What Causes Perimenopause Constipation-and What to Do About It
Evidence suggests that 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). If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, keep reading to learn about why this happens and, most important: how to fix it!
How Hormonal Changes Cause Perimenopausal Constipation
Estrogen and progesterone change once women enter into perimenopause. These hormones contribute to the proper functioning of intestinal transit (2). Thus a change in these hormones can cause unwanted changes in the gastrointestinal tract, including constipation.
Other hormonal imbalances during perimenopause can also contribute to constipation. For example, some imbalances in the hormones that maintain the body’s fluid balance can cause constipation by retaining fluids. As a result, the food bolus will compact and dry out, and a dry bolus will take longer to travel through the intestine (3).
The Surprising Relation Between Constipation and Depression
An article published in the Journal 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 unwell emotionally, our eating habits can change. Eating more, less, skipping meals, or eating unhealthy foods can make it difficult to maintain a normal intestinal transit, leading to constipation.
How to Get Rid of Constipation in Perimenopause ?
Despite having a multifactorial cause, similar lifestyle changes can improve constipation while alleviating other unwanted symptoms of perimenopause.
Increase your Fiber Intake
Fiber is essential if you struggle with constipation. According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, fiber’s daily requirement for women aged 50 or younger is 25 grams. Women aged 51 or older need 21 grams (5).
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.
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 larger amounts of insoluble fiber. This type of fiber can help you pass the stool faster.
Also, while any fruit and vegetable will be helpful as we are going for quantity, 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.
Other Foods That Help With Constipation
- Avocado, flax seeds, nuts, and olive oil are good sources of fatty acids that can help you speed up your intestinal transit.
Smart tip: It will always be necessary to increase its consumption progressively to accustom the body to avoid gas or bloating problems.
Water, Water and More Water
Remember that dehydration can be one of the usual causes of constipation. How much water do you need per day? The recommendation is that you drink between 2 and 3 liters of water daily, especially if you are increasing your fiber intake or practicing physical activity on a more regular basis.
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.
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.
Be cautious if you are tented to use 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).
Perimenopause constipation can be treated if you change your lifestyle habits—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 soon-to-be 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’s charisma and warmth have made her a frequent guest on Hispanic popular morning television shows.