Menopause & Digestive Problems

Updated November 21, 2016

Menopause, triggered by a decline in the oestrogen levels of a woman's body, is a normal (sometimes troublesome) life stage. The resulting hormonal imbalance causes multiple symptoms to develop. These symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, weight gain, depression, and fatigue. It can typically last for the duration of the perimenopausal (or pre-menopausal) period. Not every woman will experience them to the same level of intensity, but they do occur most severely during this time. This hormonal turmoil also creates disruptions in the digestive process. Menopause symptoms can be treated through either a change in lifestyle, alternative medicine, or drugs and surgery. Treating menopause symptoms in general will address any related digestive symptoms.

What Is Menopause

Menopause symptoms are the outward signs of the hormonal fluctuations taking place inside a woman's body. This stage of her life is signalled by the onset of a transitional period that typically lasts from two to ten years, from her first irregular menstrual period to her last. During this perimenopausal time, the remaining follicles in her ovaries lose their sensitivity to FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and secrete less oestrogen, causing the FSH levels to rise. Low oestrogen levels prevent the release of the LH hormone and the rupture of the follicle; therefore, no egg is released. No ovulation occurs during the cycle. Progesterone also cannot be released at its appropriate time during the cycle. This lack of oestrogen triggers her symptoms.

Cause of Digestive Disruptions

In addition to the hot flushes, mood swings and depression typically associated with perimenopause, many women also experience digestive disruptions which can not only cause discomfort, but they could also lead to more serious issues later on. In fact, perimenopause is one of the main causes of digestive difficulties in women between the ages of 45 and 55. The most common symptoms of digestive trouble include cramps, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhoea. The same hormonal imbalance that causes the other perimenopausal symptoms can also trigger digestive distress. Lower oestrogen levels trigger an increase in the level of cortisol in the body, which causes a rise in blood pressure and blood sugar. This slows the release of stomach acid and the emptying of stomach contents into the intestinal tract. Gas, bloating and constipation can result.

Lifestyle Change as Treatment of Menopause Symptoms

Lifestyle change is the least risky approach. Stress reduction through meditative practices and breathing exercises, diet modifications to include foods rich in naturally occurring oestrogen, such as yams, soy, potatoes and rice, and restriction of caffeine and alcohol, plus regular exercise can help to keep symptoms in check. Also be sure to keep well hydrated and get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
These changes do not address the hormonal imbalance at its source. They may need to be supplemented by a second level of treatment.

Alternative Medicine as Treatment of Menopause Symptoms

Alternative medicine also involves low to no risk and has become a popular method of treating menopause symptoms.There are two types of herbs commonly used to treat hormonal symptoms. Phytoestrogenic herbs like black cohosh contain their own oestrogen components and can help to restore balance by reintroducing their plant-based oestrogen into the body. Unfortunately, the body may become too dependent on this outside source and further restrict its own oestrogen production.

Non-oestrogen herbs like Macafem stimulate the body into producing and balancing its own hormonal levels. Not containing any oestrogen components themselves, they nourish the pituitary and endocrine glands. The herbs stimulate them back to normal levels of hormone production.

Drugs as Treatment of Menopause Symptoms

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most common form of drug therapy for menopause. However, it carries the greatest risk as it can cause serious side effects and trigger certain cancers in women. It may also trigger heart disease, blood clots and strokes. Combining a healthy lifestyle with alternative medicine is the safest way to treat the symptoms of menopause.

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