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What exactly is gut health? Why is it important? And what is the relationship between gut health and menopause?
When you go through menopause, your body basically stops producing the same quantities of the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone. The levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body, in turn, affects hormone receptors in your gut and alters the microbiome of your gut. A less happy and healthy microbiome means a less efficient gut. This matters for a number of reasons.
If you’re struggling with common menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, low mood, insomnia, or weight gain, this could be due to a less than healthy gut microbiome. Furthermore, a crappy microbiome can affect your serotonin levels. Serotonin is ‘the happiness hormone’ which is responsible for mood regulation and is produced in the gut. This is why the gut is sometimes referred to as ‘the second brain’.
So if you’re wondering which vitamins to take for a healthy gut, what to eat for better gut health, and which anti-ageing supplements you should be taking, we have you covered.
Read on for ways to improve gut health and microbiome as you go through, and move beyond, menopause.
Probiotics are supplements that work to encourage a better balance of ‘good’ bacteria vs. ‘bad’ bacteria in your gut. The good bacteria can be likened to a personal security guard for your gut: they let the good guys in whilst keeping the bad guys very much out.
Good bacteria is needed by your body in order to absorb and assimilate nutrients and to keep your hormones balanced, and being in possession of a flourishing gut microbiome will help to protect you from germs and harmful microorganisms, thereby boosting your resilience to illness and your immune system as a whole.
Studies have shown that taking a probiotic supplement could lift your mood, improve your skin, curb menopause insomnia and improve your immune response after just a few weeks.
Adhering to a whole food, plant-based and anti-inflammatory diet can do more to improve your overall health than any over the counter or prescription drug ever has. You should also focus your attention on upping your consumption of probiotic and prebiotic rich foods.
Probiotics can most readily be found in fermented foods. Adding more fermented foods such as yoghurt (both dairy and non-dairy are good sources), kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso into your diet can help to increase the number of healthy bacteria that are present in your gut.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a type of dietary fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your gut in order that it can flourish. Good sources of prebiotic fibre are bananas, chicory root, dandelion greens, jerusalem artichoke, onion, garlic, asparagus and leek.
Apples, oats and other high-fibre foods are also fantastic for helping your gut to thrive. Fibre-rich foods help to promote liver detoxification, enabling it to rid the body of excess circulating hormones.
The main offenders responsible for depleting gut health are (no surprises here) refined sugars, processed carbohydrates that have been stripped of fibre, alcohol and artificial sweeteners.
Diets high in refined sugars, sweeteners, and simple carbohydrates are often responsible for the onset of depleted good bacteria, inflammation and, eventually, inflammaging - inflammation that is so severe it causes premature ageing of the body’s cells. Higher than average intake of alcohol, sugar and refined white carbohydrates has been shown to cause the premature development of fine lines and wrinkles, to negatively impact mood and increase self-reported anxiety and depression levels.
Artificial sweeteners in particular, and specifically those that contain aspartame, have been linked to a reduction in the number of good bacteria present, and in depleted overall gut health. In fact, artificial sweeteners may actually be doing more harm to your gut than actual added sugars, and exacerbating the rate at which ageing of the cells occurs, in the process.
Clinical studies have been able to establish a stronger link between artificial sweeteners and a depleted microbiome than they have between refined white sugar and a depleted microbiome. Furthermore, artificial sweeteners were more closely correlated to an elevated risk of developing diabetes than was refined white sugar. If that’s enough to persuade you away from the sugar-free syrups and diet colas, we don’t know what is.
Good sugar alternatives include honey (particularly high-grade manuka honey) and applesauce. Mashed bananas can also be used to sweeten breakfasts, smoothies and cakes or blended from frozen to make a one ingredient ice cream which tastes surprisingly good and has the desired texture. Honey, apples and bananas all contain prebiotic compounds so are great swaps if you’re looking to improve your gut health whilst steering clear of the very things that might upset its balance.
Try to keep your alcohol consumption within the low to moderate range as heavy alcohol consumption can encourage the overgrowth of bad bacteria whilst simultaneously reducing the population of good bacteria. Aim to have a night off once in a while, and ideally don’t drink two nights in a row. A great idea is to substitute your usual gin and tonic for something equally delicious so that you don’t feel deprived. A gut-healthy swap for your usual tipple would be sipping on an ice-cold kombucha - kombucha comes in so many flavours you’re bound to find one you love, plus it has the added bonus of providing a healthy dose of probiotics.
Gut health is at the very core of our overall wellbeing. Without good gut health, the rest of our health - mental, physical and emotional - will surely suffer. And this could not be more relevant or true than for women who are in the midst of perimenopause, or of menopause itself.
Ageing is perceived as an inevitable downward spiral to poor health, but this does not need to be the case. By taking the necessary steps and precautions your health can flourish as you grow older. LYMA contains three of the most vital patented ingredients to support you as you age and our formula has been credited for helping older people to reclaim their health and wellbeing, leaving them feeling better than they ever thought possible.