I have always thought that ‘the change’ is one of the best descriptions of menopause as it is simple, and very accurate. It is a transition from your fertile years and regular menstrual cycles to physical changes in your skin, weight and the arrival of a whole new set of symptoms such as hot flushes.
As those hormone levels drop you start to notice signs of ageing: your skin looks less firm and can start to dry out and the signs of grey or thinning hair also start appearing. Just when you are coping with anxiety, mood swings and a nightly fight to stay cool you are also being hit with emotional side of menopause.
For many women menopause is a time when they can experience feelings of insecurity, sadness and loss, perhaps over realising their fertile childbearing years or over, or the children they do have are now leaving home.
Alongside this can also be relationship difficulties as your moods and patience take a nosedive and you are more prone to emotional outbursts such as tears or anger than before.
Libido is linked to more than just desire, you may need more lubrication on the physical side, but also anxiety and stress will affect you, particularly if sex has become more painful or your libido has disappeared. All of these, plus the nightly fight over flinging off the duvet, can put a strain on any relationship.
All these changes can be stressful, and unfortunately stress also impacts our hormones so the flushes and sweats can get worse, which really isn’t helpful is it?
3 Hormonal changes and what they mean for you
Our hormones are constantly fluctuating throughout our lives, but at menopause there are three key players: oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
At menopause oestrogen levels drop, progesterone levels practically disappear but testosterone can start to rise and you will certainly notice the effects as they occur.
1 Oestrogen gradually reduces from perimenopause onwards. This affects our skin, our vaginal secretions, our levels of anxiety and depression and our joints in particular.
Fortunately the body has prepared for this by switching production of oestrogen from ovaries into the fat cells of the abdomen, hips and thighs. Unfortunately this is just where you don’t want it and if women are higher in oestrogen than progesterone then oestrogen dominance symptoms can kick in with a vengeance.
Women on supplementary forms of oestrogen such as HRT, often find that weight gain is the usual result and rebalancing with progesterone can be helpful.
If you are low in oestrogen then you will benefit from a combination cream such as 20-1, which is a combination of bioidentical progesterone and two natural oestrogens with the progesterone being the largest ingredient to prevent the oestrogen becoming excessive.
2 Progesterone levels fall dramatically at menopause which is not so critical if the oestrogen levels are in balance with it, but generally this is not the case. Unopposed oestrogen is linked to many health conditions such as heart disease and cancers.
Less vital, but equally important to your relationship, is the fact that progesterone is the hormone that can increase sex drive in women so when it is low you are going to notice a shift in our libido.
As progesterone is also a mood enhancer it can help with the sleep problems at menopause, as well as the usual symptoms of hot flushes.
3 Testosterone is what is responsible for the other symptom of menopause many women experience, and that is an increase in facial hair. In younger women this can be linked to PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) due to lack of ovulation and therefore producing no progesterone and at menopause because as the levels of progesterone and oestrogen decline those of testosterone can rise.
Coping with the change naturally
For virtually all symptoms of menopause there are some ‘gold standard’ rules that will help. They come down to a simple quartet of hormone balance, diet, exercise and stress reduction so getting that mix right can make the transition so much easier.
Hormone balance means checking your symptoms to see if they are related to oestrogen dominance, or if you have low oestrogen or high testosterone levels.
Diet is about a healthy sustainable way of eating that can help you lose weight as that is definitely going to help with oestrogen dominance and many other conditions. But it is not just about losing weight, but of providing your body with all the nutrients it needs and minimising the amount of less healthy options with a diet you are happy with.
Exercise is key as it has been shown to help relieve anxiety and stress, but also to reduce your weight and your waistline and therefore your risk for heart disease, breast cancer and diabetes.
Stress reduction is the one thing that will impact your overall menopause experience more than you can imagine. When we are stressed every function of our body is affected and stress can and will increase your flushes, disrupt your sleep, make your mood swings worse and reduce your libido to name just a few.
Generally many of the symptoms of menopause are common to us all and we are affected to a greater or lesser degree. The sooner you can spot the symptoms and start to take action to reduce them then the more effective that will be.
If you need help with specific symptoms then these articles will be helpful: