Every October 18th is World Menopause Awareness Day. According to the International Menopause Society, the purpose of this day is to raise awareness of menopause and the support options available for improving health and well-being.
If you suspect you might be in menopause or beginning the process, this article — coupled with a conversation with your doctor — can help guide you.
What Is Menopause?
Determining whether or not you’re in menopause can be tricky, so let’s start with the very definition of menopause.
Menopause is defined as the point in time one year after a female’s last menstrual period.
This means a woman is not in menopause until she has gone a full year without a period. If she has a period after a handful of months, the clock starts all over again. She must be period-free for 12 consecutive months.
Menopause marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle and fertility. It’s caused, naturally, by the ovaries no longer making the two hormones needed for a woman’s fertility: estrogen and progesterone.
According to the National Institute on Aging, the years leading up to that point, when women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes, or other symptoms, are called the menopausal transition, or perimenopause.
Remember, even though this life season can be uncomfortable and challenging, menopause is not a sickness, disease, or disorder. It is a natural part of aging.
Note: Menopause may also be induced by chemotherapy and radiation therapy, surgical removal of the ovaries, or Primary Ovarian Insufficiency, which is the failure of the ovaries to produce normal levels of reproductive hormones, and may result in premature menopause (menopause before the age of 40) .
Symptoms of Menopause / Perimenopause
Menopausal transition (perimenopause) is when women begin experiencing the “menopause symptoms” we most often hear about. These symptoms can include:
- Hot flashes (sudden bursts of heat that can last 1 to 10 minutes; may be mild or severe; may make your skin flush red and your heart beat faster; may happen day or night; may happen several times per day or just a time or two per week)
- Changes in the monthly cycle (shorter or longer periods/more bleeding/less bleeding)
- Vaginal dryness (may lead to painful sex)
- Incontinence (inability to hold in urine/loss of bladder control/urine leakage during laughing, sneezing, or exercising)
- Bladder infections
- Sleep troubles (falling asleep/staying asleep/waking up with night sweats)
- Change in sexual desire (loss of interest, or, conversely, enhanced interest)
- Mood changes (depression/irritability/anxiety/feeling more stressed)
- Body changes (weight gain/muscle loss/stiff, achy joints/loss of breast fullness)
- Thinner and dryer skin and hair
- Memory and focus problems
- Lack of energy
You may experience all of these symptoms, or few of them. For some women, symptoms are severe; for some, they’re mild. Some women experience no menopause symptoms at all. Everyone is different, and each of these symptoms may have causes unrelated to menopause. Be sure to talk to your doctor.
When Do Menopause Symptoms Begin? And How Long Will They Last?
“The change” most often happens between the ages of 45 and 55, with 51 being the average age in America.
Perimenopause usually lasts around 7 years, but can last as long as 14 years. (If you’re experiencing symptoms, buckle in — this may not be a short ride.) The duration often depends on lifestyle factors like the age perimenopause begins, the woman’s race and ethnicity, and whether or not she’s a smoker.
How Can I Manage My Menopause Symptoms?
The most important thing you can do anytime — whether you’re in perimenopause or you’re post-menopausal — is to live a healthy lifestyle.
A diet low in sugar and rich in a diverse range of gut-healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, fermented foods, and whole grains can keep your body in top working order while you process the symptoms of menopause. Consider taking a powerful blend of premium probiotics, herbal prebiotics, and botanical superfoods, like RevBiotics, to nourish your gut for refreshed energy, cleaner digestion, improved mental clarity, and a revved-up mood.
Be sure to also stay active, as post-menopausal women are at a greater risk for osteoporosis, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Losing body weight may also help alleviate hot flashes, boost your energy and metabolism, support your joints and bones, decrease stress, and promote better sleep.
You may also want to:
- Quit smoking
- Stop drinking alcohol
- Avoid hot flash triggers like caffeine and spicy foods
- Dress in layers
- Practice yoga, meditation, or deep breathing
- Say no refined carbs and processed foods
- Drink plenty of water
If symptoms severely impede your daily activities, you may want to speak to your doctor about Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or other non-hormonal alternatives. Treatment decisions will be made based on symptom severity, family and medical history, and lifestyle/personal preferences.
Are You Menopausal Or In Perimenopause?
If you’ve weighed your symptoms against the menopause symptoms listed above and you see some congruences, it’s possible you’re in menopausal transition. Talk to your healthcare provider to make sure there are no other reasons for your symptoms.
If you and your provider determine you are in menopausal transition, take special care of yourself during this time and remember that menopause is a natural part of aging. You are just as magnificent now as you’ve always been… this is simply the beginning of a new life chapter!
To your health and happiness…
Your NatureM.D. Wellness Team