About Menopause - 9 minute read

5 Ways to Soothe Menopause Bloating

Raise your hand if you’ve recently had to unbutton your pants to comfortably get through the day. Or if you’ve been so bloated after a meal that it physically hurts? 

Now that we all have our hands up, here’s an uncomfortable truth (literally): Bloating is yet another common symptom of menopause, right up there with hot flashes and night sweats. 

So why does it happen during the menopause transition…and what can you do about it? We talked to the experts to help you deal with this very frustrating symptom, fast. 

What Causes Bloating?

Bloating typically happens when your stomach or abdomen get filled with excess gas—which can cause pain, discomfort, or feeling overly full. Your stomach might also look distended, making it temporarily tough to fit into certain clothes (or require you to discreetly unbutton your pants). 

Functional and integrative nutritionist and menopause expert Jenn Salib Huber, RD, ND, says there are a few different causes of bloating. For some people, certain foods can cause bloating. “There’s a group of foods called FODMAP foods that can cause bloating in some people,” she says. (FODMAP is an acronym for six different types of short-chain carbohydrates found in certain foods like beans that can be tough for people to digest.) These foods most commonly affect people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

“Bloating can also happen as a result of constipation or changes in bowel habits,” Salib Huber adds. Basically, your intestines have to expand in order to accommodate extra backed-up stool, which can lead to bloating. (Fun!)

Sometimes, bloating can be completely unrelated to what we eat or drink. “Bloating can also happen around our menstrual cycle,” Salib Huber says. “[One reason for this] is because the uterus is larger toward the second half of our cycle before our period, so it takes up more space.” She says that hormonal fluctuations during our menstrual cycle and throughout perimenopause can also cause bloating and water retention (more on that in a second.)

Bloating is fairly common in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other gastrointestinal disorders, although someone can be diagnosed with functional bloating if they experience it at least three times a month for at least three consecutive months, and haven’t been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or another gastrointestinal disorder. 

Why Does Bloating Happen During Menopause?   

“One of the most common side effects women experience when going through menopause is bloating,” says Anna Cabeca, MD, an OB/GYN who specializes in menopause treatment. “This happens to women regardless of size, weight, or exercise level.” Why? Dr. Cabeca and Salib Huber both say that it’s due to a shift in hormones and changes in the gut microbiome (aka all the healthy bacteria living in your digestive tract.) 

During perimenopause and menopause, the body produces less estrogen—which has surprising impacts on your digestive health. “There are estrogen and progesterone receptors in the gut, so when hormone levels change, it impacts how quickly and smoothly food is being digested,” Salib Huber says. This is why, she says, changes in bowel habits in addition to bloating are pretty common during this time of life. 

Additionally, Dr. Cabeca says that changes in insulin and cortisol during perimenopause and menopause can play a part in menopause bloating. “As we age, we become more insulin resistant and cortisol levels increase; both of these result in increased glucose, which in turn feeds gut bacteria, which then creates a tremendous amount of gas,” she says. Basically, your body naturally has more glucose for your gut bacteria to eat—and guess what those bacteria do when they’ve eaten their fill? Release gas

“There is also a natural decline [during perimenopause] in our progesterone levels, which is a natural diuretic,” Dr. Cabeca says. “The shift in hormones impacts our weight, how we process food, how we retain food, water, gas, and fat.”

Treatments for Gas and Bloating

As you can see, there are very clear reasons for menopause bloating. But there are also clear solutions too. (Finally, some good news!) Here are five treatments to try:

1. Make smart dietary tweaks

As Dr. Cabeca said earlier, increased glucose in the body can create gas, leading to bloating. For this reason, she says that cutting back on sugary foods can help with menopause bloating.

Salib Huber says that another way to tweak your diet to make bloat less likely is to up your fiber intake. She explains that most people don’t get enough fiber anyway—which is crucial for keeping digestion on track—and people in menopause need even more of the nutrient because the digestive system slows down as we age. So start loading up on leafy greens, fruits, veggies, and whole grains, or consider taking a fiber supplement. Just remember to drink plenty of water and increase your fiber intake gradually, as too much at once can also cause gas and discomfort.

There are also some foods that are more likely to cause bloating and gas than others. These include carbonated beverages, beans, dried fruits, fried or fatty foods, and anything containing sugar alcohols (which are common in low-carb or low-sugar packaged foods). 


2. Use herbs to eliminate bloating 

Certain herbs have been linked to helping with digestive causes of bloating. Ginger, cumin, celery seed, fennel, and anise can all be incorporated into meals or enjoyed as a tea to help nix bloating and gas. Besides, it’s way tastier than popping an antacid.   

3. Consider taking probiotics 

While scientists haven’t specifically studied probiotics during menopause, there are studies that show probiotics helping with IBS symptoms, which include bloating. This is because probiotics up the amount of good bacteria in the gut, which helps keep the digestive tract running efficiently, reducing bloating in the process. 

4. Take a walk after eating

Light physical activity can help kick-start digestion and help reduce blood sugar levels, all of which can help with potential bloating. Research shows even a short walk for two to five minutes can make a difference. 

5. Try an OTC remedy

If your bloating tends to happen most after eating, there are some things you can nab at the pharmacy for immediate relief. Simethicone (the active ingredient in GasX) helps trap and disperse excess gas in your digestive system, which can soothe bloating. If you’re constipated, stool softeners can help keep things moving and relieve some of the pressure you’re feeling. Something Salib Huber warns against doing: taking activated charcoal. She says there have been no clinical studies to show that this popular wellness “remedy” can be helpful for preventing or treating bloat. Instead, stick with the above recommendations.

When to See a Doctor About Your Bloating

Salib Huber says if you’re dealing with bloating on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to bring it up—especially if it’s getting in the way of you living your best life. Constant bloating can be a symptom of IBS or another gastrointestinal disorder—or at worst, a symptom of ovarian cancer— “so it shouldn’t be ignored,” Salib Huber says.

Your doctor can give you food and lifestyle tips that can help mitigate the bloating, and can prescribe medication to stabilize hormones, if necessary. If you have IBS, they may recommend more drastic overhauls of your diet. This might entail a temporary elimination diet, where you nix certain foods that might be common triggers of digestional issues and then reincorporate them one at a time. However, this kind of eating plan should be completed under the supervision of a registered dietitian or a medical doctor to ensure you’re still getting the nutrients you need. 

As hormone levels even out after menopause, Salib Huber says that menopause bloating does subside. “The rollercoaster of estrogen and progesterone ends, which helps with menopause symptoms overall including hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and, yes, bloating,” she says. 

Translation: As you transition into postmenopausal life, you can consider the balloon of uncomfortable bloating…popped. 


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