If you’re in the throes of menopause, your body’s likely on a pretty wild ride.
While you probably know all about some of these symptoms, others, such as what menopause does to your gut, don’t get as much publicity.
But caring for the microorganisms in your gastrointestinal system (called the microbiome) is important — always, and especially during menopause — and probiotics might be able to help.
But what are the best probiotics for menopause?
Let’s get into gut health.
In this article: 📝
- What are probiotics?
- What’s the link between probiotics and menopause?
- What is the best probiotic for menopause?
- What are the best probiotics for menopause weight loss?
- Can probiotics help with hormone imbalance?
- What supplements should I take as a menopausal woman?
- The bottom line
What are probiotics?
Probiotics (for menopause or not) are just “friendly” live bacteria that have a host of benefits for our health.
We naturally have billions of bacteria in our digestive system.
The good news?
Probiotic supplements help restore this balance.
And it’s not just digestion either.
Probiotics reportedly reduce bladder infections, ward off yeast infections, contribute to a healthy metabolism, and even stave off hot flashes.
What’s the link between probiotics and menopause?
Probiotics are having their day in the sun.
They were gaining in popularity before the pandemic, but during it, as people started to look for ways to take better care of themselves, probiotic sales in the US increased by 33%.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are really good for your gut.
Certain diseases and illnesses, medication, and various lifestyle factors can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in your gut, and probiotics can help to restore it.
Having the right levels of the right bacteria in your body helps your immune system to function properly.
During menopause, the drop in estrogen your body goes through takes its toll on the microorganisms in your gut, mouth, and vagina (microorganisms love warm moist environments).
What some studies have found is that these shifts in your microbiome could be responsible for some menopausal symptoms, including dry mouth, vaginal dryness, weight gain, and changes to your mood, your bones, and your immune system.
Keeping your gut full of healthy microorganisms, in other words, especially as your estrogen levels decrease, might ease your menopause symptoms.
What is the best probiotic for menopause?
Before you reach for a probiotic supplement, it’s important to chat with your doctor.
They’ll know all about your unique health factors and whether probiotics are right for you.
It’s also worth remembering that the FDA is still figuring out how to regulate probiotics because they’re considered to be dietary supplements, not medication.
This means that there can be quite large discrepancies in quality between different brands at pharmacies and health stores.
Some don’t even have enough bacteria to really make a difference.
If you’d like to start taking probiotics, you could start by upping your intake of probiotic-rich foods first.
Probiotics are found in abundance in fermented foods, like kimchi, yogurt (especially plain Greek yogurt), kefir (a dairy drink), kombucha, pickles, and sauerkraut.
Prebiotic foods are also a good idea — they’re found in leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, and extra-virgin olive oil and have great non-inflammatory, healthy gut properties.
If you’d like to take probiotics as a supplement instead, here are some (long and Latin) names to look out for on the bottles you buy:
Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum
These probiotic strains can help to improve your mood by boosting the neurotransmitters that make you feel happier, serotonin and GABA.
Lactobacillus acidophilus can also help with other digestive troubles, like irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and diarrhea.
Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus rhamnosus
These strains are particularly good for your vagina and help healthy bacteria to grow.
They’ve been shown to help a number of different conditions, including vaginosis (which refers to a smelly, white discharge), thrush, and urinary tract infections.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus is great for bone density, too.
What are the best probiotics for menopause weight loss?
Weight gain can be one of the more frustrating symptoms of menopause (most symptoms tend to be a little infuriating, but picking up a few pounds without warning feels particularly unfair).
Taking a particular probiotic strain might be able to help.
Studies suggest that the best probiotics for menopause weight loss are probably Lactobacillus gasseri and strains in the Bifidobacterium family. Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus amylovorus may also help.
It’s worth keeping in mind that a lot of the research in this space is on obesity rather than menopause-specific weight gain.
Some of it might not apply.
And unfortunately, if the number on the scale is a bit higher than it once was, a probiotic isn’t likely to be a cure-all.
A balanced diet and regular exercise are still the best weight loss tactics out there.
At this point in your life, remember that physical changes are inevitable.
Try not to fixate too much on your size and shape.
Being healthy — both physically and mentally — is what matters most.
Can probiotics help with hormone imbalance?
Now, the jury’s out on whether menopause probiotics balance hormone levels.
We do know that gut bacteria break down and remove hormones from the blood, though.
This is known as the estrogen-gut microbiome axis.
Catchy, we know.
So it stands to reason that a diverse and balanced microbiome (that’s all the microbes living in your body) might also help with menopause symptoms caused by hormonal changes.
While many medical and nutrition professionals believe there’s a link between probiotics and hormones, more research is needed.
But the ways in which probiotics benefit our hormones could be one of their greatest benefits.
Friendly bacteria in our gut metabolize our hormones and help to balance them out.
Finding and maintaining this balance reduces inflammation, which is one of the biggest contributing factors to a wide variety of chronic diseases.
During menopause, when the balance of your hormones starts to shift naturally, and you start to feel digestive changes, probiotic-rich food can almost certainly help.
It says that only 7% of women in Japan experience this symptom, which is considered one of the most common menopausal symptoms in the US where it is experienced by 55% of women.
The fact that Japanese women eat an estrogen-rich diet was once thought to be the reason.
But Berson suggests that maybe it’s all the fermented food in their diets, too.
What supplements should I take as a menopausal woman?
As well as probiotics in menopause, a healthy diet and gentle exercise can be very helpful for managing trickier symptoms.
But if you need a helping hand, vitamin supplements can help with particular symptoms.
Make sure to speak with your doctor about any symptoms you’re having.
They can help you find the best treatments for you.
And when browsing the pharmacy, just make sure whatever menopause supplement you choose has the specific vitamins you need.
The bottom line
So, does taking probiotics help with menopause?
It’s likely that they probably do.
Research around this topic is deepening our understanding of menopausal symptoms and what may be responsible for them.
The idea that hormonal changes might not be directly responsible for these symptoms but rather influence what happens to the gut and vagina, which in turn causes these symptoms, is interesting.
It could affect how menopause is treated.
Introducing probiotic-rich foods into your diet is an excellent place to start, and you might consider taking a supplement or two, too.
But remember that probiotics aren’t for everyone.
In some cases, such as if you have a compromised immune system or certain diseases, taking probiotics can potentially do some harm.
Speak to your doctor before you take any probiotic supplements.
And if you’re looking for extra support during this time of life, check out the Peanut menopause community.
We’re here for you!