Perimenopause Constipation Relief
What Causes Constipation-and What to Do About It
If you have been constipated now that you are transitioning to menopause, you are not alone. Constipation is common during perimenopause, and hormones might be the ones to blame!
While we often think of constipation as being unable to do more than three bowel movements within a week, there are other symptoms. For example, having stools that are difficult to pass or hard and dry is also considered constipation (1).
The Connection Between Perimenopause and Constipation
Constipation is a common menopausal symptom. During this stage in every woman’s life, the estrogen and progesterone levels decrease, leading to changes in bowel movements in some women (2).
Other hormonal imbalances during menopause can also contribute to this problem. For example, some imbalances in the hormones that maintain the body’s fluid balance can cause constipation by retaining fluids (water retention). As a result, the food bolus will compact and dry out, and a dry bolus will take longer to travel through the intestine (2).
Perimenopause Constipation Relief
Fiber is essential if you struggle with constipation. 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 (5).
Simple changes in your diet can achieve this goal, including:
Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables can help you to form softer, bulkier stools. In addition, eating fruits and vegetables raw and with skin will provide you with more significant amounts of insoluble fiber. This type of fiber can help you pass the stool faster.
Also, while any fruit and vegetable will be helpful, some of the best for constipation are:
- Strawberries, blackberries, kiwi, prunes, papaya, peaches, apricots, plums, raisins, rhubarb, apples, pears, and pineapples.
- Artichoke, celery, eggplants, zucchini, corn, potatoes with their skin, broccoli, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, kale, and arugula.
It is well known that the fiber in whole grains can help with constipation. Examples of high fiber foods include whole-wheat bread (make sure to read the labels to ensure high fiber), whole wheat pasta, cereals high in fiber, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, and brown rice.
There are plenty of high-fiber foods that could be helpful to avoid and relieve constipation naturally. However, to prevent any gastrointestinal issues, such as gas or bloating, it is recommended to increase fiber consumption gradually.
Other Foods That Help With Constipation
Avocado, flax seeds, nuts, and olive oil are good sources of fatty acids that can help you lubricate the stools and speed up the passage of stools in your GI.
Water, Water and More Water
Dehydration can cause constipation. How much water do you need per day? The recommendation is that you drink between 2 and 3 liters of water daily.
Drinking enough water is especially important if you eat more fiber, practice physical activity, or are in warm places.
Moving more can help you pass the stools faster. It also reduces the amount of water reabsorbed in your intestines, reducing the chance of having hard stools. For relieving constipation, simple short walks a few times a day can help.
Aerobic exercise- such as running, jogging, biking, and dancing- can help further by stimulating the natural contractions your body needs to pass the stool.
Another type of movement that is very helpful for constipation is yoga. As your body twists in different positions, the muscles in your intestines work more efficiently to pass stools faster.
Last, moving can help reduce stress and depression, helping your gastrointestinal (GI) system work better.
The Surprising Relation Between Constipation and Depression
An article published in the Journal of Gastroenterology shows that a hormone imbalance can cause constipation. Specifically, a shortage of serotonin -the happiness hormone- in the gut can cause this uncomfortable condition.
The same shortage of serotonin shortage in the brain can also lead to depression.
The good news is that the treatment that raises serotonin levels in the gut and brain could also help constipation (4).
There is also the behavioral aspect of depression. When we are emotionally unwell, our eating habits can change. Eating more, less, skipping meals, or eating unhealthy foods can make it challenging to maintain a regular intestinal transit, leading to constipation.
If you struggle to drink enough water daily, add slices of fruits, herbs, or vegetables. Imagine drinking the type of water you will find at a nice spa at your home! Here is a list of infused water ideas.
Juices, broths, tea, infusions, and refreshing drinks also count toward your daily water intake.
A Word of Caution about Laxatives
While laxatives are a great way to quickly fix constipation in the short run, using them for prolonged periods can damage the intestinal walls and spontaneously make their function more challenging (8).
Constipation can be treated with simple lifestyle changes—no need to suffer this uncomfortable condition.
Take care of yourself inside out!
“Perimenopause Constipation” was written by Su-Nui Escobar, DCN, RDN, FAND, collaborating with Registered Dietitians Vicky Rojas Alessandra Sparks.
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.