In the clinic, I see peri-menopausal women struggling with cyclic bowel changes and postmenopausal women also struggling with their digestion. Constipation is an issue I see across the board, but for different reasons.
So let's start with bowel changes with menstruations.
The later part of the cycle is when progesterone is the dominant hormone and as your progesterone levels increase it can slow the transit time food takes to move through your intestines leading to constipation.
Many women find this self resolves when their period starts. Some women even have diarrhea. This is caused by the rising level of prostaglandins. These are produced by the endometrial cells that cause the uterus to contract and the uterine lining to shed. If too much is produced it can also cause the bowel to contract at the same time, causing a faster bowel transit time and in some women increased or even loose bowel movements.
In post-menopausal women, lower estrogen levels can encourage cortisol levels to climb. Cortisol is a stress hormone but it plays a role in bowel motility and absorption. Too much cortisol and it can increase water and sodium reabsorption from the bowel leading to smaller, drier, harder stool - it may even look like rabbit pellets. Just another reason why stress management is so important at this stage of life.
Now that you know why your bowels are playing up, click here to move over to the more extensive article on addressing your bowel health.