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Menopause and Digestive Problems The digestive system is an all-important part of the body that can determine the overall health of a woman. Many women report that digestive problems begin to occur in the years leading up to menopause, called perimenopause. Not only can digestive problems cause discomfort, but they can also lead to more serious health concerns. About Digestive Problems Women are twice as likely as men to develop digestive problems. Digestive problems, also known as gastrointestinal problems or dysbiosis, in women prior to menopause can come in an array of forms. Each form has to do with how food is broken down once consumed. Because the digestive system is a complex function of the body, issues can arise anywhere along the trip that food takes, from consumption to expulsion. How the digestive system works Digestion involves mixing food with digestive juices, moving it through the digestive tract, and breaking down large pieces of food into smaller pieces. Digestion begins in the mouth, with the act of chewing and swallowing, and is completed in the small intestine. Once food or liquid is swallowed, the stomach then takes over by storing the food and liquid, mixing the food, liquid, and digestive juice produced by the stomach, and finally emptying the contents slowly into the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed. The mixture then moves to the large intestine and colon and waits to be expelled as feces. Symptoms of digestive problems There are different symptoms of digestive problems that can indicate different causes. symptoms of digestive problems: Cramps Bloating Gas Constipation Diarrhea A false urge to have a bowel movement Causes of Digestive Problems Although there are many potential causes of digestive problems, there's a high likelihood that digestive problems experienced as menopause approaches have a lot to do with hormonal imbalance. As a woman's body prepares for menopause, production of her hormones, particularly estrogen and progesterone, begin to decrease. The hormones regulate many different functions of the body, and when their levels are altered prior to menopause, she may experience some or all of the menopause symptoms, including digestive problems. Hormonal causes of digestive problems Cortisol is a “stress hormone” produced by the adrenaline gland involved in stress responses. It is known to impede digestion and create digestive problems, among other adverse reaction, such as anxiety and panic disorders. As a result of imbalanced hormones during menopause there is a high level of cortisol in a woman's body. Estrogen has an effect on the stress-hormone cortisol. When estrogen is too low, levels of cortisol rise, raising blood pressure and blood sugar, and slowing down the release of stomach acid and the emptying of the stomach into the small intestine. This can create some of the symptoms of digestive problems such as gas, bloating, and constipation. Other causes Stress Poor Diet Antibiotics Processed food abuse Drugs Lack of fiber Environmental toxins Lack of raw food Genetics Food allergies Eating habits Junk food Risk Factor – Factors the increase susceptibility Smoking Drinking alcohol excessively Inactivity Depression Age Treatments for Digestive Problems When exploring treatments for digestive problems, it's important to begin with methods that are the least obtrusive, with the least likelihood of side effects, and progress from there. Fruits, bread and vitamins: lifestyle treatments and alternative medicine can be a great way to alleviate digestive problems This means that lifestyle changes are the best place to begin. For instance, sometimes digestive problems can be alleviated simply by drinking more water or eating a healthier diet high in fiber. Home Remedies Chamomile Tea - This tea contains mild anti-inflammatories which will sooth and help the symptoms of an upset stomach. Exercise – helps your digestive tract to pass food along more efficiently. Yogurt - Probiotics provide your body with more of the “friendly bacteria” in your gut that help to ensure that you have no digestive problems Fiber - helps to regulate issues such as diarrhea and constipation De-stress - Anxiety has been linked to digestive problems, so try to bring down your stress levels Typically, combining lifestyle changes and alternative medicines will produce the best outcome. Alternative medicines can be different herbs and supplements, or even techniques like acupuncture. When seeking out alternative medicines, keep in mind that because digestive problems during menopause are associated with hormone imbalance, look for supplements that bring a natural balance to the hormonal levels, for this will go a long way to treating digestive problems at their core. Finally, if still experiencing digestive problems, there are different medications and surgeries that can be explored. Medications are often prescribed simply to cope with digestive problems, but do not offer a cure. Surgery is an option for extremely severe cases. This final option comes with the most risk and side effects. Sources: •Edwards, Dr. Charmaine. "Digestive disorders are more prevalent in women". North County Journal. http://northcountyjournal.stltoday.com. •Shin, Fukudo. "Role of corticotropin-releasing hormone in irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal inflammation". Journal of Gastroenterology. 2007, Tokyo, Japan. •"Digestive Problems". Aim for Health. www.aim4health.com.