A variety of symptoms accompany the menopause transition. Sleep and mood changes, hot flashes, vaginal and bladder symptoms are the most common, but gastrointestinal complaints such as abdominal bloating, burping, and increased gas/flatulence may also occur.
A study looking at the prevalence of gastrointestinal complaints in menopausal women found 38% of postmenopausal women reported changes in bowel function. These changes include excessive gas, heartburn, and acid reflux compared to 14% of premenopausal women. There was no difference in the occurrence of abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation, typically associated with irritable bowel.
Interestingly, estrogen use didn’t affect gastrointestinal symptoms in either group.
What causes bloating?
Symptoms like excessive gas and constipation can result from a general slowing of your digestion, allowing food more time to ferment in your digestive tract before it’s excreted from your body as stool. And, when your body doesn’t clear stool quickly enough, your intestines continue to draw water away from the stool, which dries it out, making it more difficult to pass.
Menopause can also prompt changes in the bacteria of your gut that help break down your food. There’s a lot of buzz about taking probiotic supplements, but the evidence isn’t clear. More research needs to be done. It’s always better to get your nutrients from foods rather than supplements. Eat probiotic foods, like yogurt, along with prebiotic foods. Prebiotics are the food that bacteria eat and what sustains good bacteria long-term. Oatmeal, bananas, berries, asparagus, and beans are all prebiotics.
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Some medications, like certain antidepressants, opioid pain relievers, and sleeping pills, can cause bloating and constipation.
Certain medical conditions, including thyroid problems and diabetes, can also cause symptoms.
What are the remedies?
The good news is there are some simple things you can do to reduce the gas and bloating.
Drinking water seems to help smooth the digestive process by preventing the stool from hardening, making it easier to pass.
Increase the fiber in your diet
Fiber, in particular a kind called insoluble fiber, can help move waste through your intestines. High-fiber foods include vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and legumes (such as chickpeas and black beans).
Research shows that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables appears to help the good bacteria in your gut thrive. At the same time, diets high in fat, sugar, and animal protein sources are correlated with a more unfavorable bacteria makeup in the gut.
Get regular exercise
Exercise can improve digestion by improving muscle tone, blood flow, sleep, and mood, so – keep moving to keep things moving.
Know your triggers
Many women report GI issues with dairy, gluten, processed foods, and artificial sweeteners, so pay attention and eat accordingly. It’s not unusual to become more sensitive to foods as we get older, so don’t assume something you ate safely when you were younger will be as tolerated well now.
Try peppermint tea
Peppermint is a practical, time-honored digestive aid, and it tastes really good. But go easy if you’re prone to heartburn, which peppermint can exacerbate.
Schedule Routine Colonoscopy
Although constipation is very common, women over the age of 50 who haven’t undergone colonoscopy should have one to screen for colon cancer.
- Peri- and postmenopausal women have a high prevalence of altered bowel function and gastrointestinal complaints compared to premenopausal women.
- The most critical factor determining the makeup of the gut microbiome is diet.
- Get regular exercise and stay hydrated.