As you transition through menopause, you may experience a variety of related symptoms. Some may occur infrequently and others daily. The intensity of your symptoms can also fluctuate from mild or moderate, to severe.
All of these symptoms occur because of hormone imbalance. Approximately 10-25% of women will continue to have significant symptoms beyond menopause.
Here are the most common symptoms associated with menopause:
• Cycle Changes
• Weight Gain: Many women think that gaining weight is inevitable as you age. But it isn’t. When your adrenal system is fatigued, it signals to your thyroid that there’s a problem. Your thyroid responds by slowing your metabolism. Your pancreas also responds to the signal by thinking it needs to conserve fat. And it focuses on storing fat in your mid-section, the fat pads in your back and other places that are problematic for your particular body type.
• Hot flashes and night sweats: Doesn’t it feel like a heater is radiating deep inside your body? Do you experience night sweats that leave you drenched? You’re not alone. For some women, hot flashes and night sweats are infrequent and manageable. But for others, they can be intense and interfere with the quality of life.
Women experience these symptoms due to an imbalance in their hormone levels. Pervasively, it was thought that being too low in estrogen was the problem. But today, we understand the cause may also be too much estrogen and too little progesterone, or other hormone imbalances in your body that come from the adrenals, ovaries, thyroid pancreas or gastrointestinal tract. There’s a fine dance to keep all these systems in balance, which becomes especially challenging as women go through midlife changes.
• Anxiety, irritability and mood swings: If you’re like most midlife women your moods fluctuate and it doesn’t take much to make you anxious. Situations that you used to look forward to and hand with ease, such as entertaining friends and family can suddenly leave you feeling overwhelmed and irritable.
Hormone imbalances cause many women, to overreact to things that never use to faze them. Beyond the physical changes you’re going through at this time, you may also be dealing with an empty nest, aging parents, grief issues, or just generally taking stock of your life.
If your anxiety and mood swings are strong enough to interfere with your daily life, talk to your health care provider. You may be clinically depressed or have other health issues that your doctor can help you with. While hormone imbalance may be part of the problem, it may not be the whole picture.
• Fuzzy Thinking: Fuzzy thinking go you feeling confused?
Can’t remember where you put your keys or what you were about to say? Ever walk into a room and wonder why you’re there? Chances are it’s not the early stages of Alzheimer’s, but the fuzzy thinking and confusion that comes with midlife hormone imbalance.
If you’ve experience childbirth, remember how jumbled your thoughts were the first fire weeks after having your baby? Your body was though through a hormonal transition that affected your memory and left you feeling confused. Of course, lack of sleep didn’t help either. Now that you’re going through menopause, your body is once again re-setting its balance. Sleep deprivation, stress, and an unhealthy diet also increase fuzzy thinking and short-term memory loss.
• Trouble Sleeping and Fatigue: Exhausted from tossing and turning all night?
How long has it been since you woke up well-rested, refreshed and ready to tackle your day? If that feeling is just a distant memory, you may be one of the many women who suffer from sleep problems and fatigue.
While stress and anxiety contribute many cause a sleepless night, if you suffer from an overwhelming fatigue the problem may be your adrenal levels, particularly the hormone cortisol. If your cortisol levels are too high at the night and too low in the morning, you can feel completely exhausted and have trouble functioning.
To get back in balance, your heath care provider may suggest hormone therapy. Remember there are natural options and bioidentical hormones available. Your provider should individualize your therapy to meet your unique needs.
• Headaches and migraines: Suffering with headaches and migraines?
Many women find that they have more frequent headaches and even migraines as they enter midlife. These can be caused by hormone imbalances at certain times of the menstrual cycle. If you suffer from headaches or migraines, take note of when they are happening. Are they random or do they seem to follow certain triggers? Talk to your health care provider who can help you find a natural solution that’s right for you.
• Vaginal Dryness: Problems with vaginal dryness?
As you approach menopause, the withdrawal of estrogen causes changes to the final wall. The result can be vaginal dryness, making intimacy quite uncomfortable. There are many over-the-counter lubricants available which can ease your discomfort. You may also want to consider an intravaginal low-dose estrogen and testosterone cream. Available by prescription, these products are routinely used to keep the vagina healthy.
• Other Vaginal Conditions: There are other vaginal conditions you should be aware of. Chemical imbalances can also lead to chronic yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis (BV). Antibiotics can wipe out the normal flora of the vaginal, making you more susceptible to a yeast infection. As a precautionary measure, it’s often recommended that women use over-the-counter Monistat while taking an antibiotic, or take probiotics a supplement of the beneficial bacteria that help ward off yeast. You can find probiotics at compounding pharmacies or many health food stores.
Bacterial vaginosis, sometimes mistaken for a yeast infection, is characterized by a gray discharge with a fish-like odor. If you suspect you have BV, see your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment.
A relatively common vulvar skin condition, called lichen sclerosis, can cause significant itching, and sometimes bleeds. Often it is diagnosed by a simple skin biopsy in the area and is treated with topical creams of corticosteroids and/or testosterone on the labia.