Menopause and The Gut - How is the gut affected?
The gut is home to the trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that make up our microbiome.
Why is gut health important and what changes happen to our gut during the menopause transition? Once we know this we can help our gut to adapt to these changes.
A healthy gut means that your food is being processed correctly and efficiently and you are gaining as much energy as possible from what you consume. However, during the perimenopause and the menopause, many women begin to experience problems with their digestive system, including issues such as:
- increased food sensitivities
- increased wind
Menopause can impact our digestive system. As oestrogen declines this can affect stomach acid levels, and a reduction in digestive enzymes as we age can impact digestion. The time it takes food to move through the gut can be slowed through changes in hormone levels, which can lead to digestive symptoms. A reduction in oestrogen and progesterone affects the immune system which can increase the chance of food sensitivities. At menopause, the epithelial lining of the gut can be affected by declining oestrogen. This affects the gut lining and we can become more susceptible to toxin exposure.
There are so many healthy ‘bugs’ in the digestive system, We carry more bacteria in our body than we have cells, 150 times more bacteria than we have human genes. There are thousands of species and strains and still so much we don’t know about them.
Healthy microbiome is essential for the repair of the gut lining when injured. They are key to the immune system and digestion which helps to break down food and produce nutrients. It acts as an extra barrier in the gut lining to help to protect against infection. It has metabolic functions, helps to break down foods and synthesis vitamins.
The good news is that we can restore our gut ready for the next stage of our lives!!
- Diversity rules – try something new – eat the alphabet. Eating a diverse diet rich in fibre is one of the single best things we can do for a diverse and resilient microbiome. This will encourage the growth of different and happy bugs, sending signals to your brain that everything is good.
- Fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut are natural probiotics that introduce beneficial bacteria into your digestive system, improving your gut health.
- Avoid antibiotics if possible – if you do need to take them, you can take a probiotic at the same time. Ask your doctor or pharmacist when you collect the medicine.
- Reduce stress. Too much stress can increase leaky gut syndrome. When we want to digest food, we need to feel calm, not stressed. The digestive system is under nervous control and is affected by stress so eat mindfully as chewing is part of digestion
- Be mindful of your circadian rhythms. The intestinal microbiome is also regulated by circadian rhythms via your intrinsic circadian clock. Many women find that their sleep is affected during menopause and sleep affects the gut and other hormones. The digestive system needs to rest overnight, preferably for a 12 hour window.
Try making your own kefir – its easy, simple and cheap! Here is a link to the grains so you can get started.