Menopause

Lower abdominal pain is pain that occurs below a person’s belly button. Bloating refers to a feeling of pressure or fullness in the abdomen, or a visibly distended abdomen. Sometimes, these symptoms occur together.

Though occasional lower abdominal pain and bloating are common, a person should speak to their doctor if it becomes a regular occurrence. In some cases, this combination of symptoms may indicate an underlying issue that requires medical treatment.

Keep reading for more information on some of the more common causes of abdominal pain and bloating. We also outline various treatment options for this combination of symptoms.

Causes of both abdominal pain and bloating

There are several causes of combined lower abdominal pain (LAP) and bloating. Some relatively harmless, or benign, causes include:

  • consumption of high fat foods
  • swallowing too much air
  • stress

In some cases, LAP and bloating can occur as a result of an underlying medical condition, such as:

  • constipation
  • food intolerances, such as lactose or gluten intolerance
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), although this more commonly causes upper abdominal pain-gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that causes vomiting and diarrhoea
  • diverticulitis, which is inflammation or infection of part of the large intestine
  • ileus, which is a condition that slows the function of the small and large intestine
  • delayed stomach emptying, or gastroparesis, which is a complication of diabetes mellitus
  • intestinal obstruction
  • inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)

Other conditions that can cause LAP and bloating are specific to females. These include:

  • menstrual pain
  • endometriosis
  • ovarian cysts
  • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • pregnancy
  • ectopic pregnancy

LAP and bloating can also be due to conditions that do not necessarily affect the stomach, intestines, or reproductive organs. These conditions include;

  • drug allergies
  • side effects of certain medications
  • hernia
  • cystitis, or infection of the urinary tract infection
  • appendicitis, or inflammation of the appendix
  • kidney stones

When to see a doctor

If the cause of LAP and bloating is relatively benign, symptoms should go away within a few hours to days.

A person should see a doctor if:

  • their symptoms last longer than a few days
  • their symptoms begin to interfere with their daily life
  • they are pregnant and are unsure of the cause of LAP and bloating

People should seek immediate medical attention if vomiting or the inability to pass gas occur alongside LAP and bloating.

People who experience LAP and bloating along with one or more of the following symptoms should seek emergency medical attention:

  • sudden worsening of pain
  • fever
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • bloody stool
  • unexplained weight loss
  • severe nausea and vomiting

Diagnosis

To make a diagnosis, a doctor will begin by carrying out a physical examination. An initial examination will involve applying pressure to the abdomen. This will help the doctor to check the location of pain and to feel for any abnormalities.

A doctor will also make a note of the person’s medical history, and any other symptoms they experience. They may also ask whether there is anything that triggers the pain or makes it worse.

Diagnostic tests, such as urine, blood, or stool tests, may also be necessary. These can help to identify signs of infection or other underlying conditions.

In some cases, a doctor may order one of the following imaging tests to check for abnormalities in the abdomen:

  • ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • CT or MRI

If the imaging tests come back normal, a doctor may perform a colonoscopy for a closer look inside the intestines.

Treatment

The following are some general home treatment options that may help to alleviate symptoms of LAP and bloating:

  • increasing fluid intake
  • exercising to help alleviate gas and bloating
  • taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications
  • taking OTC antacids

If home treatments do not work, a person should speak to their doctor about other treatment options. These will vary, depending on the cause of LAP and bloating. However, some examples include:

  • prescription medications to treat pain and bloating
  • antibiotics to help treat a bacterial infection
  • emergency surgery to remove a ruptured appendix

Prevention

There are some steps a person can take to help alleviate LAP and bloating. Two key steps include quitting smoking and avoiding trigger foods.

The following are examples of foods that may cause or contribute to LAP and bloating:

  • high fat foods
  • certain plant-based foods, such as cabbage, lentils, and beans
  • dairy products if a person is lactose intolerant
  • carbonated drinks
  • beer
  • chewing gum
  • hard candy

Also, people may benefit from increasing their intake of high fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This will help to prevent constipation and associated bloating.

If an underlying condition is the cause of LAP and bloating, then treating the condition should help to alleviate these symptoms.

Outlook

There are many potential causes of lower abdominal pain and bloating. Some causes are relatively benign and easy to treat, while others may be more serious.

