Hormonal changes during menopause may cause your body to look larger than usual, particularly in the stomach. But during this period of your life, you may be unable to determine whether you’re gaining weight or actually experiencing bloating.
Bloating causes uncomfortable feelings of extreme fullness, tightness or swelling in the abdomen. It usually occurs for short periods of time, most commonly around menstruation (if you’re in perimenopause) or around mealtime. If the bulge is bloating, your stomach will protrude and change throughout the day, whereas your abdomen won’t fluctuate in size if it’s actual weight gain.
Around menopause, bloating is often the result of fluctuating hormones. Both high and low levels of estrogen can increase fat storage. Menopausal bloating normally has one of two main causes: water retention or gas retention. During perimenopause, you might have higher levels of estrogen, which causes your body to retain water and can lead to bloating. You may also experience menopausal bloating due to gas in the gastrointestinal system.
The good news is that you’re likely to experience less bloating once menopause ends—when the ovaries stop making estrogen and progesterone, and the body maintains fewer hormones. But in the meantime, you can reduce bloating by making various lifestyle adjustments, including a change in diet. Around menopause, be sure to avoid these foods that cause serious belly bloating.
Fat takes longer to digest than protein or carbohydrates, so it keeps the stomach looking full for a longer time. Avoid belly bloat by limiting your intake of fatty and fried foods in your everyday diet.
Several vegetables are known to cause extra gas, for a series of different reasons. Cruciferous vegetables, which contain raffinose—a sugar that produces gas and makes you bloat—are hard to digest. These include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Onions are similar since the vegetable contains fructan—a carbohydrate that has poor absorption and can increase water in the intestine.
Dairy can make the stomach feel all kinds of uncomfortable. Though milk products do not cause bloating for everyone, lactose intolerances are prevalent amongst many.
Overly processed foods have high levels of both sugar and salt. Sorbitol (an artificial sweetener) and fructose (a natural sugar added to many processed foods) is difficult for many people to digest. On top of that, foods high in sodium lead to water retention and temporary weight gain. Putting the two together in processed foods—filled with both sugar and salt—might be the worst combination.
Beans contain sugars and fibers that our bodies struggle to absorb. For example, beans are filled with the indigestible fiber known as “resistant starch.”
Foods high in fiber are great to lose weight, but can really hurt sensitive stomachs. Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate. An increase in fiber intake can cause gas, bloating and constipation.