Menopause is the ceasing of menstruation in women, which typically occurs between the ages of 45 to 50. It is a normal phase in a woman’s life, which marks the end of her reproductive period. There are several hormonal changes during this phase and you should know about menopause to be able to manage it effectively. Symptoms of menopause are many and the treatment of menopause can vary from person to person.
A woman can be sure that she has reached her menopause when she does not have her menstrual periods for 12 consecutive months. However, menopausal transition or perimenopause is a time taking process in which the hormonal levels begin to decline in a woman and this happens prior to menopause. This transitional process varies in length and can last up to a decade in some women. Women who have never been pregnant, smoke regularly or live at high altitudes are likely to experience menopause earlier in life than those women who haven’t.
What is the Cause of Menopause?
While the cause of menopause is primarily hormonal changes, certain factors may influence the time when menopause occurs, whether early or late. All functions related to menstruation and menopause are controlled by hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Menopause occurs when a woman stops menstruating and producing eggs, hence the cessation of menstrual cycle marks the period of menopause.
Sometimes, women may experience premature menopause. This can happen if the ovaries fail to release eggs much earlier than they were actually supposed to. Some women may experience menopause even before 45 years of age. Although rare, some of the common causes of premature menopause include
- Enzyme deficiencies – Enzyme deficiency in women can cause early menopause along with digestive issues.
- Down’s syndrome or Turner’s syndrome – These genetic defects affect the hormones and can be a cause of early menopause.
- Hypothyroidism – When a woman has an underactive thyroid, it is unable to produce enough of the thyroid hormone, which can cause menopause in early years.
- Hysterectomy surgery – The uterus or womb is surgically removed, due to some medical problems, which stops the menstrual cycle leading to menopause. This is a common cause of menopause in women.
- Bilateral oophorectomy surgery – This is surgical removal of both the ovaries and the tubes, causing menopause in a woman.
- Radiotherapy to the pelvic area or chemotherapy can sometimes cause early menopause.
What are the Symptoms of Menopause?
Some of the most common symptoms of menopause are:
- Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding - One of the major symptoms of menopause is abnormal vaginal bleeding which a woman can experience months before the actual menopause begins. A woman might not get her regular periods for 2 to 3 months, bleed for a month and experience skipped periods again from the next month.
- Hot Flashes – This is a common symptom of menopause, in which there is a sudden feeling of warmth, mainly in the upper body region. It is generally accompanied by sweating or blushing. The severity may differ from one woman to another with some experiencing mild flashes and others severe.
- Weight Gain – Many women complain about gaining weight which begins to increase once their menopause period begins. So weight gain may be one of the symptoms of menopause, which can managed by appropriate diet and activity.
- Skin Dryness – Dryness and itchiness of skin is another common symptom of menopause. Appling Vitamin E oil helps restore lost moisture and softness of the skin.
- Other Common Symptoms of Menopause Include:
- Mood swings
- Fatigue and/or depression
- Racing heart
- Pain in muscles and joints
- Dryness in vagina
- Changes in sex drive
- Bladder control issues.
Know About Hormonal Changes in Menopause
Hormonal changes in menopause are responsible for most of the symptoms of menopause. They also increase the risk of certain diseases, which commonly occur in women after menopause. All that you should know includes the information about risk for such disorders.
Being the messengers which travel through the body’s blood stream, hormones help to stop, start, slow down or speed up chemical and physical functions and processes in all the systems of the body. The main hormones, estrogen and progesterone are produced by the ovaries and they control the woman’s reproductive system, fertility and menstrual cycle. As menopause begins, the ovarian follicles (which contain the eggs) begin to decline and the ovaries are no longer as responsive as they used to be to the other 2 hormones which help in reproduction namely FHS (Follicle-Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteinizing Hormone). With fewer hormones being released and the ovaries beginning to age, LH and FSH are unable to perform regular functions which include regulating the main hormones.
As a result of hormonal changes during menopause, the woman is at an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, weight gain and lifestyle disorders. Hormonal changes in menopause also influence the calcium absorption and increase the risk of bone-related diseases like osteoporosis and osteopenia. Also, the skin starts becoming itchy and dry, wrinkles and sags more and is also more susceptible to injuries of any kind.
