Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I take a look at five signs your digestion may be struggling.
The menopause can have a huge impact on digestion and I get many women contacting me regularly, wondering whether their digestion is okay, what's going on, why are they getting these problems. So I thought today, I would go through five signs where your digestion may be struggling, why these things can happen, and what you can do to help yourself.
How menopause affects your digestive system
There can be several issues during menopause which can cause digestive problems. The first one is falling oestrogen itself. It can have quite a big impact on your digestion. It just slows everything down. And by slowing the whole digestive tract down, you can end up with bloating, and wind, constipation, and a lot of discomfort.
Stress can also impact this. And at the moment most of us feel stressed daily. While it is not necessarily big stress, feeling stressed continually can have a big impact on our digestion and how everything works.
How do you know if your digestion is working well?
Sometimes knowing what's going right can be just as important as knowing what could go wrong. So, if your digestion is working well then you should have a good appetite and enjoy your food. You're not having food cravings. You're not being put off food. And, you're not suffering from things like nausea.
The way that you empty your bowels is also a good sign of things working well. Now, bowel movement, and I know people don't like to talk about this but it's really an important subject, it's really important to empty your bowels at least once or twice a day. If you think about it, you're putting food into your digestive tract at least three times a day.
So, if your bowels are not working well, you could end up with two or three days' worth of decaying matter in your digestive tract, and no wonder you can start to feel really impotent. Your stool should be soft and formed.
And for those of you that wish to know a little bit more to see whether you're passing the right type of stools, there is something called the Bristol Stool Scale, and if you Google it, you'll get lots more advice there.
It's about not getting cramped and feeling comfortable. And a lot of women say that they get up in the morning, they can put their trousers and their skirts on and everything's fine. And then by night-time, everything's so tight that they have to take them off or undo the buttons, or the zips. And that's an indication that there's a lot of bloating going on. It's also about not getting cramps, either when you're eating or when you're emptying your bowels, and that's really important.
It's about not getting indigestion every single day and after every single meal. We all get indigestion at some point! I know if I eat too much, I can sometimes be uncomfortable for an hour or two. So now and again, and if you eat too much or too much of the wrong food, then indigestion is quite a natural process. But getting it every day after every meal is usually an indication that something is wrong.
It's about getting very little wind or flatulence. Again, if this happens regularly, there's some kind of imbalance going on.
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Signs that your digestive system may be struggling:
So, now that you know what your digestion should be like if it is working well, it's time to know what are the main signs that your digestion may be struggling?
There are some key signs which tell you that your digestive system is not working as well as it should.
1. Upset stomach
As I mentioned above getting an upset stomach is an obvious sign that you may be having some digestive issues.
If you are getting indigestion, wind, cramping after nearly every single meal or for some women, it's after every time they have a drink as well, then this isn't good. It can be a feeling of just being full. Some women say that it feels like after they've eaten, the food just sits in their stomach and it doesn't seem to shift for ages.
You may also experience acid reflux or gastric reflux, where you feel as if everything's coming right back up to the back of your throat.
2. Changing bowel habits
Another sign to look out for is changing bowel habits. So, if you find that you're going three or four times a day, if you're getting diarrhoea, or if you're getting constipation and your bowels are not moving regularly, these can be an indication that there's something not quite right going on.
Also, finding large particles of undigested food in your stool can be another indication. Now, one really important thing here, and please don't ignore this. If you find blood in your stool, this is something that needs medical attention. So please, do go and see your doctor about this one.
3. Sleep disturbances & low mood
I know this sounds rather strange. How can digestion affect your sleep? We have feel-good chemicals and one of them is called serotonin, which helps to keep our mood up and it also helps us to have a good night's sleep.
A large amount of serotonin is manufactured in your digestive tract. So, if you have problems with your digestion, then that can lower the production of serotonin and that can have a huge impact on your mood and sleep regularly. And this is really quite an important one that tends to get completely forgotten about.
4. Skin problems
Skin problems are another sign that your digestive system might be struggling, especially if you get things like acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, skin rashes. These can all be caused by poor digestion and elimination.
5. Bad breath
And the last one is bad breath. If you have a lack of friendly bacteria in your digestive tract, which is really common, especially during menopause, then you can start to experience digestive problems.
And, If you don't have enough friendly bacteria, if your food is sitting in the digestive tract, if it's sitting in your stomach for long periods, then that can cause bad breath regularly.
What can help improve your digestive health during menopause
So, what can you do to help yourself here? There are lots of simple self-care things you can do to help improve your digestion, such as:
Up your water intake
Dehydration will have a big impact on your digestive tract, slowing everything down even further. But the important thing here is loads of water every day. It needs to be plain water. But don't drink when you're eating because if you do, you're going to dilute your digestive juices in the stomach and that's going to impact your digestion problems even further.
So, drink plenty of water but away not while you are eating.
Improve at your diet
Make sure you eat plenty of fibre-rich foods. That's your root vegetables, a little bit of fruit, plenty of greens, eat these with every single meal if you can. If you can include some kind of vegetables with every meal, then you're really going a long way into giving your digestion all the fibre that it needs daily.
Again, a lot of people don't realise that exercise can improve your digestion.
When you move, this helps to massage all the internal digestive organs and that can help with elimination. So even a brisk 10 to 15-minute walk, once a day, can help with elimination and other digestive problems, too.
Look at your friendly bacteria
Consider taking a regular probiotic maybe once every couple of months, for a few weeks, just to keep your friendly bacteria working well.
Add fermented foods to your diet
You could also look at other fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kefir. These can work really well at helping to improve your digestion and your elimination.
You can also look at our Molkosan Fruit. This is made from fermented whey which contains calcium.
My Top Tip:
Added to water, Molkosan Fruit is a fruit-flavoured drink which can help maintain digestive balance. It also includes calcium, which contributes to the normal function of digestive enzymes.
"My boyfriend uses it as he has digestive problems and was really impressed - he said it's really helped."
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Try bitter herbs to help improve your digestion
Bitter herbs are great for starting the digestive process off. If you look at the Mediterranean diet, bitter herbs are normally included as a starter for all main meals and this can help to improve your digestion.
Our remedy Digestisan, which is made from bitter herbs, can help ease symptoms of indigestion as well as feelings of fullness and flatulence associated with over-indulgence in food or drink.
Chew your food well
Last, but not least, chew your food well because if you eat really quickly, you're going to have large pieces of food sitting in the stomach and it's going to be more difficult for the stomach to break these down. So, sit, and relax, and chew your food well.
I hope you found this one helpful. If any of you out there have any other tips that have helped with your digestion or foods that you include regularly that help you, then please share them with us.
Key points to take away from this blog:
- Digestive problems are very common during menopause, as falling oestrogen and stress both can impact the effectiveness of your digestive system.
- Signs which could indicate that your digestive system isn't working well include, upset stomach and indigestion, changing bowel habits, sleep disturbances and low mood, skin problems and bad breath.
- There are lots of simple things you can do to help your digestion including, drinking plenty of water and eating plenty of fibre, supporting your friendly bacteria and chewing your food well.
Until next week, take care.