In this blog, I am looking at Gut Health and Menopause. So grab a cup of green tea and take some time out. Hopefully, you will find some answers to some of your questions during this new journey in your life.
I am sure that you’ve all heard about the importance of taking care of your heart by exercising and, eating a healthy and balanced diet. Your gut health is just as important as, the health of your digestive system. This plays a HUGE role in your cardiovascular and brain health!
So, in this blog I talk a little more about why and, how you can do that.
Why gut health is important in menopause
There are a lot of studies that tell us of the strong connection between your gut and the brain. You can think of it as having two brains – one in your head and the other in your digestive system. Both are created from the same tissue during fetal development and are connected via the vagus nerve – this goes from your brain stem down to your abdomen. This is the main route that the gut bacteria use to transmit information to your brain.
Your mood greatly depends on the status of your gut heatlh when going through menopause. If the gut is inflamed, irritated, ‘leaky’, and out of whack due to higher levels of bad bacteria, your mood will reflect this. This means that toxins in your gut can flow through the body and into the brain, where it can alter your mood. This can then predispose you to have mental and behavioural disorders. Also, good old inflammation affects other areas of your body.
Are you aware that inflammation is connected to many chronic health issues? This is why it is important to nourish and support good gut health, by making healthy food choices, your mood and general wellbeing can be greatly improved.
The other reason that your gut is considered to be other brain, is due to the fact that the greatest concentration Serotonin production is found there. Serotonin is what you can call ‘your feel-good neurotransmitter’. It is involved in controlling many of your emotions – depression, sleep, and aggression. Poor gut health and poor food choices can lead you to have low serotonin levels.
It becomes important for you to have great Heart Health when entering menopause. This is because, you start to lose a lot of the positive effects that oestrogen gives you. Such as regulating your blood sugar/insulin function, blood pressure, and, heart rhythm.
A well balanced intestinal microbiome helps you to maintain good levels of short-chain fatty acids, These are sources of energy for the naturally occurring bacteria in your intestines and the intestinal cells. And nitrous oxide, which helps to keep your blood vessels dilated, reducing the pressure within.
Menopause and gut health
If you have poor digestive function (liver, stomach, intestines) and your adrenal glands are overworked, this affects many of your hormones. And when entering menopause, your hormones are already out of ‘whack’; which affects your ability to lose weight from your middle area, leads you to have sugar cravings, mood swings, digestive issues, etc!!
- Chronic inflammation
- Dysbiosis (imbalance of gut flora)
- Hormonal imbalances
- Poor digestion
- Belly fat
- Mood swings
- Sugar cravings
What are the causal factors?
- Poor diet: refined and processed foods, sugar, bad fats, fried foods, hormone and antibiotic-laden meats, poultry, dairy products, GMO’s (genetically modified foods), artificial additives, sweeteners, preservatives, excess alcohol.
- Food sensitivities: most commonly gluten, dairy, corn, soy, sugar, yeast.
- Food sensitivities can cause inflammation and digestive disturbance (gas, bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea, fatigue, skin issues, brain fog, headaches).
- Medications: antibiotics, NSAIDS (Non-Steriodal Anti Inflammatory Drugs), steroids, birth control pills, antacids. These wreak havoc on your gut walls and microbiome.
- Stress: causing you to eat more. This leads to digestive enzymes to take a detour, leaving you with indigestion, constipation, reflux, nausea, gas and bloating. Your stress hormone, cortisol, is in overdrive due to stress. This leads to more fat being deposited, in cortisol-sensitive abdominal fat cells resulting in belly fat.
How to support gut health
Try incorporating as many of these steps as possible into your routine and see how much better you will feel!
- Keep a journal to track your results with bloating, how you sleep, and how you feel in general.
- Slow down your eating! This will help your digestive system to work better. Plus, it’ll help you from overeating; as it is allowing your brain to register that you are full, as well as, swallowing less air – reducing the occurrence of feeling bloated and passing wind.
- Eat smaller meals – As eating too much food, puts pressure on the sphincter in your stomach, which may cause you reflux. Yuck!
- Work out a meal schedule. Trying to eat at the same time each day, allows your body to perform better; as well as reducing the chances of over-snacking, limiting foods such as, biscuits, chips, etc.
- Stop eating at least two couple hours before bed. This is the time when your digestive system should be resting and not working. This also helps to prevent reflux from occurring.
- Get 20-30 grams of fiber a day. If this is more than you normally eat, slowly increase fiber so you don’t end up feeling bloated, uncomfortable, and/or gassy.
- Reduce stress – Your body has a much harder time digesting food when you’re feeling tense and stressed out. As you go into ‘Fight or Flight’ mode, which means that the last thing that your body wants to do is DIGEST.
- Do deep breathing exercises. Think about breathing down deep into your belly!
- Probiotics – Consider reducing your sugar intake, as too much can create an imbalance in your gut microbiome. The probiotics found naturally in yogurt all help to boost the healthy bacteria in your gut. If you need specific strains to address certain gut and health issues, I can help you with that.
- Exercise – Working out helps your body to move food through your digestive tract better.