The extent of menopause symptoms that are experienced varies greatly from one woman to another. Some women are able to sail through it comfortably without any symptoms, while another may have only a couple and yet others are so severe they are about completely debilitated.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, then you probably wouldn’t be reading this page, because it is likely your suffering and disruption of life has brought you here. If you’ve experienced other hormonal problems throughout your life, you’re probably more likely to have a tougher time than those who haven’t. Your unique body chemistry and life circumstances will largely determine which symptoms of menopause you’ll have and to what extent.
Some women welcome the advent of menopause and view it as a liberating event while other women grieve as they lose their ability to bear any more children, and yet some women have a mixture of both feelings. However, whether celebrated or dreaded, the transition for many can be full of what feels like torment and torture. For many, it’s a period of life in which it’s not very pleasant to be a woman.
As a woman who has already been through menopause, I speak to you not only as a holistic health professional but also as someone with personal experience. I personally welcomed menopause completion with open arms and celebrated profusely when it finally came to an end, as I have struggled with hormonal imbalances and all the agony that accompanies it my entire life. However, unfortunately, since I am also one of those women who experienced a lot of negative symptoms throughout the process, it was quite a bumpy ride before it was all over with. I think I had every symptom on the list except for vaginal dryness and loss of sexual desire.
Menopause which is sometimes referred to as the “change of life” is a normal part of the aging process for women, not a disease or condition. However, even though it is a natural transition, for those who do develop menopause symptoms it can be a very confusing and frightening time, especially if these symptoms are significantly disrupting lives.
A large part of the fear and confusion can be relieved simply by education. Sometimes just understanding what’s happening to your body and why can be helpful for coping. If you’re experiencing heart palpitations and feelings of dread and apprehension without knowing why this can be terrifying, however having an explanation that it is the result of menopause can alleviate fears and make it a lot easier to ride out.
So the first and most important step for dealing with menopause symptoms is to educate yourself thoroughly about the menopause process and what you can expect. Be sure to get your information from reliable sources that are up to date and truly understand the depth of impact.
In society and even in the medical community there can sometimes be a flippant attitude that dismisses your suffering as insignificant because you are “just menopausal” as they might say.
The impact of menopause on a woman’s life can be quite serious and difficult to live with if she is experiencing a great deal of symptoms. This should not be ridiculed or minimized. Many women feel isolated and misunderstood.
Menopause symptoms can be physical, emotional/psychological, or cognitive. Some symptoms are easier to live with than others. Severity can range anywhere from mild to completely disruptive. Often it is the emotional and cognitive symptoms that are most difficult to live with as they interfere in relationships and our ability to cope and function in the world.
Hormones have a profound impact on the brain which can result in a variety of menopause symptoms that appear to be a psychological disturbance. The inability to cope can be completely overwhelming. Many women report it feels as if they will lose their minds.
Most Common Symptoms of Menopause
The list of symptoms that a woman may experience during menopause is extensive. Here are some of the most common:
- menstrual irregularities (too many or too little)
- excessive flow
- decreased flow
- gallbladder pain
- excessive fatigue
- cravings for sweets
- memory problems
- heart palpitations
- weight gain
- hot flashes
- mood swings
- loss of sexual desire
- breast pain
- dry skin
- vaginal dryness
- hair loss
- joint pain or stiffness
- inability to deal with stress
- sleep disturbances
- difficulty concentrating
- mental confusion
- feelings of dread, apprehension or doom
- inability to cope
- increase in allergies
- exacerbation of symptoms of an existing health condition or illness
- hair growth in places like the upper lip, chin, and abdomen
- fatty tissue in the abdomen
- hot flashes
- night sweats
There are a variety of natural remedies for menopause that can help manage and relieve symptoms, such as vitamin and mineral supplementation, exercise, meditation, massage, bioidentical hormone replacement, and more. Many women also find relief with a variety of herbal remedies. It’s also helpful to keep in mind that menopause is a temporary phase of life, and if you’re having severe symptoms, they won’t last forever.
What is Menopause?
In its most simplest term menopause is the cessation of menstruation. It is the time of life when a woman is no longer able to bear children. The ovaries slowly decrease the production of hormones that regulate menstruation and pregnancy.
