The state of the digestive system can be indicative of a woman's overall health. Many women report that digestive problems begin to occur in perimenopause, or the years leading up to menopause. Not only can digestive problems cause discomfort, but they can also lead to more serious health concerns.
Hormonal imbalance during perimenopause is one of the primary causes of digestive problems for women between the ages of 45 and 55. Fortunately, there are treatments that can bring a woman's hormone levels back in balance and relieve her symptoms. Continue reading to learn about digestive problems, their causes, and the different treatment options available.
About Digestive Problems
Women are twice as likely as men to develop digestive problems. Digestive problems - also known as gastrointestinal problems or dysbiosis - can come in many forms, such as constipation, diarrhea, and bloating. Each form has to do with how food is broken down once consumed. Because the digestive system is a complex function of the body, issues can arise anywhere along the trip that food takes.
How the digestive system works
Digestion involves the process of digestive enzymes breaking down food and moving it through the digestive tract. Digestion begins in the mouth, with the act of chewing and swallowing, and is completed in the small intestine.
Once food or liquid is swallowed, the stomach then takes over by storing the food and liquid, mixing the food, liquid, and digestive enzymes produced by the stomach, and finally emptying the contents slowly into the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed. The mixture then moves to the large intestine and colon and waits to be expelled as feces.
Symptoms of digestive problems
There are different symptoms of digestive problems that can indicate different causes. Below is a list of some of the common symptoms of digestive problems:
A false urge to have a bowel movement
Continue reading to learn more about the causes of digestive problems.
While there are many causes of stomach problems that are not associated with hormones, there are many that may have hidden connections. More women than men are diagnosed with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, which may indicate that estrogen plays a larger role in stomach problems than has been thought.
Some stomach problems are mild and will clear up on their own, but others may need treatment to improve. If you experience any type of severe symptoms relating to your stomach or digestive tract, you should seek medical advice to ensure that you do not experience adverse effects.
Causes of Digestive Problems
Although there are many potential causes of digestive problems, hormonal imbalance is one of the primary factors during perimenopause. As a woman's body prepares for menopause, the production of estrogen and progesterone fluctuates and eventually decreases. These hormones regulate many different functions in the body. Because of this, women can experience a number of symptoms, including digestive problems.
Hormonal causes of digestive problems
Cortisol is a "stress hormone" produced by the adrenaline gland and is involved in stress responses. It is known to impede digestion and create digestive problems, among other adverse reactions, such as anxiety. As a result of imbalanced hormone levels during menopause, there may be times with high levels of cortisol in the body.
Estrogen has an effect on the stress hormone, cortisol. When estrogen is too low, levels of cortisol rise, raising blood pressure and blood sugar, and slowing down the release of stomach acid and the movement of digested food into the small intestine. This can create some of the symptoms of digestive problems, such as gas, bloating, and constipation.
There are several other possible causes of digestive problems beyond hormonal causes. Some of these other causes are:
Drug and alcohol consumption
Not chewing food enough
Lack of fiber
Too much fatty food
Some uncontrollable factors can increase a person's susceptibility to digestive problems. These include:
Continue reading to learn difference options available to treat digestive problems.
Digestive problems can be an annoying and unpleasant symptom at any point in time, but the frequency of these problems may increase during the menopause transition. Click the following link to learn more about some of the causes and treatments for digestive issues during menopause.
Digestive problems are one of the more common symptoms of the menopause transition. This can involve bloating, gas, and constipation. However, there are a variety of solutions for digestive problems. Click on the following link to learn more about digestive problems during the menopause transition.
Digestive Problems Treatments
When exploring treatments for digestive problems, it's important to start with the lowest-risk options and work from there.
This means that lifestyle changes are generally the best place to begin. For instance, sometimes digestive problems can be alleviated simply by drinking more water or eating a balanced, fiber-rich diet.
Typically, combining lifestyle changes and alternative medicines will produce the best results. Alternative medicines can be different herbs and supplements, or even techniques like biofeedback. When seeking out alternative medicines, it is best to treat symptoms at their source in order to alleviate symptoms in the long term.
Finally, if digestive problems continue, there are different medications that can be explored. While medications can be effective, there are many potential side effects. Because of the risks involved, consulting a trusted medical professional before beginning these treatments is recommended, especially because persistent digestive problems could point to an underlying condition.
Click on the following link to learn specific treatments for digestive problems, which begin with lifestyle changes, move onto alternative medicines, and finally, if those options do not work, medications. The most effective treatments for digestive problems typically combine lifestyle changes and alternative medicines.
While food can't necessarily cure any stomach problems, eating the right foods - or the wrong ones - can have a large impact on stomach disorders. Symptoms of illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn's disease can be improved just by avoiding certain foods or focusing on adding in some useful food groups.
Irritable bowel syndrome affects 1 in 6 people in the US, and is particularly prevalent among women. There are several strategies to manage it, such as monitoring diet, lowering stress levels, and using herbal remedies.
Fukudo, S. (2007). Role of corticotropin-releasing hormone in irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal inflammation. Journal of Gastroenterology, 42 Suppl 17, 48-51. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17238026
Heitkemper, M.M. & Chang, L. (2009). Do Fluctuations in Ovarian Hormones Affect Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Women With Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Gender Medicine, 6(Suppl 2), 152-167. doi: 10.1016/j.genm.2009.03.004
Office on Women's Health. (2008). The Healthy Woman: A Complete Guide for All Ages. Chapter 20: Digestive Health. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/the-healthy-woman/digestive_health.pdf
Updated on Nov 22, 2017 All about Chronic Digestive Disorders Chronic stomach problems do not always have to be present to count as chronic. Often, symptoms of chronic illness may recede for months at a time or more, but without treatment, they will return after this period of remission. It is the return of symptoms that classifies a condition as chronic.
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