The process of menopause can mark several changes for women, some of which aren't anticipated or fully understood. When you think about it, it makes complete sense that one body system or area would affect the other. For example: the way in which our gut microbes directly affect our hormonal systems, and vice versa. In fact, our hormone system is not only finely tuned but crucially directed by microbes.
We are commonly aware that menopause (a term that officially describes the end of menstruation) causes hormonal changes, hot flushes, mood changes, sleep problems, but what if we dig deeper to see how much is influenced by what's going on with the bacteria in our gut? A team of scientists from Arizona State University found that hormones and gut bacteria affect each other, leading to changes in metabolism and brain function. This relationship could be key for treating menopausal symptoms and improving women's health. The researchers recently published their findings in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. 'This relationship is important for the health of the whole body. A hormone can alter the microbiome, and the microbiome can help the body make different chemicals depending on its current state.
Professor Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown from Arizona State compares hormones to little taxis that carry signals from the gut to the liver, brain and other parts of the body. She says, 'What happens in the gut doesn't stay in the gut.'
The main sex hormones responsible for menopausal symptoms are estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. What's interesting is that there are specific types of fungi and bacteria which directly influence the levels of estrogen in your system. Scientists think there are around 60 strains, collectively known as the estrobolome. Best-selling author and holistic health expert Dr Pelz explains: progesterone and testosterone both decline during menopause, while estrogen levels go up and down. 'Estrogen levels stay high if you're not breaking it down, and that leads to menopause symptoms including more anxiety, irritability, anger, and depression. This can cause a rise in cortisol levels, which in turn can make someone more insulin resistant, causing progesterone and testosterone to tank. It's a vicious cycle,' she says.
It helps to remember that each of these systems and parts of the body aren't compartmentalised, but rather fully integrated. So seemingly unrelated things like gut issues might suddenly arise as hormonal shifts affect metabolism and digestion. As well as this, our amazing bodies can cope really well for long periods of time to stave off modern life's stressors such as screens, mental pressure, pollution and toxins. However, a big disruption shaking our foundations, such as menopause, can bring the tower of cards tumbling down unexpectedly.
We can minimize this disruption by ensuring we're looking after our overall health, and gut health as much as possible. A probiotic such as microbz women (previously Bio-Live Women) cradles the body where it is and supports it mentally and physically through 'the change'. The variety of active microbes in our formula means that the probiotics are adaptogenic, meaning they will fill whichever holes need filling with the strains of bacteria being introduced as well as a variety of herbs and minerals chosen specifically to support women's hormonal functions. Many women of course, will need extra support in the form of HRT, or hormonal replacement therapy. Our nutritionist Zara explains: 'if you're taking HRT, you're better off taking it separately, or at a different time of day to your probiotics so that the microbes have time to influence the gut before another substance is added.'
How to help your gut thrive:
- Eat a variety of different foods
- Eat healthy fats
- Avoid processed foods and sugar
- Consistent good quality sleep
- Take a gold-standard probiotic such as microbz
Menopause and peri-menopause can be really troubling stages for many women, and we'd always advise seeking further support and guidance if you're worried about something specific. However, to recap: you can give your body the best chance of sailing through without disruption by boosting your health from as many angles as possible. Focus on de-stressing, prioritise sleep, eat whole foods and take a probiotic to boost your microbiome. Our formula is different from others because we have specifically chosen ingredients that are known to support women's bodies and fermented them with living bacterial cultures.
Shatavari: Shatavari has a nourishing and purifying effect on the female reproductive organs and is suggested for use throughout the many phases of womanhood. It has traditionally been used to strengthen female fertility and can also provide nourishment during pregnancy to both the mother and foetus. Shatavari can even help stabilise a woman's body and emotions throughout her moon or menstrual cycle.
Maca root: Maca can help boost energy, endurance and stamina. It supplies iron which helps red blood cells transport oxygen around the body and therefore reduces tiredness and fatigue. It is also traditionally known as an adaptogen to support and help balance the body, particularly during times of stress, as well as providing key vitamins and nutrients for helping relieve menstrual symptoms.
Dong Quai: Known as the 'female ginseng', it has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat a wide range of female issues including; menstrual cramps, dysmenorrhoea (painful periods), premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and anaemia. And the living bacterial cultures deliver all the key ingredients to wherever in your body they are needed. Magic? No, just naturally what microbes do best. Shop here