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Indigestion and Menopause: Causes, Relief, and Dietary Tips

Going through menopause involves learning about its many effects on your body, including some that aren’t often talked about, like acid reflux. This article will give you straightforward, researched tips for dealing with digestive issues and explores the link between menopause and indigestion.

We’ll talk about how hormone changes, your lifestyle, and what you eat need to adapt during this time, and we’ll give you useful advice to help your gut feel better and improve your overall health.

By looking at the role of diet, exercise, and how you handle stress, I aim to give you practical steps to take care of indigestion. This way, we’re not just fixing the immediate problem but also helping your health in the long run, during and beyond menopause.

Now, let’s move on to the specific diet and lifestyle tweaks that can help ease indigestion during menopause.

Heartburn and the Menopause: What’s the link?

As women go through menopause, their bodies experience major changes in hormones that can affect many bodily functions, including how well they digest food. 

One small study found that menopausal women are 2.9 times more likely to have gastro oesophageal reflux (known as GORD or GERD) than premenopausal women.1

This part of the article will talk about how menopause and indigestion are connected, especially how lower levels of oestrogen can lead to problems with the digestive system.

Let’s start with how hormones affect digestion.

Hormonal Changes and Digestive Health

During menopause, the body makes less oestrogen and progesterone. Oestrogen helps the smooth muscles in the digestive system work properly and helps produce bile, which is important for breaking down fats. 

When there’s less oestrogen, digestion can slow down, and the movement of the gut can change. This can cause indigestion symptoms like bloating, gas, and stomach pain.2

Lifestyle can also have an impact

Impact of Lifestyle Factors

Lifestyle choices can really affect menopause symptoms, like indigestion. Stress, what you eat, and not being active enough can all make digestion worse during menopause. 

Stress can make your body produce more stomach acid, causing heartburn and discomfort. Eating a lot of processed foods, fats, and sugars can also lead to indigestion, and not exercising can slow down your digestion.

A few simple dietary changes can help you manage reflux with diet.

Managing Indigestion with Diet

Changing what you eat is crucial for dealing with indigestion during menopause. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fibre from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help your digestion and lessen symptoms.

Drinking enough water and cutting back on things like caffeine, alcohol, spicy, fatty and processed foods can also help ease discomfort.

Fibre: Try to get 30 grams of fibre each day from a variety of fruits, vegetables, seeds and spices. 

Water: Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water daily by staying hydrated this will help prevent constipation which can also cause of reflux, 

Eating Carefully: Take your time eating and chew your food well to avoid swallowing too much air and reduce bloating. Mindful eating can aid digestion and mindful eating exercises headspace

Next, let’s explore how exercise and reducing stress can further improve digestion.

Exercise and Stress Reduction

Staying active is crucial for improving gut health and reducing stress, which in turn helps manage indigestion during menopause. 

Aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days is beneficial. Incorporating practices such as yoga and meditation can also aid in managing stress levels, potentially easing indigestion symptoms.

Exercise Recommendations: Build a well-rounded exercise routine that includes cardiovascular activities for heart health, flexibility exercises like yoga for mobility, and strength training. 

Strength exercises: Strength exercises are particularly important as they help build muscle mass, which can decrease during menopause. 

Frequency: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week, as recommended by health guidelines.

By connecting the dots between menopause, lifestyle choices, and indigestion, and by adopting specific dietary and lifestyle modifications, you can effectively alleviate digestive discomfort.

Moving forward, let’s dive into tailoring your diet for optimal gut health during menopause.

Tailoring Your Diet for Menopausal Gut Health

Changing your diet in smart ways can really help with indigestion during menopause. Here’s how to adjust what you eat to support a healthy gut and lessen indigestion symptoms.

Important Nutrients and Foods to Include

Foods High in Fibre: Add lots of fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains to your meals. Eating things like berries, apples, carrots, lentils, and quinoa not only helps your digestion but also helps you stay full, which is great for managing weight during menopause.

Fermented Foods: Foods that have a lot of probiotics, like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha, keep your gut bacteria balanced. This can make your digestion smoother and decrease gas and bloating.

Healthy Fats: Eat foods with omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts. These fats reduce inflammation and help keep your digestive system’s lining healthy.

