Your digestive system can determine your overall health. Eating while stressed, overeating or eating too much junk food all contribute to digestive symptoms. Fluctuating hormones can also play their part.
If left untreated, digestive problems can have a psychological effect, including:- low self esteem, irritability, anxiety and even depression.
Hormonal imbalance in perimenopause is one of the primary causes of digestive problems in women between the ages of 45 and 55. You do not have to be experiencing other symptoms of menopause to be experiencing digestive problems in perimenopause.
Many women have reported that their Healthcare Professional failed to associate their digestive symptoms with perimenopause as they had not presented with any simultaneous menopause symptoms.
Perimenopause is the 2-10 years leading up to actual menopause. You are considered to have reached menopause when you have not had a menstrual period for a full 12 months.
During perimenopause the production of the two main female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, begin to fluctuate affecting the regulation of certain bodily functions.
Estrogen affects the stress hormone cortisol, subsequently, when estrogen levels decline, cortisol levels rise which raises both blood pressure and blood sugars.
Elevated blood pressure and blood sugars slow down the release of stomach acids such as bile as well as the emptying of stomach contents into the small intestine leading to symptoms such as constipation, gas and bloating.
When estrogen and progesterone levels suddenly rise (as part of their continual fluctuation) women can experience diarrhea as a result of the muscles from the colon relaxing.
It is widely recommended for the relief of menopause symptoms as a whole that women increase their intake of fruits and vegetables, fibre and soy, unfortunately, these foods are also known to cause flatulence.
Leading up to, during and after menopause, the digestive tract’s movement may slow down, the digestion of nutrients may decrease and the intestines may become sluggish. This can result in constipation. Not drinking adequate water can cause dehydration and contribute to constipation.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome causes the nervous system to release neurotransmitters that can change the way the large intestine functions. This can lead to constipation and diarrhea alternating with diarrhea and bloating. IBS is more common among women than men and female hormones during both menstruation and menopause can both change and even worse IBS symptoms.
Does your tummy feel bloated a lot of the time? See menopause bloating for further information on this particular menopause symptom.
Common Digestive Symptoms
• Bleeding from the digestive tract
• Weight gain
• Difficulty swallowing
• A false urge to have a bowel movement
• Excess gas
• Abdominal tightness
• Abdominal pain
• Feeling overly full
• Appetite changes
What Can I Do To Help Relieve Digestive Issues
- Increase you water intake. It is important to stay hydrated.
- Reduce stress levels
- Quit smoking
- Avoid excess alcohol
- Take regular exercise
- Incorporate fruit and vegetables, fibre and low-sodium, low-fat and low-sugar foods to your diet
- Avoid junk food
- Chew your food adequately before swallowing
- Eat your food slowly A common cause of poor digestion is eating too quickly
- Try not to swallow air when talking or eating
- Look at natural menopause relief as a way of balancing your hormone levels
- Certain herbal teas are known to aid and soothe digestion and alleviate bloating.
Some women find that their digestive symptoms go away once their hormonal balances have been re-established. If this is not the case you must consult your Healthcare Professional who may suggest certain investigations to find the source of your problems. There are also many over the counter medications to decrease acid and bring relief such as Zantac. These medicines should be used as a temporary measure and if symptoms persist consult your Healthcare Professional.
Edwards, C. Dr. Digestive disorders are more prevalent in women. Retrieved from North County Journal. http://northcountyjournal.stltoday.com
Digestive Problems. Aim for Health. Retrieved from http://www.aim4health.com
Heitkemper, M.M. Ph.D., Chang, L. MD. (Apr 2012) Do Fluctuations in Ovarian Hormones Affect Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Women with Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3322543/
Pick, M. OB/GYN, NP. Digestion and Dysbiosis. Retrieved from https://www.womentowomen.com/digestive-health/digestion-and-dysbiosis/