Are you going through some changes?
Chances are you either don’t want to talk about them, or the people you talk to cannot help you.

You are not alone.

Learn more about menopause, the symptoms, the risks.
There are Natural medicines that may be able to help you.

What is Menopause?

Menopause is when you have your last/final menstrual period. Menopause is said to be complete when you have had no period or spotting for 12 consecutive months. At menopause, loss of ovarian follicles, follicular development and ovulation results in cessation of cyclical oestrogen and progesterone production.

Before complete menopause, there is usually a transition time. This happens when the supply of mature eggs in the ovaries diminishes and ovulation and cycles become irregular. At this time the production of hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone decreases, and this causes the symptoms of menopause.

Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. In Australia, the average age to reach menopause is 51 to 52.

Menopause can happen naturally at the expected age or early.

Menopause before the age of 45 is called early menopause. If menopause happens before the age of 40 it’s called premature menopause.

There are many reasons for premature menopause such as surgery to remove the ovaries, chemotherapy, premature ovarian insufficiency.

Symptoms of Menopause

Below is more information on each of these symptoms.

Hot flushes

Hot flushes

What are hot flushes?

This is a common symptom, and about than 57% of women report hot flushes and night sweats during menopause, with symptoms often beginning between ages 45 and 49. It’s not uncommon for women to experience moderate to severe hot flushes for up to 10 years. In some cases these symptoms may continue beyond the age of 80.

Hot flushes are described as a sudden feeling of heat or warmth, often accompanied with sweating. Some women may experience an increase in their heart rate, a red or flushed face, and heat affecting the whole body.

These hot flushes can last anywhere between a few seconds to 30 minutes or more You may find that your skin often also feels hot to the touch.

How long will I have hot flushes for?

No hot flush experience is the same from woman to woman, with differences in individual symptoms, severity and duration of symptoms.

One significant factor that determines the duration of symptoms is the timing of the onset of hot flushes and night sweats. If these symptoms are experienced during the perimenopause stage, (before menstruation ceases) then symptoms tend to last for a few years. For women who are already post-menopausal when hot flushes first set in, symptoms last for a shorter period of time, with an average between 2-4 years. 

There are of course always exceptions and some women may have these symptoms over a long period. As an example, I had a 79 year old patient who said she was still experiencing symptoms of menopause. She was assisted with natural supplements and expressed great improvement and relief after years of trying to find out why she felt this way.

Night sweats

Night sweatsNight sweats affect many women during menopause – it’s one of the most common symptoms, impacting over 70% of menopausal women.

What are night sweats?

Night sweats share similar symptoms to hot flushes but only take place at night while sleeping. The excessive sweating experienced is unrelated to an overly warm sleeping environment (although this may contribute to the severity). I have had women who reported that the sweating is bad enough for them to have to get out of bed and change clothes, then try and go back to sleep again.

Disturbed sleep patterns caused by night sweats during menopause or peri-menopause can lead to other problems, including irritability, difficulties in concentration, exhaustion, increased stress and feeling exhhausted.

While menopause is the most common cause of night sweats in women, there are a number of other possible causes which need to be ruled out, including sleep apnoea, thyroid dysfunction and diabetes.

Mood changes

mood changesHave you found yourself reacting to the slightest things lately with larger-than-normal reactions?

Whether it’s an inexplicable surge of anger, sudden tears, deep sadness or irritability, the changing hormones in your body can contribute to rapidly altering moods and emotions. These changes not only impact you but your family and friends. If you’ve found yourself wondering what’s happening in your body, you’re not alone.

Mood changes (or mood swings) are another prevalent symptom in menopausal and peri-menopausal women. Defined by their extreme or rapid changes in mood, hormonal imbalances (changes to levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) can result in mood changes that may feel wild or erratic. Many women ask me the question “What is wrong with me” as then may not understand the underlying reasons for their erratic behaviour.

Memory Loss

Memory lossA type of memory loss is not unusual for women to experience during menopause. Commonly referred to as ‘brain fog’, many women may struggle to recall details, names, addresses and more.

Since menopause as explained already leads to a depletion of ovarian hormones, there can be an impact on the oestrogen that works within the brain. One ovarian hormone in particular, estradiol, directly relates to changes in memory function.

While some women will find that the menopause ‘brain fog’ is mild and goes away with time, others experience more severe, ongoing issues with memory loss and recall. It is important to seek professional help to assist and improve this condition.

In preparation for menopause, a woman’s oestrogen levels begin to drop, and hormone levels fluctuate. This rollercoaster is directly responsible for the symptoms of mood swings and sudden changes. This is a normal part of the menopause experience, however there are natural treatment that can assist as with all symptoms.

Drops in oestrogen are believed to affect the body’s management of serotonin. Hormone shifts can also intensify existing feelings and emotional experiences.

