All About Bloating and Menopause - Elektra Health

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Bloating

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SYMPTOM

Bloating

Abdominal bloating during menopause is common. And, as you might expect, annoying. It usually boils down to gastrointestinal (GI) issues that many of us are already familiar with during PMS but that pop up with more frequency around this time of our life.

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    The science

    “Bloating” is an umbrella term used to describe discomfort in the abdominal area related to:
    • Water retention, which can be felt in other parts of your body, such as hands, feet, and face
    • Trapped air in the abdomen, which makes your stomach feel full and swollen

    For most of us, this isn’t anything new as we’ve (unfortunately) become BFFs with bloating over the years while PMSing, something 95% of us experience during our lifetime. Bloating often shows up to the party alongside a slew of other related symptoms, such as bowel discomfort, changes in bowel patterns (constipation and diarrhea), and abdominal pain.

    Why do we bloat?

    During perimenopause (or the transition period between the onset of your first symptoms and the onset of menopause), bloating can be traced back to hormone fluctuations — specifically estrogen and progesterone. Here’s why:

    After we ovulate but before we begin our period, we’re in what’s called the “luteal phase.” At first, estrogen drops, but then it begins to rise and stays there. With more estrogen, we get more water retention. And with more water retention, we get bloat.

    But estrogen isn’t the only fluctuating hormone. Progesterone rises, too, which affects the amount of time it takes food to move through our colon (aka GI transit time). When things slow down, it can cause constipation and, you guessed it, bloating.

    While the science behind GI issues occurring pre-menopause into perimenopause is well established, it’s unfortunately less so when it comes to menopause. However, there is emerging science indicating that, during perimenopause and menopause, lower estrogen levels may result in decreased bile production, which is a substance that keeps the intestines lubricated. Less lubrication leads to harder and drier stool, which leads to constipation, which leads to…you can fill in the blank here. (*sigh*)

    Outside of hormones, other causes of bloat and ancillary GI symptoms include:

    • Nutrition: specifically insufficient protein and electrolyte imbalances
    • Diet sensitivities: including celiac/gluten sensitivity and dairy intolerance
    • Culprit foods & drinks: including chewing gum (which causes you to swallow air), carbonated beverages, and indigestible carbs found in sugar-free foods (e.g., sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol)
    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): a condition that affects the large intestine, with symptoms such as cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain
    • Ovarian cancer or liver disease: yes, bloating can sometimes indicate a more serious problem like fluid in the abdominal cavity, which can be caused by liver disease or ovarian cancer — but to be clear, usually these conditions are not the reason for bloating

    More often than not, bloating is transient, meaning it comes and goes

    For transient bloating, it’s very unlikely that the cause is something more serious, such as ovarian cysts/cancer or fibroids. However, if any of the below apply to you, that’s a sign to consult your healthcare provider (or Elektra):

     

    • Ongoing, chronic bloating
    • Persistent or severe abdominal pain
    • Ongoing diarrhea
    • Bloody stool
    • Changes in the color or frequency of stool
    • Unintended weight loss
    • Chest discomfort
    • Loss of appetite or feeling full quickly

    What you can do

    We’re all about equipping you with the know-how to understand your symptoms, and we especially emphasize the specific, tangible ways to manage them. Our goal is to empower YOU to take charge of your menopause journey, starting today.

    A quick note about product recommendations…Elektra Health is not paid to feature any products. We just like them and think you might too, though we can’t guarantee any results.


    Lifestyle

    Nutrition & Diet

    Nutrition is 100% our first line of defense. Here’s a primer on foods to consider removing, as well as foods to add to your diet to manage and treat symptoms of bloating during menopause.

    What to remove:

    Anything that you notice is affecting you, which may include:

    • Grains
    • Dairy
    • Added sugars
    • Alcohol
    • Legumes and veggies such as raw broccoli, onions, cauliflower, cabbage, and peppers
    What to reduce:
    • Salt, since it causes us to retain water
    What to add:
    • More water! Along with foods that have natural diuretic properties, such as green tea, asparagus, caffeine, and parsley
    • Peppermint/spearmint in the form of tea or essential oils
    • Ginger
    • Pineapple
    • Prebiotic foods (i.e. foods that feed the good bacteria, or probiotics, in your system): dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichoke, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas
    • Probiotic foods (i.e. foods that contain the good bacteria, like bifidobacterium, lactobacillus) : kefir, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and other fermented/pickled foods

    Need some relief from bloating and not sure where to start? Consider eliminating dairy products, grains, and alcohol to begin with, in addition to avoiding carbonated drinks. From there, you can them add back in one at a time and see what (if anything) affects you.

    For structured guidance, it may be worth seeking out a specific elimination or anti-bloating diet, such as Whole30 or Paleo (both of which are admittedly hard for vegans).


    Holistic Practices

    Sometimes, it’s just as much about HOW you eat as it is about WHAT you eat, which is why we recommend eating slowly (put your fork/spoon down between bites) and avoiding straws.


    Exercise

    Exercise can certainly help our bowels move, which may help with certain feelings of bloating. We’re big fans of Yoga with Adriene and weight training over at Fitnessblender.com — but remember, a brisk walk counts too!


    Supplements & Over-the-Counter Solutions

    Supplements and over-the-counter solutions may be effective in supporting your bloating symptoms…if you choose wisely. We recommend consulting with your healthcare provider first to ensure you’re using something with optimal efficacy and safety (i.e. backed by clinical research) or consulting with Elektra’s providers. Here’s a quick primer from our team on how to go about selecting high-quality supplements.

    Studies show that probiotic supplements, which contain all the good bacteria you want, can help with GI issues. However, since the goal here is to heal your gut, you’re not going to be on them forever. When selecting a brand, look for:

    • Products that require refrigeration
    • 100,000 strains of bacteria for digestive health (vs vaginal/urinary health)
    • The word “digestive” on the bottle

    Reputable brands include Dr. Ohhira, Align, Metagenics, and Garden of Life.

    Probiotics aside, those tried-and-true anti-gas medications such as Beano or simethicone (aka GasX) may help relieve bloating symptoms as well.


    We’re always keeping an eye out on emerging research and the latest clinical studies. Subscribe to our weekly Elektra Digest for the latest, science-based info direct to your inbox. Something work well for you that’s not listed here? We want to hear it! Shoot us a note at [email protected] (We’re human, promise.)


    Disclaimer: This information is for general educational purposes, and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any health condition or problem.

    As with anything you put into your body, taking dietary supplements can also involve health risks. You should consult a medical professional before taking supplements and inform your doctor about any supplements, as well as any medications you already take, since there may be interactions.

    References

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