Menopause and the Microbiome

As we age, there is a whole slew of changes to deal with. One of the biggest life changes for women is menopause. We know there are all sorts of undesirable symptoms that go along with menopause, but recent research suggests that the microbiome may control the severity of menopause symptoms. This is making the microbiome an area of focus for symptom management.Microbiome

In this article, we will cover everything from what menopause is to the distinct changes found in your hormone and microbiota levels during this life-changing time period.

What is menopause?

Menopause, much like puberty, is a shift in your hormone levels indicating a new time period of your life. However, where puberty is your body becoming able to reproduce, menopause is the signal that the female body is no longer able to conceive naturally. Menopause is not a disease that you can avoid. It happens to all women, often between the ages of 45 and 55

Menopause begins when a woman has not had a period for 12 consecutive months. Periods will begin fluctuating before menopause goes into full effect during a time known as perimenopause. Women will notice other symptoms during this time however, period irregularity is the most straightforward indicator that menopause is around the corner. 

Lifestyle factors can alter the duration and severity of symptoms during perimenopause and menopause. Some of the biggest influences are:

Symptoms of menopause

You may be aware of some of the more common symptoms of menopause. However, every woman experiences menopause differently. And as such, symptoms may vary drastically from woman to woman. 

Some of the most common symptoms of menopause include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Vaginal dryness and/or sexual discomfort
  • Light, heavy, and/or irregular periods
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased anxiety or depression

These symptoms are the most common for women at some time or another during this transitionary period. However, some more uncommon and even strange symptoms of menopause can include:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Body odor
  • Metallic taste in your mouth or a burning sensation on your tongue
  • Bloating
  • Digestive problems (similar to IBS)
  • Electric shock sensations
  • Arthritis or osteoporosis
  • Increase in allergies
  • Thinning hair and brittle nails
  • Incontinence
  • The feeling of insects crawling on your skin
  • Cold flashes
  • Gum disease
  • Altered spatial perception

That’s a lot of changes to deal with. Which makes it easier to understand the mood swings and irritability. However, that’s not actually what causes it. The causes of all of these problems are the fluctuations in hormone levels

What hormones are involved in menopause?

Your endocrine system (the one that regulates your hormones) is one of the most complex systems in the body. And when it becomes out of balance, you’ll experience a plethora of uncomfortable problems. Your hormone levels can control everything from brain chemistry and mood to your ability to manage your weight

The main hormonal changes during menopause are:

  • Estrogen
  • Progesterone
  • Cortisol

Some of the other hormones that have a hand in changes during menopause include:

  • Testosterone
  • Follicle stimulation hormone (FSH)
  • Luteinizing hormone (LH)

As these hormone levels change, the ovarian follicles start to decline. The ovarian follicles are responsible for healthy egg production and release. The egg is what the entire menstrual cycle consists around. So when there are no longer consistent egg releases, the rest of the cycle becomes irregular.

The thing is, these hormones don’t just control your egg release and health. They have an influence on everything else in your body to maintain homeostasis.

The connection between menopause and the microbiome

Your gut houses trillions of bacteria to help your body maintain the homeostasis it needs. These bacteria help to break down your food and send the important derivatives where they’re needed throughout your body. 

Your gut bacteria have a large role in hormone regulation as well. Some of the metabolites derived from your food affect hormone levels and functionality. This interaction is now being referred to as the estrobolome since they work together so frequently. 

Rodent studies have shown that during menopause there are a lot of changes to the gut microbiome. These menopausal changes cause dysbiosis — an imbalance of the bacteria living there. Dysbiosis has been linked to many diseases like autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and cancer.

So if dysbiosis can initiate diseases, it’s no surprise that it can cause the undesirable side effects that menopause brings about. The dysbiosis is caused by a decline in estrogen levels which increases cortisol (your stress hormone). Cortisol then changes the microdiversity within your gut leading to constipation, diarrhea, and bloating.

However, this isn’t a one-way street. The state of your gut health can affect the severity of menopause symptoms as well. Poor gut diversity when going into menopause can cause more difficult problems like:

  • Osteoporosis and other bone density problems
  • Breast cancer risk
  • Neurodegeneration and poor cognitive function
  • Type 2 diabetes and obesity

How to improve menopause symptoms and gut health

An unhealthy gut is miserable just like most menopausal symptoms. So what can you do to prevent the malaise and keep yourself feeling the best you possibly can?

The main way is to focus on improving your gut health

Gut health can control the nerve-hormone connections which take care of a lot of the menopause-related symptoms. The metabolites derived from our bacteria and food control where and how much hormone is circulated. This can help combat your menopausal symptoms. 

So the best tips for getting good gut and aging health will be:

  1. Keep your diet in check. Eating a healthy diet that has the right properties in it will feed your good bacteria and starve the bad. It will also help you combat inflammation and symptoms related to menopause. Eat prebiotics, probiotics, and polyphenols to boost your immune system. Digestive enzymes and Atrantil can be great to improve your gut balance.
  2. Exercise daily. Doing light exercises can help your body release and continue making hormones and other chemicals that allow you to maintain a positive outlook. Exercise also helps keep your metabolism up which helps fight obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular risk (all problems that can be brought about by menopause). Exercise can also keep your bones strong which can combat the osteoporosis that sometimes sets in during menopause.
  3. Get enough sleep. This one may seem difficult considering the night sweats and increased anxiety. However, sleep has been proven to help be able to control anxiety and depression better. A good sleep schedule allows your body to rest and digest easier too — improving the efficiency of your gut and reducing stress hormones. 
  4. Take Atrantil. The polyphenols and prebiotics help to support a healthy microbiome and reduce inflammation throughout your body. 

These are the best ways to get your gut in check. Keep yourself living a healthy lifestyle and you can combat some of your symptoms. This isn’t a way to completely get rid of them all — as this is a life change you can’t completely control. However, taking some steps towards reducing the symptoms where you can is a great help!

Let us know what tips have helped you in the comments below!