Menopause - "The Wonderful Change Of Life"

Oh, those dreaded words that every woman looks forward to! Women have many milestones in life that are very much anticipated - puberty, getting her drivers' license, first kiss, the prom, getting married, having babies. When we were young we looked forward to these times with such excitement. There is one milestone in a woman's life that is more like, "oh no, not that." You're not too sure of the symptoms at first. You wake up at 3 a.m. and you're soaked with sweat. You're in the freezer section at the grocery store, when it suddenly feels like it's 100 degrees. The endless mood swings make you wish you lived in a cave, alone.

It helps to think of menopause as moving to another phase of life. More than 40 million women in the US alone will soon reach or have reached menopause (ages 40 to 59). There are so many positive things about menopause, but the symptoms seem to overshadow that. Menopause is the time in a woman's life when her childbearing years have ended. A woman is considered post-menopausal, when she has not had a period for 12 months. This process begins about the age of 45 and should be done by the age of 60. At this time, the ovaries stop producing eggs and female hormone levels drop. The most common symptoms associated with menopause are vaginal dryness, hot flashes, night sweats and loss of sexual desire, to name just a few. There are other symptoms, but they vary from woman to woman.

The Four Stages Of Menopause

Going through menopause does not happen overnight. Well, for some it does. But most women experience a few years of symptoms before their last period. In some cases, the symptoms can last for 10 or more years. It happens in four stages, so get out your fans ladies and let's take a look below:

  • Pre-menopause – Don't put your birth control away yet, these are the childbearing years and you are still able to have children. You may have some slight symptoms, but as long as you're still having periods, you can still have kids.
  • Peri-menopause – This happens sometime in the 30's and 40's and can last up to 10 years. Women will begin to have irregular periods, worsening PMS, hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, brain fog, and those wonderful mood swings.
  • Menopause – By this time you realize that you haven't been to the store for feminine protection in a really, really long time. Your period has been gone for over a year. See your doctor before flushing your birth control. There have been documented cases of pregnancy in the 50's. Keep your fan handy, you may still have some lingering symptoms, as well.
  • Post-menopause – Full menopause, yes, you're done. This usually happens around the age of 60, sometimes younger, and for most women, a big relief. This is the complete and total end to the childbearing years. Hormone levels should have stabilized by now. Many symptoms of menopause may continue but usually not as severe.

Menopause Affects Every Woman Differently

These are the things your mother never told you about menopause. When mom sat you down to tell you about the "birds and the bees" she probably hadn't gone through menopause yet. You might have heard your grandmother and her friends whispering about the "change" over tea. But they would never share their secrets with a child. So, here you are, feeling like you live in the desert, pouring sweat and crying your eyes out and no one to turn to. Here are a few tips to ease this mystery:

There are a lot of factors in how menopause will feel for you. Your lifestyle, environment, heredity and how you tolerate changes. Some people are miserable and some don't even notice. One woman may have her periods stop at 45 without a trace and others pour buckets of sweat and have periods until they are 60. There is also a chance of premature menopause. This can be due to surgical removal of the uterus or just failure of the ovaries. This can happen at any time. If a woman has not had children, the psychological effects can be severe.

Now Is The Time To Start A Healthy Lifestyle

There are many foods that can relieve menopause symptoms. Increasing fruits and vegetables, flax products, lima beans, nuts, seeds, green tea, celery and soy products can all help with symptoms of menopause. The best way to eat is to "graze." Eat smaller more frequent meals throughout the day.

And there has never been a time more important to get your calcium, than now. After menopause begins, your risk for osteoporosis increases the most. Also, there are herbal supplements that can help with symptoms.

As your estrogen goes down, your risk of heart disease goes up. A good way to combat this is to get on your bike and ride, take a yoga class or walk your dog on a cool evening. Exercise will also help you feel better and prevent weight gain.

This may be a confusing time for you. It's like letting go of an old friend, something that has been around your whole life. Maybe lately, you have had some baby cravings. It happens. Look at it as your time now. Offer to baby-sit for friends. Volunteer at a preschool. Chances are, soon enough, you will be sitting on a beach thinking these are the best days of your life.

