Clothes feel different from one day to the next and you’re not sure why?? Do you sometimes look in the mirror and think you look tight and round, even though your calorie intake would make a fitness trainer weep with joy? Unexplained weight gain? An increase in gas retention? We hear you!
Abdominal bloating or menopause belly is a on of the most common menopause symptoms for women in their 50's when their oestrogen levels start to decline. In fact, many women experience bloating and water retention. It is a common symptom suffered by both perimenopausal and menopausal women.
Let's take a closer look!
Symptoms of Menopause Belly Bloat
Bloating symptoms include a feeling of fullness, tightness, or pressure in the stomach and abdominal area. This can be down to a change in digestive health, gas retention, constipation (when bowel movements aren't as regular as they should be)and/or water retention.
Menopause bloating can be uncomfortable and cause abdominal pain. This feeling is often accompanied by a swollen stomach known as menopause belly and temporary weight gain. Yep, there’s nothing wrong with your scales, weight gain and weight loss can happen within a week!
It's also very common to experience changes in your digestive system during perimenopause and menopause, causing symptoms which can be similar to IBS
Why Does Menopause Cause Bloating?
You won’t be surprised to hear that a decrease in oestrogen and hormonal changes can be blamed for painful bloating during menopause. When the menstrual cycle has been absent for a year and your oestrogen ( estrogen ) starts to drop the risk of menopausal belly bloat is real.
Women in perimenopause also suffer because higher oestrogen (estrogen) levels can also trigger bloating. During perimenopause, hormonal fluctuations can include spikes of up to 30% more than you’re used which upsets your hormonal balance and can lead to greater quantities of estrogen building up in the body.
Progesterone production is triggered by ovulation and helps to regulate oestrogen but progesterone levels are also declining during perimenopause. Some months you may not ovulate which means less progesterone. The result of excess ( dominant ) oestrogen hormone can lead to issues with the gastrointestinal tract which include slower stool transition, water retention and gas retention, which can trigger bloating indigestion and gas.
What else causes bloating during menopause?
In menopause, oestrogen levels steadily decline as the years go by, but that doesn’t mean menopause bloating goes away. In fact, menopausal bloating can persists for a number of reasons. A slower metabolism, lack of sleep, fatigue, insomnia, water retention, an increase in stress and higher levels of sugar in the blood are all very common menopause symptoms.
Finding it hard to lose weight and a thicker waistline despite exercising regularly and good eating habits it can be frustrating as well as affect women's health. When oestrogen declines during menopause, the body changes where it stores fat. In fertile years fat is stored around the hips and thighs but in menopause the body builds up fat cells around the belly which can make you feel bloated.
If you're a menopausal woman a natural, age related increase in fat storage and a loss of lean muscle can change your body composition and contribute to weight gain and a thicker middle.
Oestrogen and the gastrointestinal tract
The gastrointestinal tract or digestive tract includes the your mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and anus. Declining oestrogen levels can cause food to take longer to digest which gives it more time to ferment in the gastrointestinal tract and large intestine. Excess gas and acid reflux are quite common menopause symptoms.
How To Prevent Menopausal Bloating
There are two ways to look at the changes that happen during menopause. Hormone fluctuations are responsible for a range of menopausal symptoms which include hot flashes and can affect a woman's health in a number of ways.
The first is that you're under siege from multiple symptoms you weren't responsible for manifesting, feel resentful and rage against your lot. Trying to cling to your old habits in the hope things will right themselves will get you nowhere.
The second is that you need to take a fresh look at any lifestyle factors which could be contributing to bloating - because the way it works changes when it undergoes hormonal transformation and you need just need to adjust. Otherwise know as the path of least resistance.
Treating Menopause Bloating
There are lifestyle changes you can implement which can help you to tackle menopause bloating, weight gain, menopause belly, gas retention and ease other symptoms which can be similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome or crohn's disease.
Improve your digestive health
The the gut and digestive system need fibre to help your body work at its best and help you to manage hormonal changes. The recommended daily fibre intake for an adult is 30g. Most adults get 20g.
Fibre helps to keep you more regular avoiding bloating and intestinal gas and increases your gut microbiome which is responsible for distributing the nutrients from the food you digest around your body.
Some healthy foods are known to cause bloating, such as beans, broccoli, and pears so it might be worth experimenting to see what you can tolerate well. Drink water when eating to help speed up the digestive process and help prevent that bloated feeling.
Commit to a regular exercise routine
One of the best ways to improve digestive performance and manage weight gain is to keep moving. Exercising regularly is really important. If you suffer from a bloated stomach and water retention, you may find that a little more physical activity makes all the difference. Try going for a daily walk either before or after dinner to help digestion. Walking is underrated when it comes to it's health benefits.Tones your legs, great for heart health and stress relief!
Try eating more slowly
Eating slower can be an effective tactic to reduce bloating. Your digestive system is also challenged by declining hormone levels. Women in menopause can experience changes to their gut diversity which can affect how effectively they digest their food. Some benefit from taking additional digestive enzymes. Eating slowly will help you avoid taking on excess gas and missing the 'I'm full' signals which can lead to overeating and indigestion.
Limiting overly processed foods
Menopause bloating is common, but sometimes occurs purely as a result of your lifestyle choices - yep we're talking diet. Overly processed foods Foods high in fat with too much salt can lead to digestive problems and retaining excess water, so if you suffer from bloating, it’s best to cut down on these these in favour of whole foods. Drinking peppermint tea throughout the day can help to support digestive issues
Avoiding foods which trigger menopause bloating
Most women find menopausal bloating is worse when they eat certain foods. We can become less tolerant to certain foods as we get older, food you had no issue with in the past can suddenly become a problem during menopause.
Gluten, refined sugar, dairy, carbonated drinks, carbonated beverages and artificial sweeteners are common culprits. If bloating persists after meals, it might be worth keeping a food diary so you can easily spot any patterns.
Reduce stress levels
Stress can slow down digestion leaving you feeling bloated and constipated or create hormones like cortisol and adrenaline which speed it up and can result in other symptoms like diarrhoea. Meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, reading, time with friends and walking can all help to manage stress.
The bottom line
Thanks to hormonal fluctuations, menopause bloating is common. It can be uncomfortable, frustrating and sometimes cause abdominal pain but there are things you can do when it comes to preventing bloating. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, chewing your food for longer, and drinking plenty of water are a few of these. If bloating persists for more than two weeks there may be other underlying health issues so it may be worth seeing your doctor or healthcare professional.
Does menopause bloating go away?
Fortunately, bloating should diminish after the menopause, when hormone levels start to stabilize once more but you can help to manage it with diet and exercise.
Why is my menopause belly so big?
Decreasing oestrogen levels change how and where the body stores fat. So, during menopause, excess fat often builds up in the abdominal area, making you feel even more bloated. Genetics have a part to play, too, but frequent exercise and a healthy diet can help.
How do I know if I have menopause belly?
If you’re approaching or already in menopause and you’ve noticed sudden weight gain in your stomach area, it’s likely to be hormone-related. The same goes for if your body has changed shape but you haven’t gained any weight.