In the early stages of menopause, often called perimenopause, there are lots of changes happening in the body. One of the main things is that our oestrogen level drops, this causes the levels of the stress hormone Cortisol to surge.
Not only does this cause us to feel more stressed, but it also has the effect of slowing down our digestive system. When this happens, food sits in our stomach longer and then we get issues like bloating, constipation and Gastritis symptoms are exacerbated.
I often hear women mention that their digestive symptoms, be it Gastritis or IBS are much worse just before their period, which makes sense as this is when Oestrogen levels dip. So, therefore, it stands to reason that this will become even more of an issue during menopause.
I have always had digestive issues over the years, sometimes I could probably just call it a sensitive stomach as the symptoms did not occur that often and were generally mild in nature, although still uncomfortable.
But as I reached my mid 40’s I suddenly was finding I was having major issues with Gastritis, bloating, constipation and various other issues that just seemed to appear overnight.
I was having to go and see my GP all the time and treatments would work for a little while and then just flare up again a couple of months down the line.
It wasn’t until I joined various Facebook groups for perimenopausal women that I discovered that I was not alone, in fact, hundreds of women, (of around the same age) on these sites were having almost identical symptoms to me.
It wasn’t hard to see that the cause was quite likely to be connected to our fluctuating hormones.
Symptoms of Perimenopause
Symptoms of being perimenopausal vary greatly from one woman to another, but some of the more common ones are:-
- Bloating, constipation and stomach issues
- Vaginal irritation and dryness
- Hot flushes
- Fatigue sometimes can be overwhelming
- Changes to periods – You may find they get shorter or longer.
- Urine infections
The Perimenopause can play havoc with your digestive system and one of the main symptoms can be bloating.
I am several years into my perimenopausal journey. I still have my period but it’s all over the place. Sometimes I will have a period after 10 days then the next one won’t come for 6 weeks. Whenever it decides to arrive’ one of my main symptoms is always bloating which seems to be at its worst just before and after I have my period. It can be really annoying and embarrassing, I can look pregnant if I wear the wrong clothes.
It has taken me a while to figure out what helps but I have found several lifestyle changes and supplements that I find makes a difference to the dreaded bloat.
Perimenopause bloating remedies
There are lots of specific menopause supplements out there, but having Gastritis I have always been hesitant to try them as was worried they would affect my stomach.
But these are some supplements that I use, that have not any negative side effects on my Gastritis
Digestive enzymes – Bloating is often caused by food digesting too slowly through your system and sitting for too long in your stomach. Digestive enzymes can be useful for helping your body breakdown the food faster.
I use Papaya enzymes and found them super helpful if my digestion is being sluggish. You take 2 or 3 with a meal and it helps you digest your meal quicker, and hopefully avoid the bloat. These are my favourite – American Health Papaya enzymes
Pro-biotics – These have been amazing and have really helped get my stomach back on track and also help with constipation. See my post here to see some of the probiotics I would recommend Best probiotics for a Happy Gut
Another cause of bloating is Constipation, which can be an issue during perimenopause too. I had always noticed I would have issues with constipation just before a period, but the problem became more frequent when I started to get perimenopause symptoms.
Constipation can have a knock-on effect to other digestive issues, so it’s a good idea to avoid it becoming an issue if you can.
To avoid constipation and increase your natural gut bacteria
- High fibre – Eat lots of high fibre foods
- Alcohol – Drink alcohol only in moderation
- Water – Drink plenty of water
- Eat fermented foods – such as sauerkraut, Kimchi and and Kefir. But do start slowly and build this up, I overdid it when I first started taking these and ended up with uncomfortable side effects like bloating.
- Psyllium husk – The powder or capsules are both excellent.
- Chia seeds – I have chia seeds each day in my oatmeal.
- Kiwi fruit – If your stomach tolerates it, Kiwi fruit is great for constipation. 1 or 2 a day will help keep your regular.
It’s worth paying that bit more for these, I have tried a few until I found some that worked really well. I find these the best ones – BioCare BioAcidophilus Forte (probiotic) – 30 billion live bacteria
Supplements for Perimenopausal stomach issues
Magnesium – Magnesium may help a multitude of Perimenopause symptoms one being lack of sleep. Up to 60% of women going through menopause suffer from difficulty sleeping. Magnesium is said to help regulate the body’s natural clock.
It is also said to help with depression, something that is very common among women going through menopause.
A study showed that 81.9% of women that were post-menopause had low levels of magnesium, and those that had low magnesium levels also reported moderate depression.
I did try magnesium capsules, but my stomach didn’t tolerate them very well, so I bought the topical spray instead.
This is fantastic. I tend to spray on 5-10 pumps after my shower in the morning. I feel its help lift my mood and I wake up less in the night.
So, it’s something I will definitely be continuing to use. This is the spray I use Better you Magnesium Oil spray
Chicken or Bone broth – I swear by drinking this. If I am having a flare-up I will always try and sip this throughout the day.
It’s easy to make yourself but you can buy it too if you don’t have the time. It’s full of amino acids and is super soothing even on an irritated stomach lining.
This is how I make my Delicious Chicken bone broth or you can buy this one ready-made Clean and pure bone broth I like this one as it contains no artificial flavours and is just pure broth with no spices, onions, garlic etc (many of them do contain added ingredients, so do check)
Foods to eat – oestrogen rich foods for menopause
Food that contains Phytoestrogens (dietary oestrogen)
These include –
- Dried fruits – such as prunes, apricots and dates.
- Sesame seeds & Flax seeds
- Lentils & Chickpeas
- Peaches and Berries
- Wheat bran
- Green and black tea
- Mung beans
- Cruciferous vegetables – Brussel sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower.
Chew your food – This seems obvious but chewing your food well means your body doesn’t need to work so hard to break the food down and means it can digest the food faster.
Relax and find time for yourself
Get some exercise – This doesn’t have to mean going to the gym at 5 am every morning. Even just going for a walk 3 times a week will give your body and boost and relieve any stress you have.
One study found that a 40-minute walk a day drastically reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Get some sleep – Sleep is so important, it gives your body time to regroup and reset, meaning you will be ready for the day and all its challenges. Try and get 8 hours of sleep if you can.
If you are having issues with sleeping, you could try magnesium supplements (mentioned above). I find a warm mug of Camomile tea soothing before bed too.
Plus I know we are all guilty of laying in bed scrolling through Facebook but try and put your phone down at least 30 minutes before bed, it will make a difference. I read a book instead and find after 2 or 3 pages I can hardly keep my eyes open.
Yoga – I am new to this but so many people have recommended I give it a go, I have started doing it a few times a week. What I love about it is that whilst you are doing a session your mind focuses totally on that, temporarily forgetting about everything else.
There are some great classes online, I follow Yoga with Adrienne. Which is fantastic.
Do you something you love – Make sure to make time for you to do something that makes you happy. It could be anything, reading your book whilst soaking in a hot bath or listening to the Foo-fighters on full volume whilst cooking your favourite dessert. Just find something that is completely for you.
“The very best way that you can help yourself is to develop and sustain a positive attitude. The way you think and feel about everything will make all the difference to your experience.”
― Caroline Carr, Menopause: The Guide for Real Women