Healing Your Gut to Improve Your Menopause Symptoms
“Improving Gut Health During Menopause” was written in collaboration with Registered Dietitian Meagan Murphy.
The connection between menopause and gut health is a topic not often discussed. Yet, the changing hormones in menopause can affect your gut health, and your gut health can impact the severity of many of the uncomfortable menopause symptoms.
You probably know that the extra weight is related to changes in estrogen levels, but you might now be aware that decreased levels of estrogen can also impact gut health. Such changes can lead to diarrhea, constipation, and bloating.
At the same time, gut health is essential for estrogen metabolism. So, it is a cycle, menopause impacts gut health, and gut health impacts menopause symptoms -including weight gain, insulin resistance, and decreased metabolism (1).
The Gut Microbiome
The microbiome is composed of millions of good and bad bacteria and changes depending on your diet, lifestyle, stress levels, and overall health status.
Specifically, a group of important bacteria and fungi helps regulate our estrogen metabolism. This group is called estrobolome, and contains about 60 different types of bacteria and fungi (2). In addition, the estrobolome can impact your sex drive, weight, and mood (3).
How to Improve Your Gut Health During Menopause
Eat Foods High in Fiber
Fiber can help you increase the diversity of your gut microbiome, helping you balance your good and bad bacteria better.
Wondering how much fiber you need to eat a day? According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, fiber’s daily requirement for women younger than 50 is 25 grams. Women aged 51 or older need 21 grams.
Simple changes in your diet can achieve this goal, including eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.
Make sure to increase your fiber intake slowly to prevent diarrhea and bloating.
Eat Foods With Probiotics and Prebiotics
Prebiotics are a form of dietary fiber that feeds good bacteria in our large intestine; and can be found in complex carbohydrates in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
Simply defined, probiotics are good bacteria and yeasts. Probiotics are mainly found in the digestive tract. These live organisms prevent the growth of bad bacteria.
Foods high in probiotics include fermented foods with live cultures, including yogurt, kimchi, miso, kefir, and sourdough bread.
Should I Take a Probiotic Supplement?
Taking a supplement can be beneficial; however, the decision takes into consideration personal needs and health background. A registered dietitian provider can always help determine if you need a supplement and which is the best one for you.
How to Choose a Supplement
- Choose probiotic products with at least 1 billion colony forming units (CFUs).
- Select probiotics containing Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, or Saccharomyces boulardii because these are some of the most researched strains.
- Find brands that have better testing procedures and studies to show their efficacy.
- Try out various probiotics: if you don’t see an improvement in a few weeks from one probiotic product, try a different product with a new strain of bacteria.
Eat Healthy Fat
Eating healthy fats is important for your overall and gut health. Healthy fats can help grow good bacteria in your gut and create a balanced microbiome. They also lower inflammation in the body and can aid in weight loss. Fats that will benefit you the most are omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats include fish, walnuts, flax, and chia seeds. Try to include these foods in your everyday diet to help your gut! (4).
Foods and Drinks that Damage Your Gut
A diet high in added sugar can damage your gut by eliminating the healthy bacteria. In addition, the unhealthy imbalance between good and bad bacteria can further damage your gut health by increasing sugar cravings.
Similar to sugar, drinking alcohol can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria. If you are looking to drink less alcohol, embrace the sober curious movement to gain ideas and support to help you drink less or stop drinking. This movement is not about stopping drinking because of alcoholism; it is about being mindful while drinking (or not drinking).
Processed foods have all the elements that affect gut bacteria. In addition, these foods tend to lack nutrient diversity, are low in fiber, and are high in sugar and fat.
Excessive consumption of soft drinks is associated with poor gut health. More alarming, drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks is linked to deaths from digestive diseases (5).
Healing your gut can lead to amazing results. Beyond helping any directly related issues such as diarrhea, constipation, and bloating, a healthy gut can improve your weight, insulin resistance, and even mental health.
Dr. Su-Nui Escobar is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Miami, FL. She is passionate about helping women over 40 live their best lives through healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. Su-Nui is a doctor in clinical nutrition, able to translate complicated evidence-based science into practical advice. Su-Nui is the former spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.