Bloating during perimenopause and menopause

Alison Bladh
Written by Alison Bladh

What causes bloating?

You may experience bloating during perimenopause and menopause. Many women start to experience digestive issues during the perimenopause which can be very distressing. This can come as an unpleasant surprise when you haven’t changed anything in your lifestyle or diet (Hicks and McLester et al 2017).

Why does this happen? It may be the result of fluctuating hormones during this period of your life which can affect your digestive function and promotes water retention leading to uncomfortable belly bloat. Furthermore, a decline in estrogen may increase levels of a stress hormone called cortisol which slows down digestion so that the body can’t break down food particles effectively. This can lead to a build-up of gas and bloating.

As well as nutrition and lifestyle advice there are a range of things such as hormone replacement therapy that can address menopause-associated bloating. Some of these solutions are designed to treat the hormonal causes of bloating and are therefore pharmacological, requiring consultation with a doctor to determine the best choices for you and a prescription for the treatment.

You’re likely to experience less bloating after menopause when your ovaries stop making estrogen and progesterone, and your body maintains a lower level of hormones.

Things that can cause bloating:

  • Food sensitivities (intolerant to gluten or lactose or other foods).
  • Hormone imbalances. You may experience bloating during perimenopause and menopause.
  • Fluid retention
  • Changes in bile production due to aging
  • Overeating
  • Stress
  • Constipation
  • Imbalances in your gut bacteria
  • Eating too fast and not chewing your food
  • Chewing gum
  • Certain medications
  • Intestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
  • Drinking a lot of carbonated drinks
  • Smoking
  • Drinking through a straw

(Naseri and Babaeian et al 2016)

What is bloating?

Whatever you want to call it farting, flatulence or gas bloating is the accumulation of gas in the small intestine. This digestive disorder is particularly common during perimenopause.

Bloating distends the abdomen, sometimes to the point that you look eight months pregnant. Generally, gas builds up throughout the day and causes major discomfort.

Bloating occurs in your abdomen (stomach). It happens when your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is filled with air or gas. The GI tract runs from the mouth to the anus (bottom). It includes your entire digestive system. The normal flow of gas is disrupted in some way and gets trapped causing discomfort and distention of your tummy.

Bloating is one of the most frequently experienced problems by women entering perimenopause and menopause. It is so prevalent that it is often referred to as menopausal bloat. Bloating caused by gas can lead to discomfort and can be awkward and embarrassing. Bloating will lead to tightness around your abdominal area, making your belt or clothes feel uncomfortable which can last for hours or days and can result in episodes of flatulence and belching.

While bloating occurs to everyone at some point in their lives, bloating during menopause can be linked to the ongoing hormonal changes women experience during menopause, as changing estrogen and progesterone levels influence the body’s digestive processes and can lead to bloating. Because both estrogen and progesterone fluctuate during perimenopause, water retention levels will also fluctuate which can lead to an increase in bloating.

Bloating and gas can be one of the most uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms of menopause and aging. Luckily with a few lifestyle changes, you can get control of it and lessen the symptoms in many cases. However, if your bloating or gas becomes severe or recurs frequently, you should talk with your doctor to rule out other possible medical concerns.

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