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In this post I will answer the question – can food sensitivities in menopause cause bloating or weight gain?
The short answer is absolutely they can.
As well as a whole host of other uncomfortable symptoms and health problems.
Five or six years ago I was going through peri-menopause. Every day I woke to feel extremely AVERAGE. I was exhausted, I didn’t sleep well, my knees constantly ached, and I struggled to walk up the slight rise from our home on my walk every morning.
I felt like an old woman who’d spent the last 10 years on the couch watching daytime T.V. while eating appropriated chocolate and drinking copious quantities of fizzy drinks.
And I definitely didn’t.
With no real knowledge of food sensitivities and what they could do to the body, I cut all grains and refined sugar out of my diet.
My menopause symptoms and the digestive system improved within weeks. Since then I avoid known food allergens and find my health is better than what it was 10 years ago.
I’m not suggesting you take this extreme step in one go but read on to find out how you can work to eliminate any food intolerances in your own diet.
What is the difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity?
A food allergy is less common than a food sensitivity but is usually more serious. It is considered an allergy when the body has an immune response to a particular food.
Food allergy responses can range from mild to serious or anaphylactic which can be life-threatening.
Although serious instances are fairly rare they are becoming more prevalent.
If you have an allergic reaction after eating any type of food, eliminate the food from your diet and if necessary speak with your doctor or pharmacist about emergency medication.
Food intolerance is far more difficult to pinpoint, and the symptoms can be vague.
They are symptoms like hot flashes and bloating which could just as easily be attributed to menopause.
Symptoms can take hours or even days to show up. And can be located almost anywhere in the body. Hence they are very tricky to identify.
Food sensitivities can affect you in so many ways
If you are going through perimenopause or menopause it would be easy to think that some of what you’re experiencing could be menopause symptoms.
I always advocate for eliminating the easiest and most obvious first.
So you have nothing to lose by eliminating foods that are known to cause sensitivities from your diet before doing anything else.
Can Menopause Cause Food Sensitivities?
Menopause doesn’t cause food sensitivity.
However, the changes happening in your body during menopause are probably making worse a food sensitivity that you always had.
Food travels slower through the digestive tract thanks to changing hormone levels during menopause, this then puts stress on the function of your liver.
Lowering estrogen levels can negatively affect your stomach acid causing poor digestion.
Symptoms of food intolerances
There are some common food intolerances that have immediate and terribly painful gastrointestinal symptoms, such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease. These can cause stomach pain, gas, bloating, and/or diarrhoea. Symptoms can start immediately after eating.
On the other hand, other more insidious symptoms may not be linked to foods in an obvious way.
- Chronic muscle or joint pain
- Sweating, or increased heart rate or blood pressure
- Headaches or migraines
- Exhaustion after a good night’s sleep
- Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis
- Rashes or eczema
- Inability to concentrate or feeling like your brain is “foggy”
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep disorders
Here’s the biggie, if your body has trouble digesting certain foods, it can affect your hormone production and/or metabolism, setting up inflammation which can compromise your immune system and gastrointestinal system causing symptoms such as those in the list above.
Long term these undiagnosed food sensitivities can cripple your immune system allowing for weight gain and any number of chronic diseases.
How to identify allergies
Get a blood test. Work with a Dr or Nutritionist who specialises in food allergies and speak with them about your results.
Easy But Requires A Little More Input By You
Figure out which foods or drinks you may be reacting to and stop eating them.
The best way to identify your food/drink triggers is to journal how you feel after each meal.
Eliminate the foods that you’ve had a reaction to.
Remove all traces of them, for three full weeks and monitor your symptoms.
Two common food intolerances
Start with these:
- Lactose (in dairy – eliminate altogether, or look for a “lactose-free” label – try nut or coconut milk instead).
- Gluten (in wheat, rye, and other common grains – look for a “gluten-free” label – try gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa gluten-free oats).
This is not a complete list, but it’s a good place to start. Lactose intolerance is thought to affect up to 75% of people, while “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” can affect up to 13% of people.
So, eliminate all traces of lactose and gluten for at least 3 weeks and monitor how you are feeling.
Dairy and grains are a part of many government-recommended food guidelines, but you are able to get all of the nutrients you need if you focus on replacing them with nutrient-dense foods.
If you don’t notice a change
After eliminating gluten and dairy if you don’t see an improvement try the next most common allergens: soy, eggs, nuts, nightshades (tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplant), citrus, and yeast.
Eliminate them for at least 3 weeks.
Re-introduce each allergen one by one and eat regularly over 3 days paying careful attention to how you are feeling.
A reliable way to monitor how you feel after eating certain foods is food tracking
After every meal or snack, write down the foods you ate, and any symptoms so you can more easily spot trends.
And, as mentioned earlier, symptoms may not start immediately following a meal. You may find, for example, that you wake up with a headache the morning after eating bananas.
When you eliminate an ingredient or food, it’s important to make sure it’s not hiding in your diet somewhere.
Restaurant food, packaged foods, and sauces or dressings are notorious for hiding unwanted ingredients. You know that sugar hides in almost everything, but did you also know that wheat is often added to processed meats and soy sauce, and lactose can even be found in some medications or supplements?
When in doubt ask, read labels, and consider cooking from scratch.
If you struggle with your weight, have heart disease, diabetes, or cancer, the benefits of uncovering hidden food allergies are immense. Food is your closest ally whether you are trying to prevent or cure illness.
If you are in perimenopause or menopause eliminating foods you are intolerant to could help alleviate menopause symptoms greatly.
If you have a food allergy feel free to tell us about it in the comments.