Enough Water: Drinking water is key for good digestion because it helps break down food and keeps bowel movements regular. Try to drink 8-10 glasses a day.

Foods and Drinks to Cut Back On or Eliminate

Here are some foods and things to eat less of or avoid to help with indigestion during menopause.

High-Fat and Fried Foods: These foods can slow your digestion and make indigestion worse. Try healthier cooking methods like baking, steaming, or grilling instead of frying.

Spicy Foods: They’re tasty but can irritate your stomach, causing indigestion or heartburn for some people. It’s important to know what your body can handle and to eat spicy foods in moderation.

Caffeine and Alcohol: Both can relax the muscle that keeps stomach acid from going back up into your oesophagus, leading to acid reflux. They can also make you dehydrated, which affects digestion. It’s better to limit these and maybe choose decaf or non-alcoholic options.

Chocolate: Chocolate can be a trigger for some people because it contains caffeine and other compounds that may relax the oesophageal sphincter, potentially leading to acid reflux.

Processed and Sugary Foods: These can mess with the balance of your gut bacteria and lead to weight gain, affecting your digestion. Try to stick to whole, unprocessed foods where you can.

Citrus Fruits: While citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruits are rich in vitamins and fibre, they can sometimes aggravate symptoms of indigestion and acid reflux due to their acidity. 

If you notice that citrus fruits trigger your indigestion, you might want to limit your intake or choose fruits with lower acidity levels, such as melons or bananas, to get your vitamin C and fibre.

Having gone over what to eat and what to avoid, let’s now explore useful lifestyle adjustments that complement diet and exercise.

Making Lifestyle Changes for Better Digestive Health

Aside from your diet, certain lifestyle changes can make a big difference in how you handle indigestion, let’s explore this in more detail.

Handling Stress

Stress has a big impact on your digestive health. Being very stressed can make your stomach produce more acid and affect how fast or slow your digestion works, leading to indigestion.

Ways to Reduce Stress: Try different ways to relax and see what fits you best. This could be meditation, breathing exercises, or spending time outdoors.

Effective Stress Reduction: Engage in activities that lower stress, such as meditation, mindfulness, or hobbies that bring you joy.

Getting Help: If stress feels overwhelming, consider talking to a professional. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can help manage stress and anxiety. 

Moving from stress relief, let’s look at how good sleep benefits digestion next.

Sleeping Well

Quality sleep is essential for your overall well-being and can impact your digestive health. Poor sleep can worsen symptoms, like indigestion.

Better Sleep Practices: Keep a regular sleep schedule, make your sleeping area cosy, and avoid caffeine and screens before bed.

Limiting Naps: Try to limit naps to 20-30 minutes and avoid napping late in the afternoon or evening to ensure you’re tired enough for a good night’s sleep.

Dealing with Sleep Issues: If you’re having ongoing trouble sleeping, talk to a doctor to check for sleep disorders like insomnia or sleep apnoea, which can affect your digestion.

After ensuring you’re getting quality sleep, consider how your sleeping position might further alleviate indigestion.

Sleeping Elevated

Another practical adjustment for improving digestive health, especially if you’re experiencing indigestion during menopause, is to sleep with your upper body slightly elevated. This simple change can significantly reduce nighttime discomfort.

Benefits of Elevated Sleeping: Sleeping with your head and chest elevated can help prevent stomach acid from moving up into your oesophagus, reducing the risk of heartburn and indigestion.

How to Elevate Your Sleeping Position: Use extra pillows or a wedge pillow to raise your upper body. Alternatively, adjustable beds can be set to a comfortable incline that supports digestion.

Who Should Consider This: If you often experience heartburn or indigestion at night, elevating your sleeping position can be a helpful strategy.

Now that we’ve covered the importance of sleep, let’s shift our focus to how mindful eating practices can transform your digestive health.

Mindful Eating

The way you eat matters as much as your diet. Eating mindfully can help you avoid eating too much and reduce digestive problems.

Eat Slowly: Chew your food well and savour each bite, which helps with digestion and prevents overeating.

Avoid Eating Late: Eating big meals right before bed can cause heartburn and indigestion. Try to finish eating 2-3 hours before you go to sleep.

Plan for Smaller, Frequent Meals: Instead of three large meals, consider having smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. This approach can help regulate your blood sugar levels and manage hunger, reducing the likelihood of overeating.

