From the time I got my first period when I was nearly 15 years old, I had terrible cramps and bloating every single month. For decades. Normal and common, I know, but I remember thinking that someday, once I hit perimenopause and menopause, I would surely feel better. But here’s the catch: The water retention that makes your belly bloat and is associated with other symptoms like gas, indigestion, and constipation, can be due in part, to hormone fluctuations and declines.1 Low estrogen levels persist once your period grinds to a halt.
The gut microbiome plays an important role in estrogen regulation. Recent research has shown there is gut-estrogen connection called the estrobolome. The estrobolome is a collection of microbes that can influence the balance of estrogen in your body.2 So, it makes sense that during perimenopause, when estrogen levels are all over the place, it’s especially important to ensure that your gut microbiome is strong and healthy. When your gut is out of whack—due to too much ultra-processed food, too much sugar, too much stress, and too little sleep—it can alter your estrobolome.3 And when that delicate gut-estrogen connection is impaired, it can throw off digestion and lead to inflammation—aka bloating.
The best way to manage and potentially eliminate perimenopause and menopause belly bloat and discomfort is to cut the sugar, salt, and processed carbs out of your diet and focus on whole foods—particularly fiber and probiotic-rich foods. It’s also a good idea to cut back on alcohol, the excess sugar won’t do you any good plus it’s a huge sleep disruptor –and do your best to up your water intake. Aim for half your weight in ounces of water4 as being well hydrated does wonders to regulate digestion and ease bloating.
Menopause-Friendly Menu Items for Belly Bloat
Here's a chicken dinner I love to make year-round for family and friends that’s easy, delicious, and will keep perimenopause and menopause bloating at bay thanks to anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as lemon, tomatoes and olive oil, as well as fiber-rich ingredients such as quinoa, cucumber, chickpeas and herbs—plus a probiotic yogurt marinade for the chicken.
Yogurt-Marinated Grilled Chicken
¾ cup of plain, full-fat yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
Zest from one lemon
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Frank’s Hot Sauce
3 lbs. chicken breasts
Lemon slices for serving (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Add the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. Bring to room temperature while heating the grill (you can also use a grill pan on the stove). Grill chicken for about 5-7 minutes per side (depending on thickness) or until cooked through (the yogurt will keep it moist). Put chicken on a platter and garnish with lemon slices (if using).
Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad with Chickpeas
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chopped flat leaf parsley
½ cup chopped mint leaves
½ cup chopped basil leaves
1 medium English cucumber, diced
5 chopped scallions
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 can (15 oz.) canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice from 2 lemons
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
- Rinse quinoa well and place it in a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, uncovered, until water is absorbed. Stir and cover for five minutes then spread on a baking sheet to cool.
- In the meantime, put the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and make the dressing: Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a dressing shaker or Mason jar and shake until well combined. Add cooled quinoa to the bowl, add dressing and toss well. Adjust seasoning, and add more olive oil if needed, before serving.