Can Probiotics Help Manage the Symptoms of Menopause?
Medically reviewed by Stacy A. Henigsman, DO
Probiotics may help ease menopausal symptoms and regulate body weight, but their effectiveness remains controversial.
Menopause can be a challenging time for some people. Many people experience hot flashes, night sweats, and other symptoms alongside physical changes such as weight gain.
The symptoms that occur during this transition period can vary from person to person. Some people may not have symptoms, some may have mild symptoms, and some may have severe symptoms.
Symptoms of menopause can last for a few years, and you may feel like you’ve reached the end of menopause when they subside. However, entering the postmenopausal stage can bring additional health risks such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
Some research suggests that probiotics can help relieve these symptoms or reduce their severity. Here’s what you should know.
Hot flashes and night sweats
The hypothalamus in your brain regulates your hormonal system and body temperature.
The reduction in estrogen production during menopause may influence your hypothalamus to work differently, leading to vasomotor symptoms.
Vasomotor symptoms occur when your blood vessels abruptly change in size, resulting in a warmer body temperature. The effects of this are commonly known as hot flashes and night sweats.
A small 2017 study involving 62 women suggests that consuming probiotics alongside supplements such as red clover may help reduce vasomotor symptoms.
Red clover is a type of legume that contains isoflavone, a substance that acts similarly to estrogen.
While red clover is marketed as an extract to reduce menopausal symptoms, its effectiveness in treating them remains unclear.
Sleep quality and mood improvement
It’s thought that your gut and your brain communicate with each other through your nervous, immune, and endocrine systems. The types of beneficial bacteria present in your gut may even affect your mood.
Mood changes, hot flashes, and night sweats are all symptoms of menopause that can interfere with your sleep.
A 2020 review of studies found a correlation between probiotic bacteria and sleep quality and mood improvement in people who experienced anxiety and depression.
The vagina acts as a barrier to prevent harmful bacteria from causing infection.
Before menopause, estrogen promotes the colonization of Lactobacilli, a type of beneficial bacteria in the vagina. Lactobacilli help maintain a lower vaginal pH level to reduce the risk of vaginal infections.
The lack of estrogen production during the menopausal and postmenopausal periods can increase your vaginal pH level, allowing the growth of harmful bacteria such as Enterobacter, Escherichia coli, Candida, and Gardnerella.
These bacteria may increase your risk for vaginal infections.
It’s thought that using probiotics alone or in combination with antimicrobial medications may help prevent vaginal infections and symptoms related to them, such as vaginal discharge changes and unusual odor.
Estrogen plays a vital role in maintaining bone strength, and a decline in estrogen production can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis.
Your age, sex assigned at birth, race, ethnicity, and overall health also play a role.
Globally, 1 in 3 women over 50 are at risk of osteoporosis-induced fractures.
Limiting or stopping use of tobacco products and taking calcium and vitamin D supplements may help slow down bone loss.
A 2021 review of studies found that incorporating probiotics may help increase bone mineral density at the lumbar spine in postmenopausal people.
Weight gain and weight loss
Weight gain is common among those who experience perimenopause and menopause because of the progressive decline in estrogen production and ovarian function.
During this time, it’s typical to experience a loss of lean body mass and a redistribution of body fat, with more fat accumulating in your abdomen.
Having more fat in your waist area can increase your risk of insulin resistance and dyslipidemia.
A lack of exercise and a diet high in fat, salt, and sugar can also contribute to weight gain, fat accumulation in the abdomen, and the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
Additionally, menopause-induced stress may trigger emotional eating, which could contribute to weight gain.
Research suggests that the bacterial composition in the colon could contribute to metabolic diseases. People with overweight or obesity may be more prone to inflammation, insulin resistance, and fat accumulation.
Certain strains of probiotics are thought to improve the health of the gut lining by reducing inflammation and reducing the risk of obesity and other chronic conditions.
Specifically, probiotics may promote weight loss by increasing short-chain fatty acids, increasing the number of beneficial bacteria, reducing inflammation and fat deposition, and improving insulin sensitivity.
A 2017 review of studies suggests that short-term probiotic supplementation — lasting less than 12 weeks — may contribute to slight reductions in body weight, body mass index, and body fat percentage.
However, most research on probiotics and weight loss has involved small groups of participants and looked only at participants who had overweight or obesity.
More research is needed to better understand the potential role of probiotics in weight loss.
Probiotic side effects to consider
You can consume probiotics by eating fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha, or you can take probiotic supplements.
Foods with naturally occurring probiotics are generally well tolerated when consumed in moderation.
Although probiotic supplements may be somewhat more likely to cause side effects, the effects are usually mild and tend to resolve within a few days to weeks.
Starting slowly with a low dose and gradually increasing your dose over time may help reduce your risk of side effects.
Temporary side effects may include:
- increased thirst
If your symptoms persist or worsen over time, stop using probiotics and consult a healthcare professional.
Probiotic product recommendations
Consuming probiotics may help reduce menopause symptoms by balancing your body’s unique microbiome of harmful and healthful bacteria.
Bifidobacterium animalis is a type of bacteria naturally found in your colon. Supplementing your diet with this type of bacteria may reduce abdominal fat, which is one of the key factors associated with metabolic disorders.
Lactobacillus gasseri is a type of bacteria naturally found in the vagina. Studies involving rodents showed effects on weight loss with the use of Lactobacillus gasseri.
Synbiotics, a mixture of prebiotics and probiotics, may also support weight loss and anti-inflammatory functions.
Learn more about the best probiotic supplements recommended by dietitians.
If you choose foods with probiotics, such as yogurt and kefir, be sure to look for those that include live bacteria by reading the food packaging.
Under current Food and Drug Administration food labeling regulations, it’s optional for yogurt producers to list the amount and state of the bacteria present in their product. However, this regulation is changing as of January 1, 2024.
The bottom line
Probiotics may help ease menopause symptoms and regulate body weight, but their effectiveness remains controversial.
More research is needed to explore and support the health benefits associated with probiotic use during the various stages of menopause.
For example, consuming probiotics alone will not lead to weight loss during perimenopause, menopause, or postmenopause.