It is also worth noting that depression is another issue that may affect a woman during menopause.

Sleep disorders

Sleep disordersWomen struggling to get an appropriate amount of sleep each night can experience issues with concentration, irritability, and a weakened immune system.

Sleep disorders can be a difficult experience for women undergoing menopause – the impacts of reduced are sleep exacerbated by shifting hormone levels and this needs to be resolved.

There are of course many reasons why this may occur, such as night sweats for example so your health care provider will be able to advise you of what strategy needs to be followed.

T\It is vital to address this as the common effects of sleep disorders may include:

  • A reduced capacity for learning and memory
  • An inability to concentrate on daily tasks, even simple housework may become difficult with a feeling of being overwhelmed, or having no motivation to do anything.
  • A higher chance of accidents
  • Tendency towards weight gain
  • Weakened immune system
  • Negative effect to business and personal relationships
  • Increased irritability
  • Depression and fatigue.

Weight gain

Weight gainWeight gain is common for women going through menopause, with the great majority of women gaining weight during this time.

This may be due in part to the slowing of metabolism that occur during aging, but fluctuating hormone levels plays a big part. Decreases in levels of various hormones have an impact of how your body processes and stores fat.

Some measure you can take yourself to help:

  • Cut down on sugar intake
  • Regular cardio exercise.
  • Improve sleep quality and quantity – going to bed at a regular time, limiting light exposure 30-60 minutes before bed, and providing a relaxing environment in the bedroom. Do not eat for at least 3 hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption
  • Avoid using electronic devices such as computers, tablets and mobile phones before bed.

Vaginal symptoms

During menopause, the vagina goes through several changes, including vaginal atrophy. This is the medical term for the thinning of the vaginal wall that occurs during menopause as oestrogen levels drop.

Many women experience vaginal symptoms before and during menopause that include the following:

  • Vaginal dryness
  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Pain with sexual intercourse (known as dyspareunia)
  • Bleeding
  • Discharge
  • Urinary tract system issues

There are other symptoms that may accompany menopause such as muscle aches, headaches, hair loss, sore breasts, loss of libido, dry skin, dry eyes, unwanted hair growth. Each case is different and treatment needs to be strategically designed for the individual’s needs.

Stages of Menopause

Possible complications of untreated menopause

It is important to know that menopause, if left untreated, may lead to other complications. Physical changes during menopause could increase your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, urinary incontinence, urinary and/or vaginal infections.

If oestrogen levels fall, which happens during menopause, fat can build up in the arteries, causing them to become narrower. This increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease, a heart attack or a stroke.

The hormonal changes that occur during menopause can bring increased cardiovascular risk in the form of higher blood pressure or increased cholesterol levels. Oestrogen is protective in the pre-menopausal years, by relaxing the arteries and promoting the good type cholesterol. So we ca see why a decline in oestrogen increases the risk of a cardiovascular episode.

Studies have shown that oestrogen deficiency directly affects cell differentiation and apoptosis. The net effects of oestrogen deficiency are increased bone turnover and accelerated resorption, which leads to osteoporosis. 

  • Apoptosis is an orderly process in which the cell’s contents break down and are “packaged” into small packets of membrane for “garbage collection” by immune cells.
  • Bone resorption is the process by which osteoclasts break down the tissue in bones and release the minerals, resulting in a transfer of calcium from bone tissue to the blood. 

How is menopause diagnosed?

A change in cycle patterns and the appearance of hot flushes are usually the first signs.

Symptoms and changes in menstruation are good indicators. 

Measurement of FSH to diagnose perimenopause or menopause is not usually indicated. A single hormone test, such as a measurement of elevated follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is not a reliable indicator of the perimenopause, as women’s hormone levels may fluctuate from day to day.

However, as cessation of periods may have other health issues connected to it, there may be a need for some tests to determine that there is no other reason for no periods.

Possible tests for the following may be needed.

  • Cholesterol
  • Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
  • Estradiol
  • Luteinising hormone
  • Progesterone
  • Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)
  • Kidney function
  • Liver function
  • Prolactin
  • Testosterone
  • Blood levels of anti-mullerian hormone (AMH)

It is important that your health practitioner takes a case history and asks you the right questions as the symptoms will help determine the treatment needed in your specific case. In Naturopathy we look at the symptoms to complete a true picture of needs rather than just the tests.

Menopause is a natural process that the body goes through. I am well-aware of the discomfort and issues that menopause can bring. I help women through this by providing a comprehensive health strategy that help to manage troubling symptoms help prevent changes that can affect their bone health, cardiovascular function, and mental wellbeing.

 

This website does not provide medical advice. The information on this website including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material is for information purposes only.  No material on this website in intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health provider before undertaking any treatment.