Another major hormonal change in menopause is that a woman is at an increased risk of urinary tract infection. As a symptom of menopause women may find it difficult to hold urine for long and may feel the need to urinate more often than before.
Treatment for Menopause
Treatment for menopause may include medications that help to manage individual symptoms. Hormonal therapy may be considered in some cases, as appropriate. In most women menopause is managed with lifestyle changes, a healthy diet and exercises for menopause. Any other associated medical conditions may have to be treated accordingly.
Home Remedies to Help in Menopause
Know about some of the recommended home remedies for menopause, which can help you manage the phase better.
- Moisturizers and Lubricants – Vaginal lubricants or moisturizers which are water-based, help to decrease the vaginal discomfort during menopause. Moisturizers for dry skin are also helpful.
- Herbs That Help – Herbs are being used since ancient times to manage symptoms of menopause. Ashwagandha, passionflower and black cohosh are some herbs which when consumed in their raw form or with water help reduce symptoms such as headache, irritability, mood swings and fatigue.
- Yoga and Meditation – Stress, anxiety and depression are commonly experienced by women during menopause. Practicing yoga and meditation regularly can help to control stress, prevent depression and relax the mind and body.
- Milk – Drink a glass of warm milk every night before going to bed. Milk works as a natural and mild sedative which helps you sleep well at night thereby curing the insomnia, a symptom of menopause.
- Stay Cool and Dress Light – A great home remedy for menopause is to dress light and stay in a cool place. Also have cold water instead of hot as this will help with the hot flashes.
Know About Lifestyle Changes to Manage Menopause
Lifestyle changes are the key to a healthy and hassle-free menopause period. Here are some of the top lifestyle changes to be adopted during menopause.
Practice Relaxation During Menopause
Stress management and relaxation techniques can help to deal with symptoms of menopause. You need to know about the ways in which you can feel relaxed to manage the stress during menopause. Practicing deep breathing can be practiced under an expert’s guidance.
Exercise Every Day to Beat the Symptoms of Menopause
Exercising every day will help you in ways more than one. Whole body exercises and cardio exercises such as swimming, running or jogging keep stress away and keep you healthy and fit. Pelvic floor muscle exercises can help to control the bladder and improve urinary incontinence. Regular walks, yoga or exercise sessions can help.
Balanced Diet Can Help to Manage Menopause
A balanced diet is made up of fresh fruits, vegetables, fiber and whole grains with very limited oils, sugars and saturated fats. It is better to avoid spicy food items, alcohol and smoking as these factors help increase hot flashes especially during menopause. Food rich in iron, calcium, vitamin B complex and Vitamin D must be consumed or consider taking supplements during the menopause to meet any daily requirements.
Sleep Well to Reduce Symptoms of Menopause
Get adequate rest during the day and a good night’s sleep of at least 8 to 10 hours every night during your menopause. This will help you fight the symptoms better and your mind will stay relaxed during the day. Do not over stress your body at all when undergoing menopause. This is an important lifestyle change to adopt during menopause.
Avoid Triggers to Manage Menopause
Certain situations, stress, specific food items or staying in warm places are some of the triggers that can act as a trigger and set off menopausal symptoms. These can include taking too much stress, eating a specific food or staying in warm places. Try to identify your trigger factors and avoid them as much as you can.
Know About Diet during Menopause
Adequate Calcium Intake – Your body needs ample amount of calcium during menopause. Take 2 to 4 servings of calcium rich foods such as fish with bones, legumes, broccoli and all dairy products.
Increase Iron Consumption – Poultry, fish, eggs, lean red meat, nuts, grain products and leafy green vegetables are extremely rich in iron. Increase your iron intake with these foods during menopause.
Include Fiber – When we talk about foods to eat or avoid during menopause, fiber happens to be one of the most important food items to be incorporated in a woman’s diet. Cereals, rice, fresh fruits, vegetables and whole-grain breads are excellent sources of fiber.
Water, Water and More Water – Water has a world of benefits associated with it and is great for women going through menopause as it helps flush toxins and wastes from the body easily, drink at least 10 to 12 glasses of water every day.