Occasional lower abdominal pain and bloating are usually not a cause for concern. However, people should see a doctor if their symptoms worsen, last more than a few days, or disrupt their daily activities.

People who experience additional symptoms, such as vomiting, fever, or blood in the stool, should seek emergency medical attention.

In some cases, people can prevent lower abdominal pain and bloating by avoiding foods that may trigger these symptoms.

The majority of people can donate blood. However, those who use nicotine products, cannabis products, or both may wonder whether or not they can donate blood.

Hospitals and health clinics use donated blood to treat various medical conditions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of blood donations collected around the world per year exceeds 117.4 millionTrusted Source.

Blood donations can help with:

  • serious injuries
  • surgery
  • anemia
  • cancer
  • chronic illnesses

Read on to learn more about how different ways of using cigarettes, cannabis, and other drugs can affect a person’s ability to donate blood.

Nicotine

If a person smokes cigarettes or vapes, it does not disqualify them from donating blood.

However, both tobacco cigarettes and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) contain harmful chemicals that may affect a person’s blood.

The American Lung Association claim that a burning cigarette produces more than 7,000 chemicals, including carbon monoxide, ammonia, and arsenic. Several of these chemicals are toxic, and 69 of them can cause cancer.

In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes may contain the following harmful substances:

  • propylene glycol, which is present in paint solvents, antifreeze, and some foods (as an additive)
  • acetaldehyde, which is a toxic product of ethanol alcohol
  • formaldehyde, which is a chemical preservative present in disinfectants, glue, and plywood
  • diacetyl, which is a flavoring agent that tastes like butter
  • heavy metals, including nickel and lead
  • benzene, which is a chemical compound present in car exhaust

Currently, minimal information exists regarding the exact effects of vaping on blood donations. One thing to keep in mind is the fact that both vaping and smoking cigarettes can increase blood pressure.

According to American Red Cross guidelines, people can donate blood as long as their blood pressure is between 90/50 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and 80/100 mm Hg.

In one 2018 studyTrusted Source, researchers compared blood donations from people who smoke with donations from people who do not smoke. They concluded that smoking cigarettes does not affect the overall quality of the donated blood.

However, the researchers did note that the donations from the people who smoke had higher concentrations of carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) in the red blood cells. COHb forms when red blood cells come into contact with carbon monoxide, significantly reducing the amount of oxygen that red blood cells can carry.

Based on these findings, the researchers recommend that people avoid smoking for 12 hoursTrusted Source before donating blood.

Cannabis

Like smoking cigarettes and vaping, smoking cannabis does not disqualify a person from donating blood.

Current scientific researchTrusted Source suggests that cannabis use can negatively impact the cardiovascular system by:

  • increasing blood pressure and heart rate
  • narrowing the blood vessels
  • causing inflammation in the vessel walls
  • promoting blood clots

However, these potential adverse health effects should not impact the quality of any donated blood.

That being said, Vitalant — a nonprofit blood service provider — explain that people must not be under the influence of recreational drugs or alcohol at the time of donation.

Other drugs

According to the American Red Cross, people with a history of recreational intravenous drug use are not eligible to donate blood. This requirement helps prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis.

It is important to note that this is not the case for people who have used drugs in other ways, such as by smoking them or taking them orally. The American Red Cross and other blood donation companies do not specify drug use as an excluding factor.

However, a person does need to make sure that substances such as nicotine and cannabis are not in their system when donating blood.

Excluding factors

To donate blood, the general requirement is that a person should be at least 17 years old. A person can be 16 years old, but they must have a legal guardian’s consent.

Other factors that may disqualify a person from giving blood include:

  • feeling sick or having cold or flu symptoms
  • using intravenous drugs not prescribed by a licensed doctor
  • having an active infection
  • having HIV or testing positive for hepatitis B or C
  • having uncontrolled diabetes
  • having a blood clotting disorder
  • having ever had the Ebola virus
  • having blood cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma
  • having received a blood transfusion within the past 12 months
  • having a heart rate below 50 beats per minute (BPM) or above 100 BPM
  • having recently traveled to a foreign country
  • being pregnant, or having given birth within the past 6 weeks

Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of donating blood here.

Summary

Although smoking cigarettes, vaping, and using cannabis will not disqualify a person from donating blood, they should refrain from smoking for at least 2 hoursTrusted Source before and after donating blood.

