Digestive problems can occur during the menopause. These are usually linked to declining levels of oestrogen and the knock-on effects. In this page, our menopause expert Eileen Durward discusses the digestive symptoms you might face and how these can be helped with use of herbal remedies and self-help approaches.
Having a healthy digestive system goes a long way towards making you feel good. 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 peri-menopause and the menopause, many women begin to experience problems with their digestive system.
Digestive problems during the menopause come in many forms, ranging from excess wind or constipation to weight gain and abdominal pain. It is important to establish how you are being affected in order to find an effective solution for your symptoms.
As you go through the menopause, your body undergoes hormonal changes, and these can have unexpected effects on the rest of your body, including your digestive system.
The hormone oestrogen has a direct impact on the hormone cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. When the level of oestrogen is high, cortisol is low, keeping your blood sugar and pressure at the appropriate reading. However, as you go through the menopause, the level of oestrogen in your body decreases, meaning that cortisol is not kept in check.
Adrenalin can easily be triggered in the body when the calming influence of oestrogen is missing. This switches digestive function off, and when the digestive system is not working at its optimum level, a range of digestive problems can arise. Gas can build up, causing bloating; food can pass through without being fully broken down, causing constipation; acid can break down the mucous lining of the stomach wall, causing abdominal pain or indigestion.
The specific digestive problem you are experiencing will determine which remedy is going to benefit you the most. However, there are some home remedies that will generally improve the functioning of your digestive system.
Chew your food – chewing is the start of the digestive process. If you miss out this vital step, then your stomach will have to work harder and will probably not be able to effectively break down the food
Give yourself time to eat – eating on the go is bad for your digestive system because energy is diverted from digestion, which does not allow the digestive system to work at its optimum level
Think about what you eat – some foods are easier for your digestive system to break down than others. Stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar will just add to the strain on your digestion as well as on your nervous system
Stay hydrated – this is important for your general health, as well as aiding your digestive system
Use pre-biotics – these increase the amount of good bacteria in the gut in order to improve digestion. They are found in products such as A.Vogel's Molkosan, an organic, lacto-fermented whey drink.
There are a number of herbal remedies that can help improve digestive function at this time of your life.
If you suffer from bloating or indigestion, use stomach bitters such as dandelion, artichoke and boldo to help improve symptoms. These are best taken 5 or 10 minutes before your meal.
Eileen's TOP TIP: Bitter herbs are best used in liquid (tincture) form diluted in water as it is important to taste the bitterness on your tongue. Digestisan drops is a combination of stomach bitter herbs and can help with bloating, feeling of fullness and indigestion.
The menopause can lead to irregularity of bowel habits and constipation. Whilst the best way to tackle this is to increase the fibre content in your diet, sometimes help with constipation herbs can be necessary.
Eileen's TOP TIP: Linseed, senna and frangula are amongst the most useful herbs taken for constipation and can be found in Linoforce granules. Drinking a glass of water with each dose of Linoforce will make it work better.
There is a range of conventional medicines available to help with the various aspects of bowel problems. However, many of these medicines are associated with side-effects. It may be worth speaking to your doctor or pharmacist for advice about which product would be best for you.
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You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.