Two-thirds of menopausal women report they experience increased flatulence, according to MenopauseRx.com. Menopause--when a woman's estrogen levels decline--could be the cause. It might also be due to the aging digestive system that produces more gas for many middle-aged people of both genders. Another cause could be changes in diet. Regardless, it’s uncomfortable, embarrassing and annoying. And something can be done about it.
What Is Gas?
Building up and passing gas is part of life at any stage. The body sheds gas by burping it through the mouth or releasing it through the rectum. A person--menopausal or not--may require 14 efforts to pass 1 to 3 pints of gas daily. The odor of intestinal gas is attributed to its combination of hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and occasionally methane. Bacteria in the large intestine breaks down food substances into gas and adds the distinctive odor. That odor is no cause for health concern.
Is Menopause Really the Cause?
While many health care professionals conjecture that increased flatulence may be related to menopause, it may not be a physiological result of reduced estrogen. Doctors report their patients are changing their diets to aid their transition into menopause and the foods they are eating are ones that produce increased gas and bloating. According to a survey cited by the North American Menopause Society, 70 percent of women in menopause have made nutritional changes to fight menopausal symptoms like bone loss. Diets recommended to keep bones strong after menopause--low in saturated fats, and high in fiber and soy--actually contribute to the production of gas. And, women who attempt to increase their calcium intake with milk may have some intolerance to lactose, which can also add to the production of gas.
What Foods Cause Gas?
It’s more difficult for the body to absorb some fibers, sugars and starches, so the large intestine breaks those down into the gases that result in flatulence and/or bloating. Gas-causing foods include vegetables like beets, broccoli and Brussels sprouts; legumes like black-eyed peas, lentils and a variety of beans; grains; cereals; nuts; and carbonated beverages like soda pop and beer. Rice is the only starch that doesn’t cause gas.
There Is Relief
Products sold over the counter to reduce gas can be effective against flatulence. So can products that help you digest lactose. Additionally, chewing your food longer allows saliva enzymes to break food down before it heads for the digestive tract. That reduces gas production. Eating slowly is another deterrent, since it reduces the intake of air, another contributor to flatulence.
Don't Ignore Possibility of Medical Conditions
Although increased flatulence is common in menopause, it occasionally can indicate a medical condition that requires treatment. Possibilities include: appendicitis, gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome and stomach ulcers. So consult with your doctor before you attribute increased flatulence to middle age--or to menopause.