Menopause and bloating
Bloating is a common symptom of menopause and perimenopause. A full or swollen abdomen can be uncomfortable, even painful. It can also make you feel self-conscious about your body when your belly seems distended. Read on to find out what causes it, how long you can expect it to last, and most importantly, what you can do about it.
Bloating differs from person to person and is an uncomfortable sensation of tightness or heavy pressure usually felt around your abdomen. It affects people differently and severity can vary. For some people, there’s no pain and it’s simply uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing. For others, the pain can range from mild to an intense, crippling abdominal cramp.
Although a swollen abdomen is a familiar indication of bloating, it doesn’t happen for everyone and you may instead feel uncomfortably full and heavy in your midsection. In many cases, bloating is caused by the build-up of unwanted substances in your body. The usual culprits include gas, water, air, or even poo. Certain medical conditions can also cause bloating. If this is a new or persistent problem for you, you should see your doctor to be sure of the cause.
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HOW COMMON IS BLOATING DURING MENOPAUSE?
- Bloating is common, especially in perimenopause, but there is a data gap showing exactly how many women this affects
- However, bloating is also commonly caused by a number of medical conditions, so it’s important to check in with your GP in the first instance
Read more about the stages of menopause.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF BLOATING?
Swollen or distended abdomen, cramps
A feeling of heaviness or fullness
Puffy eyes and swollen ankles
Passing gas and burping
HOW TO STOP MENOPAUSE BLOATING
Drink lots of water
Though this may sound contradictory, if you’re bloated with water retention, upping your water intake will help to balance your system and flush out the excess fluids. Water also reduces the chance of constipation which can trigger bloating. You want to make sure you are hydrated because your gastrointestinal tract needs water to function effectively
Being physically active can ease your bloating discomfort. Studies suggest that mild physical activity prevents gas retention because movement helps in clearing the intestines. If you’re new to regular exercise, start slowly, and build up gradually. Try low-intensity movements like yoga, walking, jogging, hiking, or any mild exercise whenever you feel bloated
Limit salt intake
Be mindful of the foods you eat to avoid overconsumption of salts. Most table salts contain sodium and chloride, and too much salt in your diet will lead to water retention
Find your triggers
Keeping a food diary will help you isolate which foods or drinks are causing you discomfort so you can make a decision whether or not that fizzy drink is worth it. Common triggers include beans, onion, garlic, spicy foods, carbonated drinks and caffeine. When you have an idea which foods affect you, try eliminating them from your diet and see if it makes a difference
Up your intake of probiotics like yoghurt, kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut. Probiotics are essentially good bacteria that keep our digestive system healthy
Massage your abdomen
Abdominal massage has been a long-time treatment for constipation. It decreases the severity of gastrointestinal symptoms and aids bowel movements to prevent gas and bloating. To give yourself an abdominal massage, lie on your back and gently massage your stomach. Massage both clockwise and anticlockwise. Apply a little pressure on the areas you feel any pain
Try not to rush through your meals. Eat mindfully, being aware of every bite and focusing on the sight, sound, smell, taste, and how the food makes you feel. Eat smaller portions, take small bites, and chew slowly. Remove all distractions, and focus solely on your meal
If bloating is caused by water retention, talk to your doctor about treatment. They may suggest diuretics, which are pills created to help your kidneys release water and salt
Can HRT help?
Sometimes the best relief for menopause bloating is HRT, which can balance your oestrogen and progesterone levels. However, bloating alone is not usually a reason to start HRT, and your doctor will want to fully explore any underlying causes for your symptoms in the first instance. For this reason it’s important to discuss your symptoms with them.
It’s also important to note that bloating can actually be a side effect of HRT, particularly oestrogens. This tends to settle after a few months, but you should see your doctor if it persists, is severe or associated with any other new symptoms.