclic mastalgia, is a common symptom experienced by many individuals during their menstrual cycle. It refers to breast tenderness, soreness, or pain that occurs cyclically, typically in the days leading up to menstruation. Several factors contribute to the causes of menstrual breast discomfort:

  • Hormonal Fluctuations: Hormonal changes, specifically fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels, play a pivotal role in menstrual breast discomfort. Estrogen stimulates the growth of breast tissue, while progesterone promotes the development of milk-producing glands. The rise and fall of these hormones during the menstrual cycle can lead to breast swelling, tenderness, and discomfort.
  • Fibrocystic Breast Changes: Fibrocystic breast changes refer to benign lumps or cysts that develop in the breast tissue. These changes can cause breast tenderness and discomfort, particularly during the premenstrual phase. Hormonal fluctuations can exacerbate the symptoms associated with fibrocystic breast changes.
  • Increased Fluid Retention: Hormonal imbalances during the menstrual cycle can contribute to fluid retention in the breasts, leading to swelling and discomfort. This can be attributed to the influence of estrogen on fluid balance in the body. 

Causes of Menstrual Bloating

Menstrual bloating refers to the feeling of abdominal fullness, tightness, or swelling that occurs during the menstrual cycle. It is a common symptom experienced by many individuals and is often associated with hormonal changes. The causes of menstrual bloating include:

  • Hormonal Fluctuations: Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, particularly fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels, can affect fluid balance and digestion. Estrogen can cause the body to retain water, leading to bloating. Progesterone, on the other hand, relaxes the smooth muscles in the digestive tract, slowing down intestinal contractions and potentially causing gas buildup and bloating.
  • Increased Sodium Retention: Many researchers believe that higher dietary sodium increased bloating. A possible explanation is that estrogen can influence the body's sodium levels. Higher estrogen levels can lead to increased sodium retention, causing the body to retain water and result in bloating.
  • Intestinal Contractions: When the small intestine becomes involved, nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea and malabsorption may occur. Previous studies have shown decreased and abnormal intestinal motility, dilatation and a stiffer wall. A possible explanation is that progesterone, a hormone involved in maintaining pregnancy, has a relaxing effect on smooth muscles, including those in the intestines. This relaxation can slow down intestinal contractions, leading to a buildup of gas and bloating during the menstrual cycle.
  • Changes in Gut Microbiota: Hormonal fluctuations can also affect the composition and activity of the gut microbiota, the community of microorganisms residing in the digestive tract. Alterations in the gut microbiota can influence digestion and gas production, potentially contributing to bloating.
  • Dietary FactorsCertain dietary choices can contribute to bloating during menstruation. Consuming foods high in salt, refined carbohydrates, or gas-producing substances such as beans, cabbage, and carbonated beverages can increase the likelihood of bloating.
  • Psychological Factors: Emotional stress and anxiety, which may be more prevalent during the premenstrual phase, can affect digestion and contribute to bloating. However, this connection and relationship need more research to validate and explain. 
  • It's important to note that while menstrual bloating is a common symptom, persistent or severe bloating that interferes with daily activities should be evaluated by a healthcare professional to rule out underlying medical conditions. Managing menstrual bloating can be achieved through lifestyle modifications such as reducing salt intake, maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, engaging in regular physical activity, and managing stress levels.


Menstrual breast discomfort and bloating are prevalent symptoms that occur in many individuals during their menstrual cycle. Gaining an understanding of the underlying causes and the complex interplay between these symptoms and hormones can empower you to effectively manage and alleviate the discomfort. Although these symptoms may be typically temporary and resolved as menstruation ends, it is important for individuals experiencing severe or persistent symptoms to seek guidance from a healthcare professional for further evaluation and support. By addressing hormonal imbalances, adopting healthy lifestyle practices, and implementing targeted symptom management strategies, individuals can enhance their well-being and experience a more comfortable menstrual cycle.

  • “Breast Pain: 10 Reasons Your Breasts May Hurt”, Pamela Ann Wright, John Hopkins Medicine,
  • Vorherr, Helmuth. "Fibrocystic breast disease: pathophysiology, pathomorphology, clinical picture, and management." American journal of obstetrics and gynecology 154.1 (1986): 161-179.
  • Tacani PM, Ribeiro Dde O, Barros Guimarães BE, Machado AF, Tacani RE. Characterization of symptoms and edema distribution in premenstrual syndrome. Int J Womens Health. 2015 Mar 11;7:297-303.
  • Jiang, Yanyan, et al. "Role of estrogen and stress on the brain-gut axis." American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 317.2 (2019): G203-G209.
  • Abraham, Guy E. "Nutritional factors in the etiology of the premenstrual tension syndromes." The Journal of reproductive medicine 28.7 (1983): 446-464.
  • Peng AW, Juraschek SP, Appel LJ, Miller ER 3rd, Mueller NT. Effects of the DASH Diet and Sodium Intake on Bloating: Results From the DASH-Sodium Trial. Am J Gastroenterol. 2019 Jul;114(7):1109-1115.
  • Gregersen, Hans, et al. "A new method for evaluation of intestinal muscle contraction properties: studies in normal subjects and in patients with systemic sclerosis." Neurogastroenterology & Motility 19.1 (2007): 11-19.
  • Lee HJ, Choi JK, Ryu HS, Choi CH, Kang EH, Park KS, Min YW, Hong KS. Therapeutic Modulation of Gut Microbiota in Functional Bowel Disorders. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2017 Jan 30;23(1):9-19.
  • Lacy BE, Gabbard SL, Crowell MD. Pathophysiology, evaluation, and treatment of bloating: hope, hype, or hot air? Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2011 Nov;7(11):729-39.

1.Causes of Menstrual Breast Discomfort
2.Causes of Menstrual Bloating