Women transitioning through perimenopause and menopause deal with an array of uncomfortable symptoms. A lesser known symptom is menopause bloating, also known as perimenopause bloat.
While menopause and bloating go hand-in-hand, relief from bloating can be fairly simple to do in a few steps.
What is menopause?
Menopause is when a person has not experienced a menstrual period for twelve months. On average, women enter menopause between 49 and 52 years of age. At this time, the ovaries stop producing estrogen.
On the other hand, perimenopause describes the years leading up to menopause. Women can experience perimenopause at different ages. However, most will begin the transition during their 40’s.
In addition to menopause bloating, common symptoms include:
- hot flashes
- mood swings
- sleeping pattern changes
- vaginal dryness
- weight gain
What causes perimenopause bloating?
Menopause bloat usually begins during the perimenopause phase.
The main reason for perimenopause bloating are changes in hormones. Specifically, women experience a fluctuation in the hormone estrogen, resulting in water retention. As a result, bloating can happen more often.
In addition, perimenopause bloating can be made worse by dietary and lifestyle factors that lead to the accumulation of gas.
The most common reasons for gas-build up are:
- Swallowed air
- GI conditions
When do menopause and bloating stop?
Fortunately, both menopause and bloating are temporary. On average, women enter post menopause after age 51. Additionally, menopause bloating is likely to stop during post menopause once the body stops producing estrogen.
In the meantime, there are quite a few at-home remedies that can provide comforting relief.
6 ways to get rid of menopause bloat
A combination of dietary and lifestyle changes can fix stubborn menopause belly bloat for good.
1. Eat less sodium
Dietary changes can make a big impact on perimenopause bloat. In fact, one of the main culprits behind bloating are high-salt diets.
The body maintains fluid balance by having sodium bind to water. However, when too much salt is consumed, water can be drawn into the digestive tract, causing uncomfortable belly bloat.
Usually, high amounts of salt are found in ultra-processed foods. If you’re experiencing perimenopause bloat, minimize your intake of foods like:
- Canned soup
- Canned meats
- Deli meats
- Frozen meals
- Cheeses (parmesan, blue, feta, cottage)
- Fruit juices
Most people should aim to consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
2. Limit cruciferous vegetables
It may be surprising to learn that some healthy vegetables can cause bloating. Cruciferous vegetables are a class of veggies can cause bloating.
Examples of cruciferous vegetables include:
- Brussel sprouts
These types of vegetables are high in FODMAPs. FODMAPs are a group of short-chain carbs that ferment in the gut. Consequently, they create gas that leads to bloating and other uncomfortable digestive symptoms.
It can be helpful to swap out cruciferous vegetables for more digestion-friendly options. Examples of healthy substitutes for high FODMAPs vegetables include:
- Sweet Potato
On a similar note, onions (which are not cruciferous vegetables), can also lead to bloating. In fact, onions are an underground bulb vegetable. However, they pack a soluble fiber called fructan which can contribute to menopause belly bloat. Low sodium seasonings and fresh herbs make a great swap for onions.
3. Replace fizzy drinks with water
It’s easy to forget that some beverages can also contribute to menopause bloat, especially carbonated drinks.
Carbonated drinks get their bubbles from a gas called carbon dioxide. When this gas is swallowed, it can unfortunately get trapped within the digestive system causing uncomfortable gas, bloat, and at times, cramping.
However, some research suggests that digestive symptoms only occur when drinking at least 300 ml of a carbonated beverage, which is roughly 1¼ cup of fluid.
Examples of carbonated beverages include:
- Seltzer water
- Sparkling wine
The good news is that there are plenty of beverage options available that aren’t carbonated. Of course, water remains to be the healthiest option. Drinking enough water can also help combat other issues like dryness, skin changes, and fatigue – all issues that women can experience in addition to menopause bloat.
Aim to drink 8-12 glasses of water daily.
4. Minimize dairy
For some people, dairy can be a major cause for bloating. This is largely due to the presence of lactose, a milk sugar that can be difficult to break down. In fact, 75% of the world’s population can’t digest lactose.
If you’re sensitive or intolerant to lactose, you may experience bloating after eating foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and butter.
Fortunately, there are a ton of lactose-free alternatives on the market. Usually, dairy-free products are made with milk from almond, soy, oats, coconut, or rice.
5. Exercise daily
In addition to diet, physical activity is also an effective way to help your body release air that’s trapped within the digestive system.
Incorporating a light exercise after eating a main meal is a great place to start. Light exercise can include a slow to moderate paced walk and stretching movements.
Moreover, a study in 94 adults found that as little as a 10–15-minute walk after each meal demonstrated significant improvement in post-meal fullness and bloating symptoms compared to the control group.
A smaller study also confirmed that mild physical activity can help clear intestinal gas and decrease abdominal bloating.
6. Take digestive enzymes
Incorporating digestive enzymes is an easy way to address bloating on the spot. Digestive enzymes help break down the nutrients in the food you eat which can help decrease bloating.
There are three main types of digestive enzymes:
- Amylase: digests starches (or carbs) into smaller sugar molecules
- Lipase: partners with liver bile to digest fat and absorbs fat-soluble vitamins
- Protease: breaks down proteins into its amino acids
To find the right digestive enzyme for you, it’s best to first pinpoint what types of food are causing the perimenopause bloat. Some people may only need one or two types of digestive enzymes while others may benefit from taking a digestive enzyme blend that helps with digesting a wider range of foods.
In addition, digestive enzymes also naturally occur in some foods. The following foods contain digestive enzymes:
Digestive enzyme supplements are usually found in capsule form and are OTC.
When to talk to your doctor about bloating
To a degree, bloating is quite normal. That’s right, even menopause bloat is usually nothing to worry about. In most cases, dietary and lifestyle changes can provide relief from bloating.
However, there are times where digestive discomfort can be a disguise for a more serious condition.
If your menopause bloat or perimenopause bloat is accompanied by any of the following, you should see your doctor:
- Significant, unintentional weight changes
- Decrease in appetite
- Major changes in bowel movements (frequent constipation + diarrhea)
- Bloody stools
- Painful abdomen
Additionally, if bloating and other digestive problems are impacting your quality of life, you consider seeking professional help – especially if at-home remedies aren’t helping.
Women are likely to experience bloating during perimenopause and menopause. For most, menopause bloat is related to hormonal changes and dietary triggers. There are many at-home treatments that can provide near-immediate relief from menopause belly bloat. Fortunately, both menopause and bloating are temporary.
Gaby Vaca-Flores is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Santa Monica, CA. In merging her passions for nutrition and skin, Gaby created Glow+Greens to provide her readers with science-backed education + digestible wellness tips.