A person may feel lightheaded or weak after giving blood, and smoking can exacerbate these symptoms. It is a good idea to avoid smoking until these symptoms go away.

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late menopause
late menopause
New research, published in the journal Neurology, suggests that a late menopause onset may benefit the memory skills of senior women later in life.

A new study led by Diana Kuh, from University College London in the United Kingdom, asks whether the age at which a woman gets her menopause influences her memory performance years later.

She and her colleagues were prompted in their research by existing studies that seemed to suggest that an older age at menopause — coupled with a longer reproductive life — are linked with better cognitive performance years later.

However, as the study authors explain, those studies did not use a particularly large sample, and neither did they benefit from a group of age-homogeneous participants.

So, Kuh and team set out to rectify this by looking at birth cohort studies. They investigated the data of 1,315 women using the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development in the U.K.

Menopause and memory: Studying the link

As a part of the survey, the women had been clinically followed since birth — that is, since March 1946 — and had at least one cognitive evaluation as adults. Furthermore, the survey included questions about their age at menopause and other aspects of their reproductive health.

At ages 43, 53, 60–64, and 69, the study participants were asked to take verbal memory tests as well as tests for their cognitive processing speed.

The memory assessment consisted of a task in which the participants were asked to recall as many items as possible from a list of 15, and to do so three times. The maximum score achievable in this task was 45 (they scored one point for each word).

Also, the survey included information on whether the women were taking hormone replacement therapy, whether they had had any surgery such as a hysterectomy, their cognitive ability as children, and a few other social factors, such as level of education and their occupation.

All of these factors were accounted for by the researchers in their analysis.

Late menopause may benefit verbal memory

The study revealed that, on average, participants remembered 25.8 words at age 43, a number that declined to 23.3 words by age 69.

But women whose menopause occurred naturally and later in life had higher scores, being able to recall an additional 0.09 words per year. This correlation was not affected by the use of hormone replacement therapy.

Kuh comments on the findings, saying, “The difference in verbal memory scores for a 10-year difference in the start of menopause was small — recalling only one additional word, but it’s possible that this benefit could translate to a reduced risk of dementia years later.”

However, she adds, “More research and follow-up are needed to determine whether that is the case.”

By contrast, no similar correlation between age and memory was noted among women who had surgery-induced menopause. Also, the researchers found no correlation between the age of menopause onset and the women’s information-processing capabilities.

Speculating on the possible mechanisms behind the findings, Kuh says, “This difference [between memory skills and processing speed] may be due to the estrogen receptor role, which regulates the gene that codes brain-derived neurotrophic factor.”

The brain-derived neurotrophic factor, she continues, “helps to solidify memory formation and storage.” Kuh and her colleagues conclude:

Our findings suggest lifelong hormonal processes, not just short-term fluctuations during the menopause transition, may be associated with verbal memory, consistent with evidence from a variety of neurobiological studies.”

Infertility in women above the age of forty can almost always be contributed to menopause, but if you’re in your twenties and thirties and struggling to conceive, there are a number of other causes.

Menopause can’t be ruled out. Premature menopause, while uncommon, does occur in certain women. This is usually genetic. If close family had premature menopause, that trait is likely to be passed along.

Premature menopause will have all the normal symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, mood swings and vaginal dryness. Women with premature menopause can no longer conceive with their own eggs, but can still have children using donor eggs. In cases like this, IVF can be used with a donor egg and sperm before being placed into the menopausal woman’s body. This will result in a normal pregnancy. Women interested in this procedure can visit a fertility clinic to learn more about IVF.

The most common cause of infertility is a condition known as anovulation. This means that the ovaries do not release any eggs. This condition is easily treated using ovulation inducing medicine and is often not a serious health concern. Roughly forty percent of infertile women have this condition.

Women who suffer from endometriosis will often suffer from terrible pain during their menstruation and the effects of this condition can lead to infertility as well. Many women aren’t diagnosed with endometriosis because they believe the pain they feel during their menstruation is normal. When left untreated, endometriosis can cause scar tissue and lesions to form outside the uterus, leading to a decrease in fertility and even more pain. It’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible to prevent damage, but most of the effects of endometriosis can be alleviated with surgery.

