Menopause Symptoms, Signs, and Treatments
What is Menopause and When Does it Start?
Natural menopause is the complete cessation of the menstrual cycle, which stops a woman's reproductive system. It’s marked by the first year (12 consecutive months) in which a woman does not have a monthly consecutive menstrual period caused by the gradual decline of hormones. The menopausal stage, on average, lasts between 4 and 5 years and the average age of menopause tends to be between the ages of 50 and 53. The mean or average age that women in the United States enter menopause is around 51 years old, (midlife women). For some women, menopause may start at an early age, as early as 45 or younger and in many cases sporadic symptoms such as mood swings or weight gain may start presenting in the late 30's. It can also start in women of older age, as late as 55 or older.
Older women who experience the start of menopause past 55 age group are considered to have late-onset menopause(late menopause). Late menopause may affect the risk of developing certain diseases (like endometrial cancer, cancer that begins in the uterine lining), it may also affect the risk of heart disease. Again, you won't know when you've reached menopause until your period stops completely.
Menopause is a natural biological process caused by low levels of the hormone estrogen. As women approach menopausal age, estrogen (primarily estradiol) and progesterone levels begin to fluctuate and decrease. This is caused by the loss of estrogen produced by the sex organs. These fluctuations in hormone levels can cause the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone to undergo a series of spikes and falls that impact estrogen receptors throughout the body.
However, again, not all women will enter natural menopause around the average age. Some women experience premature menopause (or early menopause), which is the loss of ovarian functions at a younger age, before the age of 40 or experience more pronounced symptoms earlier in life. Researchers have linked diet, exercise and hereditary factors to the onset of reproductive transitions and symptom severity. Recent studies have indicated a strong link between symptoms and and poor gut health which can be addressed with the right combination of probiotics for women.
Some women experience early menopause/premature menopause naturally, but generally, early menopause usually occurs in women who have undergone surgeries to remove the uterus or ovaries. Surgeries that remove the uterus are called hysterectomies. Women who have received a bilateral oophorectomy, the surgical removal of the ovaries, will also experience premature menopause. A bilateral oophorectomy completely ends the ovarian function, like release eggs and produce female hormones. If you are a woman who has undergone either of these surgeries, speak to your doctor about the best type of treatment for you should you choose hormone therapy since an oophorectomy and a hysterectomy can affect your hormones in different ways.
If you have had a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or bilateral oophorectomy and have gone into premature menopause/ early menopause (often referred to as surgical menopause), speak with your health care provider about your treatment options as you may require certain types of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to help reduce menopausal symptoms. If you are a younger woman who has had a partial oophorectomy, tell your doctor as this may put you at higher risk of early menopause.
Be sure to speak to your health care provider about the potential risk of breast cancer associated with this treatment method before you begin, as well as any other risk factors that may occur using this type of hormone therapy. If breast cancer is common in your family, ask about other preventative methods you can take. If you have an underlying medical condition like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and other non-cancerous conditions like endometrial hyperplasia, or endometriosis, speak to your doctor about the additional risks of hormone therapy. Some study results in previous studies have observed a significant association between certain hormonal treatments and an increased risk of certain cancers.
Obviously, avoiding these surgeries will support a lower risk of early menopause, but some women do need to undergo these types of surgeries to help them eliminate certain types of cancers (i.e., endometrial cancer) and other non-cancerous conditions like endometrial hyperplasia. If bringing the onset of menopause through surgery is your best and only option, you should cooperate with your doctor to help you better adjust as the timing of menopause begins immediately afterward, meaning women will not have to wait a full year before they experience their final menstrual period. In which case, menopausal hormone therapy may be necessary as a more immediate option due to the complete lack of estrogen. As always, speak to your doctor if you have concerns about different forms of estrogen therapy, especially if you have concerns about the risk of early menopause. Some genetic factors may also contribute to the risk of early menopause and premature ovarian failure. Lifestyle factors may also increase the risk of early menopause.
What is Perimenopause?
Women often present menopausal symptoms before they stop menstruating and before they are officially in menopause. Weight gain, slowing metabolism, mood swings, hot flashes, insomnia, and other symptoms can often occur during the transition phase leading up to natural menopause, called perimenopause. Experiencing menopausal symptoms in this stage is a good indication that you are approaching natural menopause and though this can be an uncertain and stressful transition there are all natural menopause supplements that can help improve your health and reduce symptom severity during peri-menopause.
