Menopause is a natural transition in a woman’s life marked by a decline in the production of hormones such as estrogen. This shift often brings a range of symptoms, including changes in the gastrointestinal tract that can cause constipation and diarrhea. These symptoms are similar to those experienced by many women in the days before and during their menstrual cycle. Although these changes can be uncomfortable, there are strategies to alleviate them.


Why does menopause affect my gastrointestinal tract?

Menopause can cause a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms, including constipation, diarrhea, bloating, indigestion, weight fluctuations, heartburn, and vomiting. When people think about menopause, they often focus on changes in the ovaries and uterus. However, hormones like estrogen, produced in the ovaries, affect the entire body, including the gastrointestinal system. Interestingly, estrogen receptors are also found in the small intestines and stomachs

Constipation during menopause

Several factors contribute to constipation as a symptom of menopause. One factor is the presence of estrogen receptors in the small intestine and stomach, which can affect muscle contractions in the colon, leading to constipation. Additionally, adrenaline can inhibit digestion, causing various issues, including constipation. This makes sense because, in a fight-or-flight situation, adrenaline directs blood away from the intestines to the muscles in the arms and legs. Menopause also often leads to the weakening of pelvic floor muscles, further complicating bowel movements.


Along with these changes, menopause and aging can cause joint and back pain, leading to reduced physical activity. This decrease in movement can slow down the intestines, contributing to constipation. Additionally, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is common among women and can be influenced by hormonal shifts during menopause, resulting in symptoms like constipation and diarrhea.

Diarrhea during menopause

On the other side of gastrointestinal symptoms is diarrhea, where cortisol plays a significant role. Elevated cortisol levels can increase blood sugar and blood pressure and disrupt stomach acid levels. These changes, along with other hormonal fluctuations, can lead to diarrhea. Unfortunately, similar to constipation, diarrhea is a common symptom during perimenopause and menopause.

Enhancing digestive health during menopause

One key way to enhance digestive health is by consuming the right foods and beverages. Your diet should mainly consist of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins like lentils and beans, and low-fat dairy products. Additionally, limiting alcohol intake to one drink per day or less and increasing water consumption can alleviate many gastrointestinal symptoms. If you’re experiencing hot flashes, reducing caffeine and spicy foods can help, as they can trigger hot flashes.

Regular exercise is also beneficial for improving digestive function, particularly in preventing constipation. Staying active is crucial not only for gastrointestinal health but also for maintaining strong bones and preventing weight gain.


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