Menopause officially occurs when you have not had a period for 12 straight months. For most women, menopause occurs in their 40s or 50s and can happen over the course of several years. If you are not sure whether you’re going through the stages of menopause or not, here are some signs, symptoms, and treatment options to be aware of!
Symptoms of Menopause
Irregular periods: This is the most common symptom of menopause and occurs during perimenopause. Your periods might be lighter, heavier, longer, or shorter than before, making them harder to predict. Especially if you had regular periods prior to menopause, this can be a clear sign that menopause is approaching.
Hot Flashes: When hot flashes occur, you may suddenly feel hot and have heat rush to your face. Flushed skin and a fast heart rate, followed by chills, are common indicators that you are experiencing a hot flash. Generally, they last 1-5 minutes and can be mild or severe.
Night Sweats: Hot flashes that occur at night when you are sleeping are night sweats, which can wake you up at night in a sweat. Depending on their severity, they can cause irregular sleep cycles and result in insomnia. Reducing alcohol consumption, stress, and caffeine can help you reduce these symptoms.
Mood Changes: As your hormone levels are changing significantly during menopause, anxiety and depression are more likely to occur. Having trouble with memory can also be a symptom of menopause.
How your hormones change during menopause
During menopause, hormone levels also drastically change as women stop going through menstrual cycles. Let’s talk about some of the most important hormones that change and how they can affect your body.
Estrogen: During perimenopause, estrogen levels generally fluctuate, but as you get closer to menopause, will decline over time. The fluctuating levels can lead to irregular periods and high estrogen can cause heavy bleeding and breast tenderness while low levels cause hot flashes, vaginal dryness, wrinkles, and fatigue. If the proportion of estrogen is relatively much higher than progesterone, estrogen dominance can occur as well.
Progesterone: Progesterone is responsible for thickening the lining of the uterus and preparing for early pregnancy, so when ovulation begins to stop and periods become irregular, progesterone levels decrease. Because there is less of a need for progesterone, the body produces it in very minimal amounts from here on out. During perimenopause, low progesterone generally results in heavier, longer, and irregular periods.
Testosterone: Although more linked to age rather than menstruation, testosterone levels decrease when going through the stages of menopause. While the ovaries and adrenal still continue to produce testosterone, the amount produced declines and can result in a lower sex drive.
Natural Treatment Options for menopause
Menopause is a natural process, and as our hormones change, we are bound to experience different symptoms. However, there are an abundance of natural ways you can alleviate the discomfort – here are some great examples!
Fruits and Veggies: Eating more fruits and vegetables can help you reduce bone loss and prevent weight gain as they are low in calories. To reduce the risk of osteoporosis, which is caused by weakening by weakening bones, eat vegetables that are high in calcium such as kale, spinach, and beans. Mushrooms are also great sources of Vitamin D and can help maintain bone strength, especially since Vitamin D production decreases during menopause.
Phytoestrogens: These compounds are found in plants that mimic estrogen, so when estrogen levels decrease during menopause, consuming phytoestrogens can help you balance your hormones. Soy products, tofu, and flax seeds are common sources of phytoestrogens and can reduce hot flashes. However, these foods may not be for women that suffer from estrogen dominance or endometriosis, so consult your physician on what may be best for you.
Exercise: Regular exercise can help decrease stress, increase your energy, and support bone and muscle strength. Doing gentle exercise such as yoga before going to bed can help relax your body and help you sleep better. Some experts recommend doing calming breathing exercises as well!
Diet: Caffeine and alcohol may trigger hot flashes, so reducing consumption can ease symptoms. Eating healthy foods that are not high in refined sugar or processed foods can make blood sugar more balanced and improve your mood.
Hydration: This tip seems to be included in just about everything, because staying hydrated has numerous wonderful benefits and is easy to do! Challenge yourself to drink 8 glasses of water a day to reduce bloating and weight gain.
Oftentimes, women avoid talking about menopause because of the social stigma associated with menstruation. To this day, much misinformation is spread about menopause because of a lack of research and accessible information.
How to help increase menopause awareness
While menopause is inevitable, you should have all the resources you need to make the process as easy as possible. Speak out about your symptoms and experiences with Menopause. Raise awareness about educational platforms such as ours so others can benefit from accessible knowledge. Advocate for greater research to be done in Women’s health.
Menopause is commonplace and so should be talking about it. Share this post if you’re going through menopause! Let’s help each other navigate this important journey.