On average, perimenopause begins when women reach their early to mid-40s (typically between the ages of 40 and 45). However, hormonal changes can begin as early as 35 or the late 30s in many women, and those symptoms can increase in frequency and severity as they progress through perimenopause. During perimenopause, you will still menstruate and experience ovulation, but you may notice that your periods are becoming more irregular. This may make it more difficult for you to identify your typical menstrual cycle pattern. You should always have a record of your last period and its symptoms if you are still menstruating. Documenting your last period can also help you determine how close you are to the menopause stage. Using a women's health tracker app for menopause can is a great way to journal your symptoms and share with your doctor.
Signs of irregular periods include periods that come early or later than normal. Periods may only last three days, or they may last for two weeks. Many women cite having a longer period during this stage. Your period flow may also decrease or increase, and you may experience more spotting or less spotting in the days leading up to the start of your menstrual cycle. Period irregularity is a typical symptom of perimenopause, but it can cause a greater risk of abnormal bleeding during menstruation.
If you think you are experiencing abnormal bleeding during menses, speak to your doctor about it. If you experience menstrual periods that last for longer than a week, especially heavy bleeding, you should speak to a healthcare provider as you may be at risk of becoming anemic.
It's important to note that you can still become pregnant during perimenopause. If you have concerns surrounding fertility and contraception (i.e.birth control) as a woman in midlife, speak to your gynecologist about your options for improving your fertility or taking birth control. Remember to document your monthly cycle, especially your last menstrual period and your ovulation cycle, if you are trying to become pregnant during the perimenopausal stage. These can help you, and your doctor determine your reproductive health in this stage.
How Long Does Menopause Last?
The official stage of menopause lasts the full year that women go without experiencing a menstrual period (around the early 50s age group). However, the menopausal transition from premenopause to postmenopause can last anywhere from 7 to 13 years. Menopausal symptoms can also present themselves for just as long. In fact, many premenopausal women begin to show symptoms well before the cessation of their menstrual cycle. As women age, menopausal symptoms begin to dissipate. This is when postmenopausal women will begin to experience other significant health changes, mainly postmenopausal osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Menopause?
When a woman reaches menopause, she may experience up to 40 different menopausal symptoms. These symptoms are often variable in severity, frequency, and even duration among women. No two women will experience the same symptoms in the same way. A woman's hormonal makeup may have higher levels of one hormone over another. Some women may have higher levels of testosterone that also affect their symptoms. With so much variation, it can be difficult to pinpoint which symptoms are a direct result of menopause/perimenopause and which aren’t. However, there are some commonly shared symptoms that perimenopausal women and menopausal women can experience. If you experience any of these now, they may be early signs of menopause.
The following symptoms are the 15 most common menopause symptoms and perimenopause symptoms:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
- Decreased sex drive/libido
- Weight gain
- Brain fog
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair/brittle nails
- Breast tenderness/swelling
- Increased irritability
- Depression/symptoms of depression
- Dry eyes
Do I Have These Symptoms?
If you’re not sure if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and are unsure if you have reached natural menopause, read the descriptions of each one below to help you better determine if you have any of these symptoms. These include everything from physical symptoms of menopause to emotional symptoms of menopause.
Hot Flashes: Hot flashes (hot flushes) are sudden rushes of heat that can be felt in the head, chest, upper arms, and occasionally the torso. Hot flashes cause profuse sweating, redness in the face and can even bring on chills after they end. Hot flashes can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes and occur as often as 20+ times a day in some women. Both hot flashes and night sweats are vasomotor symptoms that can occur in premenopausal women and get worse as women progress through the menopause transition. Hot flashes can be triggered by certain foods like spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol. So be mindful of your diet. Severe hot flashes, hot flashes lasting 10 minutes or longer and frequently throughout the day, can impact your daily quality of life. Symptom severity of hot flashes is one of the most variable among women. Women with more intense vasomotor symptoms may need to take more serious actions to support symptom relief.
Night Sweats: Like hot flashes, night sweats are sudden rushes of heat that can be felt in the head, chest, upper arms, and torso. However, night sweats tend to occur, like the name suggests, at night during sleep. This can result in profuse sweating that soaks through clothes and bedding and can also lead to chills once they end. Night sweats can have the same duration and frequency as hot flashes—these vasomotor symptoms are one of the most common sleep disturbances among menopausal women. Women with hypertension or high blood pressure may also have experience more hot flashes than the average woman.
You can help lower these symptoms by avoiding hot beverages at night, reducing alcohol consumption before bed. If you are currently a smoker, smoking may increase the risk of this symptom. Quitting smoking may help support relief. Women who are current smokers or former smokers should notify their doctors as this may affect their menopause treatment. If you are a current smoker or former smoker and experiencing respiration issues, as this may be an indication of certain cancers, in which case your doctor can help you identify the best cancer treatment for you.
