Food Sensitivities in Perimenopause
In perimenopause and menopause, our bodies undergo a multitude of changes, and one surprising aspect that affects many women in midlife is the emergence of new food sensitivities.
Suddenly, foods that once brought joy and yumminess can now provoke discomfort and unwelcome reactions. This phenomenon can be puzzling and frustrating for those experiencing it. In this blog post, I’ll dive into the reasons behind the appearance of new food sensitivities during midlife and how to navigate this new dietary landscape.
Exploring the Reasons Behind New Food Sensitivities
1. Age-Related Changes in Digestion
As we age, our digestive system undergoes natural changes that can affect our ability to process certain foods. Reduced production of digestive enzymes, such as lactase (responsible for breaking down lactose) and stomach acid, can lead to difficulty in breaking down complex food components like protein. Also, digestion can slow down, increasing the likelihood of experiencing food sensitivities.
2. Altered Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome, a huge, diverse community of microorganisms in our intestines, plays a crucial role in our overall health. Stress, medication use (NSAIDs, birth control pills, HRT), and dietary choices can impact the balance of these microorganisms. As we age, this ecosystem may become disrupted, leading to an increase in gut inflammation and an enhanced immune response to certain foods. Consequently, this can trigger new food sensitivities that were previously well-tolerated.
3. Hormone Changes
Fluctuating hormone levels can contribute to the development of new food sensitivities. Estrogen, for example, has anti-inflammatory properties that may offer some protection against certain reactions. When estrogen levels decline during menopause, the body’s response to allergens and irritants may become heightened, leading to new sensitivities to foods that were previously not a problem.
4. Accumulated Exposure
Over the years, our exposure to certain foods can accumulate, leading to a cumulative effect on the immune system. If certain foods are consumed frequently, the body may eventually develop an immune response to them. My partner developed an egg allergy that manifested as brain fog because he was eating them every day. Removed them from his diet and boom, no more brain fog! The good news is that these foods can be reintroduced slowly after several months of removal.
5. Changes in Eating Habits
Midlife often brings about changes in lifestyle, including changes in eating habits. It is not uncommon for us to try new styles of cooking, or eat foods that were previously eaten only occasionally. These dietary shifts can expose the body to new proteins, chemicals or other substances, increasing the chances of developing new sensitivities.
The Bottom Line
While the emergence of new food sensitivities during midlife can be frustrating, it is essential to approach these changes with patience and an understanding of why your body may be reacting the way it is.
The most common allergens include wheat, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, ashwagandha, etc.), peanuts, sugar, and artificial sweeteners.
If you find yourself experiencing new food sensitivities, consider consulting with a healthcare professional to obtain food sensitivity testing (not all tests are created equal). Keeping a food journal to identify trigger foods can also be helpful. Eat a balanced and diverse diet, as this can support a healthier gut microbiome and overall immune system.
Remember that everyone’s journey is unique, and while some women may develop new food sensitivities, others may not. Embrace this change as an opportunity to explore new food adventures and cultivate a deeper understanding of your body’s evolving needs.
Dr. Anna Garrett is a menopause expert and Doctor of Pharmacy. She helps women who are struggling with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause find natural hormone-balancing solutions so they can rock their mojo through midlife and beyond. Dr. Anna is the author of Perimenopause: The Savvy Sister’s Guide to Hormone Harmony. Order your copy at www.perimenopausebook.com.
Dr. Anna is available for 1-1 consultation. Find out more at www.drannagarrett.com/lets-talk.