Menopause is a natural biological process in women, but that doesn’t mean every woman experiences it the same. The process that marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle can happen at different times and can result in a broad spectrum of symptoms. The connection between a healthy gut and hormone production is essential. Perimenopause and postmenopause take a significant toll on your hormone balance. This means it’s an important time to focus on how you can boost your gut health. The following tips and lifestyle changes might help ease the journey of menopause and lead you to an overall healthier life.
What is the Human Microbiome?
It can sometimes be scary to think about, but there is a vast amount of different bacterias and fungi that live on or in the human body. The nearly 30 trillion cells are collectively known as the microbiome. Each person’s microbiome is unique depending on their diet, antibiotic history, and environmental exposure. It’s this diversity in your microbiome that has a profound effect on your metabolic health. The microbes and bacteria that are balanced in our gastrointestinal tract affect more parts of the body than just the stomach.
Gut Health and Menopause – How Are They Connected?
Professor Paul Ratté, ND, of Northwestern Health Sciences University explains that it’s not as simple as blaming hormones for bloating and other common symptoms such as
“Fluctuating and decreasing levels of estrogen, as well as the body’s attempt to preserve fertility for as long as possible, are stressors that reveal an underlying issue that was already there.” Your gut plays a more significant role in your immune system than you may realize. Both estrogen and progesterone levels drop as a result of menopause which changes your microbiome and reduces how efficiently your gut can do its job. An imbalance of gut flora, like an overgrowth of candida, can lead to a leaky gut which increases inflammation in your gut, compromising your ability to absorb nutrients properly. This can exacerbate the hormonal changes your body is already experiencing and increase other symptoms of menopause such as mood swings, weight gain, slowed metabolism, and hot flashes. The lack of estrogen also means you are missing an added defence mechanism against enteric pathogens and are more prone to inflammation.
Ways to Boost your Gut Health During Menopause
However, everyone responds to changes in diet differently, so it’s up to you to know your limitations and restrictions. There are a few different dietary modifications that are good for repairing an unhealthy gut. Hormones are powerful influencers, so a hormone balancing diet might be the first place to start, especially for women struggling through menopause. Eating more soy products like tofu, tempeh, and miso can help mimic the loss of hormones. Evidence has shown that a plant-based diet can do wonders for healing your gut. Incorporating plenty of vegetables and fruits of all colours, beans, and legumes is the best way to get vitamins and fibre. Increasing the number of fermented foods and enriching your diet with probiotics is the best way to stimulate good bacteria growth. Additionally, eliminating alcohol, caffeine, and processed sugary foods can also help reduce hot flashes and mood swings.
Gut health is directly related to what you are putting in your body, but lifestyle behaviours also influence how well your body responds to the stress and changes of menopause. Along with a moderate amount of exercise, getting plenty of sleep is essential at any age for reducing stress and allowing your body ample time to rest and rejuvenate.
Not only does the menopause cause fluctuations in the brain and reproductive system, but menopause can also significantly imbalance the digestive system and affect gut health. To ease the transition and manage some of the more uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, it’s more important than ever to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. Many women experience different symptoms, some more intensely than others or not at all. Figure out what works best for you and aim for a sense of balance between work, relaxation, and building healthy habits.