Bloating can be one of the unfortunate side effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
One of the most unpopular yet nevertheless frequently experienced symptoms of menopause is bloating. This is closely related to an increase in intestinal gas and fluid retention caused by fluctuating hormones, and may also be associated with weight gain. A symptom commonly associated with the menstrual cycle, women who have dealt with bloating in the past as it occurs with PMS will most likely recognize the symptom as a part of menopause.
Read on to learn more about bloating, along with its causes and treatment options in order to reduce this most bothersome of symptoms.
Bloating is defined as a feeling of fullness or tightness in the abdominal area that can lead to a certain degree of discomfort or even pain. It is mainly experienced during the menopausal transition as a result of either water retention, increased intestinal gas, or a combination of both.
The duration and intensity will vary from woman to woman, with some women experiencing bloating for a few days and then not again for a year, or possibly for several months at a time. A woman can wake up with a flat stomach and then have her stomach distend progressively throughout the day, or the bloating may appear within amatter of minutes and be aggravated by eating.
Symptoms of Bloating
As bloating can vary in duration and intensity, so too can the symptoms vary in between menopausal women. The following image shows which are the most commonly experienced symptoms of bloating.
It is important to understand why bloating happens so frequently among women of menopausal age in order to gain a handle of this uncomfortably familiar symptom. Keep reading to learn more about the causes of bloating.
Although the primary cause of bloating during menopause is a hormonal imbalance, bloating can be caused by several different factors such as a food allergy, drinking alcohol, and some medications. To manage bloating women should keep a diary of all trigger foods and activities, consume more diuretics like asparagus and pineapple, and exercise regularly.
Causes of Bloating
While bloating can occur as a result of such factors as diet or stress, the most likely cause for menopausal women is a fluctuation in hormones, particularly estrogen. Estrogen is important for a couple of reasons. First of all, it has an effect on the retention of water that occurs naturally as part of a woman´s menstrual cycle. Women tend to retain more in the days leading up to menstruation as a result of the rising estrogen levels. When estrogen levels become erratic during perimenopause, so does the incidence of water retention, leading to bloating.
In addition, estrogen influences the production of bile, a substance produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder that aids in digestion. Bile acts as a lubricant in the intestines. When estrogen levels decrease as a result of menopause, this in turn leads to a decrease in bile production. Stools in the small intestine can become dry, hard, and accumulate due to the lack of lubrication, leading to the sensation of constipation and bloating.
Not including the all important role of estrogen in the phenomenon of bloating, there are other causes that oftentimes will have a hand in this.
Aside from water retention and decreased bile production, the other most common cause of bloating is the prominence of intestinal gas. Anywhere from 30-60% of menopausal women report an increase in gas during this time period, leading researchers to believe that hormonal fluctuations also play a role in the production of gas.
Intestinal gas can also be caused by changes in diet, irritable bowel syndrome, swallowing air, carbonated beverages, or lactose intolerance.
Other factors that less commonly induce bloating in women include abdominal surgery, obesity, weakened abdominal muscles due to pregnancy, or other, more rare, medical conditions including gallstones, diabetes or kidney disease.
To learn more about the treatment options available to triumph over bloating, read below.
To help alleviate bloating during menopause, women should increase their consumption of certain foods like asparagus, yogurt, pineapple, and celery because they help remove excess water and waste from the body. Also, is necessary to avoid caffeine, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, salty foods, and all fast food.
To avoid bloating during menopause, women can make small lifestyle changes. Eating several small portions throughout the day will help improve digestion. Women should eat slow and avoid foods like broccoli and beans that can worsen bloating, and instead try bananas and grapes. Additionally, women should exercise regularly, try to reduce stress and keep a diary of what causes their bloating.
Treatments for Bloating
Bananas, grapes, eggs, rice, peanut butter, fruit juices or herbal teas, yogurt and hard cheese all have been shown to reduce gas and fight bloating.
Happily, bloating is not a symptom that needs to be permanent. There are ways to both manage and defeat it, in different stages. It is generally recommended that women begin with the least invasive option, which would be lifestyle changes. Particularly if the bloating is caused by excessive intestinal gas, some dietary changes can be extremely beneficial. Cutting out dairy products, sodium, and trigger foods such as onions, beans and sugary snacks can have an impact on the incidence of bloating. Stress reduction techniques such as yoga or meditation can also help.
Lifestyle changes can be difficult to implement all at once for a busy woman, however. The most effective approach, as bloating in menopausal women is primarily caused by fluctuating levels of estrogen, is to treat the problem directly at the hormonal source. A variety of natural and alternative remedies exist that are able to address this imbalance. Most of the time this is the safest, easiest, and most effective way to fight bloat.
In the most drastic case that bloating has become prolonged or painful, or if a woman is experiencing other disturbing symptoms, it may be necessary to seek the advice of a healthcare professional. While there are surgical or pharmaceutical options to curb bloating, these are more serious, may involve side effects, and thus should only be used in severe cases.
Most experts recommend that women who suffer from bloating and wish to treat it begin with lifestyle changes, then move onto alternative medicines (ideally combining the two) and finally, look to drugs or surgery if nothing else seems to work. Click the following link to learn specific treatments for bloating in these three categories.
Watercress is a natural diuretic that helps prevent the body from retaining excess water. It is suggested that menopausal women who experience bloating increase their consumption of this and other foods like bananas, pineapple, yogurt, and lentils to help reduce the uncomfortable symptoms. Watercress also contains many other important nutrients that help maintain overall health.
Bloating is a very common symptom of menopause. This is because a woman’s changing hormone levels can impact both her digestion and water retention, leading to bloating. The symptoms of bloating include cramps and a feeling of fullness, not unlike PMS. It can be treated through a combination of lifestyle changes and alternative treatments.
- Hutchinson, Susan M.D. "The Stages of a Woman's Life: Menstruation, Pregnancy, Nursing, Perimenopause, Menopause." November 2007.
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
- BMJ Group. Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet. 2007.