Menopause and bloating
Bloating is a common symptom of menopause and perimenopause. The feeling of having 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 swollen. 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. The severity of this discomfort 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 intense, crippling abdominal cramps.
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 poop. Certain medical conditions can also cause bloating. If this is a new or persistent problem for you, you should see your healthcare provider to be sure of the cause.
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How common is bloating in menopause?
- Bloating is common, especially in perimenopause, but there is a data gap showing exactly how many people this affects
- It is also commonly caused by several medical conditions, so it’s important to check in with your healthcare provider
Read more about the stages of menopause.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF BLOATING?
Swollen or distended abdomen and cramps
A feeling of heaviness or fullness
Puffy eyes and swollen ankles
Passing gas and burping
HOW TO STOP MENOPAUSE BLOATING
1. 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 helps to ease constipation which is one of the most common causes of bloating. Make sure you are hydrated because your gastrointestinal tract needs water to function effectively.
2. Regular exercise. 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 exercise like yoga, walking, jogging, hiking, or any mild exercise whenever you feel bloated.
3. Limit salt intake. Be mindful of the foods you eat to avoid overconsumption of salt and other food ingredients that may make you feel bloated.
4. Find your triggers. Keeping a food diary will help you isolate which foods or drinks are causing you discomfort so you can decide whether or not that soda is worth it. Common triggers include beans, onion, garlic, spicy foods, dairy, carbonated drinks, and caffeine. When you have an idea of which foods affect you, try eliminating them from your diet and see if it makes a difference.
5. Take probiotics. Up your intake of probiotics like yogurt, kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut. Probiotics are essentially good bacteria that keep our digestive system healthy.
6. 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 counterclockwise. Apply gentle pressure on the areas you feel any pain.
7. Eat slowly. 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.
Can hormone therapy (HT) help?
Sometimes the best relief for menopause bloating is HT, which can restore your estrogen and progesterone levels. However, bloating alone is not a reason to start HT, and your healthcare provider 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 be a side effect of HT, particularly estrogens. This tends to settle after a few months, but you should see your healthcare provider if it persists, is severe, or is associated with any other new symptoms.