Menopause is a part of life that all women eventually experience. Although many are happy to be free of menstrual periods, menopause brings other symptoms that are difficult to manage. Women might see an increase in bowel changes, causing discomfort and embarrassment. Although bowel changes are common for menopausal women, maintaining healthy habits is part of managing unpleasant symptoms.
Menopause occurs for a woman as she ages and the amount of estrogen in her body declines, causing the eventual cessation of menstrual periods. Menstrual cycles might be irregular for months or even years before menopause is complete. The hormonal changes associated with menopause can also cause other, uncomfortable symptoms such as thinning hair, hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Bowel changes are a frequent complaint for many women going through menopause.
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The large intestine, also called the bowel, serves several functions. After digestion of food and absorption of nutrients in the stomach and small intestine, the remains move into the large intestine, where they are converted into stool for elimination. As the waste moves through the bowel, vitamins and water are absorbed before passing from the body.
Constipation can be caused by hormone changes that take place during menopause. Many women who suffer from other menopausal symptoms might eat to reduce stress, and unhealthy food choices can also lead to constipation. Some medications prescribed for the symptoms of menopause, such as vitamin supplements or sleep aids, might have constipation as a side effect. According to Menopause Insight, constipation is associated with having less than three stools per week, the presence of hard stools and straining or difficulty while having a bowel movement.
Some women complain of increased discomfort associated with gas pain and flatulence. Gas occurs as a result of food breakdown during the digestive process. Some foods produce more gas than others, such as broccoli, beans and cabbage. Some women going through menopause try to eat a healthful diet to feel better and increase a daily amount of fruits and vegetables, causing gas and discomfort. A decrease in hormones during menopause is also connected with increased gas, bloating and flatulence.
Prevention of symptoms associated with bowel changes during menopause includes maintaining a healthful diet that is high in fiber, exercising regularly and drinking plenty of water. Drinking eight to 10 glasses of water daily supports bowel function and reduces constipation. Women who suffer from excess bloating also might use over-the-counter medications that eliminate gas.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.