Common menopausal symptoms include hot flashes that occur in about 60 percent of women (more at night), tiredness, headaches, palpitations, thinning hair, dry skin, low libido, sleep problems and vaginal dryness. The combination of these symptoms can cause anxiety or depression.
Are you a woman who is having problems with the ‘change of life’, also known as menopause? The menopause means ‘the last period’ and is a normal part of ageing for a female, but this term generally means the peri-menopause (the time leading up to her menopause as well as the menopause itself, the time when her levels of oestrogen, progesterone as well as testosterone all decline.
The reduction occurs in a woman’s core sex hormones hormones normally over a period of several years, and eventually it causes her menstrual periods to become increasingly irregular until they discontinue altogether. Some women experience little to no discomfort, others experience minor symptoms yet some may experience significant emotional, psychological as well as physical disturbances.
A woman’s menstrual cycle is usually regular, but when her period is missed one month, or especially becomes shorter and lighter, or if her periods also include heavy clotting, it may be a sign that her menopause is approaching. A woman may also experience an irregularity in her cycle during times of stress, it is therefore important to remember that menopause generally occurs after a full 12-month period has been reached without menstrual cycles.
I’ve found that not all women experience hot flashes during the peri-menopause, but many do. Hot flashes can be especially bothersome at night in bed for a woman, when the bed covers may be thrown off, only to be returned back later when she gets cold, much to the frustration of her partner!
The majority of women woman approaching menopause will certainly knows a hot flash when she feels one. That sudden overwhelming blast of heat that extends from your forehead to your toes and leaves you soaking with sweat occurs due to hormones mixing up your body’s temperature regulation (the hypothalamus).
Many women experience different kinds of moods during the change including anger, anxiety and depression. Menopause, PMS and pregnancy can all cause hormonal swings resulting in varying emotions that may cause irritability, angry outbursts, or tears for no apparent reason. Is it any wonder many women end up unhappy and bewildered when all these emotional changes such as fear, irritability and confusion take place? Its no wonder many relationships end up strained and unfulfilled.
Sleep deprivation is common with the peri-menopause especially. There are two different kinds of insomnia, sleep onset (difficulty in falling asleep) and sleep maintenance insomnia (waking up in the early hours). Estrogen levels have an effect on the stress response, and as their levels slowly deplete the brain is more likely to remain on alert at inappropriate times during the day, especially at night when you are trying to remain rested and asleep. Magnesium supplementation and regular exercise help improve sleep during this hormonal time of transition for many women.
Weight gain is common for many women during the menopausal years and for different reasons. Thyroid function is dependent on good adrenal function which is often compromised during the menopausal years. My recommendation for women who struggle with their weight during the change is to have their thyroid and adrenal function carefully assessed. The most common place for the weight to accumulate during these years is around the hips and belly, leaving a woman at higher risk of heart disease and cancer.
Oestrogen is the hormone responsible for keeping the vaginal area healthy, it has a lubricating property that help’s keep the skin moist and plump. Dryness of the skin and accelerated ageing are common with menopause. Painful sex is a common occurrence but can be remedied with natural herbal menopausal treatment without having to resort to hormonal drugs. Declining testosterone levels are very common in women who are going through the change as well and can have a huge influence on not only the sex drive, but in ageing the skin and causing thinness of the skin around the vagina as well. Again, herbal treatment can be very effective when targeted.
Poor libido is a very common occurrence not only when a woman becomes adrenally fatigued, but when she is going through the change and becomes menopausal. Testosterone is the key hormone to increase her desire for intimacy, it improves her drive and self-confidence. Testosterone is not only a hormone that is important for males, it is critical for women as well and plays a major role in her drive, ambition and energy, especially as she ages and her core hormones oestrogen and progesterone are on the decline.
Are you a woman who has noticed increasing fatigue and tiredness as you go through your forties and fifties? You may well have adrenal fatigue, and it makes sense to check out some of my articles about adrenal fatigue. Many working women with families will find that they will be able to identify this typical fatigue pattern, an energy production problem that is very common with menopause. The adrenal glands have to start producing more of her core sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) as her ovaries are starting to slow down and age. Although her reproductive years are well behind her, her need for these core hormones is still there, and her adrenal glands, the glands of stress, are being forced to work harder than ever.
Progesterone is one of the important hormones when it comes to keeping anxiety at bay. Women who are most prone to anxiety are the ones with too much oestrogen and insufficient progesterone, something that can commonly occur pre-menstrually or during the peri-menopause. Many women experience anxiety in the ‘pre’ hormonal times of their life, but as the estrogen/progesterone balance improves this will reduce.
It is not uncommon for neurological changes to take place in a menopausal woman’s brain, there can be neurotransmitter imbalances such as GABA or serotonin. Depletion of her core sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) can allow stimulants like caffeine to aggravate these neurological imbalances, causing headaches ranging from mild to severe migraines. I’ve seen some patients get rid of their headache and even migraine completely (even after having experienced them for many years) after they started menopausal treatment. Chronic headaches can ruin your life, and wouldn’t it be worth it if you could get rid of them?
Some women I’ve seen in my clinic complain of an embarrassing leak when the exercise, cough, laugh or sneeze. Others notice that they are starting to develop a bladder that only allows then to hold a very small amount of urine, affecting their ability to socialise or go shopping.
Oestrogen not only helps to control and regulate your monthly period, it is the key hormone that helps to keep the bladder and the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body, in top condition. Once oestrogen starts to drop off, the pelvic muscles (responsible for bladder control) may start to get weaker, resulting in urinary incontinence. Ask your physiotherapist about Kegel exercises to increase your bladder tone, but also consider natural menopausal treatment.
Hot flashes can occur at any time, but night sweats tend to occur primarily at night of course. Intense bouts of sweating can occur, and are also know as “sleep hyperhidrosis”, this does not mean that you are suffering from a sleep disorder, but rather from a common increase perspiration pattern that occurs during the peri-menopause. Night sweats can range from mild and tolerable, to very severe including anxiety and the inability to stay asleep. Generally, night sweats go away after a period of several months but may recur during times of high stress. I always recommend that a woman has her salivary cortisol levels checked and to be sure that she does not suffer from adrenal fatigue when she has night sweats.
Many women tell me they have problems with their memory or concentrating when they are going through the change. A lot of women experience mental blocks, forget names easily, get confused more easily and can’t remember where they put their mobile phone or IPad, handbag, car keys or sunglasses. Does this sound familiar? Estrogen deficiency is an all too common occurrence once again, and memory and concentration problems often occur in conjunction with other commonly encountered menopausal complaints I’ve already listed above.
Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one! Many women experience problems with their cognition as part of going through these hormonal changes. Adrenal fatigue treatment can help significantly here, especially the Adrenal Fatigue Program because it can help to boost underlying low cortisol levels as well as help to increase your output of estrogen.