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Menopause Bloating: Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

Jan 24, 2024
Menopause Bloating: Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

Many women experience bloating during perimenopause and menopause. Hormone fluctuations are a common cause of bloating. It usually improves after menopause, when hormone levels normalize.

During perimenopause, many women keep track of their weight and become concerned when their clothes fit differently. Clothing that fits tighter due to bloating can exacerbate swelling and discomfort.

Simple dietary or lifestyle changes can usually relieve bloating; however, persistent bloating or a combination of symptoms may indicate a more serious medical condition that needs to be evaluated.

What is Menopause Bloating?

Bloating is a condition characterized by a feeling of abdominal fullness, tightness, and swelling. It is often accompanied by excessive gas, burping, and flatulence as gas and water are retained in the intestines.

While bloating can occur at any age, it is prevalent during perimenopause and menopause.

Causes of Menopause Bloating

Dietary and lifestyle changes, as well as hormonal imbalances associated with menopause and aging, are common causes of menopause bloating.

Hormonal Fluctuations

During menopause, the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body fluctuate significantly. These hormonal changes can cause fluid retention and swelling.

Higher estrogen levels can increase water retention and slow gut motility. Fluids and waste sit longer in the intestines, causing bloating. An imbalance of estrogen and progesterone can also increase water retention, causing swelling.1

In one study, researchers found that 38% of perimenopausal and postmenopausal women had self-reported altered bowel function, compared to 14% of premenopausal women.2,3

Digestive Changes

The hormonal fluctuations that are common during menopause can also affect the digestive system. Changes in bile production, which plays a crucial role in digestion and lubrication of the intestines, can occur. This altered bile production can lead to difficulties in digesting fats, resulting in bloating, constipation, and discomfort.

Changes in hormone levels can also affect the gut microbiome. Research suggests that menopause is associated with lower gut microbiome diversity and increased gut leakiness, which can increase the risk of irritable bowel symptoms and inflammation.4 However, more research is needed.

Diet and Lifestyle Factors

Some dietary and lifestyle choices can make menopause bloating worse. Eating foods that are high in salt, sugar, or fiber can contribute to bloating. Consuming processed foods, carbonated beverages, and chewing gum can increase air in the digestive system, resulting in bloating. Eating too quickly, not chewing food thoroughly, and having irregular eating habits can also contribute to digestive issues and bloating.

Specialized diets like the FODMAP Diet can help with menopause bloating

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety increase cortisol levels, which can have a significant impact on the digestive system. When the body is under stress, digestion may slow down as blood is diverted from the gut to muscles, leading to bloating and discomfort. Cortisol can also cause increased leakiness in the gut and changes in the microbiome. This can increase irritable bowel symptoms and inflammation.5

Stress can also affect food choices and eating habits, further exacerbating bloating symptoms.

Managing Menopause Bloating

While menopause bloating can be bothersome, there are several strategies you can employ to find relief, including dietary and lifestyle changes. However, it is important to keep in mind that bloating can be a symptom of a more serious medical condition, although this is very rarely the case.

Dietary Modifications

Making changes to your diet can significantly reduce menopause bloating. Here are some dietary modifications to consider:

  1. Increase Fiber Intake: Incorporate more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds into your diet. These fiber-rich foods can increase gut motility and alleviate constipation, reducing bloating.
  2. Avoid Trigger Foods: Identify foods that tend to worsen bloating for you. Common culprits include beans, broccoli, onions, dairy products, and carbonated beverages. Limit or avoid these foods to minimize bloating.
  3. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to maintain adequate hydration. Proper hydration can help keep stool soft, increase motility, and prevent water retention, reducing bloating.
  4. Eat Mindfully: Practice mindful eating by chewing food thoroughly, eating slowly, and savoring each bite. This can aid digestion and prevent overeating, reducing the likelihood of bloating.
  5. Consider Probiotics and Prebiotics: Probiotic supplements or foods containing beneficial bacteria can promote a healthy gut microbiome and improve digestion, according to the International Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics. Examples of foods rich in probiotics include kefir, kimchi, kombucha, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, miso, and yogurt. Check the labels carefully. For example, some yogurts do not contain active cultures.

Prebiotics are non-digestible dietary fibers that support gut bacterial health. Garlic, onions, bananas, teas, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are some excellent sources of prebiotics.

Lifestyle Adjustments

In addition to dietary modifications, certain lifestyle adjustments can help alleviate menopause bloating. Consider trying some of these healthy lifestyle changes:

  1. Manage Stress: Incorporate stress-reduction techniques into your daily routine, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in activities you enjoy. Managing stress can reduce cortisol and other hormonal changes associated with chronic stress, which can improve digestion and reduce bloating.
  2. Exercise regularly: Engaging in consistent exercise is vital to maintaining a healthy digestive system and overall health. Exercising regularly can help manage stress, regulate bowel movements, and alleviate bloating. Start by adding physical activity throughout your day. When you are comfortable, increase exercise intensity and length.
  3. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Weight gain in perimenopause and beyond is common. Whether due to hormonal changes, decreased physical activity, or diet, the sooner you shed any excess body weight, the better. Aim to maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise. Excess weight can contribute to bloating and other menopause symptoms.
  4. Avoid Smoking and Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can worsen bloating symptoms. Quit smoking and limit alcohol intake to minimize bloating and support overall health.

