Let's talk gas.
No one does, right? It's humiliating, and few of us want to talk about embarrassing bodily functions at this stage of life. But digestive issues happen: gas, menopause bloating, irregularity, stomach cramps in older women can all be a whole lot worse in perimenopause and menopause. Even women who've rarely experienced these issues previously can suddenly find there are no "safe" foods anymore, and anything they eat is likely to cause public embarrassment.
First, we should make it clear that flatulence isn't really a "problem." According to metabolic surgeon, gut expert, and frequent Gennev podcast guest Dr. Erika La Vella, gas is how you know those gorgeous little bacteria are doing their jobs in your gut. Unfortunately, society has turned this process into an embarrassment, so most of us are still pretty eager to keep it under control.
Why does it happen more at this stage of life? Among its many other tasks, estrogen also helps regulate cortisol – the “fight or flight” hormone triggered by stress. So when estrogen starts declining around menopause, suddenly stress becomes a lot more … stressful.
Not only do our reactions to stress become a bit more extreme, our ramped-up cortisol has the add-on effect of slowing down digestion of food. That can lead to a host of digestive disorders like gas, bloating and constipation in menopause.
But like so much of menopause, you don’t have to simply endure the symptoms. Where once there was estrogen, now there are lifestyle changes.
Ovarian cancer symptoms can mimic some of the digestive issues perimenopausal and menopausal women contend with, including bloating, fullness, and abdominal pain. If you have these symptoms frequently (12 or more times a month), if they persist, and if you also have to urinate urgently and often, or experience unexplained weight loss, you need to talk with your doctor.
Additionally, many women become more sensitive to certain foods as they age. Many of us find dairy is harder to digest, meaning cheese, ice cream, etc. can cause more ... concerns than they used to. Some women find carbohydrates more difficult to digest, some believe cutting down on sugar helps (and we're big supporters of cutting down sugar and avoiding other foods in menopause). If you think your food may be causing the problem, try cutting down on the suspect food group for a while and tracking progress.
Another risk of digestive issues may seem trivial, but it's really not — self-isolation and potentially, subsequent depression. Women are particularly vulnerable to perimenopause depression or other emotional issues, and social support can be critical to helping us through them. If you cut back on activities because of a fear of social embarrassment, you're missing out on some very important emotional health. If it's an issue, try fasting a while before meeting people, or carrying Pepto Bismol, or eating lightly when out with friends. Chances are, if your friends are women of a similar age, you're not the only one with this fear.
Digestive troubles can be annoying, and if bad enough, humiliating and isolating. But a few lifestyle changes and informed diet choices can provide considerable relief.
The information on the Gennev site is never meant to replace the care of a qualified medical professional. Hormonal shifts throughout menopause can prompt a lot of changes in your body, and simply assuming something is “just menopause” can leave you vulnerable to other possible causes. Always consult with your physician or schedule an appointment with one of Gennev's telemedicine doctors before beginning any new treatment or therapy.
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