The Many Symptoms Of "The Change of Life"

There are a number of symptoms that go along with the "change of life." They vary from woman to woman in different combinations. Here is a list of symptoms that you may be feeling:

Hot Flashes/Night Sweats – Hot flashes may come on suddenly and feel like a rush of heat. You may want the air conditioner at 60 degrees, while everyone else is bundling up in sweaters. These may have other physiological symptoms such as; heart palpitations, profuse sweating, anxiety, and red skin. Night sweats are similar, but can wake you up from a deep sleep, drenched in perspiration. Your pillow, night clothes and sheets are soaked. Both begin in peri-menopause and they can be severe. There is synthetic hormone therapy, but alternative therapies, healthy diet and supplements can assist with this phase. Some pharmaceutical prescription menopause treatments are known to cause serious and uncomfortable side-effects, so it is always good to look for a risk-free all-natural alternative.

Irregular Periods – The menstrual cycles will begin to change during peri-menopause. Cycles may become shorter or longer, heavier or lighter or even skip months. When the first months are skipped, please see a physician. You do still ovulate at this time, sometimes maybe more often than your periods. It is possible to get pregnant during peri-menopause. Stress or other factors can also cause you to miss periods.

Loss of sexual desire – "Not tonight honey, I'm having menopause." This is another very common complaint during menopause. You just don't feel like intimacy and you feel really bad about it. This symptom is caused by low testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. There are alternative treatments and supplements to treat this symptom. Eating a healthy diet can help too.

Vaginal Dryness – This is something not many women like to discuss, especially with their doctors or their mother. It is another common symptom and there are treatment options. This is mainly caused by reduced estrogen levels thinning the vaginal walls. It can be painful and irritated with intercourse. There are many things on the market that will help with this symptom.

Urinary Incontinence – Urine can leak at times when you are not ready for it to. The muscles in the pelvic area are weakened and you can leak urine when you sneeze, cough, laugh or lift a heavy object. Kegel exercises help with this symptom and with sexual pleasure. There are hormone treatments, alternative treatments and if necessary, surgery can be performed.

Mood Swings – One minute you're loving and sweet, the next minute you want to make heads roll. It's like the world's worst case of PMS. You may even yell at someone you aren't even mad at. This is all due to low estrogen and how it affects your serotonin levels. Mood swings are usually harmless, but if you have severe anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder you need to seek medical attention. Mild cases can easily be treated with alternatives such as; acupuncture, homeopathy, change in diet, exercise and having someone to talk to.

Fatigue – This is common in almost 80% of women. The decrease in hormones causes interruptions in REM sleep phases. Women may wake frequently during the night. The fatigue is severe and women may feel weakness. You may even feel yourself wanting to "nod off" at your desk at work. There are some easy remedies for this by going to bed a little early, getting more exercise and trying some herbal alternatives.

Memory problems or "brain fog"- No you're not losing your mind. Brain fog and memory loss is another very common complaint during menopause. It can get worse during times of stress and illness. Smoking, medication, alcohol and medications can make it worse. The feeling is like your head is filled with cotton balls. You may also have trouble with short term memory, dates, phone numbers and people's names. This can be a very alarming symptom. Try to get enough sleep, write things down and make sure you're getting proper nutrition and supplements.

Weight gain and bloating – During menopause women can gain as much as 15 pounds. Because of the reduced estrogen, extra weight can make the risks of heart disease higher. Weight gain and the body's changing shape can also worsen the emotional effects of menopause. Bloating also worsens at this time and can be uncomfortable. Changing levels of estrogen can cause extra gas and fluids in the abdomen. A simple way to alleviate discomfort is to avoid "gassy" foods such as beans, bell peppers, onions and high sugar foods. Lower your salt intake and eat small frequent meals.

Menopause Is Not The End....It's Just The Beginning!

Now that you know more about menopause, grab a few of the girls and go have some fun. This is your time to enjoy life! Find a new hobby, join a gym or take that trip you've been saving up for. In some cultures, this is a type of "coming of age" and they perform ceremonies for it. Take some time to explore alternative treatments such as MenoClear™, acupuncture, meditation and energy healing. Think of menopause as a special time, a time of wisdom that you can pass on to younger generations.


References:

1 - Lancet

2 - Journal of Women's Health Gender Based Medicine

3 - Advances in Gerontology