Mood Swings: Mood swings are sudden mood changes, typically ranging from one side of the emotional spectrum to the other. These mood changes can include sudden feelings of happiness, frustration, anger, sadness, and in some extreme cases, panic. Mood issues are especially common for women in perimenopause, approaching the menopausal stage, as this is when the most hormonal fluctuations occur. However, if you experience depressed symptoms often, you should seek out professional help as soon as possible.
While moodiness and similar emotional changes can be frustrating, they are a normal part of the experience of perimenopause. Women can find ways to help manage them with the help of their partners, family members, friends, and work colleagues. Some women find talk therapy useful when working on managing emotional changes and related symptoms—so considering trying out therapy to see if it helps you navigate your emotions, thoughts, concerns, or fears. Discuss counseling with family members may help make the process easier.
Insomnia: Insomnia is a sleep deprivation disorder that’s categorized by an inability to fall asleep quickly as well as the inability to stay asleep for long periods of time. Women with insomnia often find themselves taking hours to fall asleep or waking up in the middle of the night (periodically throughout the night) and unable to go back to sleep after each disturbance. If you experience chronic sleep problems, you may want to consider making some additional lifestyle changes to help support better sleep quality. Lack of sleep can impact memory and other related functions. Lack of sleep can also affect metabolism and immune health. Getting a good night's sleep is essential to maintaining general health. If you experience respiration issues when sleeping at night, speak to your doctor as this may be an indication of sleep apnea, which is a prevalent issue among older women.
Decreased Sex Drive/Low Libido: Lowered sex drive is a change in sexual desire, usually resulting in withdrawal from sexual activity. It can become more difficult to engage in pleasurable sexual activity with romantic partners both mentally and physically. Women often cite feeling additional psychological and physical discomforts when engaging in sexual activity or thinking about sexual intercourse. Sex drive is a natural sexual function and is different for every woman. For more information on the physical discomforts, read the section on vaginal dryness in the sections below. Women may avoid speaking about this issue with their doctors or partners for a variety of reasons, but discussing them is important. If you're a perimenopausal woman still taking hormonal birth control, this may also affect your symptoms.
Weight Gain: Weight gain is the increase, whether sudden or gradual, in body weight. Menopausal weight gain, on average, tends to affect three areas: the abdomen (around the waist), around the hips, and around the thighs. Of course, these are not the only affected areas, and weight is distributed differently for every woman depending on lifestyle choices, genetics, medications, and underlying conditions like thyroid disease. Weight gain in menopause also becomes more difficult to lose as muscles, bones, and joints are also affected by the changes in hormones.
It's important to note that body mass index (BMI) does not take individual bone or muscle weight into account when weighing yourself. Relying only on BMI may not help you determine how much of your weight is distributed differently. BMI can help you better understand where your weight should roughly fall between as you work toward any weight loss goals. If you have concerns about your current BMI status, speak to your doctor or seek out help from a certified nutritionist.
Fatigue: Chronic fatigue is the ever-present feeling of low energy, tiredness, and lowered motivation. During menopause, it becomes more difficult for women to regulate their energy levels. Coupled with insomnia, it’s not uncommon for women to feel constantly tired or only have short bursts of energy before returning to feelings of exhaustion. You may feel as though you have heavy eyelids, difficulty concentrating, and increased sensitivity to light as part of overall fatigue. This is a commonly reported symptom of perimenopause. If you experience chronic fatigue and notice it is impacting cognitive function, speak to a doctor about your sleep changes as they may be helpful in identifying other fatigue factors.
Brain Fog: Brain fog is characterized by a decreased ability to concentrate, forgetfulness, and general feelings of lowered cognitive function. You may find it difficult to perform simple tasks without feeling tired or confused. You may also find it more difficult to remember small things like if you ate breakfast. Brain fog can be especially frustrating as it’s not as immediately easy to recognize as other symptoms like hot flashes or insomnia. If you feel you’re having increasing difficulty remembering simple details or information, you should speak to your healthcare provider, as this may be an indication of early-onset dementia.
Dry Skin: Dry skin in menopause can often look red, inflamed, flakey, or splotchy. It can also become extremely sensitive to clothes or wind. Dry skin in menopause can also result in extreme itchiness. Moisturizers can help lower dry skin to a degree. However, if you experience flare-ups in conditions like psoriasis, you should speak to your doctor about your medication options. Younger women who experience skin conditions frequently like eczema or psoriasis may want to speak to a doctor about additional steps they can take to reduce inflammation.