Medical Treatments

If lifestyle modifications do not provide sufficient relief, there are medical treatments available to manage menopause bloating. Consult with your healthcare provider to discuss the following options:

  1. Hormone Therapy (HT): HT involves the use of medications containing estrogen and progesterone to alleviate menopause symptoms, including bloating. Your healthcare provider can help you determine whether HT is suitable for you based on your health profile.
  2. Over-the-counter Medications: Certain over-the-counter medications, such as antacids or gas relief medications, can provide temporary relief from bloating. Over-the-counter medications are ideal for managing sporadic bloating and other gastrointestinal symptoms. However, if your symptoms worsen or persist, contact your doctor for a complete medical evaluation.
  3. Prescription Medications: In some cases, prescription medications may be recommended to address underlying digestive issues contributing to bloating. Your healthcare provider can prescribe medications tailored to your specific needs.

Seeking Medical Advice

If bloating persists, worsens, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is important to seek medical advice. Consult with your healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Severe or persistent bloating
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Blood in stool
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting

These symptoms may indicate underlying health conditions that require further evaluation and treatment.

Examples of medical conditions that can cause bloating include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome: This common condition can cause constipation, diarrhea, or a combination of symptoms, along with abdominal pain, discomfort, and bloating.
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can cause bloating, along with other gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS and cystic ovaries can cause bloating and swelling.
  • Endometriosis: In this condition, tissue similar to the uterine lining is found outside the uterus. When endometrial tissue responds to hormonal signals, it can cause pain and bloating.
  • Ovarian and other cancers: In rare cases, bloating is a symptom of ovarian or uterine cancers.
  • Hypothyroidism: Low thyroid hormone can decrease metabolism and gastrointestinal motility, leading to bloating.

Conclusion

Bloating and weight gain are common with hormonal imbalances and fluctuations, especially during perimenopause. In many cases, lifestyle and dietary changes are enough to relieve symptoms.

If you are concerned that weight gain is impacting your overall health and lifestyle changes have not been enough to help you reach a healthy weight, contact one of the Invigor Medical treatment specialists to learn more about weight loss options.

Get started today with a subscription to semaglutide.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you beat menopause bloating?

Beating menopause bloating can be achieved through several strategies, including dietary changes (reducing salt and sugar intake, increasing fiber-rich foods), staying hydrated, managing stress, regular exercise, avoiding trigger foods, and consulting a healthcare professional for further guidance or potential underlying causes.

What are the symptoms of awful menopause?

Symptoms of “awful” menopause can vary among individuals but may include severe hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and significant disruptions in daily life.

How do you know if bloating is serious?

Bloating can be a common and usually harmless symptom. However, it may be a cause for concern if it is accompanied by severe pain, sudden weight loss, blood in stools, persistent vomiting, or other unusual symptoms. In such cases, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation.

Can menopause cause severe bloating?

Yes, menopause can cause severe bloating in some individuals. Hormonal changes during menopause can affect digestion and metabolism, leading to bloating and digestive discomfort. Lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, and medical guidance can help manage severe bloating associated with menopause.

Disclaimer
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

Menopause Bloating: Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

Leann Poston, M.D.

Dr. Leann Poston is a licensed physician in the state of Ohio who holds an M.B.A. and an M. Ed. She is a full-time medical communications writer and educator who writes and researches for Invigor Medical. Dr. Poston lives in the Midwest with her family. She enjoys traveling and hiking. She is an avid technology aficionado and loves trying new things.

References

  • Jiang Y, Greenwood-Van Meerveld B, Johnson AC, Travagli RA. Role of estrogen and stress on the brain-gut axis. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2019 Aug 1;317(2):G203-G209. Doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00144.2019. Epub 2019 Jun 26. PMID: 31241977; PMCID: PMC6734369.
  • Jiang Y, Greenwood-Van Meerveld B, Johnson AC, Travagli RA. Role of estrogen and stress on the brain-gut axis. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2019 Aug 1;317(2):G203-G209. Doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00144.2019. Epub 2019 Jun 26. PMID: 31241977; PMCID: PMC6734369.
  • Triadafilopoulos G, Finlayson M, Grellet C. Bowel dysfunction in postmenopausal women. Women Health. 1998;27(4):55-66. doi: 10.1300/J013v27n04_04. PMID: 9796084.
  • Peters BA, Santoro N, Kaplan RC, Qi Q. Spotlight on the Gut Microbiome in Menopause: Current Insights. Int J Womens Health. 2022 Aug 10;14:1059-1072. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S340491. PMID: 35983178; PMCID: PMC9379122.
  • Konturek PC, Brzozowski T, Konturek SJ. Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2011;62(6):591-9.

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