Menopause Bloating: How to Stop Bloating from Menopause and Shed Excess Water Weight
As unpleasant as bloating is, it is very common during menopause. Menopausal bloating can involve fluid retention, an increase in gas, or a combination of the two. It is a lot like the bloating you may have experienced as a PMS symptom during your menstrual cycles.
Except with menopause, it can be there all of the time.
This can come as a shock to many women. Research shows that many pre-menopausal women underestimate the symptoms they are going to end up experiencing during perimenopause and menopause. This includes symptoms of fatigue, sleeplessness, bloating, and fluid retention.
Bloating symptoms which accompany menopause can actually be severe enough that they can mimic the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Consider this study, which evaluated 228 women. Initially, they were screened to make sure that they presented no abdominal or genitourinary symptoms.
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It was found that more of the postmenopausal women than the pre-menopausal women ended up experiencing the following gastrointestinal disturbances:
- 9.4% of the postmenopausal women reported that they needed to use laxatives.
- 34% of the postmenopausal subjects reported that they were experiencing heartburn and acid reflux.
- 48% of the postmenopausal women reported excessive flatulence.
The researchers concluded, “Although the possible role of aging on symptom perception-regardless of hormonal status cannot be ruled out, these results suggest that peri- and postmenopausal women have a high prevalence of altered bowel function and IBS-like gastrointestinal complaints that should be carefully assessed.”
So in short, bloating during menopause is actually one of a slew of gastrointestinal symptoms.
During menopause, you may experience:
- Bloating from gas and fluid retention
- Miscellaneous digestive discomfort that behaves like IBS
According to Menopause Centre Australia, fluid retention occurs leading up to periods in women with PMS because the estrogen levels are shifting during that time. Because estrogen levels become erratic during perimenopause and then fall off during menopause, you experience that same symptom of fluid retention.
As to the link to digestion, estrogen is involved with the production of bile. Bile is your intestinal lubricant. As estrogen levels drop leading into menopause, bile production declines as well. This is why you experience constipation and other unpleasant digestive symptoms. Researchers also now believe that hormones play a role in the production of gas, which is why gas increases during menopause, leading to yet more bloating.
There Is Also the Increase in Abdominal Fat to Consider
This study reports that, “Weight gain per se cannot be attributed to the menopause transition, the change in the hormonal milieu at menopause is associated with an increase in total body fat and an increase in abdominal fat.”
In other words, menopause will not necessarily cause you to start putting on weight. But it does result in redistribution of your body fat. You may notice more fat in your midsection, which could contribute to the impression of “bloating.” In this particular case though, this is an illusion, because it is not bloating at all—it is actual fat.
It is also worth noting that going through menopause could lead indirectly to fat gain, even if there is no direct casual relationship. You may be losing out on sleep, and you could be finding yourself fatigued each day. All you want to do is lay down and rest, not go out and exercise. You might also be making other changes to your diet and lifestyle. Depending on the changes you make, you could end up gaining weight.
Menopause may also lead to anxiety or depression in some women. Some people respond to anxiety or depression by overeating. This can result in weight gain as well.
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What Can You Do About Bloating, Weight Gain, and Intestinal Problems During Menopause?
So now you can see that you really are dealing with a cluster of different symptoms, all of which may contribute to the impression of “bloating,” both in terms of appearance and discomfort. So how can you tackle each of them? Here are some ideas.
Tips for Burning Fat and Getting Rid of Fluid Retention During Menopause:
1. Exercise more
When exercising is the last thing you feel like doing, it can be hard to bring yourself to actually do it, but it is important to get the workouts you need to control your weight and stay healthy.
Even if all you do is take a walk around the block a few times a week, that is still better than nothing, and in fact is a pretty good way to get your body moving. If you want to work out more, look for ways to motivate yourself. Give yourself a reward of some sort if you meet your weekly exercise goals.
Doing this will help you to burn some of that abdominal fat away, which will lessen the appearance of bloating. It will also keep you healthier, as abdominal fat is particularly bad for you. This is the time to start forming good habits for life, not breaking them.
2. Think strongly about switching to a low-carb diet
Have you ever considered a low-carb diet? Low-carb diets have numerous different health benefits, all of which can help to protect your well-being over the years to come. But one health benefit which may particularly appeal to you now concerns weight loss.
Low-carb diets are very effective for burning excess fat. This is because when you eat a low-carb diet, your body becomes ketogenic, which means that it is burning fat as its primary fuel source rather than carbs.
Research shows that very low-carb diets are more effective than low-fat diets at burning stubborn abdominal fat.
This is fantastic if you want to get rid of some of that extra fat around your midsection which is making you look and feel bloated during menopause.
To add to the bloat-busting effects of low carb, eating a low-carb diet also can help you to shed excess water weight.
This is because your kidneys begin excreting sodium in response to your dropping insulin levels.
This lowers your blood pressure, and causes your body to start getting rid of that excess fluid it has been retaining.
Some other benefits of a low-carb diet include:
- Control your insulin levels.
- If you eat more protein (and you probably will), you will feel more satiated, and will be less tempted to eat more than you should. This is why calorie counting is not strictly necessary with low carb.
- Increase your HDL cholesterol (that is the “good” cholesterol), and decrease your LDL cholesterol (that is the “bad” cholesterol).
