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What is Menopause? Decoding and Understanding its Meaning, Symptoms, and Impact


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What is Menopause?

Understanding menopause is crucial because of the amount of physical, emotional and hormonal changes that can significantly affect a woman’s well-being and quality of life. Knowing and understanding what is happening to your body can be extremely helpful in addressing the symptoms.

An Introduction to Menopause



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An Introduction to Menopause

What is menopause?


Menopause is a hormonal transition that marks the end of the reproductive phase of a woman’s life.  It is defined as not having had your period for 12 consecutive months.


What age does menopause happen?

The average age for natural menopause is about 51 years old, but the transitional phase can start 8 – 10 years before that.  Menopause can be brought on surgically or chemically as well by having had your ovaries removed or because of chemotherapy. 


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Common Signs and Symptoms of Menopause

Common Signs and Symptoms of Menopause

Menopause is like a snowflake; everyone has a different journey.  So, while I’ve listed some of the most common symptoms, they can occur in varying degrees and duration from person to person.  You may have all of these symptoms, some of these symptoms, or you may have none at all:


  • Hot flashes: Sudden feelings of warmth, usually accompanied by sweating and flushed skin.

  • Irregular periods: Changes in the menstrual cycle, including shorter or longer cycles, heavier or lighter bleeding, or skipped periods.

  • Night sweats: Hot flashes that occur during sleep, usually leading to excessive sweating and disrupted sleep patterns.

  • Vaginal dryness: Decreased lubrication in the vaginal area, which can lead to discomfort or pain during sex.

  • Mood changes: Mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression are common during menopause due to hormonal fluctuations.

  • Sleep disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, often linked to night sweats.

  • Fatigue: Feelings of being tired all the time or decreased energy levels can occur more frequently.

  • Weight gain: Weight gain or changes in body composition during menopause, particularly around the abdomen.

  • Changes in libido: Decreased sex drive or changes in sexual desire can occur due to hormonal changes.

  • Thinning hair and dry skin: Changes in the texture and quality of hair and skin due to hormonal shifts.

 

What Happens During Menopause?

 

Hormonal changes during menopause.


Menopause happens due to a decline in estrogen and progesterone levels.  This is sometimes a slow decline, but it often feels like your hormones took a dive off a cliff.


Phases of menopause.


The are 3 phases to this transition that we refer to as “menopause”. 


  • Perimenopause is the actual transition phase. It is when we have the above-mentioned symptoms, or don’t. Everyone’s perimenopause transition is different journey, they’re like snowflakes.

  • Menopause means that you haven’t had your period for a consecutive 12 months.  If you haven’t had your period for 11 months, but then get it, you’re still in the transitional perimenopause phase.

  • Post-menopause or post-menopausal is the rest of your life after those 12 consecutive months.


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The Phases of Menopause

What Influences Menopause?


Understanding the factors that can influence the onset and duration of menopause can give you insight into the different menopause experiences you can have and may help you anticipate or prepare for this natural phase of life.


There are several factors that influence the onset and duration of menopause. These factors can vary widely and contribute to the timing and experience of this natural life transition:


  • Age: The most significant factor is age. Menopause typically occurs around the ages of 45 to 55, with the average age being around 51. However, genetics play a role, and some women may experience menopause earlier or later than the average age (this is known as early on-set menopause).

  • Genetics and Family History: A family history of early or late menopause can influence when a woman experiences it. If a mother or sister had an early or late menopause, there's a chance of following a similar pattern, but not necessarily.

  • Reproductive Factors: The number of pregnancies a woman has had, as well as the age at which she began her period and the age at which she gave birth to her last child, can affect the timing of menopause.

  • Health Conditions and Treatments: Certain health conditions or medical treatments can impact menopause. For instance, undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer can induce menopause at an earlier age. Certain surgeries, such as a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and ovaries), can bring about immediate menopause symptoms.

