Women are twice as likely as men to experience digestive problems and, for many women, these problems only worsen with menopause. From excessive bloating to incontinence, women can experience a host of digestive problems during menopause that disrupt and lower the quality of their daily lives. The vast majority of menopause digestive problems occur during perimenopause, as hormone levels randomize and descend, causing problems like indigestion, constipation, diarrhea and even vomiting.
Definition of Menopause Digestive Problems
Menopause digestive problems refer to discomfort and disruptions in the body's normal digestive process that occurs when a woman's hormones change during midlife. Menopause digestive problems may include constipation, diarrhea, bloating, vomiting, cramping or abdominal pain.
Menopause digestive problems can range from constipation and hard, dry stools to diarrhea, loose stools and incontinence.
Women may also experience menopause digestive problems like bloating, due to excess gas and water retention. Pain may be generalized, or include cramping, tightness and “fullness.” As a result, some women experience unnecessary weight gain – and, if abdominal problems worsen after meals, some women find themselves losing their appetite.
In some cases, women can even experience abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting during menopause. Sleep may be interrupted by indigestion or abdominal discomfort. Some women may even experience accidents.
Symptoms of Menopause Digestive Problems
- Excess gas
- Loose stools
- Hard stools
- Abdominal tightness
- Abdominal pain
- Feeling overly full
- Appetite changes
- Weight gain
Risks of Menopause Digestive Problems
Menopausal women can experience difficulties on the job, in intimate relationships and in daily living when their lives are disrupted by digestive problems. Some women find themselves afraid to leave the house, as a result of fear of a sudden onset of symptoms. Other women find their self-confidence rattled by weight gain bloating.
Women may find their eating patterns, appetite and even sleep disrupted by digestive problems. They may grow reluctant to eat or hestiate to battle insomnia as a result of abdominal discomfort. Menopause digestive problems can have psychological and emotional effects as well, such as irritability, lowered self-image, anxiety and if left untreated even depression .
Causes of Menopause Digestive Problems
Menopausal digestive problems all share a common cause: hormonal imbalance. As estrogen levels decrease, the body produces higher levels of a stress hormone known as cortisol, causing elevated sugar and blood pressure levels. In response, vital stomach acids such as bile decrease, leading to constipation and bloating. When estrogen and progesterone levels suddenly rise, women can experience diarrhea as muscles in the colon relax in response.
Women may also experience excess gas during menopause, leading to feelings of fullness and pain, particularly after eating. Some women will also experience bloating due to water retention that occurs as hormones fluctuate during menopause. Women may also experience sensory sensitivity and chronic migraines, which may lead to nausea and vomiting.
Menopause Digestive Problems Treatments
Because menopause digestive problems are the result of falling or fluctuating hormone levels, successful treatment will involve the reestablishment of proper hormone levels in the body. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) offers one means of establishing hormonal balance through the outside introduction of hormones. However, because of severe health risks associated with HRT – and side effects that can actually make certain digestive symptoms of menopause worse – many women seek out alternative treatments for menopause bloating and digestive problems.
If reestablishing hormonal balance does not resolve digestive issues, physicians may suggest digestive health tests or exploratory surgery to attempt to resolve digestive problems that may not be related to menopause. In rare cases, digestive problems could be a result of specialized conditions such as bowel obstruction or digestive tract issues, and would need to be treated through medications, or even surgery.
Menopause Digestive Problems FAQs
Q: After balancing my hormones, what lifestyle changes may help prevent menopause digestive problems?
A: While most women find that digestive problems disappear once their hormonal balance has been restored, lifestyle choices can help, as well. Stress reduction, quitting smoking, avoiding excess alcohol and getting daily exercise can all help prevent menopause digestive problems. Additionally, incorporation of plenty of fruits, vegetables, fiber and low-sodium, low-fat and low-sugar foods to your diet can also help aid digestion.