- Reduce your triglycerides.
- Enjoy long-term weight loss (as opposed to the short term weight loss you get from crash diets).
- Reduce your risk for metabolic syndrome.
- Treat type 2 diabetes or even reverse it.
- Reduce the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and mood disorders.
- Combat Parkinson’s disease.
- Reduce epilepsy seizures.
- Possibly reduce risk for dementia.
- Build muscle more effectively.
Because it is not the focus of this article, I have not cited studies for all of these, but each benefit I have listed above is research-backed. I recommend doing that research yourself (as I have in the past).
3. Stress less
If you tend to fall into the trap of binge-eating when you are stressed out, it may be more effective to work on reducing your stress than it is to try and fight the binge-eating urge.
Of course, saying “stress less’ is one thing—actually stressing less is another. It is not easy to stress less when you feel exhausted every day and are struggling with bouts of anxiety, depression and rage.
Still, there is a lot you can do to try and curb stress in your life:
- Take an herbal supplement to balance your hormones. This may reduce some or all your symptoms, which will mean you have fewer stressors to deal with.
- If you have obligations which are draining you and which are not worth it in terms of the payoff, see if you can cut back on some of those stressful commitments. Make time and space for yourself so that you can give yourself adequate self-care.
- Try relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and so forth. These can all help to soothe you, especially if you practice them regularly.
- Exercise can also result in a reduction in stress and anxiety.
- If you have problems in your life which you could potentially solve and have not been addressing, do so.
When you stress less, you are less likely to overindulge, and that means less fat. That in turn may help you start feeling more confident and comfortable in your body, which could reduce your stress even more!
Tips for Dealing With Gas and Digestive Problems During Menopause:
1. Wear looser, less restricting clothing
As far as gas-related bloating as well as digestive issues like heartburn which can come with menopause, one step you should take to reduce your discomfort is to wear loose clothing.
Stay away from tight waistbands, compression shapers, and so on—even though you may be tempted to wear them to try and look thinner. Garments like these exacerbate heartburn and press in on you when you are bloated, causing you to feel constricted.
2. Reduce your intake of foods which tend to cause gas on their own
Since you are dealing with more gas than you may be used to, it helps to stay away from foods which are known to increase gas and bloating, for example:
- Foods which contain fructose, a natural sugar
- Milk, which contains lactose
- Fiber-rich foods such as oat bran
- Starchy foods like potatoes, pasta, and corn
- Whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat
- The artificial sweetener called Sorbitol
If you are on a low-carb diet, the good news is that you should be avoiding a lot of the foods above anyway. So you do not really need to make any further adjustments to your diet. That is yet another way in which low carb will end up helping you out.
Some vegetables also are known to produce gas, like cabbage and Brussels sprouts, broccoli and asparagus. What should you do with regards to these? I recommend you go on eating them, because they are incredibly nutritious.
3. Eat some licorice
As mentioned earlier, heartburn is a common problem during menopause, and it is one which can produce gas, bloating, and other forms of digestive discomfort. Sometimes it can even make you feel queasy.
To that end, you will need to look for a way to treat it. There are a number of different ways you can treat heartburn, but one which I particularly recommend is licorice.
This is something I have personal experience with. Literally nothing else has ever reliably helped me to control my heartburn, but when I eat a piece of licorice, my symptoms tend to drop by about 50% within just a few minutes.
I am not sure how this works, and I do not think there is a lot of scientific research backing it up at this point. My PA told me she thought it had something to do with an absorbent effect.
In any case, I can say that the effect is quite impressive. The burn in my chest goes away, and my gas and bloating reduce as well. I also have had fewer outright reflux episodes since I started taking the licorice at the first sign of discomfort.
There is also another reason I specifically recommend licorice for heartburn during menopause. Licorice has an estrogen-like effect on the body, and can also help you lose fat. Additionally, it decreases your serotonin reuptake. This in turn can reduce depression during menopause. Licorice further can help fight the risk of heart disease.
Buy real licorice—you may need to order it online, since USA stores typically carry “licorice” which is flavored with anise, not real licorice root. I recommend products by Klene, a Dutch brand. The Netherlands is famous for its licorice.
As a quick note, be mindful of how much licorice you eat. In very large quantities, it can pose a health hazard (which is why it is not as easy to find in the USA, where manufacturers err on the side of paranoia). In moderation, however, it is entirely safe for most people to consume.
4. Stay hydrated
One last thing you can do to reduce bloating and abdominal discomfort is to drink plenty of water. Doing so has two effects:
- You retain less fluid in your body when you are hydrated. So drinking an adequate amount of water each day will help you to reduce your bloating.
- If you drink more water, you will be able to reduce your constipation. This can ease up a great deal of your discomfort.
Plus, getting plenty of water is good for your overall health, and it is something that a lot of people neglect throughout the day.
Conclusion: Bloating Is an Uncomfortable Problem During Menopause, But There Are Many Ways You Can Tackle It Effectively
Bloating during menopause is no fun, and there are several different factors which can play into it, including fluid retention, abdominal fat gain, heartburn, gas, and constipation. Thankfully, there are also quite a few steps you can take to treat all of these issues, some of them simultaneously. Consider a low carb diet, take licorice for heartburn, work out more, drink more water, and avoid foods which exacerbate your symptoms. You should start feeling better soon!