Menopause Mondays: What’s Gut Got to Do With It, The Correlation Between Gut Health and Menopause

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Approximately 70 million Americans suffer from digestive issues. That’s crazy! Afflictions range from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and from celiac disease (the inability to process gluten) to acid reflux (GERD). Even certain cancers and lactose intolerance fall into this category of digestive despair that seems to be taking over a huge portion of our American population.

If you’re feeling bloated, gassy, or that maybe your gut has decided it’s on lock-down, then you’re not alone. What’s changed in the last ten years to make your stomach hate you? You still love it…somewhat…Digestive issues are definitely part of menopause, but what does gut health have to do with it? As IF we need another thing to worry about, and worrying makes it worse! Grrr…

First of all, the most common period in one’s life to develop a digestive disease is either immediately following onset of adulthood (usually very early 20’s), or the few years leading up to menopause, known as perimenopause. This stage typically occurs in the late 30’s to mid-40’s.

When digestive issues occur around the time of perimenopause, symptoms usually include bloating and excessive gas, which is completely linked to a hormonal imbalance. There’s also (eek!) constipation to worry about. This, on its own, brings on a whole new set of digestive concerns. It’s as if once the ball starts rolling, it will just keep on, gathering speed, until it hits a roadblock.

So, what’s this roadblock I speak of?

The good news about digestive issues is that typically, they are fully controllable by you. You need to initiate the roadblock. Too many women (woman are twice as likely to suffer from digestive problems as men are. I know—no surprise there…) assume that digestive issues that stem from the onset of menopause are inevitable and untreatable. Not so, ladies! Read on…

Here are some ways to combat digestive problems and improve overall gut health during menopause:

1- Think about what you are eating. Every bite of food than enters your body will have an effect on your gut. By supplying your tummy with foods that are easily digestible and full of nutrients, you can help your body ward off most symptoms, such as constipation, gas, and bloating. A friend of mine, who has written extensively about gut health, recommends the following:

  • Know where you’re at in regards to lactose intolerance. People who cannot process dairy products easily (this is MOST of us) are much more likely to have way more gas and bloating. Dairy contains lactose, which is sugar. When sugar is broken down, it creates gas. Which brings us to…
  •  Limit your sugar. This includes alcohol. (Don’t cry—I said limit…) Sugar equals gas. Gas equals bloating. Plain and simple.
  • Know if your foods are high in animal hormones. Extra hormones from our food contribute highly to extra hormones in our bodies. Menopause is NOT the right time to allow extra hormones to run amuck. Cows raised for beef have often been injected with a ton of growth hormones. Same for dairy cows. If you eat alot of red meat and dairy, opt for organic products, because those have not been hormone-injected.
  • Drink alot of water. Water detoxes your body, and this is important. It also helps to flush out fat, which we all know is a major issue for menopausal women. That spare tire around your middle should not be inevitable when you combine the right hormone treatments with the correct diet.
  • Think “nutrient-dense.” Everything you eat should contribute to cell growth and repair, ideally. When your body is fighting through menopause, you can give it a leg up by supplying it with foods that are extremely high in vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, fiber, etc. Fiber helps with constipation, and the rest helps to create an optimal state of health; particularly in the gut. I also take 400 mg magnesium caps once a day, every night, and this has helped me with this issue. Ask your doctor!
  • Consider taking digestive enzymes and probiotics. These magical little pills make a world of difference to your gut flora. They can help break down sugars, starches, proteins, etc. If you are sensitive to a certain food, or perhaps just have an overworked, overloaded gut, these health-food store superstars could become your new BFFs! (Just don’t tell Susan- she wouldn’t understand.)

2- Move that body! Exercise helps to stable hormone levels, improve mood, and…regulate the digestive system! By going for twenty-minute walks every day, you can improve menopause symptoms, as well as combat constipation.

3- Consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT). By regulating your hormones, you will regulate your digestive system, and, in turn, improve gut health.

4- I realize that this is easier said than done, but try to limit stress. Stress is disease-provoking, and creates a situation within the body called “fight or flight.” When this occurs, systems that your body deems temporarily unnecessary are slowed down. One such system is the digestive system. Chronic stress creates a slow, inefficient gut. This increases constipation, and diminishes overall health. Perceived stress also is very much tied to the gut, itself. A little known fact is that we have just as many nerve endings in our gut, as we do in our brain and spinal cord. Since menopause can be very stressful, please try and practice stress-relieving techniques that will help your emotional health, as well as your digestive health. Practices such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing help reduce menopausal symptoms (and improve digestive health) considerably.

Since digestive disorder numbers are only on the rise, prevent yourself from being a statistic. By practicing good habits for improved gut health, you will also improve your experience with menopause. Who doesn’t want a truly great menopausal experience?! If you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re staring your food down, western-style, begging it to show you some kind of goodness that you can benefit from, then it’s probably not a good food. Good food doesn’t have to justify itself- bad food does. If you are having a hard time deciding what food is good or bad- just go with your gut!

Remember: Suffering in Silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!

 

For more information on gut health and its relation to menopause, please check out the following links:

1 http://www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com/alerts_index/digestive_health/19-1.html

2 http://www.puristat.com/menopause/digestion.aspx

3 http://www.puristat.com/menopause/digestion.aspx

4 http://www.puristat.com/menopause/digestion.aspx

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After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

15 Comments

  1. Brenda Clevenger

    January 21, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Great info, thanks for pulling it all together for us ladies in need.

  2. Still Blonde after all these YEARS

    January 21, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    HRT and ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) for Gerd has saved my life. WORD!

  3. Jennifer

    January 21, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Great to read this. During the past few years I have been extremely constipate and was wondering if menopause could have had something to do with it. I’ve been debating about HRT, maybe this will finally get me to do it.

  4. Grace Hodgin

    January 21, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Thanks for sharing all the great information. All very valuable and interesting.

  5. carol (middle-aged-diva)

    January 21, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    So THAT’s why!!! This absolutely happened to me, seemingly out of nowhere. Thanks for the good info!

  6. Ellen Dolgen

    January 21, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Thank you ladies for taking the time to comment. It takes guts to go through menopause! We all help each other along by sharing our experiences and providing encouraging words and support!

  7. Haralee

    January 22, 2013 at 12:18 am

    Ice cream is my favorite food and now I have to have a lactaid pill to go with!:(

    • Ellen Dolgen

      January 22, 2013 at 12:43 am

      I think they should sell lactaid pills as toppings!

  8. Sharon Greenthal

    January 23, 2013 at 1:19 am

    Interestingly my stomach issues have gotten better as I’ve gotten older – I attribute it to having less of an appetite and drinking tons of water. Thanks for this great article.

  9. green coffee

    April 9, 2013 at 12:49 pm

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  10. Cinderella Schott

    May 29, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is wonderful, as well as the content!. Thanks For Your article about Menopause Mondays: What’s Gut Got to Do With It, The Correlation Between Gut Health and Menopause – Ellen Dolgen .

    • Ellen Dolgen

      May 30, 2013 at 5:10 am

      Wow. Thank you Cindarella for the positive feedback. Come back often. We publish Menopause Mondays every Monday (focused on a current and important women’s health issue) and Menopause News Flash on Thursdays (a collection of the latest studies that are important to women of perimenopause and menopause age).

  11. Anne

    June 19, 2013 at 10:09 am

    My stepmom whispered her secret to aging well in my ear this weekend–HRT!
    She’s 72 and looks amazing. More importantly, she’s vibrant, active, and fit.

  12. Ellen Dolgen

    January 23, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    This sounds yummy….I am going to make it over the weekend..

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