In this week’s A.Vogel’s Menopause Mondays it’s all about constipation and how falling oestrogen can cause this common digestive problem. Plus, I recommend simple ways to help relieve constipation.
Hello, and welcome to another edition of A.Vogel’s Menopause Mondays. Today, I am going to talk about constipation. Now, I know over the last year I’ve talked about digestive problems on a regular basis, and we know that falling oestrogen can actually affect our digestive system. It basically just slows everything down. And unfortunately, one of the results of this slowing down is constipation.
How serious is constipation?
Now, a lot of people don’t actually take constipation seriously, but it can have a profound effect on our health. And in the menopause, that can actually affect our menopause symptoms. It can make some of them worse, and it can actually trigger new menopause symptoms. So I thought of going to a little bit more detail about what happens and what you can actually do to help yourself.
Now, people ask me, “But what’s regular? How often should I go to the toilet?” And if you think about it, we eat three meals a day, and most of us will not go more than once a day to actually empty our bowels. And for those of you who are going even less, supposing you’re only going once every three days, that means you have nine meals of digested food sitting in your digestive tract. And what on earth is that actually doing?
Your digestive tract is, actually, it’s warm and it’s wet, and there’s lots of bacteria hiding in there. And your food, if it’s sitting there for too long, it can actually start to putrefy. And that will start to give off gases, it will start to actually attract unfriendly bacteria, and that can cause a whole range of issues. So, getting your bowels working every single day is really very important for your health and for your menopause, too.
What does constipation do?
Wind, bloating & cramp
So, what does constipation do? How does it actually affect you? Because it’s sitting in the gut for a long time, because all these gases are being produced, the main symptoms are going to be lots of wind, lots of bloating, and lots of cramping. Now, digestive stress tends to be happening when you get up in the morning and you think, “Oh, this is great. I can put my skirt on, I can do the zip-up. Everything’s okay,” and then, by the time you get to teatime, you just feel as if you’re being squeezed right around the middle. You feel as if you’ve just bloated up. And this is the, kind of, common digestive bloat.
Constipation can also affect the liver. If everything is sitting there for days and days, then all of the toxins that our body is actually wanting to get rid of, they’re going to be reabsorbed through the system, and the liver is going to have to deal with them all over again. And the liver gets tired in the menopause. It’s having to work really hard at deactivating all the hormones and dealing with everything else that’s going on. So, if it’s being constantly bombarded by toxins time and time again, very often, the liver just goes, “Ugh, I’ve had enough.” It will throw things out through the skin.
So, constipation can actually cause things like itchy skin, it can cause rashes, because of all the extra toxicity going on in the bloodstream. You can get headaches, you can get that foggy feeling, you can get fatigue. And the liver actually plays quite an important in hair growth. So if your liver is being extra stressed, that can be a contributory factor for your hair quality or for even losing hair during the menopause as well.
We also know that if things are sitting in the gut for too long, it can attract unfriendly bacteria, and they will start to breed. And that can then affect your friendly bacteria, and your friendly bacteria are vital for your general health. They also play a huge part in hormonal control. Friendly bacteria will breakdown good food, plant food, and manufacture phytoestrogen. So you can get a little extra dose of phytoestrogens through your digestive system if it’s working well. And if you’re getting constipation, then your friendly bacteria can be under a lot of stress and, if they’re not helping with your hormonal control, then that can lead to the hormonal swings, it can trigger things like hot flashes, it can cause joint aches, it can cause your mood to go up and down as well. And that’s all just with constipation.
We know, too, that dehydration is an issue with constipation, and constipation and hot flushes very often go together. Hot flushes and night sweats will dehydrate you, and dehydration will affect your elimination. So, you know, it’s quite an interesting one to actually be aware of. Being bloated, it makes us feel fat, it makes us feel awful. We look in the mirror and go, “Oh, I just don’t look good today.” It can affect our confidence, it can affect our body image, as well. So it’s not something we really want to have if we can avoid it.
Normally, this is quite easy to fix.
What can you do?
Number one, guess, loads of water, especially if you’re getting hot flashes and night sweats. So make sure you’re drinking your plain water on a regular basis, and that is one of the simplest things to actually help with constipation.
Make sure you’re getting enough fibre in your diet. Now that doesn’t mean loads of bread and pasta, and heaping spoonfuls of bran onto your breakfast cereal. Wheat bran and wheat is not the best fiber for your digestive system. You can look at oat fibre, which can be really nice, it’s gentle on your system, and just make sure you’re eating loads of veg, a little bit of fruit, and a lovely remedy for mild constipation is whole grain round brown rice. It takes a little while to cook, but a nice tablespoon of that once a day can actually really help to get your bowels moving, as well.
If things are really stuck, if you just think, “I am just not going regularly at all,” we have a lovely remedy called Linoforce, which is traditionally used for mild constipation. But just a little word on laxatives in general, don’t rely on them, purely because if you take them for too long, they can make your own bowel really weak. And then when you stop taking the laxatives, you end up getting the same problem back again. So just be very careful in that situation.
A word of caution
Pelvic girdle muscles
Now, just a little word of caution here. We have something called the pelvic girdle muscles, and these are muscles that…they’re a bit like a sling that go each…from each of the hips, and they actually support our bladder, our bowel, and our womb. And during the menopause, these muscles can get a little bit weak, and it can actually allow the bladder, the bowel, or the womb to slip a little bit. And one of the things that you can end up with is the bowel prolapse. So if you find that your bowel habits have really changed, if you find that it’s much more difficult to go, if you find that you can’t empty your bowel, so you go and then you just think, “Oh, I need to go a bit more,” and you can’t, nothing you do works, or you find that you actually have to go back to the toilet maybe 15 minutes later to finish everything off, then it may mean that there’s a prolapse going on. And in which case, just get that checked out by your doctor.
Go to your doctor
The other really, really important thing here is, we’re talking about minor bloating that comes and goes, and it’s associated with all of your digestive problems. If you start to get continual bloating, if you really start to bloat out, if you find it doesn’t go down, if you find that you’re either very hard or very tender, if you’re starting to get pain, if you’re starting to get any kind of discomfort, then please, do not wait to go and see your doctor. If you’ve had this for more than two weeks, then you do need to go and get it seen to. It could be something like fibroids, it could be something like cysts, so this does really need sorting out.
So, I hope that has given you a little bit of insight into constipation, and this is something that we do really need to take seriously in the menopause. So, I’m looking forward next week to seeing you again for another edition of A.Vogel’s Menopause Mondays.