You might have heard that checking your stool is an important way to check up on your gut health. But did you know it can also give you an insight into how your hormones are operating?
Here, Dr Shazhadi Harper reveals what you might not know about the link between menopause and your stool and toilet habits. Plus, what you can do to improve your gut health, keep your hormones balanced and stomach, weight and mood symptoms at bay.
The link between menopause and your stool
"It’s not something many of us like to discuss, but actually our stool, and more specifically how often we go, is a key indicator of not only our gut heath, but also our hormones, which have a strong connection to the gut," Dr Harper explains.
"As women enter perimenopause and menopause, we need to pay closer attention, as our gut health becomes even more vital. Research indicates that the gut microbiome plays an important role in oestrogen metabolism and regulation."
The gut microbiome refers to all the microbes or bacteria living in your intestines, some good and bad.
"We know gut health is important to our mood, weight, sleep, but many do not know how essential it is when it comes to our hormones, especially as we enter perimenopause, when depleting oestrogen can change bacterial diversity and enzyme production."
What is the gut-hormone connection?
"Simply put, hormones are metabolised in the gut. The gut is made up of trillions of bacteria and we have a group of bacteria responsible for metabolising oestrogen, called the ‘estrobolome'," says Dr Harper.
"If your gut isn’t working optimally (there can be many reasons for this from IBS, diet, infection to antibiotics), and if you’re not having regular stool, you may not be removing used oestrogen and toxins effectively.
"This is because the gut helps us balance oestrogen by excretion in our stool Constipation and infrequent stools, can increase the risk of reabsorption of oestrogen and of setting up oestrogen dominance."
Why does menopause affect our gut?
"As is well documented, oestrogen levels decrease and fluctuate dramatically during the peri/menopause, and this leads to a decrease in enzymes, which in turn leads to a decrease in good bacteria in the estrobolome," the hormone doctor explains.
These changes can lead to well-known symptoms including:
How to nurture your gut and regulate menopause symptoms
These are Dr Harper's top tips for giving your gut-hormone connection the much-needed love it needs...
Treating good nutrition as essential
Protein, fats and fibre are essential, so make sure you get as many as you can in your diet (leafy greens, nuts, lentils, lean meats and oily fish [or other veggie or vegan sources]. Proteins contain an amino acid called tryptophan which is also important for supporting our mood and sleep.
One like The Better Gut will build the good bacteria in your gut, therefore alleviating many of the symptoms associated with peri/menopause, and will also help existing gut and digestive issues like IBS, acid heartburn and inflammatory bowel conditions. Supporting your gut health will also prevent bloating and aid digestion, absorption and removal of toxins. It may even help those on HRT, by helping to balance oestrogen levels by supporting regular bowel movements.
Probiotics may also be added to foods like yoghurts.
If you struggle with insomnia, taking a magnesium glycinate supplement at night can really help your sleep and your muscles relax.
Exercise can be as simple as going for daily walks and adding strength and resistance training to the mix will help you grow and maintain muscle and support healthy bones. There are so many options available online or in person so find the exercise options that suit you and your lifestyle.
Read more: Top 5 menopause myths busted by leading experts (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)
Read more: Rachel Stevens on prioritising her gut health and setting realistic wellness goals (Yahoo Life UK, 8-min read)
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