Menopause, the Gut Microbiome, and the Oestrobolome

Menopause, the Gut Microbiome, and the Oestrobolome

In this blog post, we’ll explore the intricate connection between menopause, gut health, and the microbiome. We’ll explore evidence-based dietary and lifestyle strategies to support digestion, weight, metabolism, sleep, brain health, and disease risk, and reduce symptoms during peri-menopause, and menopause.
Caitlin Hall
by Dr Caitlin Hall (APD, PhD)
Chief Dietitian and Head of Clinical Research

There’s an exciting area of menopause research that’s recently garnered some serious attention. That is, the gut-microbiome-menopause link. Your gut microbiome plays a critical role in regulating your weight, blood sugars, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol, memory, sleep, and bone health. All of these systems are affected during the menopause, and the research suggests that by promoting the health, diversity, and functions of our gut microbes, we can reduce our risk of disease. We also know that gut microbes and sex hormones are intricately linked, and use ‘recycling’ mechanisms to balance hormone levels in the body and reduce the widespread effects of menopause symptoms. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore the intricate connection between menopause, gut health, and the microbiome. We’ll explore evidence-based dietary and lifestyle strategies to support digestion, weight, metabolism, sleep, brain health, and disease risk, and reduce symptoms during perimenopause, and menopause. We’ll get to that in a bit. But first, what is menopause? Let’s remove some of the ambiguity.

The Menopause

In simple words, menopause marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle. But in reality, it's more complex than just that. The ovaries gradually stop producing the key hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, while other hormones like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH) rise up. There's no one-size-fits-all timeline for menopause as factors like genetics and health play a role. Sometimes, menopause can happen earlier than expected due to autoimmune disorders or genetic predispositions.

Menopause and Health

Hormonal shifts during menopause can leave women vulnerable to a range of health issues, like brain, kidney, bone disorders, and even an increased risk of heart disease. Additionally, metabolic disorders like insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and abdominal obesity can also occur. It's not just about hot flushes or night sweats; menopause has a profound effect on a woman's overall health.

The Intriguing Oestrobolome

Enter the 'oestrobolome' - the term used for gut bacteria that can break down oestrogen and recirculate it back into our bloodstream where it can have beneficial effects throughout the body. It's kind of like recycling but in a biological way. This balance between our hormones and gut microbes is quite delicate, and is disrupted when menopause comes into play.

Menopause and the Gut Microbiome

During menopause, our gut microbiome changes. Its diversity decreases and the beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria drop in numbers. Essentially, our gut flora becomes more “masculinised” during menopause. The connection between oestrogen and gut microbiome diversity was highlighted in a study with mice where the postmenopausal mice had reduced microbial diversity, but it increased again when they were administered oestrogen.

The Inflammation Connection

Post-menopausal women often experience increased inflammation, which is linked to lower bone density and a higher cardiovascular disease risk. Gut microbes also have a role to play here. They break down plant-based oestrogen-like compounds found in foods like soy, known as phytoestrogens. These phytoestrogens can induce changes in bacteria that play roles in inflammatory diseases, showing a bidirectional relationship between oestrogen and the microbiome. Postmenopausal women also have less abundance of butyrate-producing bacteria, which is a substance that has important anti-inflammatory effects. 

Menopause and Its Impact on Gut Health

The shift in gut health due to menopause can affect women in many ways, from digestive issues to weight gain and heightened inflammation. Moreover, these gut changes can enhance menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings and increase the risk of long-term health issues.

Keeping the Gut Healthy

Now, let's shift gears and talk about how to help our gut during this transition. Primarily, a diet rich in plants can be very beneficial. Consuming prebiotic fibres feeds your beneficial gut microbes, helping to reduce inflammation and manage symptoms. Plant-based oestrogen-like compounds, or phytoestrogens, found in foods like soy, can promote the growth of specific bacteria, making them particularly beneficial for postmenopausal women.

In conclusion, menopause is a complex process that affects every aspect of a woman's health, including the gut microbiome. By focusing on gut health and adopting a plant-rich diet, women can navigate the menopausal transition with greater ease and well-being. Remember, every woman's menopause journey is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. 


Take back control of your menopause journey

While you may feel overwhelmed and out of control, there are ways you can support and manage your peri-menopause and menopause transition. myota's prebiotic fibre blends are an easy way to improve digestion, support metabolic health, and reduce your risk of long-term chronic disease.  Learn more here.