Menopause involves a huge hormonal shift that can really heat things up—creating just the right chemical conditions to manifest a number of other discomforts as well. Thankfully though, you don’t just have to sit tight and wait for the misery to pass. Whether you’re dealing with hot flashes, weight gain, unpleasant moods, poor sleep, shedding hair, vaginal or urinary tract issues, or even struggling with your bones and joints, these tips will help you feel like yourself again.
1. Probiotics Are Especially Important During Menopause
Although the link between your gut microbiome and how you experience menopause isn’t obvious at first glance, digestive health actually has a strong effect on how you feel as you go through “the change.” That’s because your gut and brain are constantly communicating through the “gut-brain axis”, a complex neural system connecting your brain with your enteric (digestive) nervous system—and your gut bacteria use this neural pathway to exert a strong influence on which hormones and neurotransmitters your body produces.
The latest research indicates that introducing your microbiome to a variety of friendly flora through a high quality, time-released probiotic like PRO-Women may help ease many menopausal symptoms, including:
• Vaginal and Urinary Tract Issues: During menopause, vaginal probiotic levels decline, which contributes to the unpleasant feelings of dryness, discomfort during intimate moments, and vulnerability to unwanted vaginal and urinary tract bacteria associated with this time of life.1,2 But supplementing with digestive probiotics actually improves the quality of the vaginal microbiome, helping keep the delicate tissues in this area hydrated and healthy—as well as fortifying your defenses against undesirable bacteria and urinary tract troubles.1, 3,4,5
• Weakening Bones: A recent study revealed that ingesting a daily probiotic kept the bones of mice who had their ovaries removed to induce menopause strong and healthy. The control group that didn’t receive probiotics lost half the density in their bones within a single month!6
• Hair Shedding: Aging mice given probiotics experienced improvement in the quality, thickness, and luster of their coats—mimicking that of much younger, fertile animals.7
• Menopausal Middle: Microbial composition and diversity has a huge effect on how easy it is to maintain a healthy weight. As we get older, our numbers of beneficial gut microbes tend to decline, and the pounds accumulate.8 But participants in two separate studies who took probiotics lost more weight and body mass index than a control group that didn’t receive probiotic supplements.9,10
• Poor Mood: Supplementing with probiotics can help improve moods and reduce reactivity.11,12
• Difficulty Sleeping: Probiotics support healthy sleep during menopause by increasing levels of neurotransmitters and hormones that encourage quality sleep, while reducing those that can keep us awake at night.
• Out of Whack Hormones: Dramatic menopausal hormonal changes can have a negative effect on your microbiome, which in turn affects the body’s hormonal activity. Replenishing your microbial community with probiotics works to tame raging hormones during this transition, to help your mind and body find the balance they need.
2. A Gut-Healthy Lifestyle Helps Your Microbiome Do Its Job
A few simple lifestyle tweaks will encourage your probiotic friends to thrive and multiply, so you can sail through this time of transition with minimum discomfort. Gut-friendly eating that emphasizes plant foods (preferably organic) in their natural state—including lots of fresh greens, cruciferous veggies, fruit, and cultured/fermented foods—takes digestive health up more than a few notches.
Certain foods such as apples, onions, and asparagus are considered prebiotics—which are especially important because their fibers contain the perfect nutrition for beneficial flora. Because it can be difficult to get enough prebiotic fiber from diet alone, you may want to add an organic prebiotic powder to your daily routine.
Try to avoid processed foods, sugar, GMOs, artificial additives, pesticides, trans fats, and dairy, meat, and fish that could have added hormones or antibiotics in them, as these harm your probiotic community.13,14 And since spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol may aggravate hot flashes, you may want to go easy on these as well.
Exercise improves gut balance, so you’ll increase microbial diversity by finding ways to move that are enjoyable for you. If hot flashes are an issue, swimming, skiing, and ice skating may provide some refreshing relief. Relaxation boosts digestive health as well, so you may want to reserve some time for meditation, creative visualization, or meditative movements like yoga or Qigong each day. Hopefully you’ll find yourself among the many women who find exercise, meditation, and meditative movements helpful for relieving hot flashes, low moods, and sleep issues.15,16,17
To further encourage restful sleep, which is critical for maintaining a balanced gut, try to maintain a regular bedtime routine that leaves plenty of time for the sleep your body needs. It’s also helpful to keep your bedroom dark and cool—and turn off the TV, cell phone, and computer a few hours before bed, because the blue light these devices emit signals the brain to stay awake. If you really crave screen time right before bed, consider investing in a filter that blocks stimulating blue light.
3. Other Natural Remedies May Help, Too
Although much of the evidence is anecdotal, these additional holistic approaches may also ease your menopause experience:
• Drinking cold water or healthy juices helps keep you hydrated during this sweaty time, and may also help relieve hot flashes and night sweats.
• Applying vitamin E (or a water-based lubricant free of harsh chemicals like Good Clean Love) vaginally may lessen dryness in this area, as well as relieve hot flashes.
• Supplementing with omega 3s may relieve vaginal dryness.
• Black cohosh may bring relief from mild hot flashes and night sweats.
• Flaxseeds may be helpful for hot flashes.
• The plant estrogens that naturally occur in soy may reduce hot flashes and night sweats. If you’re using soy though, it’s best to stick with organic, non-GMO, unprocessed (or minimally processed) soy foods like edamame, tofu, soy milk, or fermented options like natto, miso, and tempeh—while avoiding heavily processed and genetically modified soy foods and supplements.