Thinning Hair/Brittle Nails: Both hair and nails begin to change during the menopausal transition. Hair starts to thinner, become dry, change in color and texture. You may notice your hair follicles becoming finer, or that hair follicles break more easily during brushing. Brittle nails are characterized by splitting, cracking, peeling, and general weakness in fingernails and toenails. If you experience cracks, dryness, or peeling of the skin around the nails, you may want to invest in strong hand cream. Speak to a healthcare provider if you have additional concerns regarding the health of your hair and nails.
Breast Tenderness/Swelling: Breast tenderness and breast swelling are changes in the breast tissues that cause increased sensitivity and sometimes pain to external stimuli like clothing and water. Breast tenderness can often make it uncomfortable to wear bras or light t-shirts. If you experience any nipple discharge alongside breast tenderness, you should speak to your doctor, as it may be a sign of an infection in your breast duct (depending on the color and viscosity of the discharge). Younger women and women in their late 40s who experience chronic tenderness in their breasts should speak to a doctor about any risks of breast cancer. Your menopause treatment may also increase breast soreness.
Increased Irritability: Increased irritability is often accompanied by mood swings or feelings of anxiety and depression. Increased irritability is essentially an increase in feelings of annoyance, stress, or frustration that can be easily provoked. Increased irritability can have a serious impact on mental health and should be taken seriously. If you feel your symptoms are interfering with your personal life and relationships, speaking to a behavioral therapist may be beneficial to you and your loved ones. Mood changes like these can negatively impact a woman's life, especially in her relationships. Talking about these issues with loved ones can help create a safe dialogue.
Anxiety: Anxiety is a feeling of worry, concern, nervousness, or general unease. Feelings of anxiety can develop into chronic anxiety and/or anxiety disorder. Anxiety can impact the quality of life for many women and become a hindrance to their careers, their personal lives, and their relationships. If you feel your anxiety is getting worse, speak to a therapist about your concerns and your treatment options.
Depression/Depressive Moods: Depression is a mood disorder in which a person’s moods and attitudes negatively affect their lives. Women of menopausal age may experience depressive symptoms like trouble sleeping, sleeping too much, feeling tired throughout the day, eating too little or too much, withdrawal from socializing with friends and family, losing interest in hobbies, and having suicidal or self-harming thoughts.
Depression is a serious mental health condition, and changes in mood-stabilizing hormones during menopause can contribute to or exacerbate depression and depressive symptoms. Please seek help immediately if you feel your depression is overwhelming, as it is a serious mood disorder. Speak to your doctor about the side effects of antidepressants as they can also affect your hormones, which may or may not make your menopause symptoms worse. Antidepressant medications may also affect any menopausal hormone therapy you are currently taking, so talk about any possible drug interactions between the two.
Some women in midlife taking antidepressants may have an increased risk of weight gain, so find ways to support a healthy weight and reduce the risks of obesity or diabetes.
Dry Eyes: Dry eyes are characterized by feelings of dryness, itchiness, inflammation, and redness around the eyes. Dry eyes often feel similar to the effects of inflammation caused by allergens like pollen. Dry eyes can also be exacerbated by eye strain from staring at a computer screen for long periods of time. Many women use eye-drops to help alleviate this symptom.
What Are the Lesser-Known Symptoms of Menopause?
While many women experience a few of the common symptoms, some women may experience symptoms that are lesser-known or considered less common than the average list of symptoms. However, these are still symptoms of menopause and contribute to the body’s overall health.
Lesser-known symptoms of menopause include:
- Worse seasonal allergies
- Irregular heartbeat/arrhythmia
- Joint pain
- Muscle tension
- Tingling extremities
- Urinary incontinence
- Painful sex
- Vaginal dryness
- Memory lapses
Do I Have These Symptoms?
If you’re not sure if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, read the descriptions of each one below to help you better determine if you have any of these symptoms. While these symptoms are lesser-known, many of them are still incredibly common.
Worse Seasonal Allergies: Seasonal allergies are characterized by feelings of stuffiness, increased sinus pressure, runny nose, sore throat, dry eyes, watery eyes, and even itchiness. Seasonal allergies can increase in severity as women go through menopause. This is because the decreases in estrogen cause a change in the body’s inflammatory response to allergens like pollen. You may find that allergy relief doesn’t work as effectively anymore to alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms.
Irregular Heartbeat/Arrhythmia: Irregular heartbeat/arrhythmia and heart palpitations are changes in heart rate in which the heart beats abnormally or irregularly. Heart palpitations can often make you feel flushed, feel like your chest is fluttering, resulting in chest pain, cause dizziness, and even make you feel faint. Although this symptom is often harder to detect, it is important to notice. Women often report feeling fluttering in the chest during hot flashes and night sweats. So it’s not uncommon to experience these symptoms together.
