Menopause is a natural and normal transition period in a woman’s life that typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and could last for five or more years. The word “Menopause” literally means the “end of monthly cycles” from the Greek word pausis – (cessation) and the root men – (month). Because the word “menopause” was created to describe this change in women where the end of fertility is typically indicated by the permanent stoppage of menstrual cycle.
Menopause means complete and permanent cessation of menstrual cycle in a woman for about consecutive 12 months. The average age period for menopause is somewhere between 45 to 51 years. But it may come as early as 30 years or as late as 55 to 60 years. Menopause is a gradual process which may last for 2-3 years.
It never sets in suddenly or overnight.
Over the time, the ovaries reduce their functionality, resulting in decreased levels of estrogen and progesterone. Symptoms of menopause are caused by these decreased hormone levels.
The 3 stages of Menopause:
Perimenopause refers to the period or timeframe before the onset of menopause. Most people refer to perimenopause when discussing menopause. While the average time frame for perimenopause is about four years, it can last up to 10 years and still be considered normal. During this time, your ovaries gradually stop releasing eggs and producing estrogen and other hormones (progesterone, androgen, and testosterone). Hormone fluctuations occur and periods become erratic. At times, estrogen levels may be higher, which may trigger symptoms similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Both before and for a time after your last period, when estrogen levels decrease in the woman’s body, you may experience symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, diminished concentration, mood swings and depression too in some women.
Technically, menopause refers to a specific event – the date of your last period. Menopause can be confirmed when you have missed your period for 12 consecutive months (in the absence of any other obvious causes).
Post-menopause begins after your final menstrual period and lasts for the rest of your life. While menopause symptoms taper off over a year or two, you are at increased risk for long term health problems related to lower estrogen and progesterone levels. Two potential health concerns in post-menopausal women are osteoporosis and heart disease.
Common symptoms and effects of Menopause
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Hot flushes
- Mood swings
- Constant or intermittent headaches
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of libido
- Joint and muscle pain
- Weight gain
- Insomnia or loss of sleep
Specific symptoms and how significant they are varies from woman to woman.
Body Weight and Menopause
Why Weight Gain Often Happens After Menopause?
What is it about menopause that makes it so hard to keep off the weight?
It’s likely a mix of factors related to menopause and aging.
The answer is impact of lowered levels of Estrogen in the body. Reduced estrogen may also lower the metabolic rate of body – the rate at which the body converts stored energy into working energy. It’s possible the same thing happens with women when estrogen levels drop after menopause. Lack of estrogen may also cause the body to use starches and blood sugar less effectively, which would increase fat storage and make it harder to lose weight.
Other age-related factors. As women age, many other changes happen that contribute to weight gain. For example: You’re less likely to exercise. 60% of adults aren’t active enough, and this increases with age.You lose muscle mass, which lowers your resting metabolism, making it easier to gain weight.
The rate at which you can use up energy during exercise declines. To use the same energy as in the past and achieve weight loss, you may need to increase the amount of time and intensity you’re exercising, no matter what you’re past activity levels were.
The diagnosis will usually be obvious from the clinical picture but may be difficult in younger women in the early stages of the menopause.
Other causes of secondary amenorrhoea, such as pregnancy and hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism, may need to be considered.
- FSH levels – These vary markedly during the perimenopause and single measures are unreliable. FSH levels may be helpful in confirming the menopause in later stages. FSH levels of greater than 30 IU/L are generally considered to be in the postmenopausal range. There is often no need for FSH level to be tested if the woman’s symptoms are very suggestive of the menopause.
- TFTs – TFT (Thyroid Function Test) can help differentiate thyroid disease symptoms from menopausal symptoms.
- Blood glucose – It may be considered in some women as diabetes can cause similar symptoms.
- Blood cholesterol and Triglycerides – consider if the woman has any cardiovascular risk factors.
- Cervical Screening : Women are advised to undergo regular Pap Smear test for screening of their cervical health and ruling out symptoms of cervical cancer.
- Mammograms – Mammography is also advised for screening of breasts.
- Pelvic Scan – This may be considered for those women with atypical symptoms.
Natural approach to menopause
Menopause is a very delicate period in any woman’s life. With series of symptoms and changes in the body, the life of a menopausal woman really needs some intervention in managing her health.
She needs a strong familial support as well as clinical guidance which ease off her troubles and help her sailing through menopause.
Most of the women in the west earlier were taking HRT or Hormone Replacement Therapy prescribed by their doctor. HRT used to help in ease of the symptoms by replacing the hormone in the body from outside as the ovaries stopped functioning and producing hormones for the body. But, the research on HRT shows that it could increase the chances of heart attack, stroke or even cancers in women.
Role of Homeopathy in Menopause Management
Homeopathy can prove to be of a great help to a woman suffering from the menopausal symptoms. Homeopathic treatment work very well on symptoms like hot flashes, irregular menses, mood swings and various kinds of headaches and body aches.
Homeopathic medicines can help significantly in most symptoms of perimenopause. It is the safest treatment before and during menopause because it stimulates the natural hormone balance without the hormonal therapy`s adverse effects.
Homeopathic dilutions of female hormones estrogen and progesterone, as well as of FSH and LH, are very helpful when used with the lady`s constitutional medicine. Restoration of regular menstrual cycle and elimination of hot flashes and mood swings are often observed when these medicines are prescribed in premature perimenopause. Homeopathy is also useful for prevention of bone loss and osteoporosis. Homeopathy is gentle, safe, and efficacious and above all has no side effects.
Lifestyle and Food habits that help in Menopause Management
- Increase Calcium intake: Increase your dietary intake of calcium. Calcium is found in dairy products – milk, cheese, yoghurt, etc. At least two glasses of milk are recommended for women undergoing or heading for menopause.
- Exercise: Adequate exercise is a must for menopausal and post-menopausal women, as it reduces the rate of loss of calcium. Women who exercise less generally develop more osteoporosis. Women with lesser bone density or with osteoporosis can take up weight-bearing exercises.
- Yoga: Continual evidence supports the notion that yoga can help relieve irritability and depression brought on by menopause. Women report that yoga relaxation and stretching techniques help stabilize their moods while improving their overall well being.
- Latest research: Soya foods have been found to contain natural phyto-estrogens that are very helpful in menopausal and post-menopausal women. The potential health benefits are the reduction of hot flushes and vaginal dryness, protection against coronary heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer.
- Vitamin D: As women age, their ability to absorb vitamin-D decreases, heightening their risk of bone density loss. This makes the need to incorporate vitamin D into their diets much more critical. Recommended daily dose of 600 international units (IU)
6 tips to feel happy and fulfilled during Perimenopause and Menopause
Lifestyle changes that make a difference and help every woman feel happy and fulfilled in menopause:
1. Maintain a positive attitude and a good sense of humor
2. Plan what you eat
3. Avoid stress
4. Make every moment count
5. Drink a lot of water
6. Exercise regularly
What to do when you suddenly feel a hot flush or feel anxious?
The answer is Mindful Breathing. Mindful deep breathing has a proven calming effect on the mind and can ease menopausal anxiety and hot flashes. As soon as you feel a hot flash coming on, prepare.
- Begin by inhaling through your nose to the count of four.
- Hold your breath for seven counts. Then, exhale completely through your mouth to a count of eight. This is one breath.
- Try to complete this cycle two more times and see the difference.