The menopausal process carries with it a range of hormonal changes that cause a slew of symptoms – over 30 of them in total.
Most women are inherently curious to learn about strategies to control, treat, or reduce some of the most painful symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes, weight gain, leg discomfort, and vaginal atrophy.
Understanding how probiotics help menopause symptoms is your first step to taking control of this challenging time of your life. While they are not a cure, they can go a long way to easing your discomfort and providing some quality of life that you deserve.
There are a variety of lifestyle modifications that can be made to help. Diet being one of the most important factors to change in order to manage this process.
Nutritionists and menopause experts are increasingly interested in probiotics, which are ‘friendly’ live microbes that provide many health benefits which can affect a woman during menopause.
The combination and severity of menopause symptoms will be unique to each woman and can typically include some of the following:
- metrorrhagia (irregular periods)
- menorrhagia (heavy periods or floods)
- hot flashes/flushes
- night sweats/chills
- loss of bone density
- xerostomia (dry mouth)
- weight gain/bloating,
- loss of libido
- low mood
These symptoms may persist beyond menopause in some women, and they may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
- genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM)
- vulvo-vaginal atrophy (VVA)
- vaginal dryness, genital irritation
- urination frequency and burning
- recurrent urinary tract infections
Although many women do not require additional assistance, doctors may prescribe a number of prescription drugs to deal with severe symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a common medication that can help with decreased libido, hot flushes, and sweats, as well as supporting bone health.
HRT, on the other hand, can have negative effects and is not suitable for all women; for example, some women may experience an increased risk of blood clots and breast cancer1.
Menopause and your microbiome
Everyone has a microbiome, which is a term for the collective population of microorganisms that live inside our bodies. These bacterial, yeast, virus, and fungal colonies are considered organs in and of themselves.
The human microbiome is made up of around 10 trillion microbial cells that live mostly in the gut, mouth, and vaginal area for women. A population of these microorganisms is known as a microbiome.
It’s no longer a mystery that having a healthy microbiome is essential for optimal health. The composition of our microbiota, particularly in our gut, has a significant impact on our overall health as well as the development and treatment of a variety of diseases. There is a wealth of evidence demonstrating the importance of a healthy microbiome.
Oestrogen levels and your microbiome
It’s worth noting that menopause and the microbiome are thought to be intertwined. Our gut microbiome is known to influence oestrogen levels, a critical hormone whose synthesis decreases after menopause.
According to studies, this female sex hormone has an impact on the bacteria in the gut. The link between the gut microbiota and oestrogen is reconstructed when there is a deficit of oestrogen.
As a result, there’s a growing notion that taking care of our microbiome becomes even more important as we approach menopause and beyond. Probiotics are an important tool for keeping these populations of microbes healthy and balanced.
Certain strains of probiotics have been shown to improve human health; these “good” living bacteria improve the composition of our microbiome. What proof does there exist that they may help with menopausal symptoms?
Oestrogen levels are currently thought to govern and affect the composition of the oral, vaginal, and gut microbiota. The relationship between the gut microbiota and a lack of oestrogen may be responsible for certain symptoms associated with menopause, such as:
- dry mouth
- vaginal dryness
- weight gain
- decline in bone health
All these populations of microorganisms are implicated in multiple physiological functions, such as:
- bone homeostasis
- immune function
The importance of our natural microbiomes for good health has been well-established in recent years, but the link between the microbiota and oestrogen suggests that when oestrogen levels drop, it may be even more vital for women to maintain these bacterial populations.
One strategy to achieve this is to consume a variety of fermented foods, such as kimchi, yoghurts, kombucha, and sauerkraut.
Natural plant foods, such as beans, pulses, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, are especially beneficial for women to eat because they contain phytoestrogens, which may aid with hormone balance and bone health, as well as prebiotics, which serve to feed and sustain bacteria in the gut. The gut microbiome is home to the most microorganisms in the body, and it can influence the health and composition of other bacteria populations.
What role do probiotics play in menopause symptoms?
Although research into the impact of probiotics and their specific mechanism in enhancing human health is still underway, there is a growing body of evidence that they can help women suffering from menopause symptoms.
Can probiotics assist with osteoporosis during menopause?
Around half of all women over 50 will break a bone as a result of osteoporosis, which becomes more vulnerable during menopause due to a lack of oestrogen. It’s one of the most annoying and common disorders linked with this stage of a woman’s life, and it can have a significant impact on her quality of life; research suggests that menopause accelerates bone loss by 2–5% per year.
Surprisingly, the gut microbiota has been linked to bone health, with Lactobacillus probiotics being proven to help alleviate symptoms.