If other heart conditions are part of your family history, or you're concerned about the impact of an underlying health problem on your heart health, speak to your doctor about those concerns. If you have an existing heart problem, like a heart murmur, tell your doctor as this symptom may affect it. Together you can decide on the best possible treatment for you.
Joint Pain: Joint pain is characterized by feelings of pain or swelling in joints like the knees, ankles, hips, and even the wrists. Joint pain can increase as women go through menopause as many of the tissues in bones, muscles, and the cartilage surrounding joints begin to decrease. This puts menopausal women at higher risk of experiencing dislocations, tears, and fractures. If your joint pain makes it difficult to walk or perform simple tasks, speak to your healthcare provider as you may have rheumatoid arthritis or other related conditions. Women also experience bone loss as they transition through menopause, which can contribute to this symptom.
Indigestion: Indigestion is the general term describing feelings of discomfort or unease in the abdomen. Indigestion can often be the result of things like gassiness, acid reflux, bloating, overeating, undereating, taking medications on an empty stomach, drinking too much or too little, food intolerance, and gut dysbiosis. Indigestion is often more common for women of menopausal age to experience as the changes to the body’s gut microbiome result in imbalances in gut bacteria that can affect the body’s digestive system. If you experience chronic pain, especially after eating, you should speak to a doctor immediately as you may be suffering from leaky gut syndrome or other related illnesses. If you have issues with your gallbladder, indigestion can often be a symptom of gallbladder disease.
Bloating: Bloating is the swelling of the abdomen, usually within the stomach or intestines, that is caused by a build-up of gas or caused by high water retention in the body. Bloating is not uncommon in women as they go through menopause and can be triggered by eating certain foods, not drinking enough water, and imbalanced gut bacteria. Bloating can be a symptom of health conditions like leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and other related digestive conditions.
Constipation: This can often occur in tandem with urinary incontinence, bloating, gassiness, and other related issues. Women often find themselves having more difficulty staying regular as they go through menopause. If you experience pain and discomfort using the bathroom or you have to use the restroom multiple times a day, you should speak to a doctor as this may an indication of an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed.
Muscle Tension: Muscle tension is described as the stiffness or soreness of muscles when moving, performing simple tasks, or even when laying down. Tight muscles can be especially uncomfortable when trying to fall asleep. Muscle tension may also cause muscle spasms to occur. If you experience chronic muscle tension, speak to your doctor about it, as you may be recommended to incorporate physical therapy into your routine to help alleviate some of this discomfort.
Nausea: Nausea, the need to vomit accompanied by shortness of breath, and light-headedness can occur in menopause. Many women cite feeling nauseous during hot flashes or night sweats. Nausea can often be exacerbated by the consumption of certain foods, dehydration, or not eating enough food in a day. If you experience nausea daily, you should speak to your doctor as there may be something wrong with your body’s ability to produce and regulate stomach acid.
Heartburn: Heartburn is the sensation of burning, tingling, and discomfort in the chest. Many women experience heartburn along with indigestion or acid reflux. Heartburn can often be exacerbated by certain triggers like caffeine, alcohol, foods high in refined sugars, and saturated fats. It’s important to note that chronic heartburn may be an indication of cardiovascular disease, and immediate treatment should be sought out. Cardiovascular risk does increase as women progress through menopause due to lower estrogen levels. Hypertension is a common cardiovascular risk that has similar symptoms. If you experience this symptom and are a younger age than the average menopausal age, alert your doctor.
Tingling Extremities: Tingling extremities are described as tingling sensations, which can sometimes feel like pins and needles being stuck in the surface of the skin that occurs randomly. Many women often cite feeling tingling extremities in their hands, arms, and feet. Tingling extremities can often feel uncomfortable and can sometimes interfere with daily tasks. Some women report that their tingling extremities are made worse when their skin comes into contact with wind, cold or hot water, and rain. Tingling extremities can lead to increased sensitivity of nerve endings, which could be a sign of an issue with the health of the nervous system.
Urinary Incontinence: Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control. It can vary from something as simple as light urine loss from sneezing, coughing, or laughing. It can also be as extreme as a complete loss of bladder control and is often marked by needing to urinate multiple times a day or urinating in shorter increments without much time lasting between each visit to the restroom. Urinary incontinence is normal and not always cause for concern. However, it can make you more susceptible to infections like Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). If you experience chronic urinary problems like incontinence, burning, or itching when urinating, speak to your doctor as this may be an indication of infection or inflammation of the urethra or other bladder tissues. You can help improve bladder control and help improve some urinary problems by exercises that help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. If you experience blood in urine frequently, especially in the menopausal or postmenopausal stages, tell your doctor as this may be an indication of an infection or kidney failure.
