Gang, let’s be clear from the off. If you’ve ever had a set of ovaries, Menopause is coming for you. That’s if it hasn’t already. And as it’s World Menopause Day, we thought we’d give a big shout-out to all the Hormonas living with retired, or semi-retired ovaries. While you’ve no doubt heard the hormone horror stories, we’re here to tell you it doesn’t have to be a complete nightmare. Yes, surviving Menopause is possible, mostly — here’s how…
Menopause: A brief recap
Eggs and cycles
As regular Hormonas will know, Menopause is, for the most part, an inevitable part of the aging process. Even as you were born, if you were assigned female at birth, the journey to Menopause had already started. How is that possible? In one of those facts that still blow our minds, ovaries contain all the eggs you’ll ever have on the day you draw your first breath.
Each Menstrual cycle, those proto-eggs, snappily named Follicles, grow to the point where they might be released. And yes, we said proto-eggs, plural. Because you actually grow more than one egg each month, even though only one ever makes it to ovulation. This is all possible thanks to the Estrogen your ovaries produce to encourage that Follicle growth.
As you approach ovulation, your Estrogen slowly climbs to a peak level. This part of your menstrual cycle is the appropriately-monikered Follicular phase. And that peak Estrogen can give you two or three days a month, where, let’s face it, you feel like a boss. It increases your confidence, self-esteem, sex drive, and self-image. Admittedly, that’s all part of the biological imperative to reproduce, but that doesn’t stop it being amazing.
Bye-bye periods. Hello Menopause?
And then, when you’re in your mid-40s most likely, things start to change a little. Or a lot if you’re less lucky. Periods come and go as they please. PMS symptoms appear out of nowhere, regardless of bleeding. And they’re joined by some horrifying new guests at the hormone extravaganza that is Perimenopause, the first stage of Menopause. How can you tell? Good question…
Things like night sweats, muscle and joint weakness and pain, with no explanation. And the brain fog. Oh, God. The brain fog. Not only can you not open the jar of pickles, you’ve no idea why you’ve got them or where they came from. Or what they’re called. This is why surviving Menopause can feel like a tall order.
All jokes aside, those are pretty good signs that Perimenopause is upon you. And that’s pretty much the only way anyone will diagnose the early stages of Menopause. Because in all honesty, no one’s really sure when it actually starts. Symptoms and lack of periods are literally your best guess.
Estrogen exits… Very slowly
All of those Menopause symptoms are down to pretty much one culprit: Estrogen. Or rather, the lower, less reliable production of it. As you start to run low on eggs, you produce smaller and smaller amounts of Estrogen. And that downward trend — and your symptoms — continue until your egg reserves are spent.
During the Perimenopause stage, your symptoms will slowly increase in frequency, and most likely, severity. And that’ll happen until they, allegedly, reach a peak around the time your periods have been absent for a year. At which point, you’re technically in Menopause. That should — and we cannot stress this enough — should mean your symptoms slowly decrease until they’ve gone. Or you’re just really used to them. And that’s Postmenopause.
All told, the whole thing can take ten long years. We’ll just repeat that. Ten. Years. That’s one hell of an upheaval, and it needs a long recovery time. But at least you’ll be on speaking terms with the pickles again before you retire.
Surviving Menopause symptoms
Now, if you’re thinking that this all sounds like a frickin’ nightmare… You’re not wrong. And given how tricky it can be to even get a Menopause diagnosis, particularly if you’re already living with a hormone issue, it can feel as though just living with it is all you’ve got.
But we’re here to tell you that, while you’re waiting for your doctor to catch on to what you pretty much already know, there are things you can do. To help your symptoms. To help yourself. Will all of them work for you? Probably not. Your Menopause is, or will be, just that: Yours. It’s an individual as you are.
But finding the right combination for you could make all the difference when it comes to surviving Menopause. It might take a little while, but we know you got this! So here are our fave symptom-relievers…
Yes, it’s the biggest and most obvious solution. It’s popular for a reason though — when HRT works, it really, really works. Essentially mimicking Estrogen production and resulting in regular bleeding, Hormone Replacement Therapy has a wealth of Menopause benefits. It can help with hot flashes, night sweats, brain fog, mood swings, and even weight issues.
HRT also has a positive impact on cardiac health, but it is linked to a small increase in the risk of certain cancers.
It’s a sad fact that the loss of Estrogen during and after Menopause can also lead to other related health issues, including type 2 diabetes, and loss of bone mass. Replacing that Estrogen can make a huge difference to that risk.
And while it’s not quite as risky an endeavor as, say, 20 years ago, HRT still isn’t for everyone. So if there’s cancer, cardiac issues, stroke, or smoking in your medical history, it’s best to steer clear.
Surviving Menopause: HRT Plus…
Of course, if you’re living with a Thyroid or other hormone issue, HRT can be a tricky thing to get right. Or perhaps you’d rather not rely solely on synthetic hormones to manage your symptoms. Either way, there’s tons of non-HRT help available that can work alongside any other therapies you’re using.
