Menopause is a natural, biological process that marks the end of your menstrual cycle. Physical symptoms can wreak havoc on your sleep patterns, energy levels and emotional well-being. Fortunately, there are several effective options to treat menopause symptoms that range from lifestyle changes to hormone supplements.
Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause is diagnosed after you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period. Menopause symptoms are different for every woman, but the following are common signs and symptoms in the months and years leading up to menopause (perimenopause).
- A change in periods – longer or shorter, heavier or lighter, with more or less time in between
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Accelerated weight gain, especially in the midsection and thighs
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
- Anxiety or elevated stress
- Trouble sleeping
- Slowed metabolism
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair
- Loss of breast fullness
- Decreased sex drive
Irregular periods are the most common symptom of menopause. During perimenopause, skipped periods are to be expected. In many cases, your period may skip a month and then return, or skip several months in a row, and then return for a few months. Periods also tend to occur in shorter cycles, so they happen closer together.
It’s important to know that even though you may be experiencing irregular periods, it’s still possible to get pregnant. You may want to take a pregnancy test if you’re unsure if you’re perimenopausal.
What Causes Menopause?
Perimenopause, or pre-menopause, is the transitional phase 2 to 10 years before the total cessation of the menstrual period. Perimenopause lasts for approximately 6 years and typically occurs between the ages of 35 and 45.
Menopause is a natural process that occurs due to the natural decline of reproductive hormones. As you near your late 30s, the ovaries start producing less estrogen and progesterone — the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle — and fertility declines as a result. During your 40s, periods may become longer or shorter, heavier or lighter, with more or less time in between. By the time you reach your 50s, the ovaries stop producing eggs and you stop having periods altogether. For most women, natural menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.
There are other things that cause menopause, however. Menopause can result from:
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Cancer therapies can cause menopause symptoms, especially hot flashes, during or soon after treatment. Sudden changes in menstruation and fertility aren’t always permanent following cancer therapies, so birth control may be necessary.
- Menopause can occur earlier in life if a woman’s ovaries are removed. A hysterectomy that removes the uterus and not the ovaries typically doesn’t cause menopause. Although you’ll no longer have periods, the ovaries will still produce estrogen and progesterone and release eggs. But a total hysterectomy or bilateral oophorectomy that removes that uterus and the ovaries will cause immediate menopause. Your periods will stop immediately, and you will experience the signs and symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes. These symptoms can be rather severe because the hormonal changes occur immediately instead of over a period of several years.
- Primary ovarian insufficiency. Only about 1 percent of women experience premature menopause, or menopause that occurs before the age of 40, as a result of primary ovarian insufficiency. This occurs when the ovaries do not produce normal levels of reproductive hormones, which stems from autoimmune disease or genetic factors. Hormone therapy is usually recommended until you reach the natural age of menopause to protect to bones, brain and heart.
Complications of Menopause
Menopause increases your risk of certain medical conditions. These include:
- Brittle, weakened bones increase your risk of fractures. During the first few years of menopause, bone density declines pretty rapidly, increasing the onset of osteoporosis. Postmenopausal women with osteoporosis are particularly susceptible to spinal, hip and wrist fractures.
- Urinary incontinence. When the tissues in the vagina and urethra lose elasticity, frequent, sudden, strong urges to urinate, followed by an involuntary loss of urine are common, known as urge incontinence. Coughing, laughing or lifting may cause urination, known as stress incontinence. Also, urinary tract infections may become more frequent.
- Sexual function. Decreased moisture production and loss of elasticity can cause dryness, discomfort and bleeding during intercourse. Decreased sensation may also reduce your sex drive.
- Weight gain. Since metabolism comes to a halt, weight gain is a common side effect of menopause. You may find that you need to eat less and exercise more to maintain your current weight.
- Cardiovascular disease. As estrogen levels decline, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death for women (and men), it’s important to exercise regularly, eat well and maintain a healthy weight. If your cholesterol or blood pressure is too high, talk to your doctor about taking better care of your heart.
If you’re experiencing the typical signs and symptoms of menopause, you’ve probably entered menopause. If you’re concerned about any of your symptoms, you may want to talk with your doctor.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend blood tests to check your level of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estrogen (estradiol) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Menopause increases FSH levels and decreases estradiol levels. Additionally, TSH can occur due to an underactive thyroid, which causes symptoms similar to those of menopause.
FSH level tests are available over-the-counter, but since the levels ebb and flow throughout the course of your menstrual cycle, they aren’t a reliable way to determine whether or not you’re really menopausal.
Menopause Treatment Options
Treatments for menopause focus on alleviating symptoms and managing the chronic conditions that may coincide with aging. Options include:
- Hormone therapy. Estrogen therapy is one of the most effective ways to relieve hot flashes, and it also helps prevent bone loss. Long-term hormone therapy may pose some cardiovascular and breast cancer risks, but starting this therapy around the time of menopause had proven beneficial for many women. Talk to your doctor about whether this is a safe, effective option for you.
- Vaginal estrogen. A vaginal cream, tablet or ring can be used to relieve vaginal dryness, helping to relieve dryness, discomfort during intercourse and some urinary symptoms.
- Low-dose antidepressants. Certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are shown to decrease hot flashes in some women. This may be a smart option for women who can’t take estrogen due to health reasons or for those who need an antidepressant.
- Osteoporosis medication. Depending on your own health, your doctor may recommend medication to prevent or treat osteoporosis, which will help reduce bone loss and risk of fractures. Your doctor may also prescribe vitamin D supplements to strengthen bones.
As with any treatment plan, consult your doctor about your options and their risks and benefits. Be sure to meet with your doctor on an annual basis, as your health and needs will likely change.
Alternative Menopausal Treatments
Plant estrogens, or phytoestrogens, are often used to manage menopause symptoms. Phytoestrogens occur naturally in certain foods, and there are two main types: isoflavones and lignans. Isoflavones can be found soybeans, legumes, lentils and chickpeas. Lignans are found in whole grains, flaxseed and certain fruits and vegetables.
EstroThin is a nutriceutical grade liquid extract therapy that contains clinically substantiated adaptogenic phyto-plants (adaptogens). Adaptogens are the most effective naturally-occurring substances available to help the body combat menopause symptoms by activating the body’s own self-regeneration process. As a result, EstroThin reduces the activity of abnormal weight gain, bloating, mood swings, low energy, hot flashes and other common symptoms of menopause and perimenopause.
It balances hormones and cortisol levels and stimulates weight loss, especially in the around the waist, stomach and thigh areas. It also increases energy levels, counteracts the adverse effects of stress, regulates mood and strengthens immune function.
EstroThin is a liquid extract that is processed in a way that pre-digests the active ingredients, thus retaining their potency and delivering results more quickly and more effectively than pills or capsules. Mix one dropper full (30 to 40 drops) into one 8 ounce glass of water, juice, milk, etc. once a day. EstroThin is very mild and has a pleasant taste, and works best when ingested on an empty stomach. It is not recommended for women who are pregnant or children under five.
When used as directed, EstroThin delivers results within a few days. You may feel more relaxed, peaceful and focused, and you should also start to have more energy. You may also notice initial weight loss, with significant weight loss improvement within weeks.
The adaptogenic plant ingredients in EstroThin have no known adverse side effects. There are no known side effects as a result of taking EstroThin and other prescription medication. Still, you should always consult your doctor before taking any supplement of medication.