While occasional bloating is generally bearable, persistent build-up of gas in the intestines can cause significant discomforts and emotional distress in women passing through the menopausal transition. Fortunately, there are numerous effective ways to beat the bloat and find reprieve that lasts.
Read on to discover the best bloating treatments so that you can improve your digestion, restore smooth intestinal transit, and enjoy a symptom-free life!
Three Approaches to Treating Bloating
When choosing the right treatment for bloating, there are three levels of options women can consider: (1) Lifestyle changes, (2) Alternative medicine,and (3) Medications. Since lifestyle changes carry no risks, women are encouraged to begin with them and move on to more conventional treatments only if necessary.
Lifestyle Changes for Bloating Treatment
The first stage of bloating treatment requires the greatest self-discipline, but it entails virtually no risks. It consists of making healthy lifestyle adjustments not only to relieve bloating, but to improve overall health.
During menopause, optimizing one's diet and eating habits are one of the most important factors that may help alleviate bloating. Women are encouraged to chew their food slowly and consume regular meals that do not contain foods known to trigger bloating. To identify those culprits, they can maintain a daily food diary.
Foods to Eat:
Although individual reactions to various foods may vary from woman to woman, the following are foods that have shown beneficial in the prevention and reduction of abdominal bloating:
Phytoestrogen-rich foods - like soy, flax, or yams - contain compounds that promote hormonal balance and bloating relief by mimicking the action of estrogen in the body.
Probiotics in kimchi, kombucha, or sauerkraut might help promote a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut, whose abnormal levels can lead to bloating and distension.1
Fiber eaten in moderate amounts and portioned throughout the day is key to preventing constipation, which might cause or worsen bloating. The recommended daily intake is 25 grams (for a 2,000-calorie diet).2
Water - six to eight glasses per day - will help the food pass through the digestive system smoothly and lessen the likelihood of being bloated.
Foods to Avoid:
The following foods may cause bloating and abdominal distension, many of which contain carbohydrates called FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols) that may worsen the symptoms:
- Too much fiber (more than 70 grams of fiber per day)3
- Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage or cauliflower
- Beans and lentils (unless they are soaked)
- Dairy, like milk or yogurt
- Carbonated drinks
Mild to moderate physical activity is one of the best ways to relieve bloating as it can help move gas trapped in the intestines out of the body.4 It can also strengthen overall health, improve mood, and help maintain a healthy weight.
Amount: To treat bloating, women are advised to focus on getting 150 minutes per week of low to moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous workouts weekly.5
Type: Women should build their workouts around aerobic exercises, like dancing or jogging, as well as muscle-strengthening exercises, such as resistance bands.
Useful tips: When stricken with painful bloating and abdominal distention, taking a long walk can be very beneficial as studies have shown that an upright position (as opposed to supine) lessens gas retention.6
Precautions: To decrease the risk of fractures, menopausal women should stray away from strenuous or injury-prone sports, like heavy lifting or skiing.
To complement the efforts to eat healthy and stay active, women can implement various wholesome habits that will help them optimize their physical and psychological well-being, alongside relieving bloating and painful distension.
Relieving stress is key as prolonged high cortisol levels disrupt digestion and blood flow to the digestive tract, thus giving rise to bloating and other digestive ailments.7 Give meditation, yoga, or deep breathing a try.
Drinking herbal infusions brewed with anise, chamomile, caraway, coriander, or fennel seeds can help improve digestion, relieve bloating, and regulate bowel movements.8,9
Quitting addictions to smoking or alcohol drinking is also important, as both have been shown to disrupt digestion and cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including heartburn, bloating, and abdominal distention.10,11
Alternative Medicine for Bloating Treatment
Alternative approaches, particularly herbal supplements, can be an effective way to treat bloating with little risk involved. Besides being easy to follow, they tackle the underlying cause of menopausal bloating at its core, which is hormonal imbalance.
There are two kinds of herbal supplements that might be considered for bloating relief: phytoestrogenic and herbal-balancing supplements.
Phytoestrogenic supplements - like red clover -contain plant-based compounds, called phytoestrogens, whose function is similar to that of estrogen in the body. As such, they compensate for its low levels during menopause, thus alleviating bloating and other symptoms. However, their extended use can make the body less capable of producing its own hormones, leading to further imbalance.
Hormone-Regulating Herbal Supplements
Hormone-regulating supplements, like Macafem, do not supply the body with outside hormones. Instead, they act directly on the endocrine glands, nourishing them and stimulating their optimal hormonal production to reduce bloating and other symptoms of menopause. Because of this natural mechanism of the body's endocrine system, they are considered one of the safest and most effective long-term treatments.
