Menopausal Symptoms

Not feeling like yourself and you’ve lost your zest for living? Perhaps your life is ‘off track’, and you’re feeling like a hypochondriac, constantly questioning your health.

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Not to mention all the weird and wonderful symptoms nobody warned you about.

WHAT the heck is happening to my brain and my body?

Very much like periods, the menopause is rarely talked about in any meaningful way… Cue the stereotypical axe wielding, psycho, menopausal woman having a hot flush.

Whilst for many the menopause can be mostly trouble free, for others it can be debilitating. However, you don’t need to feel like you’re losing control – or losing your mind.

The menopause is a completely natural life stage where your hormones and your body are in flux. And because hormones work in harmony, if one is out, they all are. Indeed, your sex hormones are very much a reflection of what is going on in your body as a whole.

Read more…

WHAT the heck is happening to my brain and my body?

Very much like periods, the menopause is rarely talked about in any meaningful way… Cue the stereotypical axe wielding, psycho, menopausal woman having a hot flush.

Whilst for many the menopause can be mostly trouble free, for others it can be debilitating. However, you don’t need to feel like you’re losing control – or losing your mind.

The menopause is a completely natural life stage where your hormones and your body are in flux. And because hormones work in harmony, if one is out, they all are. Indeed, your sex hormones are very much a reflection of what is going on in your body as a whole.

Read more…

We are unique in every way and our menopause is no different. Menopausal symptoms are varied and definitely keep you guessing…

Our hormones are extremely sensitive and can be disrupted by the slightest physical or psychological influence – this leads to a whole host of symptoms.

Oestrogen is a hormonal powerhouse that travels through your bloodstream talking to cells all over the body from your brain and heart to your skin and bones. There are few areas of the body this diva hormone doesn’t flirt with which can explain why symptoms of low oestrogen can be so diverse and life changing.

Take a look at the table of symptoms below, if you have any, some or (god forbid) all of these symptoms, it’s highly likely your body is in one of the stages of menopause…

Check out the symptoms here…

It’s the ‘no fun’ version of Pick & Mix, ok?

It’s the ‘no fun’ version of Pick & Mix ok?

Our hormones are extremely sensitive and can be disrupted by the slightest physical or psychological influence – this leads to a whole host of symptoms.

Oestrogen is a hormonal powerhouse that travels through your bloodstream talking to cells all over the body from your brain and heart to your skin and bones. There are few areas of the body this diva hormone doesn’t flirt with which can explain why symptoms of low oestrogen can be so diverse and life changing.

Take a look at the table of symptoms below, if you have any, some or (god forbid) all of these symptoms, it’s highly likely your body is in one of the stages of menopause…

Menopausal Symptoms

Usually one of these symptoms on their own is not enough to signal ‘menopause’, however, if you have a singular symptom, and it’s persistent, it just could mean that you are, in fact, menopausal. That said, its more likely that you’ll experience more than one symptom. Take a look at these common (and not so common) menopausal symptoms to see if they are affecting you.

Weight Gain

Over the last 30 years obesity levels have trebled, and we have seen a much higher prevalence of this in women compared to men.

Current research suggests roughly one in four adults are overweight and this has been correlated to an increased risk of health issues such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, diabetes, abdominal weight gain, insulin resistance and some cancers.

Weight gain can be a significant concern for many women going through menopause transition. Weight gain and changes in body fat distribution can often happen at this time but we cannot solely blame this on our hormones.

Other driving forces include stress, poor dietary choices, lifestyle habits, lack of exercise and unpredictable sleep patterns due to insomnia, frequent urination or hot flushes.

Related Symptoms: Sleep Issues, Hot Flushes

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Brain Fog

Brain fog is a feeling of mental fuzziness. Perhaps you can’t think straight, your friends label you as scatty, or your memory is all over the place.

Well this is pretty common and if you’ve ever been pregnant, you’ll be all too familiar with the dreaded ‘baby brain.’ There is actually a theory, and this is where it gets complicated.

During major hormonal shifts we are temporarily disconnected from our frontal lobe which is the part of the brain needed for planning, linear thinking and rational thoughts. We also know that oestrogen is a neuroprotective (protects brain cells against, damage, degeneration and loss of function) antioxidant.

Oestrogen affects the structure and function of the nervous system and also interacts with neuroprotective intracellular pathways. This helps us understand why many women experience ‘menopause brain.’

Related Symptoms: Anxiety & Depression, Mood Swings, Sleep Issues

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Low (or no) Libido

Interest in sex can often decline with age but this shouldn’t happen in your forties!

There are so many factors that can influence libido alongside declining levels of oestrogen and testosterone including healthy or toxic relationships, attitudes to sex, body confidence, vaginal dryness, lack of sleep and mental and physical health.

In technical terms the underlying reasons for ‘female sexual dysfunction’ can be grouped into two categories, hormonal and non-hormonal.

