How Does Gluten Affect Menopause?Mar 12, 2023
Gluten isn’t the safest thing to put in your body. If anything, I recommend cutting it out of your diet entirely!
There may be a chance you are consuming gluten without even knowing it! That’s because gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat and barley and is used in a lot of everyday foods and products.
Perhaps your guilty pleasures are the rolls they serve in restaurants or an occasional beer on the weekends. Some other examples of gluten containing foods are bread, pasta, soy sauce, biscuits and cornstarch -- which I know are common on a lot of grocery lists and meal plans.
Gluten has a funny way of sneaking into our lives! Unfortunately, consuming gluten may be affecting (or even worsening) your menopausal symptoms.
Around 20 years ago, when I discovered my gluten-intolerance, most chefs had no idea what gluten was… and I became really tired of explaining it to them. Sometimes, I’d just give up and order grilled chicken with steamed veggies as the rest of my table ordered aromatic delicacies.
But that was over 20 years ago!
Now that the food industry is a lot more accommodating, more chefs and restaurants are educating themselves on how to prepare delicious, gluten-free meals. I can happily eat at local and international restaurants without worrying about ingesting any gluten.
Personally, I feel better, inside and out, after cutting it out of my diet. What I’m about to share with you is backed by science AND provides reasons why you should avoid gluten as well!
Let’s begin with how gluten affects menopause in general.
Does Gluten Make Menopause Symptoms Worse?
Short answer: yes!
Whenever we consume food, the nutrients get absorbed into our bloodstream and other functional parts of our body. Because of this, food can affect our weight, hormones, pH balance, and so much more. . . including our menopausal symptoms.
Menopause affects the average woman from as young as 40. During this time (and the years following), women can expect to face a whole new wave of changes.
These changes come from the common and uncommon symptoms that menopause brings. From thinning hair to a growing waistline, menopausal symptoms can bring challenges to our health and also to our confidence.
Throw gluten into the mix, and we’ve got a problem!
In this post, I want to highlight a few ways that gluten affects menopause. Specifically:
- How gluten affects estrogen;
- How gluten affects weight gain;
- How gluten affects hot flashes & night sweats; plus
- My top recommendations for alternatives to eating gluten.
For us menopausal women, gluten can cause unstable weight gain. You might even be losing sleep and and thus energy too! For now though, let's touch on how it throws our hormones out of whack.
Gluten can lower estrogen levels
Estrogen is the hormone with the biggest effect on menopause.
When we start experiencing symptoms, it’s often because of this hormone. A drop in estrogen levels often precipitates most of our symptoms.
These symptoms include:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Mood swings, loss of sleep and fatigue
- Higher risks of heart disease and osteoporosis
So, just how does gluten affect estrogen?
Gluten is known to disrupt hormones through inflammation in the small intestine.
Usually, this is where hormones like estrogen would be absorbed. However, when the intestines become inflamed, excess estrogen is left behind. This causes estrogen dominance, ie: hormonal imbalance.
If our body can't produce (or absorb) enough estrogen, then we will experience stronger, more intense menopause symptoms than women who aren’t facing this hormonal issue.
For now, though, let's talk about the dreaded weight gain.
Gluten causes bloating and weight gain
For this section, I want to touch on digestive problems as a whole.
When we get older, our bodies can’t digest food as easily as when we were younger. So those crackers and breadsticks that we have become accustomed to can become a huge burden on our digestive systems.
Because of this, we face some serious issues when eating certain foods, like not being able to absorb the nutrients.
Did I mention gluten has a lot to do with that? Specifically, you might develop gluten intolerance (or gluten sensitivity) later in life!
Consuming gluten makes it harder for us to prevent bloating and weight gain, especially during menopause. Yikes!
But that’s not the only way gluten impacts our bodies.
Gluten worsens hot flashes and night sweats
Another way that gluten snakes its way into our menopausal symptoms is through heat.
Chances are, you’re in that stage of life where you are dreading hot flashes, night sweats and flushes. These things can plague us day in and day out.
But, did you know gluten can make these symptoms worse?
Remember, gluten affects our hormones! These same hormones are responsible for maintaining our temperature. During this change in our lives, gluten has a chokehold over our hormones, and can throw them completely out of balance.
“Women with undiagnosed celiac disease and diagnosed celiacs who aren't gluten-free have a harder time as they go through perimenopause and enter menopause: they have much worse hot flashes, muscle and joint problems, and irritability,” Very Well Health.
You might have been struggling with flashes (and flushes) for quite some time. . . and gluten may be the cause of just how severe they’ve become.
Here’s some good news: I have a few resources to help you reduce (or hopefully eliminate) your gluten intake!
These resources can be added to your diet, meal plans and kitchen cupboards. I promise you’ll love at least one of them!
Some Gluten Alternatives To Try Out
Below you’ll find a list of brands and ingredients that have helped me throughout my gluten-free journey, especially when facing my menopause symptoms head-on!
Before I share the alternatives to gluten, though, I want to encourage you to detox gluten from your life entirely: go completely cold-turkey if you can!
Yeah, I know that can sound scary, but hear me out. I want to meet you where you are. So, let’s start off with some baby steps.
You could try using gluten-free bread for your toast.
Or, ask for the gluten-free menu when you go to a restaurant.
Or, switch out your flour when you bake with healthier, gluten-free alternatives.
For those of us who struggle with feeding ourselves PLUS our families, don’t worry! Here are a few other simple ways to improve your diet:
- Swap out cornstarch with arrowroot when cooking
- Add tamari instead of soy sauce to your meals
- Use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Baking Flour to bake
- Make dinner with Siete Grain-Free Tortillas
- Try out some delicious gluten-free recipes
The key takeaway here is that you’re not sacrificing taste. If you cook for your family (especially your kids), they probably won’t even taste the difference. But your body will appreciate the break from gluten. Win-win!
Recommended Reading: My Journey to Gluten Freedom
Before You Go…
Change is one of the hardest steps to take towards a better, healthier you, but it’s one of the most rewarding, too!
When it comes to changing our diets, however, you should consider removing gluten from your day-to-day. Studies have shown that gluten-free women feel lighter, healthier and more at ease. Plus, I’m proof that going no-contact with gluten works!
Otherwise, you’re more likely to experience intense menopause symptoms, including:
- Imbalanced hormones
- Weight gain and bloating
- Hot flashes and night sweats
Some of these symptoms happen to even the healthiest of us. But, with some dietary changes, we can work on reducing the severity, by first removing gluten from our lives!
Countless studies point towards the differences between gluten-free and gluten-prone menopausal women, especially when it comes to improved overall health!
By the way, all of my recipes are gluten-free, in case you need someone to hold your hand during this nutritional shift. You can check out some of my favorites (and, hopefully, soon to be yours too) over here!
“But, what if I’m not in a cooking mood?” you might be wondering. If you’re dining out, remember to advocate for yourself!
Ask for the gluten-free menu or for non-gluten meals. Read reviews for restaurants that advertise to be gluten-free. Advocate for yourself and insist that your meal be created gluten-free. Most chefs are happy to create an enjoyable experience for you!
The first few times may feel prickly. But, eventually, it will feel like second nature.
You know I cannot leave without sharing one of my favorite recipes with you...
I hope these tips are helpful for you as you find answers to reducing your menopausal symptoms! If they helped, or you have more questions, consider working with me! You are not meant to suffer and I would love to help you navigate this journey.
All my love,