  • Lifestyle Factors: Smoking and exposure to environmental toxins can influence the timing of menopause. Studies suggest that smokers tend to experience menopause earlier than non-smokers. Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle can positively impact the timing and severity of menopausal symptoms.

  • Ethnicity and Geography: Some research indicates that ethnicity and geographic location can play a role. For example, studies have suggested that women of certain ethnic backgrounds might experience menopause slightly earlier or later compared to others.

  • Hormonal Factors: Hormonal imbalances or fluctuations due to underlying medical conditions can affect the onset, duration and severity of menopause. Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or thyroid disorders can impact hormone levels and potentially influence menopause timing.



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What Influences Menopause?

Toxins and Menopause

Toxins can impact the severity of symptoms experienced during menopause.


Certain environmental toxins, such as xenoestrogens, can mimic estrogen in the body and disrupt hormonal balance. Xenoestrogens are synthetic compounds found in plastics, pesticides, and some personal care products. They can bind to estrogen receptors in the body, leading to hormonal imbalances and potentially aggravating menopausal symptoms.


As women age and go through menopause, their bodies may become less efficient at detoxifying certain substances. This can potentially lead to an increased susceptibility to the adverse effects of toxins.


It's essential to reduce exposure to toxins where possible, especially during menopause, to help manage symptoms and support overall health. Some strategies to minimize toxin exposure include:


  • Eating a nutrient dense diet of vegetables, and whole grains to support the body's natural detoxification processes.

  • Choosing organic foods to reduce exposure to pesticides and chemicals.

  • Avoiding plastics with BPA (bisphenol A) by using glass or stainless-steel containers for food and beverages.

  • Using natural and non-toxic personal care products to limit exposure to harmful chemicals found in some cosmetics and toiletries.

  • Ensuring proper ventilation and air purification in living spaces to minimize indoor air pollution.

 

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Environmental Toxins and Menopause

Menopause and its Impact on Health


Bone health and increased risk of osteoporosis during menopause


Menopause significantly impacts bone health and can increase the risk of osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weakened and brittle bones.


Estrogen, a hormone that decreases during menopause, plays a crucial role in maintaining bone density. The decline in estrogen levels can lead to an accelerated loss of bone mass, making bones more porous and prone to fractures.


Heart health and the potential for cardiovascular issues during menopause


Menopause can have significant implications for heart health and may lead to various cardiovascular illnesses due to hormonal changes and other associated factors.


Understanding the potential cardiovascular effects of menopause underscores the importance of proactive measures and regular health monitoring to promote heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women.



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Heart Health and Menopause

The impact of menopause on mental health and emotional well-being.


Menopause can have a significant impact on mental health and emotional well-being due to hormonal fluctuations and the various physical changes women experience during this transition.


Understanding the potential impact of menopause on mental health and emotional well-being is crucial for women and healthcare providers to address these aspects holistically, promoting overall well-being during this transitional phase of life.


How to Manage Menopause Symptoms


Menopause is a natural phase in a woman's life that comes with various hormonal changes. Implementing a nutrient dense diet can help with these changes by influencing the hormones that affect certain symptoms.


Balance hormones during menopause:


  • Ground flaxseeds: Studies suggest that ground flaxseeds can help balance hormones due to their lignan content.

  • Fatty Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines can support hormone production and reduce inflammation.

  • Leafy Greens: Vegetables like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are rich in nutrients like magnesium and calcium, which can support hormone balance and bone health during menopause.

  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are good sources of healthy fats, fiber, and minerals like magnesium and zinc, which are beneficial for hormone regulation.

 


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How to Balance Hormones During Menopause

 

Manage hot flashes and night sweats during menopause:          

               

  • Know your triggers: spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, hot beverages, anxiety, and stress can trigger hot flashes.

  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to stay cool and hydrated.



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Manage Hot Flashes & Night Sweats During Menopause


Manage weight gain during menopause:


  • Consume a nutrient dense diet:  Focus on whole foods and portion control.