Hormonally speaking, as oestrogen drops the vaginal mucosa becomes thinner, the vaginal walls can lose their elasticity and the vaginal secretions can gradually decrease which can make any sexual contact less comfortable with reduced sensitivity.

Non-hormonal factors refer to all the psycho-social elements that could be getting in the way of a great sex life.

Related Symptoms: Anxiety & Depression, Brain Fog, Mood Swings

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Headaches

During perimenopause oestrogen levels can fluctuate wildly as cycles become more erratic and unpredictable.

This can trigger hormonal headaches and migraines especially if you have an underlying history. For many women headaches settle when their hormones smooth out after their final period or they use HRT.

Remember there can be other causes of headaches around this time such as insomnia, hot flushes, stress, mood swings, poor diet and anxiety and depression.

Related Symptoms: Brain Fog, Sleep Issues, Hot Flushes, Anxiety & Depression

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Hair Changes

During the years surrounding menopause your hair (head and body) may go rogue on you!

Without the help of HRT approximately 70% of women lose hair from their heads while acquiring some on their face! Not a good look.

If you experience hair loss this may be particularly noticeable on your scalp and hairline. It’s not that well understood but hair follicles contain oestrogen receptors, and this can affect hair density.

If you’ve been pregnant you will remember your thick, luscious locks. Unfortunately, this process is now happening in reverse…sorry!

What about facial hair? Or hirsutism which is excess hair typically seen in a male pattern? Often regarded as the curse of menopause, hair sprouting in unexpected places is far from pretty especially when it is visible to others.

It can range from being a mild annoyance to a severe insult to your self-esteem and is usually related to imbalanced oestrogen and progesterone as much as testosterone.

Related Symptoms: Skin Problems, Eye Changes

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Urinary Problems

We usually think of urinary incontinence in relation to childbirth but news flash, it’s a big thing when it comes to menopause especially in the 50-54 age group.

Oestrogen and progesterone receptors are present in the vagina, urethra, bladder and pelvic floor muscles. Our hormones talk to other cells in our bodies via receptors so when hormone levels drop those parts of the body may not work as well. You may leak when you run, cough or sneeze and you may visit the loo more often day and night.

As a result of low oestrogen, the vaginal walls and tissues become thin, delicate and more easily damaged while there is also a reduction in vaginal and cervical secretions.

At the same time the vaginal pH becomes more alkaline due to a lower production of lactic acid and this can encourage the overgrowth of undesirable bacteria and yeast. As a result, you are more likely to suffer from painful sex, itching, burning, dryness, thrush, bacterial vaginosis, low libido and urinary tract infections.

Related Symptoms: Libido, Anxiety & Depression

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Hearing

This is an unusual and unexpected symptom of menopause.

There appears to be some interesting evidence of a relationship between oestrogen and hearing loss. As your oestrogen declines, so does your hearing. This may explain why you struggle to hear the TV or lose track of conversations in loud environments.

If you notice significant hearing loss you should always consult your GP.

Related Symptoms: Skin Problems, Hair Changes, Eye Changes

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Sleep Issues

Almost half of women over 40 have problems sleeping and the closer they get to menopause the worse it seems to get.

Sleep issues include difficultly falling asleep, problems staying asleep and waking very early in the morning. After hot flushes, sleep issues are probably the most frequently reported symptom of women going through menopause transition.

Understanding why sleep is such a big problem is not clear and the research seems inconsistent. It may be related to imbalanced hormones because we know our sex hormones interact with neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that help us to sleep.

However, sleep issues can also be driven by stress, health conditions, hot flushes, medications, frequent trips to the bathroom, aging and of course a snoring partner!

Related Symptoms: Anxiety & Depression, Hot Flushes, Urinary Problems

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Anxiety & Depression

Many women, especially during their forties, often wonder why they just don’t feel like themselves anymore.

It’s not until they’ve actually gone through menopause that they join join the dots and make the connection between fluctuating hormones and their psychological symptoms.

However, many studies have revealed that although the likelihood of developing depression and anxiety is higher during the menopause, contributory factors are often stress and problems experienced in the past.

There are a number of reasons why stress and anxiety can be triggered by perimenopause and the menopause transition, including:

  • Elderly parents
  • Bereavements
  • Loss of a partner (death, separation or divorce)
  • Isolation and lack of social support
  • Educational, marital of family difficulties of adult children
  • Health challenges
  • Work pressures
  • Financial problems
  • Fears around ageing
  • Sleep problems due to stress or hot flushes

 

Related Symptoms: Brain Fog, Mood Swings

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Mood Swings

Mood swings during perimenopause and menopause, which you may also have experienced throughout your whole ‘reproductive career,’ can sometimes suddenly get a whole lot worse.

Fluctuating hormones, stress and poor dietary and lifestyle choices can all play a part in fuelling the hormonal sh*t storm.