Vertebral fractures have been linked to osteoporosis during menopause. Supplementation with a blend of three Lactobacillus strains significantly prevented healthy menopausal women from lumbar spine bone loss in one trial.
Another study found that supplementing with Lactobacillus helveticus fermented milk probiotic enhanced calcium levels and reduced bone reabsorption in postmenopausal women.
Lactobacillus strains were found to boost lumbar bone mineral density in a study of probiotic supplements and bone health in menopausal women. ‘A suitable supplement of probiotics could be recommended to promote bone condition in postmenopausal women,’ the authors stated.
Can probiotics aid weight loss during menopause?
Trying to maintain your weight during menopause can be difficult.
Postmenopausal women are more likely than premenopausal women to have higher overall fat levels and lower lean mass. Obesity affects more than six out of ten postmenopausal women and is linked to metabolic dysfunction, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
In addition to keeping a close eye on our food and getting into a regular exercise programme, the microbiome has lately been identified as a factor in menopause weight management.
The relationship between the gut microbiota and a lack of oestrogen is likely responsible for weight increase and fat deposition after menopause,’ according to researchers.
Although the exact nature of this association is unknown, many studies have suggested that the Lactobacillus family of bacteria can help women lose weight after menopause.
Over the course of six weeks, women who ingested yoghurt containing the probiotics Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus amylovorus reported a 3–4% reduction in body fat.
Probiotic strains that help menopause weight loss
Lactobacillus rhamnosus, another probiotic from the same family, helped women lose 50% more weight than those who took a placebo pill.
Lactobacillus gasseri, a probiotic strain, was found to have an 8.5 percent influence on weight loss in some persons in a randomised double-blind research, albeit the study’s focus was not entirely on menopausal women. Fermented foods contain this probiotic.
Certain strains of probiotics are thought to lower systemic inflammation, defending against obesity and other disorders, by increasing the health of your gut lining. Probiotics may also help you lose weight and lower your body fat percentage, according to a new analysis of well-designed research
Probiotics have also been linked to a reduction in the negative effects of weight gain. Immunological difficulties are a major side effect of menopausal weight gain, and B. lactis is a probiotic strain that has been demonstrated to support appropriate immune system function.
Can probiotics assist with hot flashes and nocturnal sweats during menopause?
Hot flushes and night sweats are perhaps the defining symptoms of menopause, with almost three-quarters of women reporting them.
While hormone replacement medication is the standard treatment for these vasomotor symptoms, there is some evidence that probiotics, particularly Lactobacillus strains, can help to alleviate symptoms by promoting a healthy microbiome.
Supplementing with Lactobacillus acidophilus relieved menopause symptoms and ‘enhanced quality of life’ in one trial of women aged 40 to 60. The investigators also discovered that this strain assisted women with fatigue, vaginal dryness, and anxiousness, all of which are classic menopause symptoms.
In another study, probiotics were found to be ‘effective’ in lowering reported menopausal vasomotor symptoms when combined with red clover extract.
Can probiotics help with poor mood during menopause?
The vagus nerve, which is the longest in the body, connects the intestines and the brain. The gut-brain axis is the name given to the link between the two.
The gut, which produces neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, has even been dubbed the “second brain.” In fact, the intestine produces 95 percent of serotonin, a vital hormone that regulates our mood and contributes to our sense of well-being.
Of course, it’s a two-way street: whenever you’re apprehensive or tense, you’ll feel it in your belly!
Many women in their forties and fifties can now attest to persistent mood swings. There is a lot of evidence that establishing a good balance of bacteria in our stomach helps to relieve symptoms of low mood, sadness, and anxiety by facilitating positive communications between our gut and our brain.
‘All indicated considerable improvements’ compared to no treatment or placebo, according to a comprehensive evaluation of known studies on probiotics, anxiety, and depression.
One large study found that consuming a probiotic mixture including Lactobacillus bacteria for six weeks enhanced mood and sleep quality while also lowering anger and exhaustion. The authors concluded that ‘probiotics treatment may improve psychological well-being by ameliorating aspects of mood and sleep quality’ based on their findings.
Another study found ‘compelling’ evidence for probiotics relieving depression symptoms, notably in Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains, but advocated for more research.
Although there is little research specifically focused on mood swings in menopausal women, the improvement of these symptoms in several clinical studies may be of relevance.
Certain strains of probiotic bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium longum Rosell-175 and Lactobacillus acidophilus/helveticus Rosell-52, have been shown to improve a low mood.
Can probiotics aid in the treatment of vaginal atrophy and dryness?
As you approach menopause it is common for your vagina to become drier.
