Taking Care of Your Microbiota Helps to Improve Menopausal Symptoms
In recent years, there’s been a growing body of research linking microbiota balance with an improvement in menopausal symptoms. It has been observed that this set of intestinal bacteria interferes with the activity of sex hormones. In fact, their balance seems to bring additional benefits.
It should be remembered that menopause is a biological process in which a woman’s menstrual cycles permanently cease. Although it is part of the aging process, it brings with it a series of symptoms that often affect the quality of life. But why does taking care of the microbiota help to control it? Find out in this article!
The symptoms of menopause
Menopause brings with it a series of clinical manifestations that are uncomfortable for women. Some of the most common symptoms are the following:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Changes in sleep patterns
It’s estimated that women spend about one-third of their lives in menopause, which occurs at about age 50. In the transition to this stage, hormonal changes often increase the risk of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.
In addition, many of these diseases appear between 10 and 15 years after menopause, as is the case of being overweight, diabetes, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, dementia, among others.
For all these reasons, the arrival of this new cycle is an important time to adopt strategies that help to take care of health. Among this, habits that help to maintain a healthy microbiota play a very important role.
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Keeping microbiota healthy helps improve menopausal symptoms
The role of the microbiota in health has been a subject of scientific research for several decades. Thus, in recent years, studies have been developed that associate its activity with the symptoms that appear both in premenopause and in menopause and postmenopause.
The microbiota is a collection of trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microbes. Specifically, the gut microbiota is the largest and most diverse population of microorganisms in the human body. It plays an important role in digestion, immune health, and overall health.
It has been observed that, over time, this group of microorganisms undergoes changes, mediated by habits, lifestyle, hormonal changes, and even disease.
Women who manage to maintain a diverse gut microbiota tend to experience fewer symptoms at menopause. This even appears to reduce the risk of disease when they reach this stage.
Relationship between microbiota and female sex hormones
A study shared via the International Journal of Women’s Health explains the influence of female sex hormone levels on the composition of the microbiota. According to the publication, the hormonal fluctuations that occur during menopause are linked to a lower diversity of the intestinal microbiome.
Given the intimate contact that the microbiota has with the immune system, the alterations that occur during menopause are a risk factor for several diseases, including metabolic, immune, and cardiovascular diseases.
However, the researchers observed that this is a bidirectional relationship. What does this mean? Well, the gut microbiota is also involved in regulating the levels of free circulating hormones.
In other words, taking care of the microbiota and promoting the balance of microorganisms that compose it is very beneficial for minimizing the impact of the decrease in hormones such as estrogen.
In particular, it has been determined that the strobolome – a set of bacterial genes belonging to the microbiota – is involved in estrogen regulation.
Promoting estrogen balance is not only positive in reducing the risk of chronic diseases in menopause and postmenopause. It also promotes the reduction of common symptoms such as vaginal dryness, mood swings, hot flashes, and night sweats.
The vaginal microbiota is also important
The vaginal microbiota is the community of microorganisms that live in the vagina. A study reported in Nature Microbiology highlights the importance of promoting its balance to mitigate some of the symptoms of menopause.
specifies that the restoration of bacteria such as lactobacilli is not only key to reducing vaginal dryness and other vaginal discomfort, but also plays a protective role in the urinary tract. Thus, it reduces the risk of dysuria and recurrent urinary tract infections, which are often common among postmenopausal women.
To date, research on the microbiota and its relationship to symptoms and health complications in menopause is still ongoing. However, the findings observed so far suggest that restoration of this bacterial population may be a useful approach to improve women’s quality of life before, during, and after menopause.
How to promote microbiota balance to improve menopausal symptoms
While many factors can trigger an imbalance of the microorganisms that make up the microbiota, there are also some habits that help keep it healthy. In this sense, a review shared through the magazine Nutrients exposes that diet and stress control are determinants.
To a lesser extent, but no less important, exercising and avoiding bad habits, such as the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, can also help. To be more precise, some recommendations are the following:
- Increase the consumption of probiotics. These are live microorganisms that can confer health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. They can be found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, among others, as well as in supplements.
- Increase the intake of prebiotics. These are non-digestible fibers that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine. They can be found in foods such as bananas, whole grains, bananas, green leafy vegetables, onions, garlic, soybeans, and artichokes.
- Consume more plant-based proteins. These promote the growth of bacterial species such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, while neutralizing the growth of pathogenic bacteria. The best known example is soy protein.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Since stress is one of the main factors associated with the alteration of the microbiota, it is convenient to practice techniques such as meditation, yoga, massage, and breathing exercises, among other relaxation methods.
Certain supplements may be complementary
Symbiotics contain complementary probiotics and prebiotic ingredients that interact to provide a synergistic effect toward maintaining a desirable microbial population in the gut.
Nutraceuticals are natural food components (such as isoflavones and phytoestrogens) that can be released during digestion and therefore may also help.
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Hormone replacement therapy is not the only alternative in menopause
For decades, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been the mainstay in addressing menopausal symptoms. In fact, it’s considered the most effective treatment. But because of concerns about its potential side effects, other strategies have been developed to improve women’s health at this stage.
As it is, the results of several studies suggest that adopting strategies to maintain a healthy microbiota can help. The gut microbiome, with its ability to regulate estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones, may play a key role during menopause and postmenopause.
With these findings, a lifestyle that helps promote the growth of these healthy bacteria is recommended. Intake of probiotics and prebiotics, as well as proper stress management, are key to achieving this.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Baker, J. R., Al-Nakkash, L., & Herbst-Kralovetz, M. M. (2017). Estrogen–gut microbiome axis: Physiological and clinical implications. Maturitas, 103, 45-53. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28778332/
- Estrogen: Hormone, Function, Levels & Imbalances. (s. f.). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22353-estrogen#:~:text=With%20menopause%2C%20your%20estrogen%20levels,estrone%20(E1)%20during%20menopause.
- Łaniewski, P., & Herbst-Kralovetz, M. M. (2022). Connecting microbiome and menopause for healthy ageing. Nature microbiology, 7(3), 354-358. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9977513/
- Leite, G., Barlow, G. M., Parodi, G., Pimentel, M., Chang, C., Hosseini, A., Wang, J., & Mathur, R. (2022). Duodenal microbiome changes in postmenopausal women: effects of hormone therapy and implications for cardiovascular risk. Menopause, 29(3), 264-275. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8862775/
- Peters, B. A., Lin, J., Qi, Q., Usyk, M., Isasi, C. R., Evenson, K. R., Derby, C. A., Santoro, N., Perreira, K. M., Daviglus, M. L., Kominiarek, M. A., Cai, J., Knight, R., Burk, R. D., & Kaplan, R. C. (2022). Menopause Is Associated with an Altered Gut Microbiome and Estrobolome, with Implications for Adverse Cardiometabolic Risk in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos. MSystems, 7(3). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9239235/
- Schreurs, M. P. H., De Vos Van Steenwijk, P. J., Romano, A., Dieleman, S., & Werner, H. M. (2021). How the Gut Microbiome Links to Menopause and Obesity, with Possible Implications for Endometrial Cancer Development. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 10(13), 2916. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8268108/