Menopause is defined as 12 consecutive months without a period, marking the natural end of your reproductive years. It typically happens in your late 40s to early 50s and signifies some pretty remarkable changes in the body. Here is what happens during menopause.
When your menopause journey begins, your body begins to change. Your natural levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones will begin to decrease and eventually stop. The decline in your hormones may leave you with some emotional and physical side effects.
What happens during menopause?
Everybody is different, therefore what happens during menopause will be vary for each person. Some women may experience little to no symptoms, others may find the menopause a little more challenging. Here are some of the main symptoms to look out for during menopause.
The decreased estrogen levels may cause your body’s thermostat (hypothalamus) to become more sensitive to even the slightest temperature change. When the hypothalamus thinks your body is too warm, it causes a hot flush to cool you down.
Typically, a hot flush feels like a sudden burst of heat, starting from your face and spreading throughout your body. They usually only last a couple of minutes before they start to settle down, but you should be prepared by wearing cool, loose clothing where possible.
Hot flushes can happen both during the day, and at night. At night, they are referred to as night sweats, and can make it difficult to get a solid night’s sleep. To make you feel more comfortable, try to avoid wearing tight clothing, and wear layers. You should also try to avoid eating spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeine as these may make your symptoms worse. Maintaining a healthy weight may also help.
Anxiety, Irritability, and Brain Fog
The same hormones that control your period, also influence your serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a brain hormone that promotes feelings of well-being and happiness. Unfortunately, as your hormones begin to drop, so does serotonin which may cause irritability, anxiety, and sadness.
Whilst this is completely natural, it can be frustrating and impact other aspects of your life. You may also find yourself forgetting little things easily or feeling a little more confused than usual. Try adding some simple exercise into your daily routine, this will help to stimulate serotonin, and help you to feel better.
Your hormone levels may also interrupt your sleeping patterns during menopause. Night sweats and the changes to your mood can make it increasingly difficult to drift off at night, and harder to stay asleep.
Unfortunately, this lack of solid, uninterrupted sleep can contribute to your feelings of sadness and increase the risk of depression.
To help support your sleeping pattern, keep your bedroom nice and cool to help with the night sweats, and try sticking to a consistent routine. Going to bed at a set time each night and waking up at the same time each morning will help your body stay on schedule. Daily exercise will also help you to feel more tired at night, and obviously, try to avoid caffeine as this will keep you awake.
Changes to your hormone levels may also cause you to gain weight, but this can also be caused by age.
Focus on maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and exercise regularly to help control your weight. Being overweight may increase your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and other conditions.
Changes to Skin and Hair
The changes to your hormones may also impact your skin and hair. The decline in estrogen naturally affects the collagen levels within the body, which is responsible for your skin’s ability to retain moisture and elasticity. This may make your skin feel drier than usual, and feel itchy.
Try to avoid using any harsh chemicals on your skin and try to keep your showers cool. Hot showers will dehydrate the skin further causing it to feel drier. You should avoid itching the skin, and only pat dries it when wet.
You may also notice that your hair feels drier than usual and may begin to fall out. Again, try to avoid using too much heat on the hair, and avoid harsh chemicals such as hair colors and treatments.
As your estrogen levels decline, you may experience vaginal dryness which can be rather uncomfortable. The area in and around your vagina may begin to feel sore, and itchy and may cause pain and discomfort during intercourse.
You could try using lubrication to ease the discomfort, and talk to your doctor about hormonal treatments, such as Bioidentical Hormone therapy.
What happens during menopause is different for every woman. If you are struggling with symptoms, speak to your doctor about treatment, such as Bioidentical Hormone Therapy which replenishes the exact hormones you are deficient in to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms and help your body return to optimal performance.