Menopause is the “gift” that keeps on giving. With 34 associated symptoms that can easily be ascribed to a myriad of other health conditions, it can be impossible to know if what you’re experiencing is tied to menopause without a hormone test. Each week this series will break down symptoms to empower women to take back control of their health and enjoy some relief.
Weight gain is one of the many frustrating aspects of menopause, but oftentimes a fuller midsection is actually the result of bloat. Uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing due to gassiness, bloat is one of the most common symptoms in the menopause mix. A swollen abdomen can instantly affect your ability to fit into your existing wardrobe, adding one more menopause-related hit to a woman’s confidence. We’ve broken down what causes it, as well as the lifestyle changes that can mitigate its impact.
What Causes Menopausal Bloating?
Hormonal changes are once again responsible for the unpredictable changes women experience. As estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate during menopause, these changes can affect your digestive system. For example, estrogen helps to regulate the movement of food through your intestines. When estrogen levels decline, food can move more slowly through your intestines, which can lead to bloating. Declining estrogen levels can also lead to water retention.
Women also experience a disruption in gut bacteria during menopause. The gut microbiome is a complex community of bacteria that live in the digestive tract. These bacteria help to break down food and absorb nutrients. Changes in the gut microbiome can lead to bloating, especially if there is an increase in gas-producing bacteria.
Some women may develop food intolerances during menopause, which can cause bloating after eating certain foods. Common food intolerances during menopause include lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, and fructose intolerance. To top it off, many women gain weight during menopause, especially around the abdomen making bloating more noticeable.
How Do I Know My Bloating is Menopause Related?
If you are over the age of 40 and experiencing other menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, or irregular periods, it is more likely that your bloating is menopause related. Menopausal bloating may be worse at certain times of the month, such as around your period or during times of stress. Otherwise it’s important to see a doctor to rule out other causes. Be sure to keep a diary of your symptoms to help identify any patterns in your bloating, such as when it occurs and what seems to trigger it.
What Else Causes Bloating?
We’ve all experienced bloating at one time or another well before menopause hits due to food intolerances, constipation or certain foods and drinks like carbonated beverages, beans, and cruciferous vegetables. Certain medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ovarian cancer, can also cause bloating, as well as medications like antidepressants and pain relievers.
What Are My Treatment Options?
There are a number of things you can do to manage menopausal bloating, such as:
When Should I See A Doctor?
If your bloating is severe or persistent, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms, such as abdominal pain, weight loss, or changes in bowel habits, it is important to see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Thankfully, this common menopause symptom can typically be managed with lifestyle changes.
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