During menopause, your body goes through a lot of changes. Your hormone levels shift, which can lead to mood swings, hot flashes, insomnia, vaginal dryness, hair loss and more. For many women, this period of transitions can be extremely stressful.
During this transitional period, menopausal women may find relief from some perimenopause or menopause symptoms by taking a daily probiotic supplement. By stabilizing the bacteria in your gut and vagina, probiotics may reduce problematic side-effects and improve your day-to-day lifestyle.
What are probiotics?
Despite what you’ve been told about bacteria, everyone has “good” bacteria that naturally live on and in your body. These are called probiotics. There are supposed to be lots of probiotics in your gut, but stress, antibiotic use and sugar-laden diets can throw your gut microbiota out of balance, leading to the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Your vagina also has a natural microbiome filled with bacteria and yeasts that can become disrupted, much like the gut can.
The balance of your gut flora can impact your mind and body. If harmful bacteria continue to flourish in your colon, it can lead to a wide range of problems, including digestive issues, poor mental health, weight gain, decreased immunity and much more. Imbalances in the vaginal microbiome may lead to more frequent vaginal infections and vaginal dryness and more.
This is why taking probiotics—whether through food or supplements—is a good idea—to allow good bacteria to flourish. Probiotics can be found in many foods, including yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut. You can also take them in supplement form. Different supplements may contain different strands or amounts of bacteria, so it’s a good idea to do your research and speak with your doctor to ensure you’re getting the right ones.
Probiotics for menopause
Probiotics are beneficial for men and women of all ages because they can balance the gut and keep the mind and body strong. However, research shows that probiotics can be particularly useful for women nearing or going through menopause. Not only can probiotics assist in digestion and immunity, but they can also assist with hormonal control.
In menopausal women, hormone changes are to blame for many of the symptoms you may endure. Taking probiotics may help control your hormonal balance, potentially alleviating some of your troubling symptoms.
But how? Experts believe that some of these benefits are related to compounds called lignans, which are found in many foods, including nuts and seeds, vegetables, fruits and beans. Probiotics can break down these lignans and turn them into phytoestrogens, or plant-based pseudo-estrogens, in your body. Phytoestrogens can help stand in for estrogen while your natural estrogen production slows, alleviating some of the symptoms related to rapid estrogen decline.
The following are five benefits probiotics may offer menopausal women:
- Stabilizing mood swings: One of the biggest benefits of probiotics does not affect your body, but your brain. Gut microflora and mental health are closely linked, and an imbalanced microbiome can lead to irritability, depression and anxiety. By helping to regulate your mental health, probiotics may also improve the mental problems associated with menopause, including mood swings, stress, depression and brain fog.
- Reduce UTIs and vaginal infections: Menopausal women are more likely to suffer from infections of the urinary tract and vagina. When estrogen levels are reduced, the number of beneficial bacteria that keep harmful bacteria or yeast in check are also reduced, paving the way for an increased risk of infection. Taking a daily probiotic may help restore your beneficial bacteria to reduce your chances of UTIs or yeast infections.
- Improved immunity: Over time, the immune system weakens and is unable to work as well as it used to. This, combined with menopausal women’s increased risk for heart disease and other health problems, means that you may be at a greater risk for illness and disease. Fortunately, probiotics help to strengthen the body’s natural defenses and fight hard against external pathogens and illness.
- Reducing vaginal pain: Many menopausal women experience vaginal pain during intercourse. In some cases, this pain is due to inflammation—a response from the immune system. By regulating the immune system, probiotics may help reduce inflammation in the vagina and throughout the body, allowing for greater comfort during sex.
- Mitigating hair loss: Estrogen reduction during menopause has been linked to changes in women’s hair, as well as hair loss. By producing phytoestrogens and stabilizing estrogen levels, probiotics may help slow hair loss related to menopause for thicker, healthier hair.
Probiotics can offer a wide range of benefits in regard to immunity, digestive health and mood, as well as more specific problems menopausal women experience. By adding a simple supplement to your daily routine, you could potentially pave the way for a healthier and happier transition.