Urghh… suffering from bloating and gas is horrible. You feel full when you’ve hardly eaten anything and by the end of the day you look six months pregnant. Your clothes don’t fit, your confidence is low and you feel really uncomfortable.
Bloating and the menopause seem to go hand in hand and I know this is a problem that many women struggle with daily.
What causes bloating?
We know that during perimenopause and menopause our hormones are constantly fluctuating but even women who have a regular monthly cycle experience bloating occasionally.
Estrogen and progesterone have a significant effect on the health of your gut. These hormones can influence the movement of food through the intestines. An imbalance can speed the process up causing diarrhoea or slow things down causing constipation and water retention. This may explain why many women report feeling bloated in the week(s) leading up to their period. However, when you’re approaching menopause your cycle may be highly irregular so these periods of bloating and gas may last longer.
It’s also important to note that other hormones impact your digestive system too. Stress hormones (cortisol in particular) have been shown to exacerbate abdominal symptoms in people with IBS whilst chronic constipation is a recognised symptom of hypothyroidism.
It’s possible to develop an intolerance to virtually any food but there are some that are known to be more irritating to the gut than others.
- Gluten containing grains (wheat, barley, rye, spelt, couscous, bulgar etc.)
- Dairy products
- Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Soy and soy products
- Beans and legumes
- Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, white potatoes, bell peppers, aubergine
There are also some other foods that you may not suspect as being possible irritants. Gut health expert, Dr Jillian Sarno Teta, calls these foods ‘wolves in sheeps clothing’ – healthy foods that can wreak digestive havoc.
Beat the Bloat
Chew your food properly
This may sound really simple but when you eat too fast you introduce a lot of air into your system and swallow big chunks of food. Food needs to be properly broken down into its basic compounds before it enters your stomach. If it isn’t then your stomach is put under pressure to break that food down. This slows down the rate at which food leaves the stomach and can lead to gas and bloating and, over time, may lead to a leaky gut.
Remove the foods that irritate your gut
You may already suspect that certain foods do not agree with you. The only way to be certain is to remove them completely for a period of time (2-4 weeks) and then slowly reintroduce them again to see if you have a reaction.
Balance your hormones
I know this is easier said than done but it is fundamental to managing your menopause. If you can manage your insulin and cortisol levels through diet and lifestyle changes, this should help to regulate your estrogen and progesterone levels. Read more here.
We all have millions of bacteria living in our gut that assist with digestion and sometimes they need a little help to keep all systems running efficiently. Look for a product that primarily has Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria strains and check that it doesn’t contain any gut irritants such as sweeteners, dairy or corn.
Exercise & Massage
Exercise will help with the movement of food through the digestive tract. Go for a leisurely walk, dance to your favourite tracks or take a fitness class.
If you regularly suffer from constipation then self massage can really beneficial. It’s easy to do and can be done lying, sitting or standing. Click here to learn how to perform abdominal massage.
Apple cider vinegar gives your digestion and kick start. Have a shot right before eating your meal.
Eat magnesium rich foods to improve bowel regularity. Foods such as spinach, avocado, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, seeds, brazil nuts and almonds are all high in magnesium.
Peppermint and ginger are both great at reducing gas and are readily available as a tea.
If you think you may have a more serious digestive issue then I strongly recommend you speak with your doctor.
Although bloating is very common when you are going through the menopause, it can be managed by
- balancing your hormones
- taking regular exercise
- Reducing or eliminating foods that irritate your gut
- Taking a high quality probiotic
If you have any tried and tested ways for dealing with bloating and gas please share in the comments below, I love hearing from you!