Women experience a wide range of symptoms during menopause, and many have tried everything to find relief.
Menopause is a natural part of aging that can be difficult to manage. This transition in your life can cause many physical and emotional changes, including hot flashes, mood swings, memory loss, irritability, and more.
The menopause process brings with it complex hormonal changes that result in a wide range of menopausal symptoms.
Getting through the change can be tough on your body, mind, and spirit. But there is a natural way to alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause. In fact, many women have found relief with probiotics for menopause.
Are probiotics worthy alternatives to HRT?
It’s true that women experience a decline in their digestive health as they age due to hormonal changes and stressors like a poor diet or lack of exercise.
And while hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help relieve some of these issues, it also comes with risks such as an increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease—not ideal.
Thankfully, you don’t need HRT when you use probiotic supplements for menopause instead.
There are a lot of menopause products on the market that claim to help women through this challenging time. But with so many options it’s hard for you to know which one will work best for you or if any of them will actually make a difference at all.
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Effects of menopause
Many women see their doctor or health practitioner because of menopause symptoms. Women frequently believe they are suffering from significant medical disorders because the symptoms are so acute.
We will go through what causes these symptoms and why probiotics might be beneficial during menopause.
Menopause is brought on by a sequence of hormonal changes. As a woman’s egg reserves deplete, she becomes more resistant to FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone), resulting in an increase in FSH and a significant decrease in estrogen production from the ovaries.
The levels of testosterone and progesterone are also decreasing. Many regions of the body are affected by estrogen, including the breasts, uterus, skin, bones, and brain. As a result, most menopausal symptoms are assumed to be caused by estrogen deficiency.
Doctors commonly test levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen, as well as thyroid function, to determine whether menopause has begun. Thyroid dysregulation can induce symptoms similar to those of menopause.
The combination and severity of menopause symptoms over time will be unique to each woman. Typical symptoms will include:
- metrorrhagia (irregular periods)
- menorrhagia (heavy periods or flooding)
- hot flashes/flushes
- night sweats/chills
- loss of bone density
- xerostomia (dry mouth)
- weight gain/bloating
- loss of libido
- low and changing mood swings
These symptoms may persist beyond menopause in some women, and they may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as those linked with genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM).:
- vulvovaginal 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 support 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 cancer.
Other common treatments also include:
- the Mirena coil which is used to treat menstrual abnormalities
- blood pressure drugs are used to treat hot flushes and sweats
- low-dose antidepressants are used to treat low mood
- topical estrogen is used to treat vaginal issues
Because of the risks and side effects of these pharmaceuticals, some women prefer to control their menopause symptoms with food and natural supplements.
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Understanding the importance of microbiome and menopause
Everyone has a microbiome, which is a term for the collective populations of microorganisms that live inside our bodies. These colonies of bacteria, yeast, viruses, and fungal colonies are considered organs in their own right.
The human microbiome is made up of around 10 trillion microbial cells that live mostly in the gut, mouth, and vaginal area of 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.
It’s worth noting that menopause and the microbiome are thought to be intertwined. Our gut microbiome is known to influence estrogen levels, a critical hormone whose synthesis decreases after menopause.
According to studies regarding estrogen, this female sex hormone has an impact on the bacteria in the gut. The link between the gut microbiota and estrogen is reconstructed when there is a deficit of estrogen.
Estrogen levels are currently thought to govern and affect the composition of the oral, vaginal, and gut microbiota. Because these populations of microorganisms are involved in a variety of physiological functions, including mood, bone homeostasis, immune function, mood, and metabolism, it’s thought that the relationship between the gut microbiota and a lack of estrogen could be to blame for symptoms like dry mouth, vaginal dryness, weight gain, and a decline in bone health.
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?
The need to look after your microbiome
The importance of our natural microbiomes for good health has been well-established in recent years, but the link between the microbiota and estrogen suggests that when estrogen 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:
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 has an impact on the health and composition of other bacteria populations.
However, probiotic supplements containing strains of live cultures that have been researched for certain health concerns can be used to take a more tailored approach to support the microbiome during and after menopause.
1. Elevating a low mood
The gut and the brain are intimately connected through the vagus nerve, the longest in the body. The relationship between the two has been described as the gut-brain axis.
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 gut!
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.
Bifidobacterium longum Rosell-175 and Lactobacillus acidophilus/helveticus Rosell-52 are two probiotic bacteria strains that have been demonstrated to ameliorate a bad mood.
These strains exhibited significant reductions in sadness, anxiety, and mood in a gold standard clinical trial, as well as promoting general gut health.
