You may have noticed that you are apt to get diarrhea or loose bowels during your menstrual period, while you might be constipated the rest of the month. The diarrhea is caused by the hormones, estrogen and progesterone, that women produce during their menstrual periods. The same holds true when you are entering into menopause. The hormonal changes that are associated with menopause can result in diarrhea, according to the Mayo Clinic.
As reported on MotherNature.com, Dr. Marvin Schuster, director of the Division of Digestive Diseases at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, points out that “gut disturbances” are common in menstruating women. Diarrhea is the most common problem, and it generally happens during the first two days of a woman’s period. This is caused by the increased levels of progesterone and estrogen. When the hormone levels peak, this makes the colon muscles relax. The same thing occurs when a woman is in menopause. In fact, her hormones may be completely imbalanced at times and this results in a number of symptoms, including diarrhea.
Schuster in the MotherNature.com report explains that the contractions that are made by the colon generally halt movement of the stools, so when the braking action of the colon is curtailed by high levels of hormones, this can cause diarrhea. This also applies to menopausal women who can experience extremely high levels of estrogen during the perimenopausal phase that leads up to menopause.
Dr. Betty Wang of Womensmentalhealth.org notes that menopausal women sometimes take herbs such as flaxseed, which is a phytoestrogen, to control hot flashes. Phytoestrogens may be effective in treating menopausal symptoms, but there can be adverse side effects, including mild diarrhea, along with a distended abdomen, bloating and gas.
The bowel and the brain are connected via neurotransmitter chemicals such as norepinephrine and serotonin as well as by the nervous system. When there are high levels of serotonin, this inhibits norepinephrine and this can result in an increase in acetylcholine, which is another neurotransmitter chemical. This can cause diarrhea. When norepinephrine levels rise, serotonin levels are lowered and acetylcholine is blocked, which results in constipation. When a menopausal woman’s hormones are fluctuating, this affects neurotransmitter levels, which in turn affects your bowels.
When a woman is entering menopause or is fully menopausal, she may discover that she can’t tolerate some foods. She may even become lactose intolerant for the first time or find that she is having allergic reactions to certain foods. If diarrhea has become a serious problem for you, bring this to the attention of your physician.