Have you noticed your constipation is getting worse as you get older? Is it a symptom of perimenopause?
Maybe your stools are noticeably smaller and harder; you’re sitting on the toilet longer; you don’t feel like you are complete when you go; you haven’t gone in days; or your bloating is slowly increasing throughout the day.
Well, you can blame it (partly) on your hormones.
Perimenopause constipation is common but often don’t make the top 10 list of perimenopause symptoms.
Your gastrointestinal (GI) tract has estrogen and progesterone receptors both in the stomach and the small intestines. These receptors affect the speed that food travels through your intestinal tract.
During perimenopause, levels of estrogen and progesterone begin to decrease. The lower your hormones levels, the slower your travel time and this can result in bloating and constipation. Constipation can be worse post-menopause when your hormone levels drop to their lowest point.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
First, let’s look at progesterone. Progesterone is the first to decline in perimenopause. Progesterone’s role in digestion is in the colon or large intestine. The colon is where stool is formed after the body has digested and absorbed all the nutrients from the food we eat. What is left is your food waste. Lower levels of progesterone will slow down how fast your food waste passes through colon. The longer it takes, the dryer the stool becomes and the harder it is to pass leading to constipation.
Estrogen, on the other hand, declines later in perimenopause. Lower levels of estrogen can mean higher levels of cortisol. Cortisol forces the body into the sympathetic mode while digestion is a parasympathetic process.. In the sympathetic mode, the body diverts blood to brain, large muscles and limbs and away from digestion. So, digestion takes a back seat and this can lead to constipation.
Perimenopause can’t take all the blame though.
The state of your digestive health plays a huge part. In fact, women who had digestive issues when they were young are most prone to experience perimenopause constipation as they get older.
The best way to combat perimenopause constipation is not by focusing on your hormones but instead on your digestion.
You can start by directing your attention to 4 areas:
Firstly, eat-well balanced meals, centered around real foods. Avoid processed or fast foods when possible. Get plenty of healthy fats and fiber. Take note of any foods that make your symptoms worse. If so, consider experimenting with a healing diet.
Secondly, drink plenty of water. Water helps keep your food moving along your digestive tract. Staying hydrated also keeps stool soft.
Thirdly, bring your stress levels down. When you are under stress, your body releases stress hormones and diverts the body’s attention away from digestion. Stress also negatively affects the population of your gut bacteria. You can counteract stress with calming practices like deep breathing and meditation.
Lastly, your gut bacteria (or microbiome) plays a huge role in your gut health. If there is an imbalance of good versus bad and/or a lack of diversity of bacteria, you may experience gut issues like constipation. Frequent use of anti-biotics, poor diet and parasites could case an imbalance.
To sum up, changing hormone levels during perimenopause can cause constipation. However, the best course of action is to focus on supporting digestive health.
For more specific foods and tips on reducing bloating and constipation, download my Essential Guide for Bloating & Constipation ebook by filling in your name and email address below.
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