Having reached my 40s, I’ve been reading a lot about menopause lately.
And, I’ve realized that it can have a much bigger impact on mental and physical health than I previously thought.
I’m not alone in this; one in three women don’t really have a good understanding about the changes that a woman’s body undergoes during this time.
The numbers are worse in certain cultures and regions where women do not have access to medical facilities.
They often have to rely on old wives’ tales in treating problems, not realizing that they have to manage the underlying issue of hormonal changes during menopause.
Digestion is one of the many things that can be affected by menopause, yet it’s rarely discussed when typical symptoms are being listed.
So, what are these digestive health problems that occur during menopause? How does menopause cause constipation? Are the issues very severe? Read on to learn more.
Causes of Digestive Issues During Menopause, and their Effects
One of the primary reasons behind digestive problems in peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women is the fluctuating hormones in the body during this time.
Yes, the hormones in your body are crucial to all kinds of crucial bodily functions.
They are responsible for digesting your food in the stomach and inner intestine. They are also responsible for flushing them out through regular bowel movements.
You may have noticed that in your younger days, you often felt an increase in bowel movements during your periods.
This is the body’s way of cleaning the tract and relieving the pressure from the stomach and intestines so that discarded blood and tissue can flow freely from your uterus.
You may also have noticed cramping and bloating around this time, and found that you could not eat much due to the discomfort.
However, as time goes by, your body’s gastrointestinal functions start slowing down with age. There’s also a decreasing amount of estrogen and progesterone in the body.
While estrogen helps digest food, progesterone keeps your large intestine muscles supple and removes the waste from your body. Both these activities slow down during menopause.
As a result, you may be left with a tight and bloated stomach, painful and constipated bowel movements and lack of appetite.
You may burp more often, have to deal with flatulence in unexpected moments, and potentially even end up with a lack of adequate nutrition, giving rise to other health issues.
Simple Solutions to Cope with Digestive Issues During Menopause
While you will need to see the doctor in case of severe indigestion or constipation, here are some simple solutions that can help you manage digestive issues during menopause:
You might be used to gulping down your meals before rushing off to work or picking up the kids from school, but it’s time to rethink that.
Around 50, your body wants to slow down, and you should listen to it.
Eat your food in smaller portions and eat slowly. Take time to chew your food.
Eat your dinner at least two hours before bed at night, and try going for a walk after meals. This will help your digestive system burn more calories by digesting the food better.
You should not be drinking water just to quench your thirst. Have a marked bottle by your side and aim to drink two to three liters of water every day.
A lack of estrogen can dry out your stool, and the longer it stays inside your body, the harder it becomes.
Water keeps the inner lining of the large intestines hydrated and smooth to make the stool pass more quickly.
Consider also adding lots of fruit juices and hydrating fruits to your diet, like cucumbers and watermelons.
Avoid Fatty Food
Limit fatty foods, as they takes longer to digest and could lead to indigestion.
Avoid larger amounts of cheese or fatty red meat in your diet, as well. They may not only cause indigestion, but also lead to an increase in cholesterol around this age.
This can potentially increase the risk of heart disease.
Alcohol has an adverse effect on the liver, which can inhibit it from producing many kinds of essential digestive enzymes.
This could lead to slow digestion, and you may also experience acid reflux.
Undigested food will leave you feeling bloated, and may keep you awake through the night.
Giving up alcohol will help to improve your digestive system, calm your nerves, and help you sleep better.
Eat Light but Healthy
One of the best ways to fight digestive issues during menopause is to eat light food items that are dense in nutrients.
Think foods like soups, salads, and one-pot meals with veggies and protein.
It’s helpful to meal-prep, so that you are not tempted to grab unhealthy fast food or snacks that could lead to indigestion.
Adding fiber to your diet will be especially helpful when dealing with constipation. The best way to do that is with plenty of leafy greens and fibre-rich whole foods.
Oatmeal, bran, flax, and other whole grains are a great source of fiber and healthy carbohydrates.
Fruits and vegetables like broccoli, apples, blueberries, bell peppers, and spinach add both fiber and water to your diet.
There is no excuse to avoid exercise during menopause. Regular exercise helps keep your body in shape, boosts your mood, and improves digestion.
Studies have shown that menopause can result in mood swings and depression due to the fluctuating hormones.
The end of a woman’s childbearing years can profoundly impact the state of mind. Exercise releases endorphins and other feel-good hormones that can lift your spirits.
Regular exercise also helps burn calories, increases your digestive capacity, and manages the increase in belly fat that can occur during menopause.
Cut out the Sugar
Excessive sugar can mess with many functions of the body, including digestion. You can manage your moods by cutting out sugar from your diet. Reduced sugar will not push your body to produce more insulin and also help your body adjust to the changing hormones.
Adding probiotics to your diet can immensely help with your digestion and gut health.
Probiotics add healthy bacteria to your stomach and intestines, and can exponentially improve digestion and absorption of nutrients in the body.
If you’d rather not take a supplement, think about adding foods like yogurt and kimchi to your diet. They are very high in probiotics.
With a good amount of healthy bacteria in the gut, you’ll likely notice improved digestion, smoother skin, and healthier hair and nails due to the better absorption of nutrients.
Avoid Processed Food
Fresh food is always a better choice for your body, both for overall health and for digestion.
Processed and junk foods are high in oil, sugar, and salt, and are loaded with preservatives. You’re more likely to feel bloated and experience heartburn after eating them.
Your body needs extra time to break down preservatives, which causes extra pressure on your digestive system.
Try to eat fresh, home-cooked meals as much as possible, and look for healthier alternatives to your favorite processed foods.
Menopause can leave you physically and emotionally drained. And the digestive issues of menopause are just a tiny part of that.
Taking care of yourself and focusing on holistic wellness during this time is essential. Focus on eating well, getting regular exercise, and taking time for self-care activities you enjoy.
With time, you’ll find what works for you, and gain a new appreciation for your body and all it can do.