As we transition through into menopause, our body experiences many hormonal fluctuations, which can result in changes in mood, anxiety regulation and digestive health.
Every woman will experience her journey into menopause differently; our gut health for example is influenced by many things, dating right back to when we were born!
Common factors include our usual diet, exercise levels, response to stress, previous anti-biotic use and pre-diagnosed conditions, so whilst looking after our gut health should be an important consideration for midlife women, individualised approaches are key.
Gut health is a hot topic, research is emerging all the time but what do we know so far?
How does the gut microbiome change in menopause?
As our reproductive hormones, oestrogen and progesterone decline, this seems to impact our gut in many ways.
Research comparing the guts of women before and after menopause suggests that our gut bacteria (that make up a large proportion of our gut microbiome) become less diverse after menopause.
Diversity of our bacteria appears to be associated with better gut health generally, so as our gut takes the hit, we may notice more digestive issues such bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, or just bowel habits a bit different from our norm.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and menopause
Some women may suffer from IBS for many years before entering menopause,
which may be linked in some way to the gut microbiome.
There is a good evidence that dietary and lifestyle factors can help to alleviate and improve symptoms, but changes in oestrogen certainly adds another factor into the equation and may call for further support.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and menopause
Similarly with inflammatory conditions of the bowel, losing oestrogen, which supports the body with its anti-inflammatory effects, may cause symptoms to alter.
Any health care professionals working with women of menopausal age should have this on their radar.
How can I support my gut health through menopause?
In amongst the busy, we might not have paid much attention to our gut health up until now. We’ve hoped that are gut bacteria are doing their ‘thing’ whilst we get on with ours. Midlife is certainly a good time to give them a little more love.
Nurturing and maintaining your gut health and microbiome specifically during menopause can see positive results. Combining a balanced varied diet alongside exercise can help support gut function.
Including high levels of dietary fibre from different plant-based foods and experimenting with fermented foods like kefir and sauerkraut all helps to support and stabilise a diverse gut microbiome.
Also adopting more positive ways of thinking around food can help with stress and digestive issues, for example becoming aware of which foods seem to be acting as a trigger to symptoms and eating slower can all benefit the microbiome.
As this new research into menopause and the gut microbiome is still developing, it is important to speak to a healthcare professional if you are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms which you are unfamiliar with.
If you’re keen to improve your gut health, take small steps to doing so. Your gut will respond better to incremental changes in fibre, for example and we tend to be more successful with making dietary changes stick when we take a gradual approach. Find out more about improving your gut health.
Need more advice or keen to explore more about how the menopause affects your gut? Please feel free to contact me for a chat.