As a key area of discussion in store, the menopause can have a huge impact on both physical and mental wellbeing. With October being Menopause Awareness month, we are hosting talks with industry experts and offering menopause check-ins with our Nutritional Therapists. Whatever stage you are at, you will find some useful advice and guidance in our Female Health articles.
Kate has been exploring the fascinating research into the link between digestive health and peri-menopause through to menopause and beyond.
Probiotics and menopause
We have spoken about various supplements that can be helpful in menopause but one we have not focused on to date is the potential benefits of taking live bacteria to support during peri and post menopause. ADM Protexin Bio-Kult, who produce supplements of live bacteria have gathered together numerous studies that indicate the potential benefits that women at menopause may have from taking a live bacteria supplement and it makes for fascinating reading.
Menopause, Microbiome & Oestrogen
As we are aware, menopause is a natural stage in a woman’s life when she stops having periods for at least 12 months. Perimenopause is the period leading up to the end of the menstrual cycle. Women can experience a range of symptoms during this phase from hot flushes, anxiety, brain fog, sleep issues and fatigue to name but a few.
The microbiome is a collection of different microbes and their function. The gut microbiome is made up of between 50-100 trillion gut micro organisms. Everyone is unique and therefore will have a different mix of organisms.
The key role of the microbiome is to support immunity, metabolism, the nervous system alongside many other functions.
The role of oestrogen as a steroid hormone is not only involved in the development and maintenance of reproductive tissue but also having many other benefits for brain, skeletal and bone health. Too high or too low levels of oestrogen have been linked to chronic and acute diseases. A drop in oestrogen is normal at menopause however if gut dysbiosis (an imbalance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria) is also present it may exacerbate the low oestrogen state and increase the risk of chronic disease. A reduction in diversity of gut bacteria may lead to a decrease in oestrogen metabolising bacteria.
In post menopausal women the risk of obesity, CVD and osteoporosis is increased and a high level of gut dysbiosis is also observed in these conditions.
There may, therefore, be potential benefits for women going through the menopause from having a diverse range of live bacteria in the gut for various aspects of their menopausal health.
Gut and bone health
Modulation of the gut microbiome has shown promise for various aspects of metabolic health and bone health in menopause. For example:-
- Vitamin D is key for bone health and immunity and we are advised to take a vitamin D supplement in winter as we will not get enough from the natural source, the sun. Studies show that gut microbiome has been shown to influence blood levels of vitamin D.
- Vitamin K2 is also key for bone health especially in post menopausal women. Having a healthy diverse gut flora should encourage the natural synthesis of Vitamin K2 in the gut.
Gut and weight gain
Oestrogen is important in maintaining blood sugar levels and low oestrogen can lead to metabolic changes in the body.
In human studies, modulation of the microbiome has been shown to support digestive health, ensuring foods and broken down, digested and absorbed to allow for maximum nutrient benefit, decrease in BMI, decrease in waist and hip circumferences and decrease in fat tissue.
You may well have heard in the press recently or from us in store about the connection between the gut and brain. Approximately 80% of signals within the vagus nerve are sent from the gut to the brain. Gut/ brain interactions are influenced by the gut microbiome.
Unfortunately during the menopause it has been found that up to 20% of women can experience depression likely due to fluctuating and declining oestrogen levels which act in the central nervous system. There is promising evidence for the modulation of the microbiome to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and low mood.
Not only might microbiome be able to influence mood but also cognitive function as research is showing promising results after taking live bacteria.
A recent month long trial of 70 participants run by Oxford University looked at how gut health impacts our brain and mood. In a double blind trial with half the group taking a placebo and half taking a live bacteria, results showed a 50% improvement in mood in those taking the live bacteria.
Gut and vaginal health
Vaginal health issues from cystitis, thrush and bacterial vaginosis can increase in post menopausal women. This is because decreased oestrogen secretion depletes vaginal lactobacillus (good bacteria) which increases our pH in the vaginal area, this in turn allows increased vaginal colonisation by harmful microorganisms. Microflora modulation may positively influence vaginal pH and hence less likely to be susceptible to poor vaginal health.
So in summary, taking a live bacteria supplement may well offer additional support during the menopause. This is not just from the role they play in ensuring you digest and absorb the nutrients from your food and immunity, but further potential to support bone health, mood, cognitive function, a healthy weight and healthy vaginal health.
As nutritional therapists we were taught of the importance of gut health and these emerging studies – to me – reinforce this.
Book your FREE advice check-in with registered Nutritional Therapist Alison to talk gut health or menopause today using the form below, or call us on 01737 223499.
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