Does menopause cause bloating?

menopause bloating
In the menopause transition many women experience bloating – and this can be alongside wind, constipation and indigestion. Here’s how hormones affect your gut, and what can be done to help.

Many women are affected by bowel symptoms during the menopause years. They often don’t realise that bloating and wind can be issues in the menopause. In fact, the menopause can result in changes in your gastrointestinal tract (or the gut, as it’s more commonly called). A loss of oestrogen can have a direct and indirect impact on the gut, resulting in symptoms ranging from bloating and heartburn to wind or reflux.

Bloating symptoms vary from woman to woman but typically include a feeling of fullness/tightness in the stomach and abdominal area, a swollen stomach and increased burping or flatulence. You may also experience constipation.

When should I be worried about menopause bloating?

  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Persistent abdominal pains or back pains
  • Persistent bloating that doesn’t settle
  • Passing fresh or old blood in your stool
  • A persistent change in your bowel habit
  • Passing looser, runnier stools
  • Unscheduled or unusual vaginal bleeding
  • An increased feeling of needing to pass urine
  • A feeling of feeling full more quickly, or loss of appetite

READ MORE How to book a private menopause specialist.

Does menopause cause bloating?

You may experience bloating in the menopause transition as a direct and indirect effect of hormonal changes. There are many causes and the role that hormones play is not well understood.

In the menopause transition, oestrogen and progestogen levels can fluctuate and then drop. Oestrogen can have a direct effect on the bowel and how it functions, and one of the effects of this may be bloating. Changes in both oestrogen and progestogen levels can result in fluid retention – particularly when levels are higher – as they can be during the perimenopause.

Higher levels of progesterone can lead to constipation. Changes in oestrogen can also affect the gut biome – this is the community of trillions of microrganisms that live in your bowel. Changes in the biome may also have their part to play in causing havoc with bowel symptoms.

For some women symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome flare in the menopause transition. Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional bowel disorder, causing abdominal pains and other symptoms including bloating, diarrhoea and constipation – so the bloating can occur as part of this common condition. 

If you are very anxious or stressed, levels of a hormone called cortisol can increase and this can impact on bowel function also – resulting in irritable bowel-like symptoms and bloating also. 

If you are stressed and anxious, stomach acid can increase – and this can result in reflux and irritation of the stomach lining, flatulence and bloating also.

Some women describe bloating, but they actually mean they are putting on fat round the middle. The loss of oestrogen of the menopause results in redistribution of fat in our body so that more is deposited round the middle. This is as a result of insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone released by the body in response to carbohydrates. The body becomes less responsive to this hormone in the menopause and one of the effects of this is the re-distribution of fat.

READ MORE What is the difference between perimenopause and menopause?

How do I get rid of menopause bloating?

A more easily digested diet, like a low FODMAP diet, can help with troublesome bowel symptoms like bloating. Staying hydrated is also important, so having a water bottle to hand is a good way to ensure you keep your levels topped up. It’s also a good idea to cut out well known trigger foods such as onions, beans and sugary snacks to reduce bloating and help your digestive system. Keeping a food diary is a useful way to work out which foods might be triggering the symptoms for you.

You can also consider food swaps: Bananas, grapes and eggs are known to minimise gas. You should also opt for low salt foods and cut down on processed foods which are often high in salt. 

READ MORE What are the 34 menopause symptoms?

If reflux is an issue for you, limiting or cutting out alcohol and caffeine can have a positive impact. You might try switching to herbal or decaffeinated tea and coffee for a while and see if it helps – it often does. See your doctor if making these changes has no effect as you may need other tests to work out why you have the reflux. Always see your doctor if symptoms are severe, if you have dark, sticky stool (pooh) or unintentional weight loss with your reflux symptoms. 

READ MORE 11 ways to lose menopause belly fat.

Does HRT help menopause bloating?

HRT is an effective way of treating symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes, anxiety, helping you to deal with stress, improving your sense of wellbeing, concentration and energy. If your bowel symptoms are linked to anxiety and stress, HRT may help. It’s probably fair to say that it’s unclear whether HRT helps bowel symptoms directly related to the menopause.

The gut is sensitive to the changes in hormones of the menopause years. In the perimenopause particularly, the fluctuations in hormones can result in fluid retention.

READ MORE Dr Clare Spencer is the co founder and Clinical Director of My Menopause Centre. You can find out more about the clinic and book an appointment here

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