Painful Sex (Dyspareunia): Painful sex (dyspareunia) is the result of the loss of natural vaginal lubricant (see vaginal dryness for more information). Many women report experiencing discomfort or pain during sexual activities with their partners as they approach and undergo menopause. This can also have psycho-sexual repercussions as many women withdraw from their sex life. This does not mean that women will experience permanent sexual dysfunction, but it should be treated carefully.
Using artificial vaginal lubricants (preferably water-based) can help reduce some of this discomfort by supplying the vaginal tissue with moisture to reduce the inflammation caused by penetration. Speaking to a therapist that specializes in sexual relationships may also be beneficial in exploring other options with your partner. Vaginal atrophy is the most severe form of vaginal dryness, resulting in the thinning and drying of the lining that makes the vagina drier. If you experience vaginal bleeding during sex, speak to your doctor about it. This may be a cause of an underlying infection or just the result of high inflammation.
Painful intercourse can make women feel embarrassed, but it is a perfectly normal part of life. Up to half of the women in the menopausal and postmenopausal stages will experience painful intercourse at least once. If you have experienced urinary problems after sex, speak to your OB-GYN. Urinary problems like burning or itching are often a sign of a UTI.
Dizziness: Dizziness, feelings of loss of balance, and the room spinning can occur to many women in menopause. Most women report feeling dizzy during intense hot flashes and night sweats. This causes them to feel the need to sit down or lay down to help steady themselves. Dizziness can make it difficult to concentrate or perform simple daily tasks. Some women report feeling palpitations during dizzy spells as well. If you feel faint during dizzy spells, lay down, drink some water, and wait to see how long it passes. If you experience dizziness daily, speak to your doctor as there may be underlying neurological issues that need to be immediately addressed.
Vaginal Dryness: Vaginal dryness is characterized by a lack of natural lubricants in the vaginal canal. This can cause inflammation, burning, itching, and general irritation for women when urinating or engaging in sexual activities. Vaginal dryness is caused by the decreased production of natural lubricants vaginal canal. The increased inflammation in the vaginal canal can also make women more susceptible to contracting UTIs and yeast infections.
If you experience frequent burning when urinating or during sex, speak to a gynecologist about lubricants, prescription gels, creams, and other prescription medications that you can use to help with this symptom. Be sure to speak with an ob-gyn about any side effects if they recommend a prescription to help combat vaginal dryness. Women may also be more susceptible to contracting certain STDs/STIs because of increased vaginal inflammation. So take any necessary precautions and speak to an ob-gyn about those risks. Women in their early 50s may need to visit their ob-gyn more frequently if they experience inflammation more often.
This is one of the most common vaginal symptoms among women in menopause, but it can become a serious health risk. If you experience severe sexual dysfunction that impairs your ability to enjoy intimacy with your partner/spouse (i.e., swelling or bruising of the vagina), you should speak to your doctor immediately.
Memory Lapses: Memory lapses can be categorized by various events like issues with short-term memory, mild aphasia (a language disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate with others), issues repeating words or phrases, and issues retrieving simple information quickly. If your memory problems occur frequently or affect your ability to perform simple tasks, you should speak to your doctor as this may be an indication of early-onset dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. You can incorporate certain tools and methods to help you engage in routines that help support your memory problems(i.e., writing lists, keeping notes, etc.). If your family history includes dementia and Alzheimer's disease, you should speak to a doctor about other preventative methods you can take to reduce these risks. Memory is an essential cognitive function, so be honest with your doctor when describing your symptoms.
How Can I Reduce My Symptoms?
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential to supporting menopausal symptom relief. Changing diet and exercise levels is the first step in helping support menopausal health and overall health. The average United States diet increases the risk of developing heart disease, high cholesterol, and other heart conditions. A healthy diet, exercise and dietary supplements for women can help women better manage these health problems.
As women transition through menopause, their bodies begin to change in significant ways. Women lose muscle mass, suffer bone mineral density loss, and have a harder time managing weight gain. These changes can have a negative impact on health.
How to Change Your Diet
Women over 50 need to obtain more nutrients from food to help support their health. Essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, probiotics and fibers can help women gain the nutrients they need to maintain their bodies. This is especially important for postmenopausal women to maintain. It's important to note that alcohol consumption should also be reduced to help women meet their nutritional needs.
So, what foods should women be eating?
Women in menopause, perimenopause, and postmenopause need to consume more protein-rich foods as they age. This is because the changes to hormone levels cause the body to lose muscle mass. It's estimated that women can lose up to 30 percent of their muscle mass between the ages of 50 and 70. This loss of muscle mass can have a direct impact on BMI, as more fats get stored in tissue cells during menopause.
