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Does the Menopause Cause Bloating?

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Does the Menopause Cause Bloating?

A round, puffy, swollen, hard stomach is something we’ve probably all experienced. We only need to eat a large meal or something such as gluten or dairy that we’re intolerant to, to know that bloating is annoying and uncomfortable. If we have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or our period is due, then we can feel even more uncomfortably bloated.

Bloating can be painful, cause us to feel like we need to go to the toilet or pass wind and make the clothes that we usually feel good in become tight and restrictive and lead us to feel self conscious about looking ‘overweight’ or even pregnant.

But what about if we’re perimenopausal or menopausal? Could going through our perimenopause or menopause cause us to feel bloated?

Both the perimenopause and often to a greater extent, the menopause, can cause unpleasant symptoms such as night sweats, hot flushes and mood swings, and they can also cause us to gain weight. These symptoms are all caused by a drop in the female hormone oestrogen that gradually begins usually in our 40s leading to the eventual cessation of our periods signalling the end of the menopause, usually in our early 50s.

Bloating, particularly during the menopause, is usually down to water retention or the production of more intestinal gas.

Water retention is caused by the fluctuating hormones in the body, and can be especially troublesome during the perimenopause when levels of two other hormones called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and oestradiol are relatively higher. This can also lead to a swelling of the breasts, leading to tenderness and pain.

Intestinal gas production can increase due to the decreased metabolic rate and rate of digestion that can also be a sign of the menopause.

During the menopause, it’s also common for women to gain weight around the abdomen, again due to falling oestrogen levels. So it can be easy to confuse bloating and the menopause midriff. Bloating will often come and go, so a good test is to measure your waist in the morning. If it’s still the same size in the evening, and you feel like you’ve gained weight, the chances are you have succumbed to the common menopausal weight gain. If your waist is measuring significantly bigger later in the day than in the morning, it’s more likely to be bloating.

To beat the bloat, try eating smaller portions or eating ‘little and often’. You could also try working out any trigger foods that might be causing you to bloat, and then avoiding them – but don’t embark on an elimination
diet without the help of a doctor or nutritionist. You could end up deficient in an essential nutrient.

Cutting out carbonated drinks (including sparkling water), chewing gum and foods that are high in salt can also help to minimise bloating. As will staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Eating more mindfully and slowly can also help to minimise the amount of air you’re taking down into your stomach, and drinking warm peppermint tea can soothe an irritated and bloated bowel.

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