Another cause of infertility is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. This is a hormone disorder that hinders the ability of the ovaries to release eggs. This disorder can be treated with medication, but studies have suggested that a healthy lifestyle can work just as well. Overweight women are prone to this disorder due to their unhealthy lifestyles and most fertility doctors would recommend a diet plan and regular exercise before they would resort to prescribing medication.

Another reason for this is the risks involved with being pregnant while overweight. The risks are numerous for mother and child in the case that a heavily overweight woman does manage to conceive.

Still not sure what might be the cause of your infertility? Visit a fertility clinic to be properly diagnosed. In many cases, the problem isn’t with your uterus, but with your partner’s sperm. Most infertility problems can be solved with IVF treatment (with your own egg or with a donor egg). There are treatments or medication available for each of the causes mentioned above and others that were not mentioned. The best way to know what steps you need to take is by talking to a medical health care professional. Don’t attempt to self-diagnose.

Menopause and Sex Life. Not two words you necessarily associate together but actually, the menopause can have a profound effect on your sex life, and not in a good way.

If you’ve had a healthy sex drive up to this phase of your life, it can make you feel under pressure to continue your sex life at the same level as before. Unfortunately, your body has other ideas! For a lot of women, they just feel too tired and then guilty at the fact you’re saying ‘not tonight’ again.

Be assured though, it’s totally normal to not feel in the mood!

Your ovaries stop producing oestrogen which can cause vaginal dryness and make sex painful and difficult, and over time lessen your desire as it just feels too much like hard work.

Hot flushes and night sweats also don’t exactly put you in the mood and make bedtime a sexy place to be! And the weight you’ve gained is seriously affecting your confidence and making you feel pretty rubbish.

Add to that a dip in your testosterone levels, which plays a key role in a woman’s sex drive and sexual sensation, and you can understand why so many women in their 40’s and 50’s have a reduced sex drive. Especially as our sexual desires naturally decline with age anyway.

The good news is you don’t just have to suffer through and accept this as your lot!

There are things you can do to help boost your sex drive and put you in the mood.

Here are few tips:

1. Diet. Certain foods have been found to increase libido:

– Magnesium rich foods including green leafy vegetables, beans and pulses boost levels of your sex hormones.

– Phytoestrogens such as flaxseeds and soybeans naturally mimic oestrogen in your body and increase your sex drive

– Spinach, garlic and coconut, can help boost your testosterone levels which affect your libido

2. Herbs can also be beneficial in helping to boost your libido, including ginseng which helps to boost testosterone, ashwaganda increases blood flow to the clitoris and other female sexual organs and maca root helps to balance hormones and improve sexual experiences and satisfaction.

3. If the feeling is more psychological, due to low mood and a lack of confidence in yourself, then talking about it can really help. Whether that is to your partner, a friend or a health practitioner, know that it is really common and you are not alone.

4. Building strong emotional bonds with your partner, doing things like holding hands, talking and cuddling can help build connection and intimacy with your partner, and put you in the mood.

5. Lubricants can make sex easier and more enjoyable. Go for a water-based one as the most natural way to increase moisture and maintain your vagina’s natural PH.

6. Exercise helps by boosting stamina and strength, which in turn increases your confidence and sex drive. Go for a walk, join a dance class, just do something that you enjoy!

So it is just another natural and normal phase of life and, if you follow the above tips, you can work with it!

A gynaecologist at the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa, Dr Omuku Samuel, has said women at menopause can still bear children with the aid of Invitro- Fertilisation.

Samuel in Yenagoa on Wednesday explained that the oestrogen of such women that were lost could be regenerated medically to keep them healthy and strong to bear children again.

She said, “The IVF process is not difficult. It is normally carried out with the help of doctors.

The process is by joining the female and male sperms together; this can help the persons to have many kids as they want.

Menopause does not start suddenly, it occurs gradually and it can take up to five years before it can be noticed.

Menopause starts between the ages of 45 and 55 in a woman. Yes, there are some components that make the woman look younger like the oestrogen hormones.

Once a woman lacks such component, her breast and vagina become dry.

It is the oestrogen that maintains the woman’s private part; signs of menopause include waist and back pain, heat and hot flashes.

I am advising women with menopause not to lose hope because IVF can make them reproduce children again.”