- This can increase the risk of certain diseases like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and so on. All of these conditions can be categorized under metabolic syndrome.
- Some excellent sources of protein include:
- Fish (salmon, tuna, herring)
- Red meat (beef, pork, lamb)
- Poultry (chicken, turkey)
- Beans (kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans)
- Nuts (walnuts, pistachios, cashews)
Whole grains can give women essential dietary fibers that they need to maintain regularity, improve nutrient absorption, and keep gut bacteria healthy. Fiber is crucial to help maintain nutrient absorption and can help women maintain nutrient levels to help support heart health, brain health, bone health, and immune health. These are especially helpful in maintaining cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol levels. If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels or are looking to help lower your blood pressure, you should speak to your doctor about how to adjust your diet to include more of these beneficial foods.
- Some excellent sources of whole grains include:
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat
Vegetables and Fruits
Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, and fibers that can help support immune health and reduce the risk of certain cancers. Vegetables and fruits can give you antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Vitamin A. They can also give you two types of dietary fibers, soluble and insoluble fibers, that can help you maintain a healthy gut. They are packed with other vitamins and minerals that can help keep your immune system healthy. It's a good idea to eat as wide a variety of fruits and vegetables as possible, especially for women who suffer from an autoimmune disease, as these are the richest sources of immune-boosting compounds.
- Try including vegetables and fruits like these into your diet:
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower)
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard)
- Citrus fruits (berries, oranges, lemons)
- Carotenoids (tomatoes, red bell peppers, carrots)
As women age, bone mineral density (BMD) loss increases, which puts them at higher risk of developing conditions like osteoporosis, which reduces bone mass. It's important to gain essential nutrients that help maintain bone health through food. Dairy products are good sources of essential vitamins and minerals like Vitamin D and calcium. However, many dairy products are also high in unhealthy fats and should be eaten in moderation. Consuming enough Vitamin D and calcium can help women maintain bone mineral density as they transition through menopause. Taking proactive steps to maintain bone health at an earlier age can help significantly lower this problem. Vitamin D supplements may be necessary to help you maintain bone mass. Speak to your doctor if you have any questions about Vitamin D, especially if you have concerns about your heart health.
Some high-quality dairy products include:
- Sugar-free yogurt
- Low-fat cheeses
- Low-fat or non-fat milk
- Fortified dairy alternatives (i.e., almond milk)
*Some doctors recommend that women avoid soy products, especially if they are using strong HRT treatments since certain compounds (i.e., isoflavones) in soy products can increase hormonal spikes that may have adverse health effects.
How to Change Exercise Habits
Maintaining a regular exercise routine can help women support menopausal symptom relief and combat related issues like muscle mass loss, bone density loss, and weight gain. Not only does regular exercise help build muscle mass and lose weight, but it also helps improve your body's resting metabolism. Physical activity also helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, like coronary heart disease and other heart problems. Additionally, physical activity helps your body maintain strong and healthy bones.
So, what exercises can you incorporate into your daily life that can help you improve your levels of physical activity reduce your menopause symptoms?
Weight Training Exercises
Weight lifting can help women build muscle mass as they go through menopause. Building muscle through light weight lifting helps increase the production of muscle tissues and helps strengthen existing muscles. This can help women increase muscle strength to protect their bones and even their heart. It can also help women maintain a healthy weight.
Like weight-lifting, resistance exercises are designed to help strengthen muscles and bones. These exercises create tension in the muscles that pull on the bones, which causes bones to increase the production of new tissues in the bone marrow. These types of workouts can also help improve the strength of muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Light to Moderate Cardio
While muscle-building exercises are essential to helping lower muscle mass loss and bone density loss, it's important to engage in regular exercise that gets the blood pumping. Cardio exercises like pilates, aerobic exercise, or even light jogging can help maintain cardiovascular health and boost the immune system. Cardio increases blood flow, which stimulates your immune cells and helps them fight off infections more effectively. Cardio exercise can also improve metabolism to help women maintain a healthy weight as they transition through menopause.
Can Probiotics Help With Menopause?
Traditionally, women in menopause have used hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to help alleviate their symptoms. However, recent studies into hormone replacement therapy have shown that there may be an increased risk of certain cancers like breast cancer, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer. As a result, women have turned their attention away from hormone use to menopausal hormone therapy alternatives to help reduce the risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, and other associated risks of hormone therapy.
