Menopause can be a confusing and distressing time for many women which can be made worse if you’re not sure what to expect from your body during this phase of your life.
Here are some of the most common questions I get asked by my clients:
What happens to my hormone levels in the lead up to post-menopause?
In answer to this question let’s discuss hormone changes. You’ve probably heard that menopause symptoms are heavily linked to hormone changes but what exactly happens to your hormones during menopause?
Oestrogen is one of the main hormones involved in both reproduction and the menstrual cycle, along with progesterone. Women are born with eggs in their ovaries, which are released every month as part of the menstrual cycle. The ovaries also produce oestrogen and progesterone. Once menopause is reached, the ovaries no longer need to release eggs and menstruation isn’t required either. This signals that the child bearing years of a woman’s life have come to an end.
At the same time, levels of both oestrogen and progesterone decrease. For most women, this happens in the years leading up to menopause which is the stage of life called perimenopause. The ovaries ultimately stop producing these hormones completely during menopause itself although fat cells (mainly belly fat), the liver and the adrenal glands still produce a small amount of oestrogen.
Oestrogen doesn’t just have an impact on your monthly cycle; it can also have pretty wide ranging effects on your whole body. Your brain and nervous system are commonly affected, which is why menopause can bring about so many cognitive and physical symptoms from “brain fog” to hot flushes.
This is exaggerated by the fact that your sex hormones aren’t the only hormones to be affected. Your levels of hormones such as serotonin (your feel-good hormone) alter too. This can leave you feeling tired, irritable and prone to mood swings.
Once my periods have been absent for 12 months and I’m deemed to be in menopause, does that mean that all of my menopause symptoms will disappear?
If you’re not one of the lucky women who sail through menopause with minor symptoms, you’ll no doubt be desperate to find out how long you can expect to have symptoms for after you’re officially in menopause.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this as each woman is different so may be affected differently. For many women, symptoms are more intense during perimenopause and start to tail off once they reach menopause and are considered to be in post-menopause.
That’s not always the case though and some menopause symptoms can continue for quite a while even once periods have stopped completely, including hot flushes and mood swings. This is due to low oestrogen levels, which drop further between the perimenopause and menopause years and can mean that these symptoms get worse once true menopause is reached.
On average, post-menopause symptoms can last for four to five years. The good news is that regardless of how long they last, they’re not usually as intense as they were during perimenopause so they’re less likely to have an impact on your life.
What happens to my body once I’m in post-menopause?
Even after symptoms die down completely, there are a few risk factors that can develop after menopause, largely due to the lack of oestrogen.
During post-menopause, you can be at a greater risk of developing:
- Heart disease. This makes it even more important to follow a heart healthy diet filled with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats as well as to exercise regularly. Being more likely to store fat around your abdomen can also increase your risk factor for heart disease as well as conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
- Bone density can also become a problem. Getting your bone density checked fairly regularly can help to catch early warning signs of osteoporosis. According to studies, as much as a fifth of bone loss can happen in the five years following menopause. Oestrogen is heavily linked to stronger bones so once oestrogen levels drop, your bone density can become weaker. Getting plenty of calcium in your diet is a necessity for helping to keep your bones strong and healthy during post-menopause. Vitamin D is also needed for healthy bones and supplements may be needed if you don’t get much from your diet (in fatty fish or eggs) or from natural sunlight.
It’s scary to think that menopause can affect your heart and bones but luckily, there’s quite a bit you can do from a lifestyle perspective to keep yourself healthy.
Here are a few tips to manage middle age well:
- Balance blood sugar by balancing macronutrients at every meal, e.g. protein, fats, and starchy carbohydrates.
- Eat Omega 3 fatty acids – fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseeds (freshly ground) and chia seeds are great sources.
- Cut back on or eliminate alcohol and caffeine.
- Support your liver by doing a gentle detox yearly. Link to my FREE 7 Day Detox and Hormone Reboot is here.http://bit.ly/2WZ9zlG
- Find a form of movement you enjoy and practice it at least five times per week, try to include at least two sessions a week of weight bearing exercises.
- Aim to sleep seven to nine hours a night.
- Educate yourself about endocrine disruptors in skin care, cosmetics and household cleaners.
- Practice stress management via mindfulness or meditation.
The time has come for you to look at menopause as the beginning of a very exciting and fulfilling phase of your life. It is your time to step forward and learn to enjoy the best years of your life!
If you would like to find out more about how you can age well and deal with your menopause symptoms, go ahead and book a 30-minute discovery call with me https://calendly.com/enlightenmyhealth/30minhere. We’ll discuss strategies that you can implement into your life so that your menopause symptoms won’t interfere with your life and you can feel great again.
The Wisdom of Menopause, Christiane Northrup,M.D.(Bantam Books,2012)
Medical Disclaimer: All information contained in this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent health problems. For all serious health issues, please contact a medical or nutrition practitioner. The information provided in this blog is based on the best knowledge of the author at the time of writing and we do not assume liability for the information within this blog, be it direct or indirect, consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages. In all circumstances, it is always wise to consult your physician before changing your diet, taking supplements or starting any exercise or health program.