Why does menopausal bloating happen?
Whether you’re going through menopause yourself or you know somebody who is, you can guarantee that you’ll hear the word ‘bloating’ somewhere in your menopause-related conversations. Hormonal bloating is something that many women experience during their reproductive years, and this doesn’t go away during perimenopause or menopause.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is a natural biological process that every woman will experience. It marks the end of her reproductive years and is medically confirmed when a woman hasn’t had a menstrual cycle (period) for 12 consecutive months.
Menopause typically occurs around the age of 45 to 55, but it can occur earlier or later in some women. During this process, the ovaries stop releasing eggs, and the body’s oestrogen and progesterone production decrease.
This drop in reproductive hormones leads to a host of physical and psychological symptoms, one of which is menopausal bloating caused by water retention. A woman might also experience hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and sleep disturbances during menopause.
Let’s take a closer look at menopause, including what happens during menopause, its main symptoms, and what you can do to tackle hormonal bloating if this is something you’re experiencing during the menopause period.
When and Why Does Menopause Occur?
Thousands of years ago, the average lifespan was much shorter (around 40 to 55 years). As such, women developed to be fertile and able to reproduce for this length of time.
Thanks to advancements in medicine, the average lifespan is now closer to 80 years old. However, some areas of the human brain haven’t quite got the memo, and they still think that we live a maximum of 55 years. Because of this, a woman’s reproductive functions shut down around this time in their life.
Physiologically, menopause occurs because of the decrease in oestrogen and progesterone production. As a result, no eggs get matured and released from the ovaries, and menstruation eventually ceases.
Exactly when menopause occurs in a woman’s life depends on a range of factors, including genetics, lifestyle, physical health, and underlying medical conditions. Women who have a family history of early menopause are more likely to experience it themselves. Certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking, carrying excessive body fat, and consuming too much alcohol, can increase the risk of early menopause.
Regardless of their age, women who have had an oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) will immediately enter menopause. They’ll also experience some or all of the associated symptoms, including menopausal bloating.
We can’t write an article on menopause without mentioning perimenopause, which refers to the transitional period leading up to menopause. During this time, a woman's body begins to produce less oestrogen and, as a result, will experience irregular periods (usually with longer cycles) and perimenopause bloating.
What Are the Symptoms of Menopause?
Every woman will experience menopause differently, but there are some general symptoms that most women experience when going through this significant milestone in their lives.
Here are some of the most common menopausal symptoms:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sensitivity to cold
- Sleep problems
- Vaginal dryness
- Decreased libido
- Mood changes
- Slower metabolism and associated weight gain
- Thinning of the hair
- Dry skin
- Loss of breast fullness
- Bloating and water retention
What Causes Bloating During Menopause?
If we went into great detail about all of the above symptoms, we’d be here forever! To keep this article short and sweet, we will focus specifically on menopausal bloating.
So, what actually causes bloating during menopause?
Perimenopause bloating is caused by the significant hormonal changes in your body as your oestrogen levels begin to decline. The drop in progesterone levels is particularly to blame for hormonal bloating around the time of menopause.
Progesterone is responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle and supporting pregnancy, but you enter menopause, your progesterone levels naturally begin to decline. This leads to an imbalance in the levels of other reproductive hormones, including oestrogen, which causes water retention and bloating.
You can also experience menopausal bloating because of a drop in the amount of digestive enzymes that your body produces. With fewer digestive enzymes, your digestive system won’t be as efficient at breaking down ingested foods. As a result, you can experience bloating in your abdomen, which can sometimes be uncomfortable and even painful.
It’s also thought that changes in the gut microbiome (the range of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live naturally in your colon) can lead to menopausal bloating. The gut microbiome plays an important role in regulating digestion and immune function. As you enter menopause, your gut microbiota can change, and this may lead to digestive issues like bloating, gas, and constipation.
How to Know if Your Bloating is Menopausal
There are hundreds of different things that can cause bloating. It’s a common symptom of most digestive disorders and can also result from eating too much, lack of sleep, excess psychological stress, dehydration, and other medical conditions.
If this is the case, how can you tell if your bloating is menopause-related?
Bloating is rarely the only symptom of menopause. Most women will experience irregularities in their menstrual cycle as they enter perimenopause, and this is a key sign that oestrogen and progesterone are dropping and menopause is on the way.
However, if your bloating only occurs after you’ve eaten a large meal or you’ve consumed foods that are out of your usual dietary intake, but it disappears after a few hours, it’s unlikely to be hormonal bloating.
One of the key indicators that bloating may be related to menopause is if it occurs alongside other menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. Generally, menopausal bloating tends to be more consistent and persistent than bloating caused by other factors, such as overeating or food intolerances.
If you notice that you are consistently bloated, regardless of what you eat or how much you exercise, it may be worth exploring whether menopause is the underlying cause.
How Can You Prevent Menopausal Bloating?
Although menopause is inevitable for all women, there is plenty that you can do to decrease the severity of any associated symptoms. You can reduce menopausal bloating by making positive lifestyle changes and with medications.
Here are some top ways to reduce menopausal bloating and ease your symptoms as you go through this significant transitional period in your life:
1. Drink plenty of water
This will aid your digestive processes and minimise the risk of bloating caused by slow digestion.
2. Avoid trigger foods
Certain foods cause excessive gas production in the digestive tract, such as cruciferous vegetables, high-fat foods, high-sugar foods, and high-fructan fruits. Avoiding these foods will reduce gas production and hormonal bloating.
Eat smaller, more frequent meals - this gives your digestive tract time to properly digest all of the food you’re eating and prevents you from over-eating in one sitting.
3. Eat probiotic-containing foods or take a probiotic supplement
Probiotics help to balance your gut microbiome and aid digestion. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, yoghurt, tempeh, tofu, and kefir, are high in probiotics. You can also take a probiotic supplement to support your digestive system and reduce hormonal bloating.
4. Exercise regularly
Physical activity helps to move food through the digestive tract, reducing the risk of bloating.
5. Quit smoking and minimise alcohol consumption
Both of these things are associated with worsening menopausal symptoms, so it’s best to avoid them wherever possible.
You can also ask your doctor for hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Using HRT involves wearing patches that slowly release reproductive hormones into your bloodstream, helping to reduce the symptoms associated with the natural drop in these hormones during menopause.
Note that HRT might not be suitable for all women and there are associated risks with this form of treatment. Your doctor will be able to explain HRT, including its benefits and drawbacks, in great detail so you can make an informed decision as to whether it’s right for you.
The Best Probiotics to Tackle Menopausal Bloating
A Dose For Bloating is formulated to beat bloating quickly and provide immediate gas relief. With just two capsules daily taken before a meal, you can enjoy a bloat-free life, even if you’re in perimenopause or menopause.
Our supplement contains one billion probiotics, six digestive enzymes, and seven different plant extracts, including liquorice, ginger, and peppermint, all of which are known to aid digestion and reduce negative digestive symptoms.
Check out our supplement, A Dose For Bloating, on our website and get in touch with our expert team if you would like more information or have any questions.