Jenny's Story: Understanding the gut-menopause link
When Jenny hit 52, menopause burst into her life like an unwelcome party guest. The brochures warned her about the hot flashes and mood swings. But what she wasn’t expecting was the sudden rebellion from her once ironclad gut.
Jenny always had what she describes as a bulletproof gut. Spicy Indian curries. Greasy pizza. Decadent cheese fondue. Her gut had been a faithful comrade. But now, she found herself at war. Reflux one day. Painful cramps and diarrhoea the next. Where her bowel movements were once like clockwork, they were now irregular, painful, and hard to pass. For a woman who thrived on routine, this was maddeningly unpredictable. Jenny also noticed that she was gaining weight around her belly, and her blood sugars were now in the pre-diabetes range. Despite following her doctor’s advice to reduce calories and swap to zero-sugar, low-carb alternatives, she’d never felt worse.
Jenny's story is not uncommon. Many women entering menopause experience quite dramatic shifts in their gut health, which are largely related to the changes in ovarian hormone production of oestrogen and progesterone.
What's the link between menopause and gut health?
Firstly, the fluctuating levels of oestrogen and progesterone levels during peri-menopause affect how our digestive system operates. This is because oestrogen receptors are located in the stomach and intestine. Changes in hormone levels can influence the muscle contractions along the gut, which potentially slows the transit of food through the body. A slower transit time can lead to constipation, bloating, cramping, and wind.
Secondly, as ovarian hormone production ceases, the gut microbiome is no longer receiving its usual supply of oestrogen and progesterone, and the delicate balance is disrupted. This disruption leads to dramatic shifts in microbiome composition and diversity in postmenopausal women, something not observed in age-matched premenopausal women. Before menopause, a female microbiome is more diverse than males, with a higher abundance of beneficial bacteria, like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. But during perimenopause and menopause, our microbiome diversity reduces and becomes more “masculinised”. Scientists have studied this pattern by removing the ovaries in mice, stimulating menopause. When this happens, the ‘postmenopausal’ mice have reduced microbial diversity which could be reversed when they were administered with oestrogen. This clearly shows a direct link between oestrogen levels and microbiome diversity.
We also know that there are changes in the functions of the gut microbiome too. Remember SCFAs? Postmenopausal women now have fewer bacteria that are capable of producing SCFAs like butyrate and propionate. SCFAs play a critical role in reducing inflammation, controlling metabolic activity, and interacting with the gut-brain axis.
How Jenny supported her gut health during the menopause transition
When Jenny first discovered the link between gut health and menopause symptoms, she describes it as a "lightbulb" moment.
"The female gut is shaped by our gut microbes, which have effects throughout the whole body." Jenny says. "It's crazy to me that GPs and specialists are not informing women about the role of nutrition and gut health on their symptoms. We should be shouting it from the rooftop!"
Jenny started by building the number, diversity and colour of plants in her diet, eventually building up to 30 different plants each week. She then built in healthy fats and protein. She was skeptical when she read about the benefits of 'fermented' foods, and wasn't keen on consuming vegetables that smelt like they'd been left out in the sun for too long. But if it were good enough for her microbes, it was good enough for her.
One of the most important changes Jenny made to her diet was included a scoop of myota, a diverse prebiotic fibre supplement.
"I know that prebiotic fibre is really difficult to get through food alone. I would have to eat the equivalent of 20 garlic cloves a day! Getting 100% of my prebiotic needs in a single scoop is my insurance policy for when life gets a bit busy."
Over a six month period, Jenny began to take control of her gut symptoms. There were bad days, but the good ones started to outweigh them. Most importantly, Jenny was sleeping better, had more energy, and was back in the normal range for blood sugars.
"If there's one thing I was to share with other women experiencing menopause symptoms or are considering HRT is to start with their gut."
How myota is helping hundreds of menopausal women
When you consume myota's prebiotic fibre blends, it’s not food for you. It’s primarily food for your beneficial gut bacteria. When these gut bacteria break down (or ferment) prebiotic fibres, they produce anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) including butyrate. Butyrate has been associated with reduced inflammation, a healthy gut lining, reduced menopause symptoms, and improved metabolic risk factors like blood sugar and cholesterol in menopausal women. Join Jenny and be the driver in your menopause journey.