Keep Healthy Snacks Handy: Having healthy snacks available can prevent long stretches without food. Opt for snacks that are high in fibre and protein, like nuts, yoghurt, or fruit, to keep you satisfied and support digestive health.

Set a Meal Schedule: Try to eat at roughly the same times every day to keep your digestive system on a regular rhythm. This predictability can help improve digestion and prevent the discomfort of indigestion.

Can Herbal remedies or Supplements Help  Indigestion During Menopause?

Changing your diet and how you live are key to dealing with indigestion as you go through menopause There are many supplements and teas that claim to help aid digestion and reduce indigestion.

Let’s look at these in more detail?

Herbal Supplements

Certain herbs have been traditionally used to support digestive health and may offer relief from menopausal indigestion.

Ginger: Known for its anti-nausea properties and can help stimulate digestion one small study showed that ginger may  help with indigestion but more research is needed in this area. 3 

Peppermint: May relieve symptoms of indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Peppermint oil capsules are often used for this purpose. However peppermint can exacerbate indigestion in some people so use caution and monitor your symptoms. Read more about peppermint on the NHS website.

Keeping Track and Making Changes

Dealing with indigestion as you go through menopause is a continuous effort that involves being mindful of how your body responds and being open to changing your methods.

In this last part, we’ll show you ways to keep an eye on your progress, figure out when it’s time to get more medical help, and how to tweak your plan to maintain good digestive health and overall wellness for the long haul.

Using a Symptom Journal

Keeping a symptom journal can be incredibly useful for pinpointing triggers and seeing how well changes in your diet, lifestyle, and supplements are working. 

Note down your meals, exercise, stress levels, how well you sleep, and any signs of indigestion or other symptoms related to menopause.

Benefits: As you collect more data, you might start to notice trends showing which foods, activities, or types of stress worsen your symptoms. This insight allows you to fine-tune your daily habits more precisely. Bowelle offer a free easy to use app to track bowel and indigestion symptoms on the go.

Keeping Up with Healthcare Visits

Menopause impacts many different parts of your health, not just digestion. Having regular visits with your healthcare provider can help catch new issues early and tweak your care plan when necessary.

When to Get Medical Help: If your indigestion symptoms are severe, keep coming back, or get worse even after you’ve made changes, or if you start having new symptoms, it’s crucial to see a healthcare professional.

They can check for other possible health problems and advise on any additional tests or treatments you might need.

Tweaking Your Approach

After reviewing your symptom journal and talking with healthcare professionals, you might need to change what you eat, your supplements, or how you live your day-to-day life.

Refining Your Eating Habits: You may discover that specific foods or the way you eat affects your symptoms more than you first thought. Continually adjusting your eating habits to suit your body’s needs is crucial.

Medication: Your body’s reaction may indicate the need to start or tweak medications such as proton pump inhibitors. This could involve switching to different medications that better suit your needs

Always make such changes under the guidance of a healthcare professional who can provide personalised advice and ensure your safety.

Updating Your Lifestyle Choices: As things change with your body and life, your approaches to managing stress, staying active, and getting enough rest might also need to evolve. Keep an open mind about testing new methods or routines to help your overall well-being.

Integrating a Whole-Person Perspective

Effectively managing indigestion through menopause calls for a whole-person perspective that acknowledges the links among your eating habits, way of life, emotional health, and physical condition. 

It’s crucial to understand that this experience is deeply personal, and strategies that benefit some may not suit you.

Wrapping Up

Menopause is a natural part of life that can bring some changes, including indigestion, that you’ll need to manage carefully. By understanding how menopause affects your digestion.

Making smart changes to what you eat and how you live, using supplements or medications wisely, and always looking for ways to improve, you can deal with these digestive issues and feel better overall. 

Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone. Getting advice from doctors and support from people around you can really help you find the best ways to stay healthy during menopause.

Nichola Williams, MNutr, RD

Nichola is a dedicated specialist in menopause and gut health. As a registered dietitian, she brings both professional expertise and a personal understanding of menopause, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and Histamine Intolerance (HIT) to her practice. Beyond her career, Nichola is a culinary enthusiast with a passion for open water swimming. She loves combining her knowledge with compassion to empower her clients on their journey to improved gut health.

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