You wake up, and you’re feeling fab. Winner!
You get out of bed with an extra spring in your step, take a shower and get ready to conquer the day.
You step into the kitchen and make yourself a healthy breakfast. You’re enjoying a beautiful bircher muesli with some gorgeous fresh fruits and a cup of coffee.
Then you look down, and notice your shirt is suddenly a tad tighter, and have a bit of a belly situation. Wait a minute…that wasn’t there earlier?
Ladies, that’s bloating. And it’s frequently experienced by women between 45-55 years of age, typically during perimenopause.
Bloating is characterised by the feeling of tightness around the abdominal area. There can be a rapid onset of weight or size during and/or after a meal, or changes in size and shape to the abdominal area throughout the day.
Menopausal bloating is related to an increase in water retention and/or intestinal gas. These are caused by, you guessed it, your crazy, fluctuating hormones.
The good news is bloating happens less frequently as the body adjusts to its new normal hormone levels after menopause.
Well, as mentioned, your hormones (specifically estrogen) plays a massive role in bloating and is very important for maintaining the correct amount of water and bile in your body.
When a woman is about to have her menstrual period, her estrogen levels rise, causing her to retain more water, which leads to bloating.
The changes in estrogen also alters the amount of bile produced in the body, which affects the way fats are digested, which in turn leads to more flatulence being produced in the digestive system.
Lower levels of estrogen results in decreased levels of bile, and with the absence of bile leads to hard, dry stools accumulating in the small intestines, leading to the feeling of constipation and bloatedness.
What else causes bloating?
Other causes of bloating in menopause include hormone replacement therapy and certain medications (where bloating can be a side effect). First check with your doctor before stopping your medication if you think this might be the case, it may be possible for them to change your medication.
There are also other menopausal symptoms which can indirectly affect bloating, an example is stress. Stress halts blood flow, which can result in an ineffective digestive system. Changes in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to gas or water retention which will cause bloating.
What can you do?
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that food plays a massive role in bloating. Foods that are high in salt (like your fried take outs and some frozen dinners), dairy (especially if you’re lactose intolerant), cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage), beans, as well as some carbonated drinks which can lead to excess gas in the stomach.
Probiotic foods such as yoghurt and sauerkraut help to promote digestive health, and some fresh fruits such as bananas and grapes, eggs, as well as drinks such as peppermint tea can be beneficial for your digestive system, and green tea which can help to relieve bloating from excess water retention).
Drinking water keeps the gastrointestinal tract moving smoothly. Keeping properly hydrated will also help to flush out excess water and toxins that may cause discomfort.
Not only the type of foods, but also the way you eat can play a role in bloating. Large meals can overload the digestive system, so consume smaller meals frequently. Also chewing your food into smaller chunks means the stomach does less work, and produces less gas.
If you’re a smoker, it would be best to limit drastically or quit altogether. Smoking decreases the levels of estrogen your body produces, which alters the way your body functions in terms of bile production as well as other roles it plays in the body (such as bone health).
Abdominal massages can also help ease bloating. Start at your right side of your pelvic bone and rub in circular motion up to your rib, across to the left and down and around the belly button and back to the start. Aim for 2-3 minutes. Remember to warm up your hands first!
If you believe stress is a trigger of your bloating, try some relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga. These techniques can increase blood flow to the digestive tract and stimulate the intestinal action of breaking down food.
If you are concerned about your bloating, or if you believe it may not be related to menopause, don’t hesitate to seek advice from your health care professional.