Gut Health During Menopause and How to Eat for a Healthy Transition

Menopause is an inevitable phase; however, acceptance does not render it any easier. Common problems that women face during perimenopause and menopause include mood swings, weight issues and insomnia. But there is another issue which is often overlooked, despite being quite severe. Gut health does suffer during menopause and can deteriorate severely if not handled and remedied well in time.

The human gut is comprised of bacteria, both good and bad, which facilitate various life functions. For optimal functioning of the gut, a balance between the benign and pathogenic bacteria is a must. Perimenopause and menopause tend to disrupt this balance and put gut health into jeopardy. While it may not be possible to totally avoid this condition, you can definitely take steps to ease the mental and physical stress that it causes.

What Connects Gut Health to Menopause?

Human gut depends on hormones estrogen and progesterone to maintain its basic functioning. From this it follows that any fluctuation in the hormonal level will cause disturbance in the manner the gut functions. The outcome is digestive issues, which are prone to aggravate, and have a negative impact on diet and overall health.

Conditions like heartburn and pregnancy also disrupt gut health like menopause or perimenopause. But the symptoms may vary slightly and are not as long-lasting. Usually, menopausal gut health becomes apparent through unexplained bloating, gas, and a major disruption in bowel movements. At the onset of perimenopause, estrogen production in the body begins to fluctuate courtesy of the microbiome. Symptoms that warn you of the change include flaring of hot flashes, feeling depressed, and suffering from insomnia. Frequent mood swings also form the part of the package.  

Given the disruptive nature of this phase, it is but obvious that being mindful of gut health can go a long way in alleviating the physical and mental discomfort that menopause triggers. 

Using Diet to Boost Gut Health during Menopause

Since menopausal problems have their roots in hormones, it makes sense to maintain focus on this aspect as the first step. Next, your objective should be to restore good bacteria in the gut, mostly through diet and lifestyle changes. Both processes are interdependent, so when you take steps to achieve one, the other also gets fulfilled as a positive side-effect.

Restoring Hormonal Balance

As you grow older, the microbiome in your gut also goes through the ageing process. One of the outcomes is that the pathogenic or bad bacteria tend to replicate and grow stronger. Eventually these outnumber the good bacteria and cause gut health to decline. This is where your awareness comes in.

One of the ways by which you can restore hormone balance is by adjusting your diet. Assuming that you are already in perimenopause and are fast approaching menopause, we recommend the following dietary changes that you must make to ensure a smooth and healthy transition –

Include Vegetables and Fruits

An effective way to counter depleting estrogen levels entails including fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Vegetables like potatoes and beans, fruits like apples and dates, and grains like barley and oats are rich sources of phytoestrogens and hence ease the symptoms. Tofu and miso also come under this category, and together these food groups replenish and stabilize estrogen levels.  

Increase Magnesium Intake

Everyone consumes a certain quantity of magnesium on a daily basis. You only need to add a bit more to this quantity, but exercise caution so as not to overdo. A slight magnesium boost can go a long way in alleviating menopausal discomfort by limiting flatulence, constipation, and mood swings.

Green leafy vegetables, fish, tomatoes, avocado, beet, and sweet potato are well-known sources of magnesium. Their consumption during perimenopause and menopause strengthens the immune system and improves bone health, both of which form the foundation for long-term good health and well-being.

Probiotics, Not Antibiotics

Empower your gut with a multiple-strain probiotics, for example apple cider vinegar, and reinstate the positive microbiome in your gut. While antibiotics tend to destroy both good and bad bacteria in the gut, probiotics encourage the beneficial flora to proliferate. So, taking probiotics can bolster your body sufficiently to fight menopausal disturbances, rather than weaken it as antibiotics do.

Add Fiber

Few food groups clean up the gut as efficiently as fiber does, and that is why it is a must-have during perimenopause and menopause. A fiber-rich diet, like lentils, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and beans, mobilizes the bowel and ensures optimal digestion by ejecting the waste material. With all the extra baggage having been discarded, your system feels cleansed and is ready to take on the challenges of menopause without too much agony.

Lifestyle Changes

Altering your lifestyle may not provide drastic relief, but it can surely improve the situation. Changes that have been proven to have a positive impact include staying well hydrated throughout the day, having green tea, sleeping well, and exercising regularly. If you are a smoker, menopause is the time to consider quitting. Smoking during the menopause can exaggerated symptoms such as mood swings, hot flushes, anxiety, skin problems and poor sleep.

To overcome nausea, take time to chew and swallow as this would enable you to hold down whatever you eat. Maintaining your diet does enhance energy levels, which in turn is a huge plus during menopause.

Final Thoughts

Yet another step that improves gut health during menopause entails knowing how to swap foods. For example, if you have been having meat all your life, the menopausal phase could be truly difficult in terms of digestion. Rest assured, you need not totally give up on meat consumption. All you need to do is simply modify by replacing the heavier red meat by lighter white meat and fish. Likewise, replace processed food, like cookies and crisps, with freshly prepared snacks and steer clear of sugar to whatever extent possible.

Women are particularly susceptible to slip into a depression during menopause and might resort to alcohol for support. In such a scenario, the best advice is to drink in moderation, and make healthy choices, for example picking brown bread and whole-grain pasta over white and refined varieties. As long as you are aware of your sensitivities and are mindful of the changes being made, chances are that your gut will be able to tackle the menopause and facilitate a healthy transition.