As your hormones start to shift during your perimenopause years, digestive issues can become quite common. These include gas, bloating and a change to your bowel movements. And when you reach your post menopause years, you may find that you are not absorbing nutrients as well as you used to.
And this is not good news!
Many women experience digestive issues for the first time during the perimenopause when their hormones start to become unbalanced. And this is because efficient digestion needs hormonal harmony.
There are many reasons for this: When oestrogen levels are low, cortisol can increase. This can reduce the release of stomach acid which is required to breakdown food. In addition, if cortisol levels are high and left unchecked, they can switch off the digestive function. “Rest and Digest” is not a priority when the body is in “fight and flight” mode.
And of course, as part of the natural ageing process, certain digestive processes will start to slow down
But you do want your digestion to be working well so that you can absorb all the nutrients you need to support you, your hormones and your overall health.
For your digestion to be working well, there are a few things that need to happen:
- You need to produce enough acid to break down your food properly
- Your digestive tract must be able to contract properly to move the food along
- The gut wall needs to be in good shape so that you can absorb all the nutrients your body needs and stop any nasties seeping through and causing inflammation.
- And your friendly bacteria need to be healthy and in abundance so that they can keep your immune system strong and support the work that your hormones do.
If you are one of many women who are experiencing digestive issues, there are lots of things you can do to optimise your digestion naturally.
Here are my top recommendations:
Before you start a meal, relax and breathe. The body needs to be in a relaxed, parasympathetic (rest and digest) state to properly digest food. In this state, heart rate and breathing slow down and blood is allowed to shift to the digestive process.
Take a few long, deep breaths before eating.
Look, Smell, Taste.
The “cephalic” phase of digestion begins with the brain seeing, smelling and anticipating food. This stimulates a number of digestive activities as the body begins to prepare for the breaking down and absorption of nutrients. Salivation is activated and stomach acid starts to be released.
Digestion starts in the mouth. Chewing produces saliva which contains enzymes to start breaking down some of the carbohydrates and fats in food – the longer you chew, the more saliva is made.
Without saliva and mechanical breakdown of food by your teeth, undigested carbohydrates may end up in the colon where they can negatively impact the gut microbiome.
Stimulate stomach acid.
Stomach acid (HCL) breaks down protein, is a first line of defence against pathogens and stimulates digestion further along the digestive system (small and large intestines).
Naturally stimulate HCL with bitter foods. Half an hour before a meal, drink the juice of ½ lemon in a small glass of water. Or precede larger meals with a salad of bitter leaves (rocket, kale, watercress, spinach) with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Fermented foods contain digestive enzymes and beneficial bacteria to support a healthy gut microbiome. These include foods such as kefir, kombucha, unsweetened live yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut and kimchi.
Papaya contains Papin which helps to digest protein and Lipase which helps to digest fats.
Pineapple contains Bromelain which helps digest protein.
Ginger contains Zingibain and has been shown to help movement of food through the gut.
Zinc (shellfish, lean red meat, pumpkin seeds) is important for the production of stomach acid.
Peppermint and Fennel teas are traditional digestive aids.
Avocados contain lipase which is needed to breakdown fats
Bananas are a good source of amylase and maltase which break down carbs. And if you eat them on the green side, they are a great source of prebiotic fibre which provides food for the friendly bacteria in the gut.
By implementing these simple measures, you will improve your ability to digest food and absorb nutrients. And this is so important during your peri and menopause years as during this time your nutrient needs will go up.
If you would like to find out more ways to support your menopause transition naturally, so get in touch. I would love to help.
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