Full disclosure, gang. The jury is very much still out on this one. Phytoestrogens are plant-derived Estrogens that, in some cases, can affect the hormones in your body. And we say “can” because, although there’s definite evidence for their impact on your hormones, there’s just as much to say they have no effect at all.
So what’s the deal? Well, plant hormones can have two distinct effects on Estrogen. They can block it, or they can add to it. The blocking part is so effective that Phytoestrogens can form part of the treatment for some breast cancers.
But where Menopause is concerned, the last thing you need is randomly lower Estrogen. But there are some Phytoestrogens that can, it seems, have a positive effect on one of the worst symptoms: Hot flashes. And that is very encouraging. Which plants have these magical components? We’re glad you asked…
- Flax seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Diet and nutrition
When your hormones are all over the place, what you eat can make a huge difference to how you feel. Not only are hormones inextricably linked to your gut, but a healthy gut also has an influence on your mood. Which means it’s time to tune your diet for maximum happy!
Try these conveniently delicious ways to manage your symptoms:
- Stay hydrated. Lots of water and less caffeine and alcohol.
- Less processed food. They all contain tons of sugar and fat, which can affect your hormones and contribute to bloating and digestive issues.
- More fruit and veg. Always a good idea, but be mindful of your body. You might find that you don’t handle onions or cucumber the same way these days, so don’t force it.
- Fiber! Is so important for gut health. But it also helps lower your blood sugar and can reduce bloating and gas.
- Bananas: Delicious and fab for cramps and muscle pain. And they even help you sleep.
- Omega-3 fatty acid. Oily fish, including salmon and mackerel, are packed with Omega-3s, which help with brain ice cream. We mean fog. Brain fog.
Moving around… Albeit slightly differently
You’ve no doubt heard that exercise in general is necessary for your overall wellbeing. And it does great things for your mental health as well, thanks to all those endorphins and whatnot. But did you know exercise can also help with your Menopause symptoms?
Oh yes. It very much can. Fancy any of these?
- Swimming. Great for hot flashes, muscle aches, and sleep issues.
- Yoga for Menopause. Specifically designed to help alleviate muscle and joint aches and stiffness, stress, and generally relaxes your whole body.
- Walking/Hiking. Or just generally being outside. Nature and all that fresh air your parents were always going on about are great for your mental health. But also muscle and back aches, and insomnia.
- Tai Chi: The martial art masquerading as stretching in the park. In addition to relieving stress, muscle pain, and joint aches, it’s amazing for your self-confidence.
Surviving Menopause: Self-care
Technically, everything we’ve talked about today could fall into the category of self-care. But where surviving Menopause symptoms is concerned, you’re definitely going to need one, some, or, probably all of these. And you should not feel guilty about it.
- Alone time. Yup, even 10 minutes a day can make a difference to your emotional symptoms and reactions. It’s that important.
- Laugh. A lot. Because it’s actually really good for your physical health as well as your mental health. Find the things that make you smile, laugh, groan and generally increase your happy.
- Sleep. Now, we know that might be easier said than done during Menopause. Sticking to a nightly routine that includes hot drinks, baths, hot water bottles, and snuggly blankets can work wonders. As can keeping your nightclothes and sheets in the freezer if you’ve got the night sweats.
- That thing you love. You know, the thing you stopped doing for whatever reason? Start doing it again. You’ll thank yourself.
- Don’t ignore how you feel. Acknowledging and accepting that you’re not having a fab day can help relieve the pressure.
- Talk. But specifically to other Menopausal types. Empathy and sympathy, plus help and advice from people going through the same things as you can lift your mood and reduce feelings of isolation. The Hormona community is a fab place to start…
- Good smells. Gang, we swear by lavender and chamomile in the diffuser. They’re amazing for creating a relaxing, calming atmos. Essential.
- And, once in a while, treat yourself. You’re worth it and so is your mental health.
Surviving Menopause like a boss. You’ve got this!
Now, we’re not saying that Menopause will be fun. We can, in fact, speak from personal experience and tell you fun is not a word that’s ever been used to describe it. Interesting is one. Bonkers is another. Damp another still.
But the word we hang onto when we’re talking about surviving Menopause is Temporary. Yes, even 10 years of your life is still technically considered temporary. So, you know, silver linings and whatnot.
The tips and advice we’ve talked about today, though, won’t just help with your symptoms. They’ll improve your overall health and they could even lower your risk for some of those other definitely-not-fun results of low Estrogen. And they include type 2 diabetes, cardiac issues, weight issues, and brittle bones.
So make sure you keep your check-up appointments, and if you notice any changes at all that you’re concerned about, please tell someone. Menopause is survivable, but it’s linked to a lot of stuff that isn’t. And while those things, including some breast and ovarian cancers, are rare, early detection and improved health are your best weapons.
So here’s to not just surviving Menopause, but kicking its butt!
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