IBS and Menopause

Menopause is a big change in any woman’s life, often bringing uncomfortable symptoms like hot flushes and mood swings. For those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), this time can be even more challenging.

Here, we’ll look at how menopause and IBS are connected and share tips on managing symptoms during this significant life stage.

Understanding the menopause and IBS

Menopause typically starts in a woman’s late 40s to early 50s, and it marks the end of menstrual cycle. It happens because the ovaries stop producing hormones like oestrogen and progesterone.

This change can cause symptoms such as sweating at night, mood changes, and trouble sleeping. Menopause can also impact the digestive system, which may already cause challenges for those dealing with IBS.

IBS affects the large intestine and can cause stomach pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits like diarrhoea or constipation. It’s triggered by various factors including diet, stress, and, importantly, hormonal changes.

The hormonal link between IBS and the menopause

Hormone levels that fluctuate during menopause can affect the digestive system, making IBS symptoms worse. As oestrogen and progesterone levels drop, the movement of food through the gut can slow down or speed up, leading to increased IBS flare-ups.

The stress from dealing with the menopause can also trigger IBS symptoms, creating a challenging cycle of discomfort.

How to manage IBS when going through the menopause

If you want to minimise those IBS symptoms while going through menopause, you should start by monitoring your diet.

Keep track of foods that trigger your IBS and try to avoid them. Eating plenty of fibre may help with constipation, while staying away from heavy or spicy foods might decrease diarrhoea and stomach pain.

Regular exercise like yoga or walking can help manage stress and keep your digestive system running smoothly. Techniques like meditation or deep breathing can also calm both your mind and your gut. These methods are good for easing both menopausal and IBS symptoms.

For some women, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) helps manage the hormone fluctuations that come with the menopause. It’s important to talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of HRT.

Finally, adding probiotics to your diet can help maintain a healthy gut, especially important during menopause when your digestive system may be more sensitive.

If these tips don’t help and you’re still struggling, it might be time to get expert advice. If managing your IBS during the menopause feels overwhelming, book an appointment with Mr Michael Stellakis at the Warwick Bowel and Hernia Centre.