Technically a woman doesn’t actually reach menopause completion until she has gone one full year without a menstrual period, however, menopause symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 10 years before this occurs.
Most women finish menopause around the age of 51, however, it usually ranges between the ages of 45 and 55 and often correlates to the age your mother went through menopause. It has been known to occur as early as 35, in which case it is considered premature or early menopause or as late as 60, in which case it is considered as late.
Menopause is not something that happens overnight. It is a long slow process that occurs over years. Medically it is divided into 2 phases, perimenopause, and menopause. Perimenopause is when you will begin to see the first signs of menopause symptoms approaching. It is often marked by the beginning of irregularities in the menstrual cycle. During this phase, hormone levels will fluctuate drastically and your body will go through many physiological changes. This is when most women experience the negative symptoms of early menopause.
Once you have gone over 12 months without your menstrual period then you are considered post-menopausal.
Why Such Severe Menopause Symptoms?
Some level of symptoms are simply the natural result of hormone fluctuations and the physiological changes that occur in response to this, however, the increase in severe disabling symptoms that many women experience is a direct result of poor diet and environmental toxins.
If we went back in time, we would likely find that women in the post-chemical years did not experience the severity of symptoms we see these days.
Common everyday chemicals in our environment that we are all exposed to like household cleaning supplies, pesticides, herbicides, plastic, dioxins, phthalates, fuels, etc. disrupt the endocrine system. These chemicals are called endocrine disrupters or hormone disrupters.
Hormone/Endocrine disruptors enter the body through our food, air, and water and attach to our hormone receptor sites and impede the normal functioning of the endocrine system, which results in a variety of abnormal reactions throughout the body.
A subclass of hormone/endocrine disrupters is called xenoestrogens. These chemicals actually mimic our natural estrogens which results in an increase in the level of estrogens in the body or they may obstruct our natural hormones from doing their jobs. Alternatively, they may also modify the manner in which our natural hormones are generated, discharged, and metabolized.
The endocrine system is very important because it plays a crucial role in almost every function of the body. The glands of the endocrine system include the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroids, adrenals, pineal body, pancreas, and reproductive organs.
It produces hormones that are used to communicate and send messages to all the different parts of the body. Hormones regulate metabolism, sexual development and function, mental processes, growth and maintenance and prenatal development, mood, tissue function, metabolism, and reproduction. The endocrine system works in coordination with the nervous system to keep the body functioning properly.
Most women these days are suffering from hormonal imbalances and metabolic damage due to these hormone disrupters. It is these hormonal imbalances and metabolic damages that are largely responsible for the devastating symptoms of menopause.
What makes this problem even more serious and damaging is that once these chemicals get into our bodies it is very difficult if not impossible to get them out. The body is incapable of breaking these chemicals down so they accumulate and get stored in our fat cells and then wreak havoc on all the body’s systems for years to come. The damage can be irreversible.
The other very big factor that contributes to such severe menopause symptoms is the standard American diet. If you’re not eating organic meat, then your meat is loaded with hormones, which also upsets your hormonal levels. A diet that is high in sugar, caffeine, refined carbohydrates, pesticides, and additives and lacking in nutritional value destroys the endocrine system and alters metabolic functioning as well and thus is another instigator of hormonal imbalances.
So the other two most important steps a woman needs to take to reduce her menopause symptoms is to clean up her environment and diet.
It’s impossible to avoid endocrine/hormone disrupters completely because they are everywhere in our food, air, and water, however, you can drastically cut down your exposure by eating a balanced, whole food, organic diet without sugar, caffeine, and refined carbohydrates and adopting a green living lifestyle that includes replacing your household cleaning products and personal care products with non-toxic natural alternatives and eliminating the use of pesticides or herbicides in your home and yard.
The really frightening fact is that even though we can cut down our exposure to endocrine disruptors that unless a major social change takes place we will continue to be subjected to these toxic dangerous chemicals without our consent. This makes it very difficult to try and keep our hormones balanced and relieve our menopause symptoms even when we do everything in our own power to do so.
The increase in menopause symptoms is not the only dangerous consequence that endocrine disruptors create. In addition to the endocrine system, they also have damaging effects on our immune and nervous systems, which puts the health of each and every human being and animal on this planet in jeopardy.