Gut health is a fascinating and often overlooked area of health. Did you know that the changes that occur during menopause also have an effect on the health of your gut? The health of your gut affects so many things including your overall health, your mental health and your ability to lose weight.
What is gut health?
It used to be when your health was discussed that things like your blood pressure, your weight and maybe your blood sugar was discussed. Rarely did gut health come up, unless you complained about a digestive disorder. In recent years health experts are beginning to understand the importance of the health of your gut.
Your gut contains hundreds of different kinds of bacteria. This is called the microbiome. Most of them are found in your intestines. Each person has a unique microbiome.
our microbiome plays an important role in your health. It helps you digest food properly, helps you absorb some vitamins, and also helps to regulate your immune system.
How does menopause affect gut health?
It seems that estrogen or the lack of estrogen if you are post menopausal has an effect on just about every aspect of your health. Gut health is no exception. After menopause women lose some of the diversity of bacteria in the gut. It doesn’t seem to matter what age menopause occurs at, so it appears to be related to lower estrogen levels.
Lower estrogen levels also affect the gut lining. This can cause undigested food to go through the lining of the intestines into the bloodstream. This is known as leaky gut and can lead to many health issues.
What are the consequences of poor gut health?
Much research has been done on poor gut health and its consequences. Much of this is in its infancy but there is evidence that poor gut health can lead to:
- Overweight and obesity – Women who are obese have a less diverse microbiome. Studies with mice have shown that transplanting gut bacteria can cause and cure obesity
- Anxiety and depression – poor gut health is a contributing factor in mental health issues like anxiety and depression. It works both ways, anxiety and stress which are symptoms of menopause can contribute to poor gut health
- Digestive issues – many women find that things they could eat before menopause now cause digestive issues. Irritable bowel syndrome and food intolerances become more prevalent after menopause.
- Type 2 diabetes, arthritis and heart disease – perhaps because of increased weight, perhaps because of increased inflammation, these diseases seems to be linked to poor gut health
How can you improve gut health after and during menopause?
Researchers haven’t determined exactly which bacteria help with which conditions, so if you decide to add a probiotic supplement, a broad spectrum probiotic is best. Foods that contain probiotics include some yogurts, sauerkraut and traditionally made sourdough bread. Check out this article about probiotics for more information. Adding fibre can also help improve gut health. Limiting sugar and processed foods will help to limit inflammation of the gut.
A diet that is based on whole foods is best for digestive health, but you need to be aware that foods that are healthy for some can be problematic for others. Add any new foods slowly to your diet to make sure that you are able to tolerate them.
If you have signs of digestive issues or food sensitivities, you may need to go on an elimination diet to determine the cause. This should be done under the supervision of a dietitian or nutritionist who specialized in gut health.
Lower levels of estrogen that occur in menopausal women affects the microbiome. Changes in gut health seem to be related to increased incidence of autoimmune disease and increased incidence of weight gain and obesity. If you are looking for some simple ideas to lose weight during menopause then download this free guide.