Menopause, ADHD and Gut Health

ADHD and gut health | female sits on floor with left leg on floor and hands round ankle of right leg with knee in the air.

As you know since my early 40’s I’ve suffered from bloating, food allergies and intolerances. In fact, these were one of the first signs of menopause with me (not that I knew they were symptoms at that point). Since then they have gradually worsened. So, during lockdown I decided to finally order a YorkTest, opting for the Intolerance and Allergy combined test as I had a pretty good idea I was definitely gluten intolerant, possibly celiac, but I also knew there was still something niggling away. At about the same time, I realised that these were signs of menopause and began researching how to help whilst I waited for the results of my test. When I got my test results back it was no surprise that gluten, wheat etc. were high on my intolerance test, but turns out I was allergic to Barley, Rice and Soy!

But even though I’ve been trying to be good, it’s not always easy with a family of 5 and well-known issues with ADHD and food (that’s a whole other post in itself). So I still really struggle with bloating, weight gain and gut health, whilst some of it may be down to medication, I want to make sure I am doing what I can to improve my gut health.  I also want to learn if there is a connection between menopause, ADHD and gut health!

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What is gut health?

Most of us have heard the term “gut health” and know that we should look after our gut health to improve our overall well-being. But what does it actually mean to have better gut health? The human body has trillions of microbes such as bacteria, fungi and viruses, which are collectively known as the microbiome and mainly live in our gastrointestinal tract. Our microbiome affects our digestion, immune system, mood and cognitive function. You may not know this but your gut microbiome is the foundation of your health. In fact, 80% of your immune system is in the gut, and the majority of your body’s serotonin is, too. Basically, if your gut isn’t healthy, then your immune system and hormones won’t work so well and you will become unwell.

Why is better gut health so important?

Your gut is the foundation of everything, and the brain is your second gut; therefore if you improve your gut health, you improve your brain function too! The gut aids in the digestion of the foods you eat, absorbing nutrients and using that to fuel and sustain your body. Logic dictates that if your gut is imbalanced and your immune system isn’t functioning fully, your serotonin and hormones won’t either. This show just how directly our gut health could affect and/or exacerbate menopause and ADHD symptoms.

What can affect our gut health?

There are lots of different factors that can affect our gut health, but some of the most common are:

  • Stress – Excess stress has been shown to reduce gut diversity and alter gut profiles by increasing harmful bacteria and reducing beneficial bacteria.
  • Poor nutrition – you should be ensuring you eat a diverse range of foods. A diet lacking in a variety of different whole foods can result in a loss of gut diversity.
  • Lack of Prebiotics – Prebiotics are a type of fibre commonly found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They are important for increasing healthy gut bacteria.
  • Drinking too much alcohol – Generally speaking, alcohol consumption has a harmful effect on gut bacteria. However, the polyphenol content in red wine may have a protective effect on gut bacteria when consumed in moderation.
  • Antibiotic use – Antibiotics are important medicines used to treat infections and diseases caused by bacteria. However, one of their drawbacks is that they affect both good and bad bacteria.

Menopause & Gut Health

Little is known regarding the influence of menopause on the gut microbiome. Research suggests that menopause is linked to lower gut microbiome diversity. It also shows greater similarity to the male gut microbiome. However, much more research is needed. Read more here.

ADHD & Gut Health

In recent years, a range of studies have suggested that the gut microbiome has a strong influence on our mental health. It may even play a significant role in the development of neurodevelopmental conditions, such as ADHD. Studies show that people with ADHD have a different composition in their gut than people who don’t have the condition. Read more here.

So how can we improve our gut health?

Dr Megan Rossi (The Gut Health Doctor), is on a mission to inspire and transform everyone’s gut health using the latest science. Knowing that most of us find addressing our gut health overwhelming, her website presents evidence-based solutions. So, whether tackling a gut issue or chronic condition, immunity, energy, mood, skin, hormones or reaching a happy weight — good gut health is the place to start.

Here are her 10 steps to achieving good gut health:

  1. Fill up on fibre – In a world obsessed with protein, fly the flag of fibre.
  2. Switch it up – make swaps and focus on delicious diversity.
  3. Chew more – it really is important to chew properly.
  4. Fall in love with EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  5. Get funky with fermenting – from fizzy kombucha to spicy Korean kimchi.
  6. Stress less – what’s going on in our brain can influence what’s going on in our gut.
  7. Sleep better – disturbed sleep can throw off your gut’s natural cycle.
  8. Move your body – Regular exercise (three times a week) can significantly improve gut bacteria diversity independently of what you eat.
  9. Cut down on unnecessary meds – Antibiotics are life-saving, but, unless your doctor insists you need them, they’re best avoided.
  10. Go easy on the alcohol and additives – Food additives, including artificial sweeteners and emulsifiers have been connected to negatively impacting the gut.

To read her full guide, go to Home | The Gut Health Doctor and enter your email to have the guide sent to you. Really interesting read!

So I have a lot more reading to do -cue this being my new hyperfocus- and some changes to make I think. I’d love to hear from any of you who have already gone down this route. What changes you’ve made, did they help?

Here’s to banishing the bloating!

Fay x

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If you like this post, then please read more here:

Neurodiversity – How Felicity Finds

Menopause – How Felicity Finds

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Featured Image: Imani Bahati on Unsplash

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