The Signs and Symptoms of Menopause with Dr. Tori Hudson Part III

by Jan on November 21, 2009

There is a condition called irritable bowel syndrome that is really kind of a basket term for a lot of irregular bowel habits and bloating that women experience during menopause. And again, hormonal influences seem to affect irritable bowel syndrome. In fact, women who are still menstruating, irritable bowel syndrome can flair up as a premenstrual symptom. Often we think this might be a little bit more related to progesterone, because progesterone is a sedative to smooth muscles. It helps the muscles relax. With irritable bowel the colon is hypertonic, spasmodic, irritated and not having its normal, rhythmic motions.
Progesterone can be a very helpful hormone with the abdominal pain, irregular bowel movements, and the bloating aspect. Now that’s not maybe where I would always just start, because we have to look at dietary influences. Even though it might be a hormonal, menopause symptom, we might start with digestive enzymes, some lactobacillus supplements, those kinds of things and then if there is no response we would use a coasted peppermint oil which is anti-spasmodic to the gut. If those don’t work, and this is coming on with other menopause symptoms, we should think big picture. “Okay, maybe this is hormonal and we need to approach it in a more hormonal way.” Women that have gas and bloating often feel like they are gaining weight in the abdomen they are not really gaining weight, they are just bloated.

But then, weight gain in and of itself is something that happens to menopausal women. There is a normal weight gain related to age, due to our metabolism slowing down, we are losing our muscle mass the fact we also have a drop in estrogen and our insulin levels essentially do up and our cells become more insulin resistant. Maybe the most important thing to say about that, while complex is that we just don’t handle starchy foods and sugars as well anymore. Or, what are called high glycemic foods like bananas and cookies and bagels. They cause our blood sugar to rise quickly, or pancreas says “oh, okay, insulin”, to bring down the blood sugar a bit, but our cells and other parts of our body see that insulin so well anymore insulin then becomes a fat storage hormone. So less estrogen, more insulin, more insulin resistance, more weight gain. This is why peri and post-menopausal women say “my diet is the same as it’s always been” (and they say it’s good,) and “my exercise is the same as it’s always been”, (and let’s say it’s good for the purpose of this conversation.) But now, good may not be good enough, are insulin resistant and these same foods are causing weight gain. Now, in our 40’s, 50’s and 60’s we need to lower and starches and sugars that we’ve always eaten.  We have to eat less whole wheat bread. Even if it’s brown rice, we have to eat less brown rice. Let alone, if we still think bagels and pasta are a health food, we definitely have to lower those. Potatoes are terrible in terms of increasing our blood sugar and causing this fat storage dynamic, bananas, same thing. I encourage people to check out the low-glycemic index diet and the South Beach diet, this is actually a very good diet for menopausal women because it’s talking about insulin resistance and lowering the sugar and starch foods. Women in menopause start getting this abdominal weight gain much like men have already experienced abdominal weight gain. And these are both hormonally influenced phenomenon related to changes in our hormonal balance, if you will. And, the acquisition of this insulin resistance phenomenon.

Fatigue is another new symptom that women often talk about in this peri-menopause/early pose menopausal transition. Sometimes that is also one that is kind of hard to nail down and it’s hard for partners and family members to understand. Well, there is nothing really “wrong” with you, you don’t have a “disease”, you don’t have an infection, “why are you fatigued? Get with the program!” But there really are, again, changes in the sleep cycle, that’s the first place I look. Maybe she’s not having night sweats that are keeping her up, and she thinks “it’s not that”, and she thinks she is sleeping, but actually, maybe she doesn’t get into the deep sleep anymore. Again, brain chemistry. This lack of deep sleep affects our energy. Also, as our estrogen levels are low, our testosterone levels are also low. Our DHEA levels, another hormone we haven’t talked about, mostly from our adrenal glands are also low and that combination also affects our vitality. So, yes, fatigue is a fairly common menopause symptom, but we want to make sure it’s not something else first. Is it hypo-thyroid, is it anemia, is it depression, is it another health problem? If the doctor does their “due diligence”, and we don’t find a good explanation, we might easily come back to “oh, it’s how these hormones are affecting brain chemistry and vitality”.

Previous post:

Next post: