Menopause & Gut Health: What’s the Connection?
The importance of gut health has been revealed only recently, with studies linking gut imbalances to low immunity, poor metabolism, and mental health issues, among others. However, many women still aren’t aware of the connection between gut health and menopause. Find out how midlife changes can affect your gut and the best ways to nourish it.
Why Does Gut Health Matter?
The human gastrointestinal tract (GI), or simply the gut, is a natural habitat for trillions of microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
This collection of gut-populating microbes is referred to as gut microbiota, gut flora, or gut microbiome (although in biological terms, the latter has a slightly different definition as it also contains microbes’ genes).
These microorganisms maintain a symbiotic relationship with the body, which means they mutually benefit one another. They play numerous important roles for human health — like regulating immunity, digestion, and vitamin production — while the body provides a safe and nutrient-packed environment for their needs.
However, certain changes in the body can lead to gut dysbiosis, an imbalance of the microbial composition. This, in turn, has been associated with various health conditions, like inflammatory bowel disease, depression, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and more.
How Does Menopause Affect My Gut Health?
Until recently, little has been known about the effects of menopausal changes on gut microbiome and women’s health status.
What is known is that the gut microbiome metabolizes estrogen and other sex hormones. It can also deconjugate and recycle these hormones, allowing them to be re-circulated in the body.
During the midlife transition, there are less reproductive hormones being produced in the body. This means that the microbes have less hormones to metabolize, directly affecting their composition.
In fact, postmenopausal women’s microbiome has been found to have lower diversity and different composition than that of premenopausal women. It also resembles the microbiome characteristic of men.
On top of that, gut imbalances around menopause can also produce digestive issues, such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and others. Studies are also investigating the link between gut health and menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes.
Do Gut Changes Increase My Risk of Health Issues?
Researchers are still investigating the health consequences that changes in the microbiome can have on menopausal women.
As aforementioned, the microbiomes of women after menopause vary in their composition from those of women before menopause, with higher levels of microorganisms linked to negative health outcomes and lower levels of microbes linked to health benefits.
Overall, initial evidence suggests that changes in the gut microbiome might increase women’s risk of cardiometabolic conditions, like:
- Heart disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
Research has shown that focusing on modifying the composition and diversity of the gut microbiome throughout the various stages of menopause can not only help relieve common ailments, but also reduce serious health risk. Consider the following recommendations:
- Eating a balanced diet with probiotic-rich (e.g., yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha) and prebiotic-rich foods (e.g., apples, bananas, oats) helps promote a healthy gut microbiome. Prebiotics are special fibers in various plants that promote the growth of probiotics, the beneficial microbes found in some foods.
- Taking probiotic supplements might be another way to resolve imbalance and increase diversity. Studies have shown that supplementing bacteria of the Lactobacillus genus can help tackle bone loss, inflammation, and leaky gut related to low estrogen levels.
- Ensuring adequate sleep and proper rest is key as research shows that sleep deprivation and high cortisol levels may change the gut microbiome’s composition. This relationship also goes the other way: diverse microbiome helps promote better sleep, which can benefit many menopausal women.
- Promoting hormonal equilibrium with Macafem can address the root cause of gut imbalances by easing hormonal fluctuations. It stimulates the endocrine system to produce sex hormones more efficiently, potentially contributing to improving the health of the gut microbiome.
While much remains poorly understood, the link between menopausal changes and the gut microbial is undeniable. As studies continue to shed light on the topic, new therapeutic approaches will help menopausal women enjoy a healthy gut and overall well-being long after menopause.
International Journal of Women’s Health. (2022). Spotlight on the Gut Microbiome in menopause: Current Insights. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9379122/
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The Lancet. (2019). Probiotic treatment using a mix of three Lactobacillus strains for lumbar spine bone loss in postmenopausal women: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre trial. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanrhe/article/PIIS2665-9913(19)30068-2/fulltext