Related Symptoms: Anxiety & Depression, Brain Fog

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Hot Flushes

Hot flushes are probably the most common symptom of menopause.

As your thermostat malfunctions you can go from feeling completely normal one moment to feeling like you’ve walked into a sauna wearing head to toe ski gear! It’s no laughing matter and it can be debilitating for so many women.

Characterised by sensations of heat, especially throughout the head, neck and torso, research has shown they can last anything from five to forty years. Yes really!

The actual cause of hot flushes is poorly understood but is thought to be associated with our nervous system. It would seem that declining levels of oestrogen send messages to the hypothalamus (in the brain) that increases something called vasodilation (widening of blood vessels).

This can be unpredictable, can occur at any time and may disrupt sleep causing irritability and short-term memory loss. They also seem to be worse when women are tired or stressed which are common features of modern life! 

Related Symptoms: Brain Fog, Sleep Issues

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Skin Problems

Hormones play a super important role in your skin’s health: how it functions but also how it looks.

Your androgens (DHEA and testosterone) help control your oil production while oestrogen has a number of very important jobs. One in particular is the production of collagen which is a fibrous protein that makes up connective tissue and keeps your skin supple and healthy.

As oestrogen decreases it affects the collagen in your skin which can cause it to be thinner and unfortunately prone to signs of aging.

We experience skin changes whenever our hormones are shifting such as pregnancy, pregnancy, childbirth or use of contraceptives so menopausal issues should come as no surprise.

Skin changes to look out for include acne, rosacea, bruising, dry skin, wrinkles, reactivity, itching and discolouration. If you don’t already then, it’s never too late to start treating your skin like royalty!

Related Symptoms: Hair Changes, Eye Changes

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Osteoporosis

Bone health is often associated with ‘frail old ladies’ but it’s been estimated that on average one in three women will be afflicted.

Studies have shown that bone density starts to decline in our mid-forties and after the menopause there is an accelerated period of loss which lasts for approximately 6-10 years. After this time the bone loss occurs at a much slower rate.

There are a number of risk factors for osteoporosis such as lack of exercise, stress, too many refined carbohydrates, depression, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and historically having low bone density.

Related Symptoms: Joint Pains, Anxiety & Depression

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Eye Changes

You might not think of changes to your eyes as a menopause symptom but like many other areas of the body your eyes have sex hormone receptors which means when your hormones drop their function can be affected.

This isn’t fully understood but hormones seem to maintain a state of equilibrium in your eyes which means during times of hormonal change you may notice changes to the health of your eyes including blurred vision, tired and red eyes, irritation from contact lenses and vision changes. If you notice significant eye problems, you should always consult your GP or optician.

Dry eyes can also be a common problem however this can also be attributed to environmental triggers, allergies, travel, medications and health conditions. Our tear production tends to slow down as we age but this is more common in women suggesting a hormonal influence.

Related Symptoms: Skin Problems, Hair Changes, Eye Changes

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Joint Pain

Many women notice joint pains for the first-time during perimenopause.

Joint pain can be common as we age due to wear and tear of the cartilage cushioning our bones but there seems to be a clear correlation between joint pains and menopause.

Researchers aren’t entirely sure which mechanisms are at play but women with erratic periods seem to have more joint pains than those having regular monthly bleeds.

There are lots of reasons for joint pain besides the menopause including injury, mechanical problems or health conditions.

Related Symptoms: Osteoporosis

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Dental

The common theme of menopause is dryness, and this also applies to your mouth.

Amazingly our mouth also contains oestrogen receptors (this allows different parts of our body to talk to each other). They are found in our oral mucosa (lining of our mouth) and the glands that produce saliva.

When oestrogen drops guess what happens? Yes, you make less salvia, and this isn’t a good thing. It affects your ability to lubricate food which can lower enjoyment but also impair digestion because we start to break down carbohydrates in our mouth by chewing and exposing them to the enzymes in our saliva.

It can feel uncomfortable, it may trigger bad breath and can lead to excessive dryness (xerostomia) or even burning mouth syndrome. Other major consequences are cavities, tooth sensitivity and gum infections so keep up to date with your dental and hygienist appointments.

Related Symptoms: Joint Pain, Skin Problems, Hair Changes

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Menopausal Symptoms

Usually one of these symptoms on their own is not enough to signal ‘menopause’, however, if you have a singular symptom, and it’s persistent, it just could mean that you are, in fact, menopausal. That said, its more likely that you’ll experience more than one symptom. Take a look at these common (and not so common) menopausal symptoms to see if they are affecting you.

Weight Gain
Anxiety & Depression
Brain Fog
Mood Swings
Low (or no) Libido
Hit Flushes
Headaches
Skin Problems
Hair Changes
Osteoporosis
Urinary Problems
Eye Changes
Hearing
Joint Pain
Sleep Issues
Dental

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