Are you suffering from menopause belly? Many people are. The good news is, there are a few very simple things that you can do to heal your digestive health and maintain a healthy weight.
So What Exactly is Menopause Belly?
They say that “death begins in the gut,” and that is certainly what I see in my offices. The symptom picture I am specifically addressing here presents as, gas, bloating, upset stomach, constipation, and or diarrhea, acid reflux and resistant weight loss—especially around the waist. We may also see a tender abdomen during physical exam.
The Kind Of Pain You Should Not Get Use To
If you suffer from menopause belly, there is a good chance that your condition developed slowly over time—perhaps, as early as your 30’s. Early signs of gastric upset often go unnoticed, and present as minor complaints of gas, and bloating, or occasional bouts of acid reflux. Unfortunately, when left untreated, your digestive symptoms may steadily increase until they become a constant and persistent ache, and are virtually ignored. The ability to adapt to, and even ignore, chronic pain is a common health phenomenon. Over time, a person may not even be consciously aware of the persistent pain they are in. In fact,this is the great challenge of chronic pain, it is often ignored, or accepted, as a permanent state of being unwell and becomes tolerated rather than treated.
Chronic persistent pain can also lead to depression. That dull ache, that you have chosen to ignore, can lead to a low-grade depression as your body attempts to adjust to, and tolerate, the slow-moving disease process.
Depression is a Common Symptom Of Chronic Pain
Depression is a common side effect of poor health. So common in fact, that many people come to see me to treat depression rather than chronic pain, and have basically ignored the main causes of their health challenges—poor digestive health. However, I have found that by improving the health of the digestion, many types of depression can be healed as well. This is because healthy people feel better. And people who feel good are happier.
Cutting Out Wheat Is The Beginning Of Treating The Problem
When treating women over the age of 40, with gastric health complaints, one of the first foods I pull is wheat. I do this even in patients that swear emphatically that they do not have a wheat allergy. This is because wheat has been associated with a host of health challenges common in menopausal women.
In his Book, Wheat Belly, written by the cardiologist Dr. William Davis, Davis points out what he believes is the source of many American’s health and weight challenges—wheat. For starters, whole wheat bread has a very high glycemic index of 76, which is not much better than table sugar. High glycemic foods, like wheat, spike insulin—leading to an increase in stored belly fat, inflammation, and even hormone dysregulation. This is because foods that spike insulin can also increase fat stores. Fat stores, in turn, produce estrogen—leading to hormonal fluctuations including hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and even depression.
A Wheat Allergy Is Not The Same Condition As Celiac Disease
There has been quite a bit written about the health benefits of a gluten-free diet, and this article will be no exception.
Wheat, is one of the most common food sensitivities I treat in my offices but, it is not the same thing as celiac disease.
Celiac disease is actually as an inherited autoimmune disorder; whereby, the body’s own immune system attacks itself by producing something called, “gliadin antibodies”. Serological testing for celiac disease involves testing for 3 known antibodies, anti-tissue transglutaminase (tTG) antibodies, endomysial antibodies, and (EMA) deamidated gliadin peptide (DGP) antibodies. Individuals wishing to be tested for celiac disease usually are given serological testing and endoscopy with biopsy.
A biopsy is definitive for celiac, and usually shows flattened villi, and or villus atrophy, with damage to the enterocytes of the small intestine. People who suffer from celiac disease may experience poor digestion, malabsorption of nutrients, skin rashes, and other health challenges.
A Gluten Allergy Will Present Without An Elevation of Autoimmune Markers
However, a wheat allergy can still develop even if you do not have the actual autoimmune response associated with celiac. Furthermore, many people with wheat sensitivities may be able to tolerate gluten, but have an adverse reaction to wheat bran. This is because a sensitivity to wheat is different from an actual allergy to gluten.
So, testing negative for celiac disease does not rule out a wheat allergy. And testing negative for a wheat allergy does not rule out a sensitivity to wheat.
Signs and symptoms of a wheat allergy may present as hives after consuming products with wheat in them, or digestive upset, swollen lips, nausea and abdominal pain.
Testing for a wheat allergy can be done via an IgE food allergy test to rule out antibodies to gluten. However, in the case of a gluten sensitivity, there may be no elevation in IgE, but symptoms of a wheat sensitivity may still exist.
Some naturopathic doctors will further test for food sensitivities using the US BioTek Labs, IgG antibody testing (or delayed reaction testing). While somewhat controversial. Many people who undergo IgG food sensitivity testing see a marked improvement in symptoms when the foods they have tested sensitive to are avoided.
Leaky-Gut And Digestive Health
Leaky gut is a common condition, that is associated with gluten consumption. Leaky gut is a disease process in which the natural integrity of the gut lining begins to breakdown and become irritated and inflamed. This can happen in the event of an infection, like a virus or yeast over-growth, prescription drug use, like antibiotics and aspirin, or a long-term exposure to allergens like gluten.