  • Lean proteins: Incorporate lean proteins like chicken, fish - from grass-fed, wild, and sustainable sources.

  • Consume legumes, beans and high-fiber vegetables to keep you feeling full.

  • Intermittent Fasting: Intermittent fasting has been shown to help with menopause weight gain.

 

Manage mood swings and sleep disturbances during menopause:


  • Consume complex carbohydrates: Foods like whole grains, legumes, and vegetables can help regulate mood due to their impact on serotonin levels.

  • Eliminate caffeine and sugar: These can affect sleep quality and exacerbate mood swings and hot flashes.

  • Consume magnesium-rich foods: Incorporate magnesium sources like nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and legumes. They can help manage stress and improve sleep quality.

 

Exercise for your menopause symptoms


Exercise plays a significant role in managing menopausal symptoms by offering various physical and mental health benefits. Regular physical activity can help alleviate many of the symptoms women face during menopause, including:

  • Temperature regulation: Regular exercise can help improve the body's ability to regulate temperature, potentially reducing the frequency or intensity of hot flashes.

  • Engaging in regular physical activity can help manage weight gain by burning calories and maintaining muscle mass.

  • Strength training can help improve muscle mass and bone density, which tend to decline during menopause.

  • Exercise is known to release endorphins, which can help reduce stress, improve mood, and promote better sleep quality.

  • Exercise can help balance hormones, potentially mitigating mood swings and improving overall emotional well-being.

  • Menopause is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Regular exercise can help maintain cardiovascular health by improving blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and overall heart function.

  • Regular physical activity can increase energy levels and reduce overall tiredness commonly experienced during menopause.

  •  Exercise can enhance self-confidence and body image, which can be affected by changes during menopause.

 


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Exercise for Menopause

How to Manage Stress During Menopause.

Managing stress during menopause is crucial as hormonal changes can exacerbate feelings of stress and anxiety. Here are some strategies that may help:

  • Practice deep breathing exercises or meditation to calm the mind and reduce stress levels.

  • Engage in muscle relaxation exercises to release tension and promote relaxation throughout the body.

  • Engage in regular exercise, such as walking, yoga, swimming, or any activity you enjoy, as it can help reduce stress, improve mood, and promote relaxation.

  • Try activities like yoga or tai chi, which combine physical movement with mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

  • Prioritize good sleep hygiene to ensure you're well-rested, because lack of sleep can exacerbate stress.

  • Maintain connections with friends, family, or support groups.  Having a strong support network can alleviate stress.

  • Practice mindfulness or guided imagery techniques to stay present and reduce anxiety about the future.

  • Explore activities such as listening to calming music, taking a warm bath, or engaging in hobbies that promote relaxation and well-being.



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Manage Stress for a Healthy Menopause

 Self-Care is Essential During Menopause


Self-care during menopause is crucial for maintaining overall well-being, managing symptoms, and navigating this significant life transition more comfortably. Here's why self-care is essential during menopause:


  • Self-care practices, such as regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep, can help manage menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, weight changes, and sleep disturbances.

  • Menopause can bring about increased stress and emotional fluctuations. Self-care activities like meditation, mindfulness, or relaxation techniques can help manage stress levels.

  • Engaging in self-care practices that promote mental well-being, such as hobbies, or spending time with loved ones, can support emotional stability during this phase.

  • Menopause can be challenging; practicing self-compassion and self-acceptance through self-care activities fosters resilience and self-confidence.

  • Self-care contributes to an improved quality of life by promoting a positive outlook and reducing the impact of menopausal symptoms on daily activities.

  • Engaging in self-care activities often involves social interactions, fostering connections that provide emotional support and understanding during this phase.

  • Taking care of yourself during menopause can positively impact relationships by reducing stress and enhancing emotional resilience, benefiting both you and your family.

  • Self-care habits during menopause establish a foundation for long-term health and well-being beyond this phase of life.




