Digestive Issues in Peri-menopause and Menopause.
By: Dr. Lisa Maddalena, ND
Have you been noticing that as you age you have developed digestive issues that you have never had in the past? Bowel discomfort, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation (or both)? Did you know that this could be directly related to changes in your sex hormones, even if you never had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in the past?
Studies have shown that hormonal decline is related to the development of or increase in gastrointestinal symptoms. Studies show that women are 2 times as likely to develop digestive issues such as IBS in the years leading up to menopause or after pregnancy. This is because, in the years up to menopause there is a significant fluctuation between high and low sex hormone levels resulting in hormonal decline over and over again.
Digestive issues caused by hormonal changes after pregnancy, in peri-menopause or menopause can range but will often include constipation or diarrhea, bloating, excess gas and heartburn. In addition, these digestive issues are often contributing factors in weight gain.
So, how do hormones change digestion?
- Ovarian hormones such as estrogen and progesterone directly impact pain/discomfort sensations. This is because these hormones alter production of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters which not only affect brain perception of pain but also directly affect the lining of the GI tract.
- Estrogen directly affects production of and utilization of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. High cortisol blocks blood flow to the digestive tract and decreases GI movement. This decreases production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes making the GI tract more susceptible to infections like yeast (candida), bacterial imbalances, or parasites. In addition, excess cortisol creates inflammation which increases the potential for food sensitivities.
When it comes to digestive issues influenced by hormone changes both the hormones and digestion need to be addressed in order to be treated properly.
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-Dr. Lisa Maddalena, ND