• Menopause Symptoms

Menopause And Constipation : The Hormone Connection

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Many women suffer from constipation in menopause. It can be frustrating, uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful. If you’re experiencing discomfort while at work or out and about, you’ll want to know what you can do to get back to feeling yourself again.

In this article, we’ll look at why hormonal constipation happens and what you can do about it.

What is constipation in bowel movements?

Constipation is when you find it difficult to pass a stool, or you’re going to the toilet less often than usual. According to the NHS, if you’ve not had a bowel movement at least three times in the past week, you’re straining or in pain when you go to the toilet. Other symptoms, if your stool is large or dry, can indicate you’re likely to be constipated.

What are common causes of constipation in the digestive tract?

The digestive tract includes your your mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and anus. Constipation occurs in the large intestine and is often joined by a stomach ache, bloating, and sometimes even nausea, so it can really interfere with your day. Common causes of constipation include

  • not eating enough fiber foods
  • not drinking enough liquids
  • digestive issues
  • delaying the urge to eliminate stool
  • stress, anxiety or depression
  • not enough physical activity
  • weakened pelvic floor muscles
  • lifestyle changes
  • dietary changes
  • medication side effects

What is hormone imbalance-related constipation?

Fluctuations in hormones are a normal part of life for women. Changes in levels of oestrogen and other hormones can bring with them a lot of unpleasant symptoms as women age. Menopause creates a lot of symptoms – constipation being one of them.

Female hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, play a crucial role in maintaining digestive health, and their decline during menopause can lead to issues in the digestive tract, including changes in cortisol levels that slow down the digestive process and a reduction in progesterone that can cause the colon to slow down, resulting in a drier stool.

Hormonal changes also affects how your body processes food and manages nutrient distribution. Lower oestrogen levels and higher cortisol levels are common in women over 50. This can affect everyday bodily functions as well as affecting regular elimination. Or lack of it! Constipation happens to a lot of women during perimenopause and menopause, but it can also happen to women of reproductive age, right before they come on their period.

What links menopause and constipation?

Falling estrogen levels

As we touched on above, as our ovaries produce less estrogen, hormonal constipation can happen more often. It’s because hormones contribute to maintaining a healthy digestive system, so when there’s not enough of the estrogen hormone available, the colon can slow down.

The movement of food through the digestive system happens through wave-like contractions called peristalsis. Lower hormone levels can affect the way peristalsis works. This means it can take longer for our food to pass through our digestive system due to slower intestinal movement. This can result in fewer bowel movements which can leave us feeling bloated and uncomfortable.

Additionally, elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol during menopause can further impact digestive health and contribute to constipation by affecting blood sugar, blood pressure, and disrupting normal digestive processes.

A poor diet can slow things down

Having a poor diet – whether you’re menopausal or not – increases your risk of getting constipated. Too many high fat foods can contribute to constipation. The main culprits are fatty meat, dairy products, eggs, and processed foods.

Fibre is the part of the food we eat that can’t be broken down, so it travels through our digestive system relatively intact. It helps bulk out our stools, making them easier to pass through peristalsis and keeping things moving along.

Including both soluble and insoluble fibre in your diet is crucial for bowel health; while soluble fibre helps to soften stools, insoluble fibre aids in their formation and elimination, ensuring a healthy digestive process. The recommended daily fibre intake for adults, as advised by the NHS, is around 30g, yet the average consumption is only about 20g a day. Fibre is a key part of any healthy, balanced diet, and if you don’t eat enough of it, you’re more likely to experience constipation.

Dehydration can cause constipation

Not drinking enough water puts you at a higher risk of experiencing a bout of constipation. That’s because water – and other fluids – help fibre to work better, which in turn makes stools softer and easier to pass.

How to treat constipation during menopause

Make sure you're getting enough fibre Whole grains, beans, nuts, fruit, and vegetables are all great sources of fibre. You can also take it in supplement form if you’re struggling to meet the recommended daily intake of 30g through your diet alone.

Fibre doesn’t just reduce the likelihood of constipation – it comes with a whole host of other health benefits, too. The Harvard School of Public Health says fibre is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes to name just a few.

The Eve Biology meal replacement formula uses a prebiotic fibre clinically shown to ease digestive transit, in other words ease constipation.

Keep hydrated

Water and other fluids help soften our stools, making them easier to pass. So, to avoid dehydration and the constipation that comes with it, make sure you’re drinking plenty. The NHS recommends drinking between six and eight glasses of water a day. If you’re struggling to drink water on its own, you can add squash, or include cups of tea or sugar-free drinks, as well.

Regular exercise to help regulate bowel movements

Daily exercise can help regulate your bowel movements. To keep constipation at bay, you should aim to incorporate around 30 minutes of moderate exercise into your daily routine. Aerobic exercises are best. These include running, jogging, brisk walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, or rowing.

Pelvic floor exercises can also help combat constipation by strengthening the pelvic area and improving bowel function. Certain yoga poses and pilates moves come with this benefit.

Women going through menopause may experience joint and back pain, which can limit their ability to engage in physical activity, thereby contributing to gastrointestinal disturbances.

Hormone replacement therapy

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a common treatment for menopause symptoms, including constipation. Its purpose is to replace the hormones that are lost as we get older, which in turn suppresses many of the classic symptoms.

When considering HRT, it's crucial to consult with your doctor about the potential benefits and the role of prescription medications in managing your symptoms. Your doctor can help determine the right medication, including HRT, to effectively treat constipation during menopause and discuss how various medications might impact your digestive system. If you’re considering starting HRT, speak to your doctor as soon as you can – it’s best to start earlier rather than later.

Short-term hormonal constipation relief

The best way to alleviate constipation in the long term is to eat more fibre, improve your diet, stay hydrated, and get plenty of exercise. However, you might be looking for ways to help stop constipation in its tracks when it does occasionally hit.

Over-the-counter medications, such as stool softeners, laxatives, and bulk-forming laxatives, can offer short-term relief to relieve constipation. BUT, these options can have side effects and potentially make the bowel lazier. It's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before trying any home remedies or over-the-counter medications for constipation relief.

Speak to a doctor or pharmacist first, to ensure you’re taking the option that’s best for you.

Article Roundup

Menopause and constipation often come hand-in-hand – fluctuating or falling hormone levels are to blame. Thankfully, there are ways to keep it at bay, including eating more fibre and getting more exercise. Fibre supplements and treatments like HRT can also help.


Does menopause cause constipation?

Menopause happens as a result of falling hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone. This drop in hormones can indeed lead to constipation – it’s a common symptom.

Can lack of sleep cause constipation?

Decreased sleep has been linked to constipation. And as sleeplessness is a common menopause symptom, you’re more likely to be at risk.

What helps hormonal constipation?

Eating more fibre, getting plenty of exercise, and drinking enough water are all really important when it comes to fighting against hormonal constipation. It's also crucial not to ignore the body's signals to go to the bathroom, as doing so can damage the body's natural receptors, leading to a loss of early warnings and increased pain.

For those experiencing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which may be exacerbated by menopause, personalising fiber intake and incorporating fiber-rich foods into the diet can help manage symptoms. Fibre supplements and over-the-counter medications can also help. And if you’re struggling with other menopause symptoms, HRT might be an option for you, too.