If you have a sensitive tummy, you will mostly be prone to bloating and gassiness, irrespective of whether you are in your 20s or 40s. With menopause, the risk is even higher. As you step into your 40s, you will find your body behaving more weirdly than before.
The reason is you are in the perimenopause phase, transitioning into menopause, which will happen around 45-55 years on average. So, alongside bloating, you will go through several other symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, bone loss, sleep problems, etc. If you had a healthy digestive system all your life, then feeling bloated suddenly may have led to immense discomfort.
So, let’s understand the specific causes and symptoms of bloating in menopause and find ways to manage it.
Why Do Women Feel Bloated in the Menopause Transition and Menopause Phase?
Women may feel more bloated in the perimenopause stage than in the postmenopause phase. The reason is the fluctuating estrogen levels, which trigger bloating and other symptoms. The bloating could either be caused due to water retention or gas retention. There is a difference between the two.
In the case of water retention, which primarily happens due to the low estrogen levels, the impact won’t just be on the stomach, but the entire body. When water accumulates in the body, a woman will experience swelling in different parts, mainly the arms, abdomen, and legs, that may be painful.
Bloating due to gas retention occurs in the tummy when the air is trapped in the stomach. There are different reasons for the estrogen levels to cause the gas to remain trapped in the stomach. Let’s see how:
- Fluctuation in the hormone levels causes the food to pass slowly through the gastrointestinal tract. When the digestion process is prolonged, it causes the reabsorption of a more significant amount of water in the bloodstream. This triggers constipation, gas formation, and bloating.
The gallbladder is also affected by the changing estrogen and progesterone levels. Bile, a fluid stored within the gallbladder, becomes concentrated due to the changing hormone levels. This affects the functions of the gallbladder, impacting digestion as well.
- Women often go through dietary alterations to manage menopausal weight gain that happens due to hormonal changes. They would be adding several fruits and veggies to their diet. Now, it will take time for the body to adapt to the changes before the effects become prominent. So, the sudden diet changes could result in digestion problems, leading to gassiness and bloating.
- Menopause often leads to a dry mouth because of the declining estrogen levels that cause the saliva flow to reduce in some. When there is inadequate salvia for breaking down food into small pieces, it may also affect your digestive health, leading to bloating and other gastric issues.
- Because of the fluctuating hormone levels and the tormenting menopausal symptoms, stress becomes an integral part of your life. This affects your overall health and will aggravate digestive disorders, leading to bloating.
10 Important Tips to Manage and Prevent Menopausal Bloating
If you have a sensitive digestive system, you must be over-cautious in menopause and do all it takes to eliminate the triggers. Also, if you are consistently being troubled with bloating, there are ways to stop it. Here are some tips to follow:
1. Stay Hydrated
Water plays a significant role in breaking down the food and helping the body to absorb the nutrients well. When you drink a sufficient amount of water throughout the day, it also helps in proper bowel movements by softening the stool, lessening the chances of constipation. When you drink 8 to 12 glasses of water each day in the menopause transition and postmenopause stage, it will help ease many of your symptoms.
2. Take Special Care About Your Diet
Eating healthy during and after menopause should always be at the top of your priority list. When you count on foods that help to better digestion, some important ones that you cannot miss include whole grains, leafy greens like kale and spinach, lean proteins, and also fruits low in sugar like bananas, berries, oranges, plums, peaches, lemons, and limes.
3. Identify and Avoid the Triggers
While a healthy diet is needed to boost digestion, you should note the triggers that result in bloating and avoid them consciously. It is true that unhealthy foods mostly lead to digestion problems.
Foods that top the list include fried foods, fatty foods, dried fruits, carbonated beverages, caffeinated beverages, cocoa products, etc. However, you will be surprised that some healthy veggies like beans, broccoli, potatoes, onions, and cabbage may also make you feel bloated. It will help if you maintain a meal diary with a list of all those foods that trigger bloating and uneasiness in you. Some women may even become intolerant to dairy products in their later life. If you, too, are one of them, then it is time that you stay away from dairy products, at least for a while, until things get better.
