Despite the fact that half of the world’s population goes through menopause, research has been limited, due to women being complicated research subjects in general. Most research is carried out in men because of monthly hormonal changes in women that may skew results.
Around 25% of women are lucky to report mild symptoms, while for others it can be a debilitating experience.
Gut health is linked to every aspect of overall health and menopause is not different. Previously, studies examining the link between the microbiome and menopause were small and inconsistent.
New research has now confirmed that due to the decrease in oestrogen and progesterone after menopause, the gut bacteria that feeds on these hormones become depleted. Post-menopausal women have a gut microbiome that is more similar to that of males, according to the study.
Another recent study of 1002 participants found that post-menopausal women had compromised blood sugar markers like fasting glucose, insulin, and HbA1c, were more insulin resistant, and had a higher 10-year cardiovascular risk score than premenopausal women.
In addition, post-menopausal women had poorer blood sugar responses and greater levels of inflammation to the same foods compared to premenopausal women. These are risk factors for chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Additionally, 81% of women reported sleep disturbances, 65% were feeling anxious, and 68% were having brain fog, carried more weight, particularly around the belly area, and ate more sugary foods. Lastly, being overweight is associated with the presence of symptoms, such as hot flashes and mood changes.
The good news is that these negative consequences can be counteracted by nourishing the gut microbiome. According to the study, a high-quality, gut healthy diet is linked with reduced symptoms reported, regardless of body weight. Specifically, hot flashes and sleep disturbances were reported by 30% free women who ate a gut friendly, high-fibre, high-plant diversity diet.
Aside from diet, hormone-replacement therapy can also help manage menopause-related symptoms and make the transition easier. Despite the negative feedback HRT has received within the last 20 years, recent research shows that the risks are insignificant and for most people, HRT is a great tool to be used alongside a balanced diet.Sources:
- Peters, B. et al. (2022) “Spotlight on the gut microbiome in menopause: Current insights,” International Journal of Women's Health, Volume 14, pp. 1059–1072. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2147/ijwh.s340491
- Bermingham, K. et al. (2022) “Menopause is a key factor influencing postprandial metabolism, metabolic health and lifestyle: The zoe predict study,” Current Developments in Nutrition, 6(Supplement_1), pp. 1–1. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/cdn/nzac047.001