Friendly bacteria and how they help the menopause

Eileen Durward
Ask Eileen

23 May 2016

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, it's all about friendly bacteria. Now, over the weeks, I’ve mentioned in a lot of the video blogs about your friendly bacteria and how important they are for your health. I thought that I would take this opportunity to go into this in just a little bit more detail to give you a good idea of just how really important they are.

Now, we have hundreds if not thousands of different kinds of bacteria in our digestive system, and a lot of them have very specific jobs to do. Some of them will help with your digestion and elimination, some of them will help to deactivate toxins, some of them will help to support immune system. But we know now from recent research that some of them can actually help with hormonal control, and this is very, very important in the menopause.

So what goes on in this instance?

Well, scientists have discovered that very specific groups of bacteria can break down something called lignans, and actually remanufacture them into phytoestrogens. Now, phytoestrogens are oestrogens that have been derived from plants that actually mimic oestrogen in the body. So they can actually go towards keeping your oestrogen levels up and balanced as your normal estrogen levels start to actually fall.

Now, what are lignans? Well, all you really need to know is lignans come from a lot of natural foods. You will get them in vegetables, in fruit, in whole grains, in nuts and seeds, and lentils and beans as well.

When the friendly bacteria actually break these lignans down and reform them into phytoestrogens, these phytoestrogens are absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream and they can help to keep your oestrogen levels topped up on a daily basis.

The problem is that modern life and all sorts of things can actually interfere with our friendly bacteria. We can look at things like antibiotics can really cause lots of damage. It doesn’t have to be taken recently. You could have had antibiotics many, many years ago, and that could still have an effect on the types of bacteria you have in your gut today.

What can affect your friendly bacteria

The problem is that modern life and all sorts of things can actually interfere with our friendly bacteria. We can look at things like antibiotics can really cause lots of damage. It doesn’t have to be taken recently. You could have had antibiotics many, many years ago, and that could still have an effect on the types of bacteria you have in your gut today.

We can look at stresd – that can really affect your friendly bacteria. The majority of us women in the menopause are stressed on a regular basis. IBS can do this, and we know that a lot of women start to get digestive problems during the menopause.

Smoking and alcohol and coffee can really have a profound effect on our friendly bacteria, as can processed foods, and especially high sugar foods as well.

You could even just have had an upset tummy. You could have gone on holiday and had a little bit of holiday diarrhoea. You could have ended up with a little bit of a tummy bug, and that could actually affect the level of your friendly bacteria as well.

It’s quite interesting how many women find that after episodes of digestive upset that their menopause symptoms can actually get a little bit worse as well. So that’s a really big clue.

How can you help your friendly bacteria?

Now, what can you do to help your friendly bacteria? I know a lot of you will be sitting there going, “I know you can take a probiotic supplement or you can eat lots of yogurt.” Yes, they’re certainly very helpful, but your friendly bacteria need a very specific growing medium in your digestive tract. If that’s not right, then your friendly bacteria will really, really struggle to maintain themselves.

Now, I’m a bit of gardener and I tend to see the gut as a little bit like a garden. If you’re a gardener and you want to sow seeds and grow flowers and grow your vegetables, you’ve got to tend to the soil first. You’ve got to weed the soil, you’ve got to fertilize the soil, you’ve got to get everything just right in order to grow things really, really well. Unfortunately, if your gut environment is a little bit off and you just put probiotics in, then they may not help very much.

What can you do to prepare it for the friendly bacteria? Your friendly bacteria needs something called L+ lactic acid. L+ lactic acid can only be got through very specific foods. Now, we do something called Molkosan, and this is called Molkosan Fruit. This is a lovely remedy which you can add to smoothies, you can mix it into your protein shakes, or you can just drink it as well. You could also look at foods like kefir, you could look at Kombucha tea. Another way you can get it is through fermented foods, so that would be things like sauerkraut. If you take these kind of foods on a daily basis, this is really going to go a long way to get your gut working well and also to provide the right environment for your friendly bacteria as well.

Friendly bacteria and other areas of health

Now, we know that friendly bacteria are also really good for lots of different areas of your health as well. They can help with your immune system as I said before, they can help with giving you energy, they can help with your digestive system. So it’s a really good thing to look after your friendly bacteria on a daily basis.

Just remember as well that we also have a range of friendly bacteria in the vagina as well. All the things that I’ve mentioned today can actually affect those as well. I have mentioned this before in other blogs, but if you’ve missed it, basically low friendly bacteria in the vagina can cause vaginal dryness, it can cause irritation, it can cause inflammation, it can cause things like thrush, and can also be a big contributory factor in getting repeat bladder infections, such as cystitis.

Now, your friendly bacteria in the vagina do need a specific blend of probiotics. It’s slightly different to the ones you get in your digestive system, but your local health food shop would be able to advise you on that as well. So for this week, start thinking about ways in which you can improve your digestion and improve the level of the friendly bacteria in your digestive system. It really can make quite a difference to your menopause symptoms and your general well-being as well.

Until next week...

So, I look forward to seeing you next week on A.Vogel Talks Menopause. If you have any specific issue that you would like me to talk about on one of my videos, please do send it in.


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