Twenty years ago, we never talked about the menopause. We euphemistically talked about ‘the change’, but never talked openly about the transition that affects 51% of our population at some point in their lives. Along with this were jokes about hot flushes and accompanying elbow nudges and eye rolls, leading to unhelpful stereotyping of women going through this very natural, and sometimes challenging, transition.
Thankfully the world has changed, and this is no longer an acceptable or smart way to operate.
Menopause is moving from being a subject that’s swept under the carpet, to one where women are no longer staying quiet about their symptoms and how they are coping. So, what has changed? And why is everyone suddenly talking about menopause?
Celebrities and other public figures have been talking more openly about their experiences – take Davina McCall’s Sex, Myths and the Menopause documentary, for example; her emotional and powerful documentary shone a light on the impact that menopause has on lives every day. Davina highlighted the effect hormone replacement therapy (HRT) had on her and made a heartfelt call for change. This generation of menopausal women has pioneered new attitudes by removing stigma, raising awareness, and having their voices heard. There are now numerous high profile and national conversations being had, and they are helping to break down the barriers and taboos around menopause, encouraging people to come together and share their experiences.
Menopause is a natural process. Being able to talk openly about symptoms, having an understanding and accommodating workplace, and getting support if you need it, are all essential factors in coping with the physical and mental changes that accompany menopause. However, I still think there’s been little information or awareness about how menopause can affect digestive health. Bowel symptoms relating to the menopause can range from bloating and heartburn to wind or acid reflux. You may also find that your bowels become irregular (any change in bowel habit needs discussing with a doctor) or that you suffer from constipation.
Menopause itself doesn’t directly cause digestive problems, but hormonal changes during menopause can lead to various digestive symptoms, more common ones being uncomfortable bloating, constipation and acid reflux. Hormonal changes can impact the balance of gut bacteria which can further contribute to digestive discomfort. There may be an indirect effect as a result of an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol, causing cramps and diarrhoea, and if you already have irritable bowel syndrome, you may be experiencing more flare-ups during menopause.
There are also some ‘red flag symptoms’ that need urgent investigation – so please book to see a doctor as soon as you can. These include:
- Unintentional weight loss
- Persistent abdominal pains
- Persistent bloating that doesn’t settle
- Passing fresh or old blood in your stool
- A persistent change in your bowel habit
- Passing looser, runnier stools
- Something just doesn’t feel right! Trust your gut.
I’m often contacted by women who begin transitioning through the menopause with all the symptoms of hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings and weight gain, but are also experiencing digestive symptoms that they’ve never experienced before. If you are getting bloated, constipated with bouts of indigestion and acid reflux, my go-to supplement protocol is my Live Bacteria capsules and Digestive Enzymes tablets. Take one Live Bacteria capsule before breakfast and one before bed with a little cold water and one Digestive Enzymes tablet before lunch and dinner. Try this for 30 days initially then get back to us with some feedback. I can guarantee that you will feel a whole lot better.
Other steps you can take to ease and resolve gut symptoms that you may be experiencing during the menopausal years include:
Regain your balance with phytoestrogens – because part of the problem here is a decrease in oestrogen, eating phytoestrogens that mimic what’s lost can help relieve symptoms. Try to incorporate the following sources into your diet: soya (tofu, tempeh, miso), veggies (beans, potatoes), fruits (dates, apples), seeds (flax, sesame), grains (oats, barley), mint, ginseng, fennel, and anise, among others.
Get more magnesium – magnesium does a lot of good stuff for menopause symptoms, not least of which is helping to relieve digestive issues like wind and constipation. (It can also help minimise menopausal mood swings, keep bones strong, support your immune system, and regulate heartbeat, so go and get some!) Do be mindful that too much magnesium can cause diarrhoea, but good sources include leafy veggies like spinach, whole grains, sweet potatoes, peanuts, oat bran, cornmeal, some fish (mackerel), tomatoes, figs, avocados, bananas, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and (yay!) dark chocolate.
Keep your omega 3 levels topped up – omega 3 fatty acids may play a role in easing menopausal symptoms such as depressed moods and anxiety, night sweats and hot flushes; it also can help improve sleep, calm levels of inflammation in the body, and help to lower the risk for cardiovascular disease. If you are not eating oily fish three times a week, I recommend supplementing with a daily Omega 3 capsule.
Boost your good bacteria – oestrogen and progesterone fuel bacteria in your gut, so a decline in these hormones can disrupt and reduce healthy gut flora. Lots of good gut stuff will crowd out the bad stuff, so make sure there you are getting plenty of good bacteria so that the bad bacteria can’t move in and cause disruption. Feed your beneficial bacteria with fermented products such as miso, kombucha and sauerkraut. If you’re getting plagued with cystitis and UTIs, I recommend that you take one of our For Women probiotic capsules that contain the unique bladder and vagina supporting bacteria, lacto reuteri.
Eat plenty of fibre – fibre helps to keep things moving along and not letting semi-digested matter take root in your system where it starts causing trouble. The best high-fibre foods are split peas, lentils, black beans, artichokes, peas, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, raspberries, and blackberries. Whole grains are also good (popcorn, oatmeal, brown breads and pastas). I also recommend taking our Fibre tablets. Take two tablets half an hour before lunch and two half an hour before dinner with a large glass of water.
Read how Linda’s menopausal symptoms eased when she started to take our Fibre tablets:
Drink herbal teas – our Tummy Tea, which contains a blend of healing herbs and soothing spices is a go-to remedy for many of our customers – a ‘hug in a mug’ as one lady has described it.
Hydrate, sleep, exercise, stop smoking – Is there any menopause symptom that can’t be made better by drinking more water, sleeping more, moving more, and giving up smoking? Maybe, but many symptoms are greatly improved and doing these will have a positive impact on other areas of your health and wellbeing.
Chew slowly – when you’re eating on the go, or in front of your computer, or while distracted by a device, you’re not paying attention. How you eat may be nearly as important as what you eat. Chewing slowly, taking your time, being thoughtful and in-the-moment can reduce stress, keep you from ingesting a lot of air, and help your digestive system by breaking food down right from the start.
If you have any questions about gut, digestive or menopausal symptoms or would like to know more about our supplementation protocols, please get in touch.