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Self-Care is Essential for Menopause

Natural remedies for menopause relief


There are many natural remedies for menopause symptoms. Here are just a few:

Mindfulness and meditation can help with relaxation and stress, improve mood, and promote relaxation during menopause. Engaging in mind-body exercises like yoga or tai chi can alleviate stress and promote overall well-being.

 

  • Avoiding triggers like caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods can help reduce hot flashes and night sweats.

  • Daily movement can help manage stress, improve mood, and support overall health during menopause.

  • Herbal tea like chamomile, peppermint, or sage may provide relief from menopausal symptoms and promote relaxation.

  • Supplements have been researched and found to help with some menopause symptoms. Here are just a few:


  • Mood Swings and Sleep Disturbances:

Black Cohosh: This herb has been traditionally used to manage menopausal symptoms like mood swings and sleep disturbances.

St. John's Wort: An herb known for its antidepressant properties. Some women have found relief from mild to moderate depression or mood swings.

  • Bone Health:

Calcium and Vitamin D: An adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D through diet or supplementation supports bone health during menopause.

  • Stress and Anxiety:

              Ashwagandha: An adaptogen (it helps your body to cope) has been shown to calm stress and anxiety.

 

Supplements are extremely misunderstood.  These remedies, in many cases, can be as powerful as prescription drugs.  Always discuss with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement or herbal remedy, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are taking medications.

 

While natural remedies can offer relief for some menopausal symptoms, their effectiveness can vary from person to person.


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Supplements for Menopause Symptoms

Embracing Menopause

 

Emphasize the positive aspects of menopause.


Experiencing embarrassment during menopause is a common feeling, but it's important to understand that it's a natural phase of life and not something to feel ashamed of. Menopause brings about many changes in the body because of hormonal fluctuations. These changes can sometimes lead to feelings of embarrassment due to symptoms or societal perceptions.


Let’s normalize the conversation around menopause:


Learn about menopause and its symptoms. Understanding that it's a natural biological process can help reduce uncomfortable feelings.


Discuss your experiences with friends, family, or support groups. Sharing experiences can help normalize the topic and lead to feelings of empowerment.

 


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Normalize the Menopause Conversation

Self-compassion and self-confidence building during menopause:


Practice self-compassion and self-acceptance. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that menopause is a phase that all women go through.


Focus on your strengths and what makes you unique. Embrace your journey and remind yourself that menopause doesn’t define you.

 

Seek support throughout your menopause journey.


Consider speaking to a therapist or counselor if feelings of embarrassment significantly impact your well-being. They can provide strategies to cope with emotions.


Consult with healthcare providers if menopausal symptoms are severe or affecting your quality of life. They can offer guidance and treatment options.

 

Lifestyle adjustments for a healthy menopause:


Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a whole foods diet, and stress management techniques, can alleviate most menopausal symptoms and promote well-being.


Choose clothing that makes you feel comfortable, confident, and sexy during this phase.

 

Keep open communication and connection with others during menopause.


Discuss menopause openly and educate friends, family, and colleagues about the realities of this phase. Increased awareness can reduce stigma.


Connect with women going through similar experiences. Online forums, support groups, or local community groups can provide a sense of belonging and understanding.

 

Embrace the changes that happen during menopause:


Embrace the changes as a natural part of life. Use this phase as an opportunity for personal growth and empowerment.


Be assertive about what you're comfortable discussing. You don’t have to share more than you feel comfortable with.

 

 

Menopause is a natural transition and embracing it as part of the life journey is empowering. Seek support, educate yourself, and prioritize nutrition, movement, and self-care to navigate this phase confidently and with dignity. Remember, it's a shared experience for many women, and finding solidarity can be comforting.

 

Prioritize Your Well-being!

  

Invest in yourself! Schedule your session to explore personalized strategies that prioritize your health, well-being, and happiness throughout the menopause journey.


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