Estrogen levels are directly linked to the health of vaginal tissues, and when these levels decline throughout perimenopause and later menopause, the tissues of the vagina become less protected and ‘fed.’ Vaginal dryness and vulvovaginal atrophy are common side effects. Is this, however, caused by a decline in oestrogen levels, or is there another link in the chain?
Reduced estrogen, rather than producing vaginal alterations directly, may merely cause a decline in probiotic bacteria in the vagina, which then leads to vaginal dryness, atrophy, and the possibility of vaginal infections, according to research. Probiotic bacteria are hypothesized to influence the immune system and disrupt the inflammatory cascade.
When there is less inflammation, there is less tissue damage. Oral probiotic medication has been shown in studies to support the vaginal ‘environment’ and avoid declines in the protective vaginal flora, which can lead to dryness and discomfort.
Probiotics may be able to aid with vaginal atrophy and dryness, according to new research. Given that the vaginal microbiome has its own microbiome, this shouldn’t be surprising. Lactobacillus comes to the rescue once more.
Menopausal women were shown to have lower levels of Lactobacillus than non-menopausal women in one study, and a deficiency of Lactobacillus has been linked to vulvar vaginal atrophy.
Another study found that as estrogen levels drop during menopause, Lactobacillus levels drop, resulting in an imbalance in the vaginal microbiota.
Lactobacillus probiotics strains have been credited with ‘positively modifying the vaginal microbiota’ and ‘preventing vaginal infections in postmenopausal women with missing or diminished estrogen’ — albeit more research on the mechanism behind this is needed.
Is it true that probiotics can aid with hormonal balance?
The ‘estrogen-gut microbiome axis’ involves our gut bacteria breaking down and eliminating hormones from our blood. Although the precise efficacy of probiotics over human hormones is acknowledged as somewhat unexplored, the authors of one study revealed that a diversified, balanced microbiota can ease several hormonally-influenced disorders.
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Can probiotics assist with bloating during menopause?
Almost every postmenopausal woman has experienced terrible gut discomfort, eye-watering abdominal anguish, and mysterious bloating. Digestive issues are a relatively prevalent side effect of menopause.
Although there isn’t a lot of study on the exact link between menopausal bloating and probiotics, there is a lot of evidence that these supplements can help with basic IBS symptoms such as abdominal discomfort, bloating, and flatulence.
A multi-strain probiotic supplement was proven to help with IBS symptoms in one trial. In another study, probiotics were found to lower the degree of pain in persons with stomach pain and bloating.
Seven research indicated supplementation significantly improved symptoms compared to a placebo’ in a review of all available studies on the association between probiotics and IBS symptoms, with four studies finding no meaningful changes.
Probiotics are thought to be able to alter the fermentation processes of our colon by transforming our intestinal flora, thereby alleviating these negative effects.
Is it true that probiotics can help women enhance their overall immunity after menopause?
When compared to a placebo group, probiotics significantly reduced the incidence of upper respiratory infection’ and flu-like symptoms in persons who had a common cold four times a year. Probiotics improved the immune system, according to the scientists, and were a safe and efficient strategy to combat the typical cold and flu-like symptoms.
Although the exact mechanism of probiotics is unknown, they have been deemed “promising” in their ability to “prevent or delay several age-related diseases through enhancing the immune response.” Probiotics were also regarded as a “new method for both illness prevention and therapy” in a review of studies, suggesting promise for future health benefits.
While probiotics have been found to boost human immune function, there is a scarcity of research specifically looking at the relationship between probiotics and immunity in menopausal and postmenopausal women.
Can probiotics help you cope with the symptoms of menopause?
The direct link between probiotics and the alleviation of menopausal symptoms is currently being investigated. However, according to an authoritative scientific assessment, probiotics “may constitute an essential therapeutic strategy” for menopausal women.
Probiotics have been shown to alter a variety of physiological functions and outcomes, and this blog will focus on the growing body of clinical evidence that suggests they can help reduce some of the most common symptoms of menopause.
Lactobacillus-based probiotics, in particular, have gotten a lot of press for their involvement in reducing mood swings, osteoporosis, weight gain, bloating, and hot flushes.
Probiotics and their advantages to human health — as well as the mechanism of probiotics — are advancing to the next level of research.
Can probiotics ease menopausal symptoms? The answer is yes.
Research shows that taking a daily dose of Lactobacillus acidophilus tablets can help alleviate the discomfort associated with hot flashes, irritability, depression, and anxiety.
If you are experiencing these types of side effects during your transition to post-menopause, speak with your doctor about incorporating more probiotics into your diet.
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