During menopause, women are more prone to experiencing a myriad of digestive problems, especially heartburn, cramps, constipation, and diarrhea. These unpleasant issues are often caused by a hormonal imbalance during menopause, considering that progesterone plays an essential role in regulating digestion, and estrogen may also be involved. Because these problems are often related to hormonal imbalance, they can be easily treated at the source by rebalancing hormone levels. Continue reading about the three approaches to treating digestive distress during menopause.
Three Approaches to Treating Digestive Problems
When treating digestive problems, there are possible three approaches to consider: (1) Lifestyle Changes, (2) Alternative Medicine, and (3) Medications.
In general, it is recommended that women begin with lifestyle changes, since that approach poses the lowest level of risk. Because of the high risk of side effects linked with medications, they are typically used only as a last resort.
1. Lifestyle Changes
While the first tier of treatment may be risk-free, it conversely requires the most self-discipline and perseverance. For many women, simple lifestyle adjustments can help alleviate digestive problems while also leading to overall better health and wellness.
Since the health of the digestive system depends on greatly on what food is consumed, eating a well-balanced diet is crucial. Increasing fiber and probiotic intake can help regulate digestion. In addition to being high in fiber, whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat promote a feeling of fullness and help regulate blood sugar levels. Dried fruits are a great addition to the diet because they are rich in both fiber and antioxidants like vitamin C. Finally, foods that contain phytoestrogens - such as tofu, chickpeas, and apples - can help boost estrogen levels.
Did You Know?
Too much fiber in the diet can cause constipation, so it is best to follow recommended daily values - 25 grams for women under 50 and 21 grams for women over 50.
Regular exercise is another important component of lifestyle changes for digestive problems. Physical activity can stimulate digestion, help women maintain a healthy weight, and benefit the health of the hormonal system. For example, a session of intense aerobic exercise can help promote a bowel movement for those experiencing constipation.
Finally, practicing good habits can also help manage digestive problems. Consuming alcohol can worsen hormonal imbalance and also damage the lining of the stomach, both of which can lead to problems like heartburn. Smoking cigarettes and high levels of stress also trigger the release of cortisol - the stress hormone - which hinders digestion. Therefore, it is best to minimize alcohol and tobacco consumption as well as manage stress through yoga or other relaxation techniques.
Foods to Avoid
- Extremely spicy foods
- Dairy products
- Reheated starchy foods
- Coffee and other high-caffeine food and drink
Lifestyle changes are a healthy way of treating digestive problems, but they can be hard to put into practice. Furthermore, not all adjustments address hormonal imbalance, which is often the root cause of digestion issues during menopause. To balance hormones, alternative medicines are a viable option. Keep reading to learn more about natural treatments for digestive problems.
2. Alternative Medicines
This approach includes many potential treatments, such as probiotic supplements, biofeedback, and herbal remedies. Of these, herbal supplements are considered the most effective, since they are capable of inducing hormonal equilibrium, are easier to follow, and they require less time and money than other options.
Herbs for Relieving Constipation
As for herbal supplements, two principal types are commonly used to balance hormone levels: phytoestrogenic and hormone-regulating supplements.
Phytoestrogenic supplements - e.g., dong quai
These supplements are rich in plant-based compounds that work like estrogen in the body, also called phytoestrogens. This can compensate for the low estrogen levels common of menopause, but these supplements should not be used for extended time periods, since introducing external hormones in to the body can eventually make it less able to produce hormones naturally.
Hormone-regulating supplements - e.g., Macafem
These supplements do not contain any hormones. Rather, they support the hormonal glands with ample nutrients that are necessary for steady, level hormone production. This results in a balance of not only estrogen, but also progesterone as well. Macafem is considered safe and can be used as long as necessary to treat digestive problems because it does not contain hormones.
From "Nature and Health Magazine," Dr. Gloria Chacon says:
"Macafem nutrients help restore natural hormones in women. Unlike hormone drugs, which are basically resumed in taking synthetic hormone, Macafem acts totally different in your body. It nourishes and stimulates your own natural hormone production, by inducing the optimal functioning of the endocrine glands." Click on the following link to learn more about Macafem and how it works.
A combination of approaches is often the most effective route to relief. In other words, a blend of lifestyle changes and herbal supplements can ease digestive problems without the need for medications. However, in severe cases, the third approach may be necessary, but it is important to understand the risks before advancing to it.
Medications for hormone-related digestive problems
In the U.S., hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most popular medication for treating menopausal digestive problems and other symptoms of the transition. However, the results of the following study - which established HRT's links to an increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease - have caused doctors to rethink this option.
In 1991, the National Institutes of Health launched the largest-ever clinical trial carried out in the U.S., the Women's Health Initiative (WHI). The goal of this study was to pinpoint the risks and advantages of HRT, but in 2002, it was cut short because of the connection between the use of artificial hormones and a heightened risk of reproductive cancer, heart disease, blood clots, and stroke.
Other medications to treat digestive problems depend on the specific issue at hand. The most common problems and medications for them are:
Constipation. Laxatives, including bulk, osmotic, or stimulant laxatives
Heartburn. Antacids, H-2-receptor antagonists, or proton pump inhibitors
Irritable bowel. Anticholinergic medication, certain antidepressants, or specific IBS medications
Diarrhea. Diphenoxylate with atropine, attapulgite, loperamide, or bismuth sub-salicylate
The above approaches can be applied in combination as necessary to best relieve the symptoms of digestive problems. A growing number of women are finding that a mix of lifestyle changes complemented by alternative medicine offers the most relief from digestion issues.
A Safe Way of Treating Digestive Problems
Practicing healthy lifestyle changes:
- Eating a balanced diet rich in fiber, probiotics, and estrogen-boosting foods
- Exercising regularly
- Staying hydrated
- Alcohol and tobacco
- Caffeinated products like coffee and soda
- High stress levels
- Common trigger foods, like dairy
And taking herbal supplements like Macafem:
- Nourishes the hormonal glands to stimulate balanced production
- Safe, effective, and rich in nutrients
- Chevallier, A. (2000). Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: Dorling Kindersley Adult.
- Heitkemper, M.M. & Chang, L. (2009). Do Fluctuations in Ovarian Hormones Affect Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Women With Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Gender Medicine, 6(Suppl 2), 152-167. doi: 10.1016/j.genm.2009.03.004
- Mayo Clinic. (2014). Heartburn - treatments and drugs. Retrieved May 30, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/basics/treatment/con-20019545
- Mayo Clinic. (2014). Irritable bowel syndrome - treatments and drugs. Retrieved May 30, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/basics/treatment/con-20024578
- The National Academies of Sciences. (2002). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Retrieved from http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2002/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-for-Energy-Carbohydrate-Fiber-Fat-Fatty-Acids-Cholesterol-Protein-and-Amino-Acids.aspx
- National Health Service UK. (2015). Constipation - Treatment. Retrieved May 30, 2016, from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Constipation/Pages/Treatment.aspx
- Office on Women's Health. (2008). The Healthy Woman: A Complete Guide for All Ages. Chapter 20: Digestive Health. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/the-healthy-woman/digestive_health.pdf
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2016). Diarrhea. Retrieved May 30, 2016, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/diarrhea