Signs of the (Changing) Times: 12 Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause literally means ‘the last period.’ While many women would gladly leave behind the woes that come with menstruation, not many would gladly go through menopause in return. It is possible to experience little or no discomfort during menopause, but for some women it can be one of the most challenging times of their lives.
Generally speaking, menopause is determined after menstruation has stopped for twelve months. For most women, this will start between 45 and 55 years of age. The time when most women start to experience the undesired effects is perimenopause, a term used to describe the transitional period leading up to and through menopause.
This is a time of great change. Over time, the ovaries cease production of vital hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone. With such a drastic change in hormone levels, it’s no wonder that menopause can make one feel like their body is short-circuiting. Here are the twelve most common signs your body has begun the transition:
1) Lack of Periods
This one may seem overly obvious, but a lack of menstruation is a good sign that menopause is happening. Typically, periods become shorter and lighter over time, eventually stopping altogether. An irregularity in your cycle could also be due to stress.
2) Mood Swings
Menopause can make some women feel like mild-mannered Bruce Banner turning into the raging Incredible Hulk. Those quick switches to anger, sadness, and depression for no obvious reason can be chalked up to hormones. This side effect alone can be very challenging to one’s sanity, as well as the sanity of those around them.
3) Hot Flashes
Hot flashes are probably the most referenced part of menopause, though not all women experience them. If you have, you don’t need me to tell you it’s possible to go from burning up to ice cold in a matter of minutes. The cause of hot flashes isn’t totally known, though it likely has to do with hormones affecting the hypothalamus, your body’s thermostat.
There are two kinds of insomnia: sleep onset (trouble falling asleep) and sleep maintenance (trouble staying asleep). Unfortunately, both can be experienced during menopause. Insomnia during menopause can be blamed largely on the fluctuation of estrogen. Regular exercise and magnesium supplementation can often help.
5) Weight Gain
There are several factors that can attribute to menopausal weight gain. The two biggest, ironically, are some of the smallest glands in the body: the adrenal and thyroid glands. In these cases, I often check the patient’s adrenal and thyroid hormone levels.
6) Decrease in Sex Drive
Testosterone is largely associated with males, but it’s a critical hormone for women as well–especially when it comes to sex drive. A woman’s desire for intimacy, as well as sexual energy and self-confidence, are powered by testosterone, estrogen and progesterone–all which drop dramatically during menopause.
7) Vaginal Dryness
One of estrogen’s many responsibilities is to keep the skin around the vagina healthy and lubricated. Dry skin, not just in the vaginal area, is common during menopause. Unfortunately, this can cause painful intercourse. Fortunately, there are natural supplements, as well as gentle lubricants, which can help.
Progesterone is a calming hormone, working to buffer you from stress and anxiety. When progesterone levels are low, like during menopause, you’re more vulnerable to the effects of stress and anxiety. For most women, perimenopause is the time when they’re most susceptible.
Considering everything that goes on, it’s understandable to be a little (or a lot) tired during menopause. But what if the fatigue continues beyond menopause? Once the ovaries slow down hormone production, the adrenal glands must pick up the slack. This increase in production can sometimes bog down the glands of stress, leading to adrenal fatigue.
Did you know estrogen helps keep the bladder and urethra in good order? As estrogen levels decrease during menopause, the bladder control mechanisms weaken, leading to leakage and/or more frequent trips to the bathroom. Kegel exercises are one way to help reinforce and strengthen bladder control during menopause.
11) Difficulty With Concentration and Memory
Many of my otherwise sharp patients have complained to me about loss of memory, brain fog and forgetfulness during menopause. Unfortunately this is a common and frustrating side effect of menopause, and one that can also be chalked up to lowered estrogen levels.
12) Night Sweats
Not to be confused with hot flashes (though they can occur together), night sweats occur, naturally, at night. Also known as sleep hyperhidrosis, night sweats can vary by degree, sometimes making you feel like you just got out of the shower. Generally, menopausal night sweats go away after a few months, but can recur under chronic stress.
About the Author: Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 27 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida, psoriasis, as well as adrenal fatigue, thyroid and digestive disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. He has also written what may well be the most comprehensive Natural Psoriasis Treatment Program available. You can find more articles by Dr. Bakker on his blog at www.ericbakker.com