Recent studies into the effects of probiotics as a way to support menopausal health have provided promising results. Probiotics are strains of healthy "good" bacteria that help regulate the body's gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the collection of gut bacteria that populate the digestive tract. These gut bacteria help regulate many systems in the body that can contribute to cardiovascular health (like improving high cholesterol), neurological health (like maintaining cognitive function), immune health, and more. Women experiencing perimenopause or menopause symptoms should add a Dr. formulated probiotic for women to their diets.
During the transition into menopause, fluctuations in hormones and low levels of estrogen start to affect all systems in the body. This is because there are estrogen receptors throughout these systems that bind onto estrogen to help initiate specific regulatory and metabolic processes. When estrogen receptors don't have strong estrogens, like estradiol, to bind to it can cause a variety of symptoms. Vaginal changes, like low vaginal moisture, are caused by this decrease in estrogen supplied to the vaginal lining. It can also cause a shift in psychological symptoms, making it more difficult for women to regulate their moods, experience depressive symptoms, and so on. By improving the gut microbiome with certain probiotic strains, women can help their bodies recycle their natural estrogens more effectively. This can help improve symptom relief and has fewer risk factors to women's health.
What do MenoLabs Probiotics Do?
MenoLabs is a women's health (FEMTECH) company that researches and develops all-natural dietary supplements for menopause and a companion period tracker and health tracker mobile app to support women through midlife. MenoLabs probiotic supplements specifically help women better balance hormonal fluctuations as estradiol levels decrease. Once menses stops, these hormonal changes continue to spike and fall. A woman's ovaries may stop producing eggs, but the body still circulates estrogen and progesterone. Finding ways to help support improved hormonal balance is the key to helping reduce symptoms.
As the production of estrogen lowers, women need to better recirculate their body's existing estrogens to maintain steady levels. Probiotic supplements paired with specific prebiotic compounds can help support this natural function more effectively. The gut microbiome plays an important role by helping the body recycle and reabsorb favorable levels of estrogen that the body can use to regulate itself. MenoLabs probiotics are designed to help this natural process. They also help the body gain essential vitamins (like Vitamin D) and other compounds more effectively from food sources.
Our probiotic supplements are made with specific bacterial strains, primarily different types of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, to help populate the gut with "good" bacteria and support their growth. They're also made with specific compounds called phytoestrogens to help support balance even as hormonal levels fluctuate. Phytoestrogens are plant-derived compounds that mimic the behavior of your body's natural estrogen. With enough of these bacteria, the body can obtain the elements it needs to support hormonal balance, even with less estrogen being produced by the ovaries, even in earlier menopause. Further study into the effects of probiotics and other nonhormonal therapy alternatives is being done every day, which means new information is available as women experience menopause.
Here's What You Can Do
If you are a woman and you're unsure of your menopause status, or you experience common menopause symptoms regularly, there are steps you can take to protect your health. Lifestyle factors like diet and exercise can be adjusted to reflect your healthcare needs. Speak to a doctor about any genetic factors or medical history that might affect your menopausal experience and symptoms. If you have concerns about the use of hormone therapy, talk to your doctor about it to determine if this is the best medical treatment for you or if you should seek other alternatives.
If you're in the menopausal age range and you're unsure if you're experiencing symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor to get a baseline of your hormonal makeup. Get a blood test done to check for low estrogen levels and other indicators of menopause. Having this baseline can help you better determine the best possible treatment plan. Some women have a natural estrogen deficiency (premature ovarian failure) prior to menopause that affects the severity of symptoms and the initial onset of menopause. Managing your symptoms if you have a natural estrogen deficiency may take a long period of time, but it is possible. If your estrogen levels are low, this may increase the risk of early menopause. Your doctor may want to discuss options to help you lower risk of early menopause and implement an effective treatment plan with you if the risk of early menopause is high for you specifically.
This stage of life is full of physical changes, emotional changes and is different for every individual woman. Women reach menopause in different ways and at different times. You may not experience symptoms at the same median age like others. Symptoms are variable and can be caused by a number of factors. Severe symptoms can present themselves even in young women. As women age, symptoms may worsen or get better depending on individual health, the presence of a treatment plan, and lifestyle factors like regular physical activity. So take all of these things into account when addressing your menopausal health.
If you want to find more information on menopause, are looking for a doctor or medical professionals that specialize in menopausal health, we recommend that you check out the North American Menopause Society for additional information and assistance. You can also find information on nutrition for women of your age group through the U.S. Department of Health. Speak to health professionals in your area to get a better understanding of where you can find the best menopausal care. American women often feel lost when navigating their menopausal health, but you don't have to do it alone. Download our FREE MenoLife: Menopause, Perimenopause and Midlife Health and Period Tracker app and find relief, support and expert advice today.