What is menopause?
Menopause is defined as the absence of menstruation for 12 months.It is a stage of a woman’s life in which the ovaries cease to function and thus there is no longer any risk of pregnancy.
What are the causes of menopause?
Menopause occurs on average at 51-52 years, although some women may have it as early as the age of 30 or 40.
The onset of menopause before the age of 45 is called premature or early menopause, while an onset at more than 53 years of age is delayed menopause.
Menstrual periods may stop suddenly as menopause approaches. However, it is much more likely that the cycles occur less frequently with longer intervals in between before they stop altogether.
What are the causes of menopause?
Menopause is caused by a change in the balance of sex hormones.
First, the estrogen levels that cause the blockade of ovulation decrease.
Estrogens are female sex hormones that regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Menopause can also be caused by other events or conditions:
- Surgical removal of the ovaries
- Therapy for cancer, i.e. chemotherapy and radiotherapy
- Early ovarian insufficiency
Symptoms of menopause
The first symptoms begin with the drop in estrogen, which does not coincide with the time of the onset of menopause (12 months without menstruation).
Below is a list of the main symptoms in menopause.
Most women notice some irregularity in the menstrual cycle that can last up to four years.
The cycle can extend over several months or shorten to 2-3 weeks.
A slight increase in menstrual blood loss is normal.
For some women, the three-month absence of menstruation (amenorrhea) or an average cycle length of more than 42 days is an indication of the upcoming menopause.
About 10% of women experience a sudden termination of the cycle.
Many women gain body weight when they enter menopause or after menopause because metabolism slows down.
It may be necessary to eat less and move more to maintain current weight.
Swelling of the abdomen (swollen abdomen) is caused by a different distribution of body fat, which is deposited more in the abdomen than in the hips, thighs and waist.
Hot flashes and sweats
These are vasomotor signs and symptoms of menopause.
Hot flashes (or flushes) affect the face, head, neck and chest and last for a few minutes. A recent analysis suggests that vasomotor symptoms worsen in women two years before and one year after menopause.
Hot flashes can lead to the loss of magnesium, which aggravates the other symptoms of menopause. Taking a supplement can therefore be helpful.
How long do the hot flashes last?
As a rule, they pass after about eight years. However, there are significant differences between individual women.
Many women have difficulty sleeping during menopause due to night sweats, but insomnia can also result from anxiety.
It can be observed that lack of sleep makes irritable and limits short-term memory and the ability to concentrate.
There are various helpful natural products and supplements, for example valerian, lemon balm and melatonin.
During the period before menopause, dryness, itching or burning in the intimate area may occur because the vaginal walls become thinner and drier.
This can lead to painful sexual intercourse (dyspareunia). These symptoms are known as vaginal atrophy.
About one-third of women experience symptoms of vaginal atrophy after menopause, while other women experience them much later.
In some cases, vaginal atrophy may persist for more than 10 years after the last cycle.
If vaginal symptoms persist, they are likely to persist or worsen over time unless therapy is given with creams or vaginal lubricants.
Urinary tract problems
During menopause, recurrent lower urinary tract infections such as cystitis may occur. One may also feel a sudden and frequent urge to urinate.
These may include: anxiety, nervousness, irritability, memory loss, headaches, depression and difficulty concentrating.
One study has shown that the tendency to develop psychological symptoms is tied to factors such as education level, obesity and lack of physical activity.
libido The decrease in sexual desire can be caused by hormonal levels. This includes estrogens, progesterone and testosterone.
The performance of an older partner, loss of self-esteem and other psychological factors can worsen the situation.
This is a condition in which the bones break down and become weaker. This can lead to reduced body size and fractures.
These include brittle nails, thinning of the skin, hair loss, muscle and joint pain.
This is thought to be due to the drop in estrogen levels.
The changes in skin structure, including wrinkles, can occur along with a worsening of acne (pimples on the face) in those who suffer from it.
As the body continues to make small amounts of the male hormone testosterone, some women may observe hair growth on their chin, upper lip, chest, and abdomen.
Some women experience nausea and constipation, dizziness, sweating, chills, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) and water retention
Diagnosis and testing for menopause
No tests are needed to determine menopause. In certain cases, however, the doctor may recommend a blood test to check the following hormone levels:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogens, because with menopause, FSH levels increase and estrogen levels decrease.
