Why is gut health so important for menopausal women?
Dr Federica explains
Good gut health is important throughout your life, but it is especially impactful in protecting women’s wellbeing during and after the menopause.
Marked by a range of hormonal changes, the menopause can cause symptoms such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), as well as changes in appetite regulation, heart health, cognition and metabolism.
The close link between gut microbiome diversity and hormone regulation has led to research focusing on what is known as the Estrobolome; the microbial control centre in our gut that regulates estrogen levels in the body. To touch on the science behind it, a healthy Estrobolome secretes β-glucuronidase to metabolize inactive estrogens and phytoestrogens back to available circulating estrogens, which can then act on estrogen receptors all over the body, reducing the symptoms associated with menopause but also with a range of diseases. Still with me?!
After the menopause, women are at a higher risk of obesity, certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease and decreased cognitive function, all of which are associated with an increase in inflammation and changes in the diversity of our gut microbiome. Changing our diet to support gut microbiome diversity effectively improves markers of inflammation and improves estrogen circulation, making it a promising and exciting new approach to improving postmenopausal women’s wellbeing.
What are the best foods to eat to help mitigate the symptoms of menopause?
The best foods to accompany the menopausal transition are those rich in diversity of fibre and polyphenols, which basically means lots of plants. Throughout the perimenopause and menopause, increasing the amount of polyphenol rich berries and dark green vegetables, as well as fibre rich nuts, pulses and seeds you eat can significantly improve all of the symptoms of the menopause and decrease the risk of associated postmenopausal disease.
When compared to diets rich in refined sugars, solid fats and snacks, instead having plenty of fruits and vegetables was directly associated with better physical and cognitive outcomes. Another element to focus on is the introduction of probiotic foods to our everyday diets. From sauerkraut to kefir, miso, sourdough and unsweetened kombucha, there are plenty of foods that can introduce microbial diversity and ensure our microbiome remains dynamic and rich in helpful strains.
With a healthy Estrobolome consuming phytoestrogens found in foods such as soy, flax seeds and pomegranate can increase circulating estrogen levels and thus alleviate menopausal symptoms. This is only possible with the right microbial diversity, so it’s vital to include plenty of diverse plant fibres and enjoy probiotic foods before focusing on phytoestrogen consumption.
Which supplements should I take and why?
The aim is to have 30 different plants per week which provide different types of prebiotic fibre and polyphenols that ensure a healthy, diverse gut microbiome. There is a brilliant supplement that offers a whole plant food fibre boost with over 10 different types of plants and that is Indi Body, which is delicious stirred into some whole natural yogurt or added to a smoothie.
Indi Body contains a selection of beneficial fibres and probiotics to support the variety you can consume each day.