When the digestive tract begins to “leak”, undigested food particles can pass into the blood stream mounting an immune response. Symptoms of leaky gut include, psoriasis, eczema, food allergies, depression, and migraine headaches.
Depression May Also Be a Result of Gluten Sensitivity and Leaky Gut
Depression may also be a sign of a gluten allergy and leaky gut. This is because gluten is broken down into smaller particles by the digestive process into products known as gluten exorphins, which are various types of peptides, that seem to play a negative role in the health and function of the nervous system—resulting in depression.
People who suffer from gluten sensitivity have noted that their mood improves when they stop consuming gluten.
Wheat and Resistant Belly Fat
In addition to abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and acid reflux. Many people who suffer from a wheat sensitivity may also struggle to maintain a healthy weight. This is because wheat is not only highly inflammatory, but high in simple carbohydrates as well. One way that we store carbohydrates, especially as we age, is as abdominal fat. Abdominal fat may lead to changes in hormone production and signaling, including elevations in cortisol and estrogen. This in turn may have an impact on blood sugar regulation, thyroid health, and healthy sex hormone levels. In women over 40, this has also been associated with estrogen dominance, and insulin resistance.
Consequently, giving up wheat consumption may help you lose weight especially around the belly.
Give Up Wheat For 8 Weeks
If you have tested negative for celiac disease, but still have digestive upset and resistant weight loss, I would advise eliminating wheat from your diet for up to 8 weeks to see if symptoms improve. I would also suggest you seek out a naturopathic doctor, and consider further testing to rule out an allergen or possible food sensitivity to wheat.
If you have tested positive for celiac disease, then it is wise to eliminate all grains that contain gluten including, wheat, spelt, rye, barley, and oats.
If you simply want to test yourself, to see if a sensitivity to wheat exist, then I would suggest eliminating all wheat for a period of 8 weeks. You will certainly know if your symptoms have decreased by then, and may choose to avoid wheat indefinitely if symptoms have improved.
Supplements That Heal The Gut And Balance Hormones
In addition to adopting a gluten-free diet, I have found that nutritional supplementation can be helpful as well. Good nutrition, and supplementation with key vitamins and minerals, like vitamin B2,B3, B5, B6, zinc, selenium, chromium, magnesium and manganese, can be helpful in the health and repair of the digestive tract, and is vital in maintaining a healthy metabolism.
Medi-Clear SGS By Thorne Research To Health Menopause Belly
As part of my treatment protocol for women seeking optimal health and weight management, I advice my patients start the morning with a nutrient dense smoothie. A protein smoothie keeps the blood-sugar remain stable—decreasing food cravings late at night, and helping to support a healthy mood.
When prescribing a meal replacement, I usually choose Medi-Clear SGS by Thorne Research. This is the product I choose most often in women over 40; precisely because it is formulated to heal leaky-gut but, is also helpful in balancing hormones.
This product is not just a protein powder but, is high in glutamine as well. Glutamine is an amino acid necessary in the healing and repair of the gut lining.
Medi-Clear SGS also contains a balance of the vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy nutrition and gut health, as well as sulfurophane: a compound found in cruciferous vegetables, and thought to help support the healthy breakdown and metabolism of hormones. Sulfurophane is also being researched as a possible cancer preventative.
GlutenEase by Enzymedica For Easy Gluten Digestion
While I strongly advice anyone with a gluten sensitivity discontinue consuming foods that contain gluten, GlutenEase by Enzymedica, is a great product to have on hand for those occasional slip ups. This product is not suitable for people with celiac disease; however, it can be very helpful in people who suffer from gluten sensitivity.
HLC Potency By Pharmax To Help Build a Healthy Gut Flora
HLC High-Potency by Pharmax, is probably one of the best probiotics on the market. Like Thorne Research, Pharmax products are not sold over-the-counter, and are a well-respected brand recommended often by Naturopathic doctors, to treat conditions like leaky gut, and food allergies. Probiotics help protect the digestive tract, and are an important part of maintaining a strong immune system.
I can honestly say that, with few exceptions, for those individuals who suffer from digestive upset and stubborn belly fat, that choose to discontinue consuming wheat, menopause belly is often greatly improved or eliminated all together.
If you enjoyed this article, or would like to find out more about my work, please visit my website at DoctorWhimsy.com.
To schedule an appointment, I am available both in person at my offices in Los Angeles, and via online appointments.
I look forward to helping in your journey to health.
Gluten Intolerance Group: Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Disease Gluten Sensitivity, or Wheat Allergy: What is the difference?
Davis, William Wheatbelly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight. New York: Rodale Inc, 2011.