What is Menopause?
Menopause is the time when a woman's menstrual cycle stops permanently. A natural process that occurs while women are in their 40's or 50's. Average age for menopause is 51. A woman is in menopause when she has gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual cycle. Also known as "The Change" and "Mid-Life Crisis".
Three Stages of Menopause
Natural - occurs when levels of oestrogen (estrogen) and progesterone decline naturally.
Premature (early) - occurs when menstrual stops before the age of 40 years. Can be due to medical conditions, surgery, medications, genetics, smoking, or unknown cause.
Artificial (surgical) - occurs when both ovaries are removed surgically or by destruction from some cancer treatment
Hormones That Decrease During Menopause
Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone. These three hormones are produced in the ovaries (testosterone in lower amounts in women). Estrogen and progesterone are female sex hormones and testosterone is a male androgen hormone. The imbalance of these hormones causes physical, mental and psychological side effects.
7 MISTAKES THAT WOMEN IN MENOPAUSE MAKE
Denying And Ignoring Symptoms
Reluctant To Practice Self-Care and Putting Yourself First
Reluctant To Seek Professional Help and Counseling
Blaming Menopause for Symptoms (symptoms can be due to other ailments)
Believing That You Are "Going Crazy"
Giving Up On Sex Life
Falling For Negative Rumors About Medical & Psychological Treatments
HOW DOES ESTROGEN AFFECT MENOPAUSE?
Estrogen is a hormone that plays many important roles in the body (in females and males). Referred to as the "sex hormone" and "female hormone". Mainly targets and is produced by the reproductive organs (ovaries, testes).
Estrogen helps to control and maintain many body functions such as:
Female sex characteristics, menstrual cycles, infertility and pregnancy
Sex drive, erection and production of sperm in males (together with testosterone)
Cholesterol levels (increases the "good" kind HDL, decreases the "bad" kind LDL)
Bone formation and metabolism and prevention of bone loss
Brain (including mood), heart, skin and other tissue
During menopause, it is the big drop in estrogen levels that causes symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness and mental health issues.
Three Forms of Estrogens
Estrone (E1) - the only estrogen your body makes after menopause
Estradiol (E2) - the most common in women of childbearing age
Estriol (E3) - the main estrogen during pregnancy
Estrogen levels are measured in picograms per millilitre (pg/mL). Level vary among individuals and fluctuate over a female's lifetime. Levels begin to lower many years before a woman reaches menopause during a phase called perimenopause.
Premenopausal Women - 30-400 pg/mL
Postmenopausal Women - 0-30 pg/mL
Estrogen Level Testing
Estrogen level testing measures the amount of estrogen in the blood or urine. Blood or urine testing is usually done in the doctor's office or lab. Doctors may call it the estrone E1, estradiol E2 or estriol E3 tests. There are also many reliable at-home tests that measure the estrogen levels in saliva.
Symptoms of Low Estrogen Levels
Low estrogen levels in women are more often due to menopause or removal of the ovaries and/or uterus. Low levels can cause a variety of healthcare issues and affect a woman's overall health and well-being. Any woman experiencing symptoms should talk with their healthcare professional.
Common Symptoms of Low Estrogen Levels
A Change in your Period
You may notice this symptom first.
Normal changes are periods that may be irregular (shorter or longer than usual) and bleeding (more or less than usual)
Abnormal changes are periods that happen very close together, spotting and heavy bleeding, periods lasting longer than a week, periods resume after no bleeding for more than a year. See your doctor
A sudden feeling of heat mostly in the upper body. More intense in the face, neck and chest. Also known as "night sweats" when it happens at night
Can be precipitated by hot weather, spicy foods, tight clothing, alcohol, caffeine, heat, sugar, stress
Can also include symptoms of a hot flush (redness in the face and neck), a rapid heart rate, chills
Mood Swings (Emotional Rollercoaster)
Estrogen triggers serotonin production. Serotonin is a chemical in our bodies that stabilizes our mood, known as the "feel good" chemical
When estrogen is low, so is serotonin
Symptoms may include: irritability, crying episodes, insomnia, anxiety, depression, forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
If symptoms are interfering with the enjoyment of your life, see your doctor or mental health counselor
Bladder Control and Bladder Infection
Loss of bladder control is called incontinence
A sudden urge to urinate, urine may leak when you sneeze, exercise, cough, laugh
See you doctor if you have these symptoms
Difficulty sleeping, sleep becomes lighter, wake up frequently and earlier
Progesterone is a sleep-producing hormone and reduced levels can cause sleeping issues
Low estrogen levels can result in weight gain, particularly around the abdomen
Declining estrogen levels, age-related loss of muscle tissue, lifestyle factors such diet and exercise may contribute
Mood changes may also mean that women eat differently
Osteoporosis, Joint Pain, Muscle Tension
Estrogen decreases inflammation, regulates fluid levels throughout the body, keeps the joints lubricated and maintains bone density
Low estrogen levels can lead to joint pain, muscle tension and aches and significant bone loss. In severe cases, loss of bone density can lead to osteoporosis
Vaginal Dryness and Decreased Libido (Desire for Sex)
Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone hormones levels change during menopause
Lower levels of estrogen and testosterone can make physical arousal difficult
Treatment depends on the severity of symptoms and focuses of physical, psychological and emotional symptomatic relief. Consult with your doctor for a treatment plan that works best for you.
Lower bedroom temperature, layer bedding, turn on fan, use a "chill pillow" filled with ice to stay cool at night
Dress in lightweight, removable layers
Carry a portable fan
Avoid alcohol, spicy foods and caffeine
Maintain a healthy weight
Explore mind-body practices such as yoga and mindfulness meditation
Medications. Prescription and over-the-counter medications may help.
Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT is a treatment of estrogen. in pill forms, skin patches, topical creams, gels, sprays, vaginal suppositories, rings, creams, prevents hot flashes in many women. given for a limited time (less than 5 years)
Medications: Low dose depression medications, Clonidine (blood pressure medication), Gabapentin (anti-seizure medications), Brisdelle and Duavee (specifically to treat hot flashes), B complex vitamins, Vitamin E, Ibuprofen
Vaginal lubricants (water-based) and moisturizers
Eat more calcium rich foods for bone health (yogurt, sardines, fortified orange juice, almonds)
Eat more natural and whole foods, less processed and sugary foods
Eat more fibrous foods (apples, pears, berries, avocados, bean legumes, nuts and seeds)
Drink more water and herbal teas
Eat plant estrogens foods, such as isoflavones, thought to have weak estrogen-like effects that may reduce hot flashes. These foods include: soybeans, chickenpeas, lentils, flaxseed (crushed or ground form), grains, beans, fruits, red clover, vegetables
Natural herbs and supplements
Learn New Hobbies and Skills and Find Creative Outlets. It is important to find new tactics to cope with the emotional impact of menopause.
Connect with Family and Friends. Stay connected to family and friends for support
HOW DOES PROGESTERONE AFFECT MENOPAUSE?
Progesterone is a hormone produced mainly in the ovaries. It's main functions are to regulate menstruation and to support pregnancy. Other functions are to:
Help to prepare the body for pregnancy (main role)
Encourage the growth of milk-producing glands in the breast during pregnancy
Treatment of menopause symptoms. Used with estrogen for hormone replacement therapy treatment
During menopause, progesterone levels decline and can causes symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety & depression, weight gain, vaginal dryness and other menopause symptoms.
Progesterone Levels & Testing
Progesterone testing are usually ordered for women of childbearing age who may have trouble getting pregnant or miscarriage is suspected. Levels in post-menopausal women are less than 1ng/mL (nanograms/milliliter).