If you’ve suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, before menopause, you may find that going through irritable bowel syndrome and menopause will change your symptoms.
The hormones that decline during menopause do affect your bowel function.
Progesterone has a calming effect on the bowels. As those levels start to fall in perimenopause, you’re more likely to suffer from cramps, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, especially if you have IBS.
Estrogen tends to keep things moving in the intestines. As your estrogen levels fall in menopause, you may notice that you become a little more constipated. Which means more gas and bloating. Your bowels’ peristalsis (the movement of the smooth muscle that keeps your digestion going and your bowels clear) is slowed down due to the low levels of estrogen in menopause.
We make less estrogen through perimenopause. It kind of bottoms out in menopause and post-menopause, so we’re more likely to suffer from indigestion. This is because estrogen helps your stomach make more hydrochloric acid. It also helps your liver make healthier levels of bile acids. Because of this, your protein and fat digestion are definitely affected.
As you go through menopause, you tend to have more indigestion and bloating. All because your progesterone levels have fallen as well. You also tend to be a little more sensitive to high-glycemic carbohydrates. Starches and sugars can cause more bloating. As your hormone levels start to fall, they affect your bowel flora. Bowel flora are those friendly bacteria that live in your colon and help you digest your foods and metabolize your vitamins and nutrients.
The low hormone levels of menopause do not promote a healthy environment for your gut bacteria.
This means that you have less healthy flora, and your digestion is going to be off. You may experience gas and bloating, abdominal cramping, and change in bowel movements.
You need to be aware that if your change in bowel movements is sudden, you need to be seen by your healthcare provider. Also see your healthcare provider if you see blood or mucus in your bowels, or if you’re having extreme pain. If you have a family history of colon cancer, you may need to have a colonoscopy by the time you’re 50. Again, discuss this with your healthcare provider, and see what the best options for you are, based on your family history.
In some cases, certain menopausal women have had very anxious gut problems in their youth. They may find that some of these problems subside after menopause. In fact, they may go from irritable to just a little bit constipated. If you’re experiencing this, be sure that you’re eating enough fiber in your diet. With lots of colorful fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and drinking lots of water. Staying hydrated keeps your bowels regular, and that’s good for you whether you have diarrhea or constipation.
The medications that you may be taking for IBS premenopausally often change when you become menopausal. You may even find that your needs for the medications are actually much less as your bowels change. Always discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider as you’re starting to go through the change. Discuss it as early as perimenopause so that you can be aware of adjustments that need to be made in order to stay healthy.
Irritable bowel syndrome and menopause can be hard to live with.
So if you’re having any issues with menopausal symptoms aggravating your gut, you can join us in our Hormone Support Group. In our group, we have frank discussions about these things. You can get access to it through my Hormone Reboot Training.