From Nature and Health Magazine, Dr. Chacon says:
"Macafem's nutrients help restore natural hormones in women. Unlike hormone drugs, which are basically resumed in taking synthetic hormones, Macafem acts totally different in your body. It nourishes and stimulates your own natural hormone production by inducing the optimal functioning of the pituitary and endocrine glands." Click on the following link if you wantto learn more about Macafem.
A combination of lifestyle changes and herbal supplements is commonly the most effective treatment for bloating during menopause. However, in the case of severe symptoms, medications for bloating and gas might need to be explored.
Medications for Bloating Treatment
The third stage of treatment for bloating generally entails the highest risk and cost, but can bring significant improvements in symptom severity. As such, its use should be evaluated on an individual basis to ensure that the cost does not outweigh the benefits.
The most common medications for treating bloating during menopause include the following:
Hormone-Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT was once the gold standard in treatment of bloating and other menopause symptoms. It contains estrogen, progesterone, or their combination, which can quickly effectively battle the discomforts. However, because of the discoveries of the side effects and health risks involved in its use (shown in the studies below), HRT is generally reserved for only severe menopause symptoms.
The 2002 results of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), the largest clinical trial on HRT, linked the use of HRT to a higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and strokes.12 More than 15 years later, researchers from The Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer conducted an extensive analysis of available data on HRT. Their 2019 publication in The Lancet showed that breast cancer risks may persist for more than 10 years after discontinuing HRT.13
There are a number of over-the-counter and prescription medications for bloating and gas, including the following:
Antispasmodics, such as dicyclomine, relieve bloating by relaxing the bowel muscles. They may be especially effective for women who also suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Anti-flatulent medications, such as simethicone, help alleviate abdominal gas by combining small gas bubbles into larger ones to ease their transit out of the body.
Prokinetics, like levosulpiride,work by improving the time it takes for food to pass down the digestive tract, thus helping alleviate bloating in some women.
Antidepressants have been shown ease bloating and abdominal distension through their effects of gut and brain receptors, although they are primarily designed to treat mental health disorders, like depression.
Because the aforementioned treatment stages are not mutually exclusive, it is natural to move between them if the need arises. However, many women find that a blend of wholesome lifestyle practices and herbal supplements is the most effective approach to treating bloating during menopause, without having to depend on pharmacological treatments.
A Safe Way of Treating Bloating
Implementing Lifestyle Changes:
- Avoiding known food triggers, while ensuring proper nutrition
- Getting 150 minutes of low to moderate exercise a week
- Implementing stress-relief practices of yoga or slow breathing
- Quitting addictions to smoking and excessive alcohol drinking
And Taking Herbal Supplements:
- Phytoestrogenic herbal supplements, like red clover
- Or natural hormone-regulating supplements, like Macafem
- Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). How to get more fiber in your diet. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-get-more-fiber-in-your-diet
- Health Direct. (n.d.). Bloating. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/bloating
- International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. (2019). Understanding Bloating and Distension. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.iffgd.org/symptoms-causes/bloating-and-distension.html
- Mayo Clinic. (2020). Gas and gas pains. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gas-and-gas-pains/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20372714
- NHS. (2019). Beat the bloat. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/remedies-for-bloating-and-wind/?tabname=digestive-health
- The American Journal of Gastroenterology. (2006). Physical activity and intestinal gas clearance in patients with bloating. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17029608/
- World Journal of Gastroenterology. (2012). Stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and its associated symptoms. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435786/
- National Institutes of Health. (2020). Probiotics. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Probiotics-HealthProfessional/
- American Heart Association. (2016). Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/whole-grains-refined-grains-and-dietary-fiber#.WVVm4RMrIdU
- Duke University. (n.d.). Fiber – How. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://studentaffairs.duke.edu/sites/default/files/u110/TooMuchFiber082015.pdf
- Gastroenterology & Hepatology. (2011). Pathophysiology, Evaluation, and Treatment of Bloating. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3264926/
- American Heart Association. (2018). Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults
- Gut. (2003). Influence of body posture on intestinal transit of gas. March 19, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12801953/
- University of North Carolina. (n.d.). Stress and the Gut. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.med.unc.edu/ibs/files/2017/10/Stress-and-the-Gut.pdf
- Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal. (2016). Prevention and Treatment of Flatulence from a Traditional Person Medicine Perspective. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4893422/
- Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal. (2015). Herbal remedies for Functional Dyspepsia and Traditional Iranian Medicine Perspective. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4698144/
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2013). Smoking and the Digestive System. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/smoking-digestive-system
- Alcohol.org. (2020). Alcoholic Gastritis Symptoms, Causes & Treatment. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.alcohol.org/comorbid/gastritis/
- JAMA. (2002). Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: principal results from the Women's Health Initiative randomized controlled trial. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12117397
- The Lancet. (2019). Type and timing of menopausal hormone therapy and breast cancer risk: individual participant meta-analysis of the worldwide epidemiological evidence. Retrieved March 19, 2020 from https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(19)31709-X/fulltext