- Luteinizing hormone (LH), in menopause the levels of LH are higher, the normal values range between 15.0 and 62.0 mIU/ml.
- Thyrostimulating hormone (TSH), because hypothyroidism (decreased activity of the thyroid gland) can cause symptoms similar to those of menopause.
What to do? Treatment of menopausal symptoms
Dealing with menopause
The unpleasant symptoms of menopause can often be reduced by improving lifestyle through a healthy diet and regular physical exercise.
Diet and healthy eating
Recommendations for dealing with the symptoms of menopause via diet:
- Choose from a variety of foods, including plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits and cereals, whole grains, and small portions of lean meats and fish.
- Increase fluid intake and eat nuts that contain a lot of omega 3 (for example, walnuts).
- Reduce caffeine and limit alcohol consumption (reduce consumption to 1-2 glasses or less).
Exercise during menopause
Regular physical exercise is important. At least 30-45 minutes on almost all days of the week help to:
- keeping the heart healthy and improving general health,
- maintaining bone health and preventing bone loss associated with osteoporosis,
- creating a sense of relaxation and well-being,
- possible reduction of hot flashes.
smoke It is important to quit smoking because of the associated risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and lung cancer
Drug therapy for symptoms of menopause
To relieve vaginal dryness, estrogens can be applied directly into the vagina using vaginal suppositories, a ring or cream. This treatment releases only a small amount of estrogens that are absorbed by vaginal tissue. This can help against dryness, discomfort during sexual intercourse and some urinary tract problems.
Small doses of antidepressants
Some antidepressant medications called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can reduce menopausal hot flashes. A low-dose antidepressant to control the hot flashes may be useful for women who cannot take estrogens for health reasons or for women who need an antidepressant to brighten their minds.
Gabapentin is a proven medication used to treat epileptic seizures, but it has also been shown to be effective in reducing hot flashes. This medication is useful for women who cannot receive estrogen treatment or who suffer from migraines.
Hormone replacement therapy
Hormone replacement therapy effectively reduces menopause symptoms and can be used for short periods of use in women with moderate to severe symptoms.
10% of women have severe symptoms that last for 10 years or more. In this case, they can continue with hormone replacement therapy for a longer period of time.
It is important to have a check-up once a year to evaluate the specific risks and benefits that may occur as a consequence of the therapy.
Long-term health risks associated with menopause
A decrease in female hormones after menopause can have consequences:
- Bone loss (osteoporosis) and an increased risk of a fracture
- Increased risk of infarction and heart disease, arterial hypertension and stroke
Natural remedies for symptoms of menopause
Some women may benefit from natural anti-inflammatories, but it’s worth remembering that “natural” herbs and herbal medicines can cause unpleasant side effects for some women, as can medications prescribed by the doctor.
A naturopathy expert can provide advice and guidance for a happy menopause.
For example, for hot flashes, ginger root, saffron flowers, and foods containing an appropriate amount of zinc are recommended.
Natural remedies can often be taken in parallel with hormone therapy ordered by the doctor.
It is important that the doctor and the alternative practitioner know exactly what is being taken and that the doctor is consulted before starting any treatment based on herbs or dietary supplements. Some natural therapies can affect or interact with other medications.
Can phytoestrogens help against menopausal symptoms?
Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like substances found in some grains, vegetables, legumes (including soy), and herbs.
They can act like a small amount of estrogen in the body.
Scientists are investigating whether phytoestrogens can relieve some symptoms of menopause and whether they cause risks.
There are 3 classes of phytoestrogens:
- Isoflavones (genistein, daidzein, etc.)
- Lignans (enterodiol, enterolactone)
- Coumestane (Coumestrol)
How do phytoestrogens work?
Phytoestrogens act in the same way as hormones, i.e. they dock to the receptors of estrogens, which are located on the outside of the cells. In this way, they give the cell the signal to start certain activities.
What are the effects of phytoestrogens?
The beneficial effects in postmenopausal women can be seen by looking at Asian women. In fact, they have fewer hot flashes as they eat soy, which can lower cholesterol and the incidence of breast cancer.