According to Harvard Medical School professors, certain bacteria strains can improve our mood by directly increasing the levels of crucial ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin in the body.
These bacteria, according to Harvard researchers, can stimulate neurological circuits between the gut and the brain.
2. Vaginal health
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 estrogen 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.
In menopausal women, urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bacterial vaginosis (BV) are highly prevalent, and this is likely owing to the intimate area’s environment becoming less acidic, which allows bacteria to thrive and cause difficulties.
Because vaginal atrophy after menopause might lead to an increase in vaginal infections, many women choose to maintain their vaginal microbiome after menopause.
The Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14® & Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1® strains colonize the vagina rather than the intestines, where they help to produce an environment that suppresses infections while promoting the growth of good bacteria.
They have been extensively employed in clinical research examining the benefits of probiotics on bacterial vaginosis, thrush, and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
3. General health and gut support
As previously said, gut health must be included as part of any supporting health strategy. This can aid to boost immunity and overall health. The strains listed below have been widely examined for overall digestive health and immunity around the world:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM®
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG®
Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM® has been studied to aid with bloating, constipation, and diarrhea, which are common IBD symptoms. It’s also been studied in conjunction with and following antibiotics to help restore the gut microbiota.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® has also been extensively explored for gut health, as well as for modulating the immune system and supporting bone health.
4. Bone density preservation
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 estrogen.
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.
There is a lot of interest in the effect of probiotics in preventing bone loss after menopause, and while more research is needed, the results so far are promising. In this regard, a couple of probiotic strains have shown significant promise:
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG®
- Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC PTA 6475
Researchers at Georgia State University utilized mice with their ovaries removed to imitate estrogen depletion in menopause in a 2016 murine study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
The mice were split into two groups, with one receiving probiotics on a daily basis. The mice who were not given probiotics lost half of their bone density a month after ovary removal, but those who were given the probiotic mix (an eight-strain mixture that included Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG®) maintained their pre-operative bone density levels.
The protective impact of probiotics on bone density was discovered to be due to the prevention of gut permeability, according to the researchers. The lack of estrogen during menopause, or in this case, after ovaries removal, increases intestinal permeability, allowing germs to activate immune cells.
These immune cells send out signals that cause the bone to break down. Probiotics were able to protect bone density in these animals by decreasing intestinal permeability, which is linked to estrogen loss.
When mice were given E. coli bacteria, for example, the intervention failed to reduce bone density loss.
The bacterial strain Lactobacillus reuteri ATCCPTA 6475 was utilized in a clinical trial at the University of Gothenburg and found to prevent bone loss in older women.
Seventy women with osteoporosis, aged 75 to 80, were randomly assigned to receive either the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC PTA 6475 or a placebo for a year. When compared to the placebo group, the probiotic group saw a 50% reduction in bone density loss.
Professor Mattias Lorentzon of the University of Gothenburg and Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Mölndal, Sweden, says, “This trial provides the first evidence that age-dependent bone loss can be reduced with probiotic supplementation, which could emerge as a novel approach to prevent osteoporosis.”
5. Weight loss
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 program, the microbiome has lately been identified as a factor in menopause weight management.
The ‘relationship between the gut microbiota and a lack of estrogen 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.
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.
6. Hot flushes and night sweats
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.
Several studies have shown that women aged between 40 and 60 who supplement with Lactobacillus acidophilus find relief from menopausal symptoms and regain a quality of life prior to menopause.
7. Menopause bloating
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.
Several studies have shown supplementation significantly improved symptoms compared to taking a placebo. From IBS to abdominal pain and bloating.
Probiotics may have a role to play in controlling the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause, according to some solid research.
The idea that the decline in hormone levels during menopause may not be directly responsible for menopausal symptoms, but rather the influence of this hormone’s deficiency on our gut and vaginal flora, is intriguing.
Only 7% of Japanese women suffer from hot flushes, according to Dr. Lindsey Berkson’s estimations in her book “Hormone Deception,” compared to 55% of women in the United States.
Because soya is a good source of plant-based estrogens, this lack of symptoms in Japanese women has been attributed to a diet high in soy products.
It could, however, be due to the number of fermented foods they consume, which supply them with a daily dosage of probiotics from traditional foods like natto and tempeh.
While further research is needed, there is no harm in menopausal women strengthening their microbiomes by eating more fermented foods and taking a strong, high-quality probiotic (or two) to improve microbial diversity in both the GI tract and the vaginal tract in an attempt to alleviate menopausal symptoms.
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