Microbiome and menopause

The microbiome, the diverse community of microorganisms living in the gut, plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health, including immune function, digestion, metabolism, and weight. Emerging research suggests that menopause can have a significant impact on the composition and function of the gut microbiome and gut microbes may exert reciprocal impact on hormone regulation.

The “Estrobolome” is a collection of specific bacteria within the wider gut microbiome that is important for the regulation and modulation of circulating oestrogen and thus changes in this specific group of microbes have the potential to have a significant impact on our hormone health.

Fluctuations in hormone levels during perimenopause and persistently low levels in menopause can alter the gut environment, leading to changes in microbial diversity and composition. These changes may contribute to symptoms commonly associated with menopause, such as weight gain, mood swings, and gastrointestinal issues.

Also, did you know that 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut and a subset of microbes are involved in this process as well as the production of other important neurotransmitters that help regulate the nervous system. As such, our gut health (and thus the food we eat) has a very direct effect on our emotional, mental and cognitive health. And maybe there is more to our “gut instincts” than we realise.

Studies have also observed that disruptions in the gut microbiome being linked to an increased risk of certain health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and metabolic disorders, which are more prevalent during and after menopause.

Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome during menopause can be achieved through dietary and lifestyle interventions. Consuming a diet rich in fibre, prebiotics, and probiotics can promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Alcohol, refined sugars, and ultra-processed foods are known to disrupt the microbial balance so avoiding these as much as possible is likely to be key to supporting good gut heath. As can regular exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep.

By nurturing a healthy gut microbiome, women can potentially mitigate menopausal symptoms and reduce their risk of developing associated health conditions, ultimately promoting overall well-being during this transitional phase of life. However, gut health is important irrespective of age or gender so get the whole family involved in the nurturing process.