What are the most commonly asked questions about menopause?
If you were to look at the many online questions about menopause symptoms you would find quite a few along these lines: Can perimenopause cause water retention? And, can hormones cause gas and bloating?
The answer is yes; in fact bloating is frequently experienced during both perimenopause and menopause.
Is all menopause bloating the same?
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.
How long does menopause bloating go on for?
Some women will experience this for a few days and then not again for some months. Others will experience this for much more prolonged periods. The reason of course is hormones.
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How can hormones make you bloated?
Firstly oestrogen has an effect on water retention, indeed this is the reason many women experience a higher level of water retention coming up to their period. Unfortunately when oestrogen levels become erratic during perimenopause and menopause water retention is often a consequence.
Oestrogen also influences the production of bile and this acts as a lubricant in the intestines. When this process becomes less efficient, fats are less thoroughly digested and bloating can occur.
What else causes menopause bloating?
Increased oestrogen levels lead to the adrenal glands producing aldosterone. This affects the kidney function so that there is a water/salt imbalance leading to feelings of bloating and retention of water.
Finally progesterone usually acts as a natural diuretic which helps to relieve excess fluids from the body. If oestrogen levels become much higher than progesterone this will again lead to bloating and retention of water. However if progesterone is high, food will move more slowly through your intestine which again leads to bloating.
So the key is hormone stability?
Fluctuation is the problem. Your hormones function in an interdependent and interconnected system so a changed level in one hormone will trigger a change in another. Generally speaking oestrogen levels go up and down and progesterone falls consistently and continually so sometimes oestrogen will dominate.
Can changes in diet help menopause bloating?
Yes, it’s 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. You should also go for low salt foods. Cut down on processed foods which are often high in salt. Increased exercise can also help.
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Can HRT help menopause bloating?
When preventing bloating, I usually put my patients on probiotics for three months as this also seems to assist. However, you may also want to consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat the root cause of the problem which are those delightfully fluctuating hormone levels.
READ MORE Dr Stephanie Goodwin is a London-based GP and menopause expert.