You know the feeling? Your belly’s tight and bloated. You’re inflated like a balloon; time to undo that button or zip! Ah, that’s better. These symptoms can be extra troublesome when you have to face them in the office.
It’s a common perimenopause problem you can blame on your fluctuating hormones. Changing oestrogen levels mean our bodies tend to store more water, making us feel bloated and uncomfortable, and the amount of bile we make also alters, which can affect how we digest fat causing more wind, bloating and constipation. Progesterone has a diuretic effect, too, and falling levels mean we wee less when we go to the loo. Finally, hormone related weight gain, generally around our middle, can increase that bloated feeling.
And the good news is…. This is a common perimenopause symptom and once you’ve gone through menopause it should become less troublesome.
The best ways to help when your feeling bloated Simple lifestyle changes and eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and whole foods can help beat the bloat.
What to eat to help with feeling bloated
Go for little and often Eat 5 small meals a day. This should prevent your metabolism from slowing down, making you feel less hungry so you snack less – which is also helpful if you are struggling with menopausal weight gain. Big meals can also make us feel, bloated, sluggish and gassy!
Step off the gas Certain foods may help reduce the amount of wind in your digestive system and help you to feel less bloated in menopause.
Probiotics are ‘friendly’ gut bacteria, helping with digestion in menopause. To help boost your gut health, eat more: fermented dairy products such as kefir, yogurt and sour cream or miso (fermented soybean paste), some soy drinks and soy based products, if you’re lactose intolerant. Try fermenting your own vegetables - cauliflower is great for gut health, or make your own sauerkraut. Go with the trend, make your own gut-friendly pickles and fermented foods.
These foods may help relieve menopause bloating and digestion problems:
Mint, herbs and teas - peppermint, spearmint, ginger and fennel may help relieve painful wind. Try them in hot water for a fresh herbal drink. Green tea is a diuretic and may relieve bloating caused by fluid retention.
Citrus fruits: contain vitamin C, and fibre but are composed mainly of water, which helps hydrate you and encourages the body to let go of excess fluid.
Cayenne pepper and black pepper, natural cures for bloating and wind, containing capsaicin, which increases digestive enzymes. Add to food or to a hot lemon and ginger drink in the morning. Bicarbonate of Soda (baking soda) - neutralises stomach acid and produces carbon dioxide encouraging you to burp, hopefully helping to relieve your bloating.
Be aware that some foods which may cause increased wind:
Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, onions, potatoes, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, peas (contain a type of sugar that is difficult to digest)
Legumes: beans and peas (you will eventually build up a tolerance)
Fruit: Pears, apples, peaches
Dairy: soft cheeses
Grains: oats, bran-type breakfast cereals, fluffy white wheat
Simple carbs: soft white foods; bread, pasta, cakes, pastry, bagels
Dried fruits: (full of fructose and fibre that can be hard to digest, causing cramps, gas build up and bloating)
Stay hydrated Too much fluid on board? The obvious thing is not drink any more, right? Wrong! Not drinking actually makes fluid retention worse. Drink water throughout the day to encourage your body to flush out excess water and sodium. When you’ve got painful trapped wind, drinking a large glass of water may relieve it. For more info read our blog Good Hydrations.
Write it down Keeping a meal diary can help you identify trigger foods or situations such as grabbing food on the go. Some women also becoming lactose intolerance later in life. Try removing dairy from your diet for a period of time to see if your symptoms improve. Gradually reintroduce it and you’ll soon find your answer. There are plenty of lactose free substitutes available in most supermarkets.
What to avoid to help with feeling bloated
Smoking Smoking decreases the levels of oestrogen your body produces and we know how important oestrogen is in the smooth-operation of the gut.
Swallowing air This generally happens when you smoke, chew gum, drink through a straw, talk when eating or eat too quickly. Stress may also impact on over breathing.
Serious about salt Reduce the amount of salt you add to your meals, and check food labels as processed foods can contain high sodium levels. It slows down digestion, causes gas to build up and increases water retention.
Reduce caffeine and alcohol Too much alcohol, fizzy carbonated drinks and drinks high in caffeine may cause bloating. Adding ice to a fizzy drink will reduce gas-inducing fizz.
Lifestyle & wellbeing to help with feeling bloated
Exercise Another plus for daily exercise, not only does it help deal with bloating it’s also great for weight management – and even a brisk 20-minute walk can make a difference. Cycling, jogging, swimming and team sports all make you sweat, releasing the salts that cause bloating from your body. Yoga Stretches, twists and sit ups can help move trapped wind around your body. There’s even a ‘Wind Relief’ pose in Yoga. Or try a simple ‘Childs Pose’, or ‘Downward dog’
Expel air The best way to reduce painful wind or menopause bloating is to get rid of the gas from both ends. Lie down on your left side and massage your lower intestine, or on your back and rub your tummy. Lastly, try lying on your back and bringing your knees up to your chest.
Reduce Stress Stress can have a negative impact on your digestive system. Regular stress reducing techniques will help lower cortisol levels in your body.
Supplements worth trying for feeling bloated
Probiotic supplements contain gut-friendly bacteria. Some have a single strain of bacteria while others contain multiple strains, hard for some to tolerate. You may need to experiment with various brands until you find the correct balance for you.
Agnus castus is meant to be helpful for perimenopause period pains and bloating. Take as a tincture. Evening primrose oil* is thought to balances hormones and may help with bloating.
Vitamin B6* may act as a diuretic, a popular recommendation for bloating. Essential to follow dosage instructions.
*Natural products may impact on other medications, please do check with your GP if you are taking any medication.
Alternative help for feeling bloated
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) In TCM, it’s thought oestrogen and progesterone are regulated and controlled by the kidneys. The kidneys also regulate the sodium and water balance, which can cause bloating. Discuss your symptoms with an accredited practitioner, find a local one on the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine website.
When to see your doctor about feeling bloated
If diet and lifestyle changes don’t help with menopausal bloating, or it persists for more than two weeks, you should visit your doctor to rule out underlying health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, ulcers, colitis, pancreatic insufficiency, coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease or ovarian cancer.
And then there’s always HRT…
HRT may cause bloating as fluid retention can be exacerbated. Talk to your doctor at your 3 month review if this doesn’t improve. They may consider adjusting your dosage or type of HRT to ease this. The Hot Flush caveat, there are pros and cons to taking HRT. t’s for you to decide whether it’s for you or not.