4. Lessen Stress
When you are stressed, your physical and emotional wellbeing is immensely hampered. Getting stressed in menopause when your hormones are all over the place is natural. Frequent hot flashes and night sweats trigger sleep problems, making things even more miserable for you.
Your high-stress levels will impact your digestion, too. So, you must take the initiative and opt for relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing to find relief.
5. Quit Smoking
Smoking is highly harmful in menopause as it will aggravate symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. Moreover, tobacco does not just hurt your respiratory system. It is also hazardous for your digestive system.
Tobacco is known to irritate the digestive tract, leading to symptoms like stomach rumbling, cramping, and bloating. Also, when you smoke, you often swallow excessive air that makes you feel bloated.
6. Add Probiotics to Your Diet
You may include probiotics in your diet if you are constantly bloating. One of the best sources of probiotics that help to boost your digestive health is yogurt. Other probiotic-rich foods include kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kimchi. However, seek your doctor’s advice before adding probiotics to your diet.
7. Avoid Eating Large Meals in a Go
During menopause, you tend to have a slow metabolism because of the low estrogen levels. So, eating too much food in a go will make it hard for your stomach to digest. That’s why it is always advisable to eat small amounts frequently.
8. Lessen Your Salt Intake
Increased salt consumption could result in water retention, which women are susceptible to in the menopause transition and menopause phase. Water retention could result in swelling and discomfort.
Also, increased salt intake may dehydrate you, worsening menopausal symptoms like anxiety, joint pain, night sweats, and hot flashes. So, you should consciously restrict processed foods and other edibles high in salt.
9. Cut Down on Alcohol and Caffeine
Drinking alcohol in menopause comes with a lot of banes. It aggravates hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, and even intensifies bloating. So, limiting alcohol intake in menopause to one drink a day is a mandate.
The same goes for caffeinated beverages. Besides worsening night sweats and hot flashes, increased caffeine intake stimulates the gut, resulting in spasms leading to bloating.
10. Include Excercise As a Part Of Your Regime
Exercise won’t just help you to minimize bloating but will also aid in reducing other menopausal symptoms. You must devote at least 20-30 minutes daily to stay healthy.
To stay fit, you must include physical exercises like long walks, jogging, running, and swimming. When you sweat, your body releases salt, flushing the excess fluids. In this way, bloating can be minimized to a greater extent.
When gas is trapped in your tummy, you can release it by trying out several yoga poses. Some poses effective in lessening gas include the wind-relieving, happy baby, and child pose. You could take the help of a trained professional to guide you through exercises effective in lessening bloating.
Besides the tips mentioned above, here are some other things that you must follow to lessen bloating in menopause:
- Chew your food well so it can be broken into smaller fragments and travel smoothly down the digestive tract.
- You can try herbal infusions of ginger and peppermint to relieve bloating. Their antispasmodic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties will help to relax the stomach muscles.
The hormonal changes are responsible for bloating during menopause, and most women go through it. However, if you have recurrent episodes of painful bloating that do not get better even after trying to reduce it, you must talk to the doctor.
Weight gain and bloating are common in the menopause transition and menopause phase due to the fluctuating hormone levels. Sometimes, your bulging tummy could mislead you, and you may wonder if you are bloated or have put on the extra pounds.
If the distended abdomen has happened due to bloating, your abdomen size will fluctuate. It will sometimes bulge and appear reduced, especially when no gas is trapped inside. If it is weight gain, then there won’t be such quick alterations in the abdominal size.
If you have had healthy digestion before and began feeling bloated once you crossed your 40s, you could blame it on the menopause transition phase. The fluctuating hormones are responsible. In most cases, when the ovaries cease producing the hormones (estrogen, progesterone) after menopause, the severity and frequency of bloating lessens. However, a lot also depends on your lifestyle.
Bloating during menopause is another troublesome symptom due to the changing hormonal levels. When you care for yourself and work towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you can combat the intensity of bloating to a greater extent.
The 10 tips discussed in this article are a good starting point. By making changes to your diet, lifestyle, and exercise habits, you can help to reduce bloating and improve your overall well-being.
If you are struggling to manage your bloating symptoms on your own, talk to your doctor. They can help you to identify any underlying medical conditions and develop a personalized treatment plan.