Say No to Processed and High-Fat Foods – During the menopause period, a woman is already on the verge of being susceptible to heart diseases. Foods that are rich in saturated fat, high in sugar content or processed can raise the cholesterol level in a woman’s body and increase the risk of heart diseases by almost 50 percent. Avoid whole milk, fatty meats, cheese and ice cream. Also avoid foods which are rich in trans fat such as packed baked goods, margarine and most vegetable oils.
Limit Sugar and Salt – You must take salt and sugar in moderation in all your meals. They can cause issues such as high blood pressure or diabetes, in menopausal women.
It is important to pay attention to the foods to eat and avoid during menopause as food influences the symptoms associated with menopause.
Know Some Exercises for Menopause
Exercising during the perimenopause years can help you deal with the phase effectively and also makes the symptoms mild in nature. As the estrogen levels decrease, fat in the stomach area starts to accumulate, loss of bone occurs, muscle atrophy increases and the risk of heart attack rises. Exercising can help prevent the estrogen levels from dropping, tighten muscles and also strengthen bones.
Here are some of the best exercises for menopause.
Squats – The legs and glutes can be strengthened with squats. Stand with the feet a little wider than your shoulder width apart. Lower yourself by bending knees and hips while pushing out your glutes. This will bring you into a position where you are about to sit. Squat down as much as you can and balance yourself for 3 seconds. Rise up again slowly.
Crab Walk – The outer thigh muscles and glutes will get toned and tightened with this exercise while the hip joint will strengthen. It is a good exercise for menopause. Take a light resistance tubing circle, step inside it with both legs and fasten it near the ankles. Keep the feet a little wider than shoulder width apart and bend knees a little. Keep your hands on your hips, step out sideways and continue to walk like that. Walk 20 steps on each side, turn to the other side and repeat.
Reverse Crunches – This exercise helps tighten abs and reduces fat in the hip region. Lie on a floor mat, facing the ceiling and keep a sturdy table leg two inches behind you. Bend the knees, contract your abs and hold the table leg with both your hands. Now pull up both the knees towards the chest while rolling the spine. The knees remain bent even when you return to the initial position repeat. This exercise is one of the best exercises for menopause and it also helps to relieve digestive problems.
Planks – Planks are one of the most effective exercises for menopause as they engage the core muscles, strengthen the back and also help flatten the ab. Place a mat on the floor and lie on it while facing the mat. Now push up yourself on your forearms and the balls of the feet. Keep the elbows right under the shoulders. Raise the body in such a manner that your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles are all in a straight line. The hips should neither sag nor hike up. Hold this position as much as you can with one minute being an ideal time. Repeat twice.
Women who have certain medical conditions and those menopausal women who are not used to exercising must seek medical opinion.
Common Myths Related to Menopause
There are several myths related to menopause which scare women. Menopause is a natural phase and can be easily dealt with no matter what your age is.
- Menopause begins only after 50 – Menopause does not begin at a specific age as all women experience menopause at different ages. Though an average age has been established for menopause, women can experience menopause as early as in their early 40’s or as late as their 60’s.
- Weight gain is inevitable – Though there are several women who have experienced weight-gain during their menopause, it is not a compulsion. Menopause can simply increase the chances of weight gain, but women who maintain a healthy lifestyle and remain active with regular exercises may remain fit.
- Natural and ‘surgical’ menopause are the same – This is one of the biggest myths related to menopause as natural menopause and one brought about by surgery can never be the same. Hysterectomy brings on sudden changes in the hormones due to the removal of reproductive organs, which can cause a lot of hormonal imbalance. Whereas, in natural menopause, there is slow transition, which allows the body to adapt to the changes.
- Menopause results in decreased sex drive – Not all women experience decreased sex drive during this phase; although some may do, mostly due to vaginal dryness or other health problems.
- All women experience the symptoms of menopause – This is another great myth related to menopause. Though the common symptoms of menopause which include mood swings, hot flashes, insomnia, headache and fatigue occur amongst several women, many women experience very mild symptoms during menopause. Absence of regular monthly periods, is noted in all during menopause.
Menopause is just a phase of life which every woman must go through to see for herself what lies beyond. More than the physical issues, it is the psychological ones which trouble a woman entering menopause as the idea that she is aging, sets in and she begins to feel old. One needs to stay healthy, happy and positive during her menopausal phase and look forward to the beginning of a new era instead of pondering over the old one.