January 19, 2024 by Marjorie R. Rogers, MA (English), Certified Consultant
Irregular periods, hot flashes, mood changes, night sweats, and difficulty sleeping are some of the commonly known symptoms of menopause. But did you know digestive issues like bloating, flatulence, and constipation can also be symptoms of menopause?
According to data from Johns Hopkins Medicine, about four million people in the US suffer from constipation. It is one of the common digestive issues reported. This could be one of the reasons why most women often ignore constipation as a probable symptom of menopause.
Lack of awareness, care, and medical guidance can worsen digestive issues. In some women, these issues could be debilitating.
But the good news is that these digestive issues can be managed with lifestyle changes and, if needed, medical care.
The article will explore how menopause can lead to digestive changes and how you can best care for yourself during this transition journey.
How Does Menopause Affect Your Digestive Health?
The gut microbiome helps with digestion. It may help support the immune system and heart and brain health.
The gut microbiome changes throughout a human’s lifespan. The major change happens during the early stages of life during weaning. Though the research is limited in this area, it has shown that the gut microbiome also changes with aging.
The hormones estrogen and progesterone contribute to increased microbial diversity, which leads to a healthy gut. But with menopause, the production of these hormones starts declining. Thus, the digestive issues become more prominent.
Some of the digestive issues that could arise from hormone-related changes are:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal cramps
- Acid reflux
How to Treat Digestive Issues During Menopause?
Dr. Karen Pike is the chief of staff at El Camino Health’s Los Gatos hospital. She advises women to first try home remedies to ease their digestive issues instead of relying on medications.
There are several lifestyle changes you can make that could fix digestive problems and save you from pain.
Here are some changes you can make in your diet and routine to manage menopause-related digestive issues:
Yes, I know this is an age-old advice you have heard plenty of times. But fiber is an essential nutrient that facilitates healthy bowel movements.
Ensure you include sources of soluble and insoluble fiber in your diet. Several fruits and vegetables, like avocados, apples, figs, pears, carrots, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, have a high content of soluble fiber.
Some of the best sources of insoluble fiber are whole wheat flour, nuts, potatoes, and cauliflower.
Including these fiber sources can help deal with menopause constipation and keep your bowels moving.
Feed the Good Bacteria
Foods that are rich sources of prebiotics are bananas, asparagus, soybeans, greens, and artichokes.
Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt can also improve gut health. Stick to plain Greek yogurt, as flavored varieties can contain added sugar.
Drink Water, Exercise and Sleep Well
Adult women need about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluid daily. The 20% of these fluids typically come from food and other beverages. So, the eight glasses of water a day advice works reasonably well for most.
According to a study, exercise is an integral exercise lifestyle change that women going through menopause and beyond should consider for good health. You should aim for two hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activities weekly.
You can indulge in different types of exercises according to your preference. These can include brisk walking, strength training, cycling, swimming, yoga and stretching.
You may have trouble sleeping during your menopausal period. But lack of sleep can aggravate your other symptoms and increase your stress levels.
To improve sleep quality, the National Institute on Aging suggests practices like developing a bedtime routine, sticking to a regular sleep schedule, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol, especially during the later part of the day.
Chew Your Food Slowly
I understand this may seem like frivolous advice, but hear me out. What I mean is that you should be mindful of your eating habits.
Finding something to watch on one of the many entertainment streaming apps we subscribe to has become routine before we begin our meals. We focus on the shows we watch rather than the food we consume.
Being mindful of what you are eating and chewing your food slowly can aid digestion. Eating slowly releases more flavors and increases the time the food stays in your mouth and is in contact with your taste buds. This also gives you a feeling of fullness.
When Should You Seek Medical Care for Digestive Issues During Menopause?
If it is only one thing that you take away from this article, then know that you are not alone. Digestive issues are often not discussed or sought treatment for owing to embarrassment and social stigma.
But know that menopause and the resulting digestive issues are how your body transitions and ages. There should be absolutely no shame associated with them. Moreover, help is available, and your digestive issues can be fixed.
If you are experiencing the below signs, please talk to your doctor:
- Changes in bowel movements
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss
If home remedies do not work, treatments and medications are available to help manage the issues.
These symptoms could also point to concerning underlying health issues, so please seek medical attention.
Menopause can bring with it a series of physical and mental changes. Digestive issues are one of the less talked about symptoms. Bloating, flatulence, cramps, and constipation could be a result of hormonal changes during menopause.
Lifestyle changes like improving your diet, including more fiber, prebiotic and probiotic food sources, exercising, and getting enough sleep can help deal with digestive problems.
If these practices do not work for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your doctor and discuss your symptoms. They may prepare a treatment plan for you or, if needed, refer you to a GI specialist.
In any case, you have help available, so do not let poop or the lack of poop thereof stop you from living your best life.
About Author (Marjorie R. Rogers)
The inspiring mum of 6 who dedicates her time to supporting others. While battling with her own demons she continues to be the voice for others unable to speak out. Mental illness almost destroyed her, yet here she is fighting back and teaching you all the things she has learned along the way. Get Started To Read …