Feeling like a giant balloon has filled up your insides? You are not alone. Women especially struggle with bloating all throughout their lives. Surprisingly, our female sex hormones are frequently behind this discomfort. When lifestyle and dietary changes do not seem to help, medications like simethicone can help eliminate the bloat.
Why do hormones cause bloating?
We have estrogen receptors all over our bodies. When we have even subtle changes in our estrogen levels, each organ system can be affected. Our digestive system is no exception. Estrogen is implicated in several gastrointestinal diseases, including reflux (GERD), peptic ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. Also, this steroid hormone may play a role in esophageal and colon cancers. Furthermore, studies have found that women who take postmenopausal estrogen replacement therapy are more prone to gastrointestinal diseases than women who do not use estrogen therapy.
Higher levels of estrogen likely aggravate the digestive tract, causing bloating. Also, it may increase your sensitivity to certain foods and may even cause an imbalance in your gut microbiome. Therefore, when women have a spike in estrogen levels, they are likely to suffer from gastrointestinal upset, like bloating.
Estrogen levels naturally rise each month in your normal menstrual cycle. These levels can also spike unpredictably in perimenopause. Many women can set their calendars to when they will feel bloating when their periods are regular. However, during perimenopause, it can be a guessing game. For many perimenopausal women, they feel bloated all the time.
Symptoms of bloating
Bloating occurs when your digestive tract fills up with air (or gas). You can experience the following feelings and symptoms when you are bloated:
- Feeling like you just ate a huge meal
- Tight-fitting clothes
- Stomach pain
- General abdominal discomfort
- Belching or hiccuping
- Rumbling or gurgling in your stomach
Higher levels of estrogen likely aggravate the digestive tract, causing bloating. Also, it may increase your sensitivity to certain foods and may even cause an imbalance in your gut microbiome.
Sometimes, bloating can become severe. The following are signs that something more is wrong than just perimenopause bloating:
- Blood in your stool
- Nausea and vomiting
- Noticeable weight loss (without trying)
- Vaginal bleeding unrelated to your period or postmenopause
If you have any of the above symptoms, it is important to talk with your doctor to rule out other causes of frequent bloating
How to get rid of bloating
Bloating is downright uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are ways of getting rid of menopause bloating.
Start with dietary changes – See if any foods frequently trigger bloating. If so, it is best to avoid those (if possible) while your hormones are fluctuating. Dairy products and other foods that often cause gas (like cabbage, broccoli, turnips, and beans) are often the culprits behind bloating.
Make lifestyle adjustments – Rather than landing on the couch with a book or show after a meal, take a walk outside to help move gases pass more easily through your digestive tract. Certain yoga positions can also help ease bloating by helping air bubbles twist through your system instead of getting trapped.
Eat slower – We often swallow air when we eat too fast. Coupled with the gases emitted by the bacteria in our gut, excess air can certainly worsen tightness and discomfort after meals.
Avoid straws and chewing gum – These items introduce air into your stomach, making your belly feel tight.
Medications – There are over-the-counter and prescription medications that treat painful pressure and discomfort.
How does simethicone work?
Simethicone is an over-the-counter medication that relieves bloating, fullness, gas, and pressure. This medication is in several well-known brands, including Gas-X®️, Gelusil®️, and Imodium®️. Simethicone allows gas bubbles to come together more effectively so that you can pass the excess air in your stomach, thus relieving pressure on your abdominal organs.
Most people can take simethicone without adverse reactions. Simethicone side effects are essentially non-existent when taken as directed. Even infants, babies, and children are generally safe to take simethicone in Mylicon®️ (Mylicon drops). Sometimes, people may be allergic to this medication, or the other ingredients in it. Depending on the medication you take, medications with simethicone may also have peppermint. Studies show that peppermint provides relief of abdominal discomfort.
Simethicone can be a great option for women struggling with bloating related to hormone fluctuations. If simethicone does not relieve bloating after several uses (as directed) and you have made some lifestyle and dietary adjustments, it may be helpful to check in with your doctor. There can be other causes of bloating besides hormones (such as lactose intolerance). Your doctor can also help you explore additional ways of managing your discomfort.
Disclaimer: this is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.