Gang, this week we’re talking menopause. Whether you’re 14 or 44 it’s a coming for you so today we’re getting granular with this fate that will befall all of us women at some point. As the medical establishment is finally waking up to the fact that half the world’s population suffers horrendously for years, we thought it was about time we had a chat about your hormones and what happens to them when the menopause comes calling.
We might even be able to explain why it makes you pee so dang much, so stick around girls, it’s going to get weird.
Now, you’ve probably heard a ton of horror stories about this so-called change of life, now more commonly called The Menopause.
Symptoms such as:
- joint pain,
- muscle pain,
- brain fog,
- dry skin,
- thinning hair and
- more pee than should really be possible
Are all signs that you’re well into that inevitable hormonal journey.
- the hot flashes and
- dizzy spells,
- the crying,
- night sweats,
- sleep disruption,
- mood swings and
- the rage
Oh, God, the rage. We once heard the menopause described as puberty in reverse and it’s probably as good a description as you’ll ever hear. And we all know how much fun puberty was, right?
Which is our way of saying that, yes, a lot of those horror stories are, in fact, true.
But as the menopause is highly individual, there’s a chance that, when your turn comes, you won’t suffer anywhere near as much as the woman standing next to you. So let’s talk about what’s physically going on in your body when you start your menopause journey. And we say journey because anything that takes the better part of two decades is way more than just a change.
Hot flashes and dizzy spells, yep, its all part of the menopause
The Menopause, which we traditionally know as one single entity, is actually made up of three separate and distinct stages:
Stage 1: Perimenopause
Perimenopause actually starts several years before the end of your periods. You heard right, several! During this time you might notice that your menstruation is erratic and unpredictable. You might also notice that you’re more anxious, or sad, you sleep less well and ache far more. As this is probably happening in your mid-40s, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all down to the ravages of age. And you’d be partially right.
When does it start?
Perimenopause generally begins at around age 45. We say generally because not only is it different for every woman, but also because the medical profession isn’t really sure when, or how, it really works. A simple hormone test could help confirm if what you’re feelign is due to perimenopause. Anyhoops, once you’re in your 40s, things do, indeed start to ache a little more, regardless of hormones. But women have a little added bonus for having made it to their mid-40s. Because it’s around this time that our ovaries go into decline.
Essentially, the reason that we all have to experience menopause at all is down to our eggs. Or more precisely, our ovaries.
As we get older, our egg production begins to slow before stopping altogether. Fewer eggs equal fewer and less predictable periods. Obviously, this can be an issue if you’re trying to conceive during this time. The good news is, it’s still possible as long as you still have the odd period. The bad news is it could take a very long time. But the implications of a lack of eggs can affect so much more than our fertility levels.
Estrogen & Progesterone and Menopause
As you move through Perimenopause and into menopause, that slowing down of egg production has a huge effect on two vitally important hormones. Estrogen and Progesterone are produced in your ovaries and play a crucial role in your menstrual cycle. They’re responsible for the release of ova, the cervical mucus plug, and the thickening and disposal of your uterus lining, among other things. And as those levels decrease, so too does your reproductive ability.
But here’s the kicker: Every single one of the menopause symptoms is intimately linked to low Estrogen and Progesterone levels.
Estrogen, heart disease and brittle bones
Gang, this is where it gets super serious. Because in addition to all that fun stuff we’ve talked about, Estrogen and Progesterone are also crucial to heart health and bone density. Low estrogen is linked with both heart disease and the brittle bone condition Osteoporosis.
Because we just aren’t dealing with enough health issues, right?
And it doesn’t end there. During and after menopause we store fat more easily, which can lead to weight gain, even if you’ve changed nothing in your diet. That increase in weight can, in turn, leave you vulnerable to Type 2 Diabetes. And don’t even get us started on the increased risk of thyroid issues that can be triggered by menopause, which can include Hashimoto’s and Graves’s disease.
What about the peeing?
And then there’s the incontinence. Well, we did promise to explain it. And here it is: Estrogen, you guessed it, is also involved with bladder and urethra health, including the lining of both. It also appears to have some say in the urge and frequency of peeing, and perhaps even muscle control as well. So, when those levels start to drop, you may notice the odd drip… Or worse. And it’s all down to hormones. Isn’t it fun being female?
Stage 2: Menopause
Once your periods have been absent for 12 months, you will officially be in the second stage, the actual menopause. Aside from the lack of periods, it’s likely not much else will change symptoms-wise, although, let’s face it, you’ll be sick and tired of it by then. Eventually, though, your symptoms will abate. But you may find yourself waiting the better part of a couple of decades for your body to finish what it started.
Stage 3: Postmenopause- The rest of your life
At that point, you will have entered postmenopause, the third and final stage. This one will last as long as you because it’s essentially the rest of your life. By then, you should be symptom-free and loving the notion that you’ll never again sweat through your clothes for no reason.
Help is at hand
Now, the things we’ve talked about today won’t apply to everyone. And for some, they’ll apply 150 percent. That’s the unpredictable nature of this beast. So what can we do to help manage the hormonal turbulence? First and foremost, and we can’t stress this enough, take care of yourself. That means paying a bit more attention to your caffeine, sugar, and fat intake. Moving around more can help alleviate symptoms if you’re suffering and stand you in good stead for the potential loss of muscle mass the menopause may trigger in the future.
Keep your mind active and the brain fog might just be doable. And there’s lots to choose from, puzzles, languages, even laughing more, it doesn’t have to just be reading. But do keep reading, and especially Hormona. We love it when you visit. But if you’re really suffering or you just don’t want to have to deal with any of it, we feel you. Which brings us neatly onto HRT.
Replace and Rewind with HRT
If you’re a regular Hormona, you may have seen our recent piece on 21st-century Hormone Replacement Therapy. If not, we’ve got you covered. Because these days, HRT is not what it used to be. It’s better, safer, and more useful than ever before. It can alleviate your symptoms, for sure, but it can also help protect you from heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. That doesn’t mean it’s risk-free, but nowadays, the risk is much closer to that of hormonal birth control. If you fit the criteria, and you’re comfortable with taking hormonal therapy, it’s well worth a conversation with your physician.
Non syntetic options for HRT
Of course, not everyone can or wants to take synthetic hormones. For those of us in that camp, there are still plenty of options. From homeopathic and holistic remedies to bioidentical, plant-based hormones, these therapies are designed to alleviate symptoms without chemicals. Full disclosure, we’re a tad on the fence about these options. They may well be effective, but none of them are regulated and there is very little evidence of their usefulness as of now. But we’re here to learn and keep an open mind as well as providing you with all options so they’re included nevertheless.
Menopause specialists at the rescue
As with anything to do with your health, if you’re concerned, please talk to a healthcare professional. If you recognize anything that we’ve talked about today, a simple menopause blood test, in conjunction with a discussion of your symptoms, will give you a good idea of where you’re at. If you’re suffering right now, try and find a menopause specialist if you can. Because, and we want to make this very clear: You do not have to suffer.
Keeping a record of your symptoms including their severity and frequency is a great way to monitor menopause and can easily be done with the Hormona app. Become a menopause tracker, if you will, and get to know how your body is handling the turbulence. And as always, if you can, talk to someone. Join a support group or a menopause forum, ping us a message, start a discussion in the Hormona app or scream from the roof of the shed, because this is something we all have in common. And we should all be talking about it. Period!
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