Have you noticed as you’ve gotten older that you can’t eat the foods you did just a few years ago? Do those favorite dishes you once enjoyed no longer sit well with you?
Your digestive tract (a.k.a., your gut) is home to trillions of bacteria, known as gut microbes. These microbes are ultimately responsible for major bodily functions.
A healthy gut has a rich diversity of microbes and has an important role to play in combating conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, as well as tackling inflammation, which is linked to autoimmune diseases, in addition to being responsible for breaking down and delivering essential nutrients that fuel and nourish every part of you.
Sounds pretty important, right? That’s why it’s necessary that you maintain a happy, healthy gut!
BUT…as you get older, your gastrointestinal (GI) system ages just like your joints, eyesight, and other body parts.
So, if you’re noticing new age-related alignments like:
- leaky gut: (gaps in the lining of the intestines) which can lead to symptoms such as food sensitivities, diarrhea, bloating, brain fog, fatigue, and chronic inflammation,
- heartburn: (a.k.a., acid reflux),
- constipation: common in older adults due to a lack of adequate amounts of dietary fiber,
- diverticulitis: an inflammatory condition that starts out as diverticulosis—when sac-like pouches (called diverticulum) protrude from the colon. By age sixty, about one-third of Americans develop these protrusions, often in areas of the colon where the muscle is weak or the colon is narrow, and
…then, it’s time to make some changes!!!
It’s common for external lifestyle factors such as diet, stress, physical activity, environment, sleep, and medications (such as antibiotics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) to affect our cells, but the good news is these external factors are completely under your control!
The benefits of a balanced gut, usually the result of clean living, include long-term wellness and a better menopause experience.
When it comes to gut health there are positive bacteria (healthy “gut bugs”) that help your body digest and absorb nutrients, synthesize certain vitamins, and fight off toxic-forming carcinogens.
The good news is even a lifetime of bad eating is fixable—at least as far as your microbes are concerned. Amazingly, your body can create a new microbiota in as little as 24 hours—just by changing what you eat.
Another component that’s super important to your gut health is…your hormones! (Come on sis, you should have seen that one coming)!
Not only does perimenopause mess around with our weight, our mood, and our brain, but it can also cause imbalances in our digestive system and affect gut health.
You may notice an increase of uncomfortable bloating, constipation, and acid reflux (as if we don’t have enough going on in your bodies already).
Many women aren’t even aware that their hormones and their gut health are connected, but it is so important to understand what gut health issues you may be experiencing due to your fluctuating hormones.
Your estrogen and progesterone levels affect hormone receptors in your gut, and these in turn, affect how efficiently your gut works. So, a drop in those hormone levels means a change in your microbiome. At the same time, if your gut is having to cope with inflammation, triggered by factors such as alcohol, certain foods, lack of sleep, or medication, for example, it will affect the way your hormones, including serotonin—the happiness hormone—work.
If you’re struggling with perimenopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, low mood, or lack of energy, that could be due to a less than healthy gut microbiome.
During this particular season in life, an unhealthy estrobolome (the microbes that help process estrogen) can contribute to higher levels of estrogen and more problems with estrogen dominance. The more your symptoms fluctuate, the more you should be paying attention to your gut health. Notice the effect different foods have on your GI tract and how your hormone symptoms come and go. A food journal is a great way to keep track of what you are experiencing.
While the gut regulates and affects estrogen levels, the natural decline of estrogen levels caused by menopause has a direct effect on the microbiome. It’s a nice little circle that can cause midlife struggles like midsection weight gain and/or IBS.
The good news is that as you improve your microbiome health, you will begin to see improvements in your overall health, which can alleviate those annoying menopausal symptoms.Tweet
TIPS TO IMPROVE HOW YOU FEEL:
1. Avoid antibiotics (whenever possible).
Antibiotics are known destroyers of bacteria by nature. Antibiotics disrupt the gut’s delicate ecosystem and also decrease the body’s ability to fight off infection on its own.
2. Adjust up your diet.
Reducing or eliminating processed foods that affect your gut health is the best place to start. I encourage my clients to incorporate a more plant centered diet to improve overall gut health.
3. Try taking a daily probiotic.
Because our low estrogen levels can greatly impact our microbiome’s balance, a daily probiotic is super helpful when it comes to providing that good flora. Look for a supplement that contains multiple types of strains. And always, with any change in routine or diet, be sure to discuss adding a probiotic with your healthcare provider to make sure it’s appropriate for you.
There are so many changes women go through as a result of the dramatic reduction in their hormone levels that simply occur naturally during menopause. Changes in digestive and bowel habits, changes in skin health, a decrease of quality sleep, even an increase of depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and osteoporosis, all resulting from our fluctuating hormones.
Keeping your gut health balanced is going to have so many positive benefits for your menopausal symptoms but also for your overall health and wellness!
Whether you’re just starting to dip your toes into perimenopause, continuing to experience symptoms into post-menopause, or simply looking for some guidance on what to expect in the coming years of life, I’m here for you! For more information and support around your menopause journey, book a free discovery call and let’s find you some relief!
Karen Cerezo is a certified personal trainer, sports nutritionist, and health and wellness coach. She specializes in empowering women by helping them navigate this new, amazing season called midlife and menopause through proper nutrition, intentional movement, a positive mindset, and knowledge.
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Another great article on navigating the change! Paying attention to how food impacts mood, including gut health is so important. Because as we discussed in our anxiety interview, serotonin is mostly manufactured in our gut. Hence “butterflies” when nervous.
Thank you for this Dr. G! I will be checking out Karen’s resources.
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Thanks Dr. D! Kind of like you, she’s really good at making things quite easy to understand.
And AHA! All of these concepts are coming together for me…this makes a lot of sense.
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I love it when that happens. It’s like a breath of fresh air for the mind.. 💙
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A brilliant article, indeed. There are foods (and drinks) I can’t touch any more, of late. So, I’ve been paying extra attention to my gut health; bloating is real. Thank you for this easy to digest advice.
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“easy to digest” lol
I’m glad you found this useful Khaya! Talking to Karen for only 60 minutes really did change how I see a lot of things I eat. It’s not worth the sacrifice most times.