Optimizing your microbial wellness should go a long way toward keeping you cool and comfortable all through your perimenopausal, menopausal, and postmenopausal years. But it’s important to understand that sometimes, even when you do everything “right,” annoying menopausal symptoms still persist.
When this happens, don’t beat yourself up about it. It helps to keep in mind that menopause isn’t a disease that needs to be fought or feared. Like puberty (which we’ve all weathered), it’s just a natural change that can feel uncomfortable as it ushers in a new stage of life—in this case your wonderful wisdom years—and your most authentic, seasoned self! So if it’s starting to get too hot in the room yet again, relax. And remember that some of the most precious substances on earth are forged in fire.
1. Hummelen, R., Macklaim, J. M., Bisanz, J. E., Hammond, J. A., McMillan, A., Vongsa, R., ... & Reid, G. (2011). Vaginal microbiome and epithelial gene array in post-menopausal women with moderate to severe dryness. PloS One, 6(11), e26602.
2. Brotman, R. M., Shardell, M. D., Gajer, P., Fadrosh, D., Chang, K., Silver, M. I., … Gravitt, P. E. (2014). Association between the vaginal microbiota, menopause status, and signs of vulvovaginal atrophy. Menopause, 21(5), 450-458. doi:10.1097/gme.0b013e3182a4690b
3. Parma, M., Dindelli, M., Caputo, L., Redaelli, A., Quaranta, L., & Candiani, M. (2013). The role of vaginal Lactobacillus Rhamnosus (Normogin®) in preventing bacterial vaginosis in women with history of recurrences, undergoing surgical menopause: a prospective pilot study. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, 17(10), 1399-1403
4. Reid, G., & Burton, J. (2002). Use of Lactobacillus to prevent infection by pathogenic bacteria. Microbes and Infection, 4(3), 319-324. doi:10.1016/s1286-4579(02)01544-7
5. De Llano, D. G., Arroyo, A., Cárdenas, N., Rodríguez, J. M., Moreno-Arribas, M. V., & Bartolomé, B. (2017). Strain-specific inhibition of the adherence of uropathogenic bacteria to bladder cells by probiotic Lactobacillus spp. Pathogens and Disease, 75(4). doi:10.1093/femspd/ftx043
6. Probiotics protected bone density in forced-menopausal mice citation. Jau-Yi Li et al, Sex steroid deficiency–associated bone loss is microbiota dependent and prevented by probiotics, Journal of Clinical Investigation (2016)
7. Tatiana Levkovich, Theofilos Poutahidis, Christopher Smillie, Bernard J. Varian, Yassin M. Ibrahim, Jessica R. Lakritz, Eric J. Alm, and Susan E. Erdman. Probiotic Bacteria Induce a ‘Glow of Health’ PLoS One. 2013; 8(1): e53867. Published online 2013 Jan 16.
8. Ley, R. E., Turnbaugh, P. J., Klein, S., & Gordon, J. I. (2006). Microbial ecology: Human gut microbes associated with obesity. Nature, 444(7122), 1022-1023.
9. Sanchez, M., Darimont, C., Drapeau, V., Emady-Azar, S., Lepage, M., Rezzonico, E., . . . Tremblay, A. (2013). Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. British Journal of Nutrition, 111(08), 1507-1519.
10. Zhang, Q., Wu, Y., & Fei, X. (2016). Effect of probiotics on body weight and body-mass index: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 67(5), 571-580.
11. Akkasheh, G., Kashani-Poor, Z., Tajabadi-Ebrahimi, M., Jafari, P., Akbari, H., Taghizadeh, M., . . . Esmaillzadeh, A. (2016). Clinical and metabolic response to probiotic administration in patients with major depressive disorder: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition, 32(3), 315-320.
12. Wallace, C. J., & Milev, R. (2017). Erratum to: The effects of probiotics on depressive symptoms in humans: a systematic review. Annals of General Psychiatry, 16(1). doi:10.1186/s12991-017-0141-7
13. David, L. A., Maurice, C. F., Carmody, R. N., Gootenberg, D. B., Button, J. E., Wolfe, B. E., . . . Turnbaugh, P. J. (2013). Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. Nature, 505(7484), 559-563.
14. Shehata, A. A., Schrödl, W., Aldin, A. A., Hafez, H. M., & Krüger, M. (2012). The Effect of Glyphosate on Potential Pathogens and Beneficial Members of Poultry Microbiota In Vitro. Current Microbiology, 66(4), 350-358.
15. Avis, N. E., Legault, C., Russell, G., Weaver, K., & Danhauer, S. C. (2014). Pilot study of integral yoga for menopausal hot flashes. Menopause, 21(8), 846-854. doi:10.1097/gme.0000000000000191
16. Innes, K. E., Selfe, T. K., & Vishnu, A. (2010). Mind-body therapies for menopausal symptoms: A systematic review. Maturitas, 66(2), 135-149. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2010.01.016
17. Bailey, T. G., Cable, N. T., Aziz, N., Atkinson, G., Cuthbertson, D. J., Low, D. A., & Jones, H. (2015). Exercise training reduces the acute physiological severity of post-menopausal hot flushes. The Journal of Physiology, 594(3), 657-667. doi:10.1113/jp271456
Roberta Pescow is a writer at Hyperbiotics and proud mom of two amazing and unique young men. Natural wellness is a subject she’s passionate about, so she loves sharing information that helps others discover all the ways probiotics support glowing health and well-being. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.