A large number of women experience digestive problems in menopause or perimenopause, the time leading up to menopause. But why are women more likely to experience digestive problems in menopause? Read on to have your questions answered and to understand the role of hormones in relation to the digestive system.
What Types of Digestive Problems Might I Encounter?
The digestive system is such a vital part of the body, and plays such a big part in the functioning of the system as a whole, so unfortunately there are a number of different problems that can arise. In menopause some are more common than others. If you are in perimenopause, menopause, or approaching these periods of your life then you may encounter one or more of the following: bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, heartburn, a form of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), lactose intolerance, or gastro esophageal reflux disease. Severity will vary from person to person.
What are the Symptoms?
The main symptoms to look out for are diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, bloating and cramps, or abdominal pains. Although these symptoms are fairly vague and could also be non-related, they usually mean that you are experiencing digestive problems. If these symptoms persist then it is an even bigger sign. For some women these symptoms will be causing problems in their daily life and functioning, but for some they may be intermittent. These are usually the first symptoms and if you experience them for prolonged periods of time you should visit your doctor.
What Causes Them in Menopause?
Digestive problems can be triggered by a number of different factors but during perimenopause and menopause the main reason why they occur is usually because of a hormonal imbalance within the system. When a woman's body is preparing for menopause, a time when the body is no longer reproductive, the production of estrogen begins to decrease. These hormones regulate, or influence, many different functions within the body including digestion, so when they fluctuate so do does the functioning of the systems.
When estrogen levels fall in menopause there is a higher production of cortisol which is known as the “stress-hormone”. When levels of cortisol are high, a woman's blood pressure and blood sugar will rise which slows down the release of stomach acid and also slows down the process of moving food from the stomach into the small intestine. This causes the majority of digestive problems. Cortisol is also known to impede on the digestive system.
As well as hormone imbalance, digestive problems can be triggered by stress, a poor diet, certain medications, bad eating habits, and excessive consumption of nicotine or alcohol.
What Can I Do to Treat Them or Avoid Them?
When you are trying to avoid or treat digestive problems it is important you start with the least obtrusive options. Fortunately, you can make changes to your lifestyle that will aid correct functioning of your digestive system:
• Make sure you are getting enough exercise. A lack of physical activity will make the system slow down.
• Eat a balanced and nutritious diet. Avoid processed foods or junk food because they contain too much salt.
• Eat foods that are high in fiber.
• Eat your food more slowly and take time to break it up in your mouth. This will give the digestive system an easier job.
• Ensure you drink plenty of water and avoid consuming too much alcohol, nicotine or caffeine.
Don't let digestive problems ruin your life. You can make your system work more efficiently if you just make some simple lifestyle changes. They will require dedication and self-discipline but if you lead a healthy life then your body and all its systems will also be healthy which will minimize any symptoms of menopause.