In a woman’s lifetime her body goes through many changes in response to the natural rise and fall of hormones. During the reproductive years, hormones fluctuate in cycles to prepare the body for child bearing. In menopause, ovulation ceases and a woman can no longer conceive naturally.
Once a woman reaches menopause and the ovaries are in retirement, the adrenal glands, which supply some sex hormones throughout life, become the primary supplier. Women who have poor adrenal function, which can be caused by chronic stress, poor diet, lack of sleep, or excessive caffeine, are not able to provide adequate hormone amounts, and may have more severe menopausal symptoms. Estrogen can also be produced in the fat cells from androgens. This is why obese women often experience fewer symptoms of estrogen deficiency than thin women.
Am I in Menopause?
The milestone of menopause is reached when a woman goes one year without a menstrual period. The average age for menopause is about 51, but it can occur naturally between ages 40 and 55. The decade or so before menopause is now referred to as perimenopause. During this time hormone levels fluctuate and the menstrual cycle becomes erratic. Some months you may have a period and others you may not. However, during this time you may still be able to get pregnant.
Symptoms of Menopause.
Some women sail through menopause with no symptoms at all, while others struggle for months or even years. The symptoms can be linked to an imbalance of hormones:
•Low estrogen causes hot flashes, vaginal dryness, incontinence, foggy head and depression.
•Low progesterone causes low libido, depression, fatigue, foggy head, headache, irritability, memory loss, and fluid retention.
•Low testosterone causes low libido, fatigue, muscle/bone loss, and dryness. •Estrogen dominance causes a drop in progesterone levels and an accumulation in the body of estrogen-like chemicals called xenoestrogens-causes the same symptoms as low progesterone.
Nearly 85 percent of women experience hot flashes, which vary in duration and intensity. Hot flashes are caused by a drop in estrogen that somehow advises the hypothalamus, the body’s thermostat that it is too hot and the body responds with an increased heart rate, the blood vessels dilate and the sweat glands release sweat. The average women will experience hot flashes for the first year or two after their periods stop, but for 20%-50%, the hot flashes continue for many years.
Women Gain Most Of Their Weight In Their 40’s And 50’s. Weight gain before or after menopause is another common concern, and there are a variety of factors that may be at play. High estrogen levels, which are common in perimenopause or those with estrogen dominance (low progesterone levels), can impair thyroid function. Impaired thyroid function may lead to weight gain because the thyroid gland is involved in regulating your metabolic rate. Weight gain around the waist could be associated with high stress. Stress elevates cortisol levels, which causes fat to accumulate around the mid-section.
Years ago hormone replacement therapy was offered to most women in menopause, regardless of whether they had symptoms, as it was thought that hormones could protect against heart disease and osteoporosis. Several large studies conducted over the past 10 years have found that while hormones do help prevent bone loss, they can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and breast cancer. For these reasons, hormones are now used only for women experiencing severesymptomsthatcannotbehelped
by other measures, and they are used at low doses for short periods of time (less than five years).
Bio-identical hormones are becoming more widely used as they are thought to be safer, while still providing the benefits for symptom relief. These products are available in compounding pharmacies, with a doctor’s prescription.
Supplements for Menopause. Herbal supplements can offer benefits for the various symptoms and concerns that arise during menopause. Some of these include ingredients such as; black cohosh, dong quai and schizandra.
Dr. Alvin Pettle, OB/GYN, is a firm believer in the benefits of natural medicine for menopause. “I recommend products containing clinically proven ingredients such as black cohosh and dong quai as found in femMED’s Menopause Relief.”
Managing Midlife Weight Gain.
In your 40’s, as your metabolism slows down, you need to reduce your daily calories by 100 just to stay the same weight. In your 50s, this increases to 200 calories per day. This may seem like a lot, but it can involve making small changes. Replace cream in your coffee with 2% milk; remove the skin from chicken and pass on the fries and soft drink with your burger.
Glucomannan for Weight Loss
Glucomannan is a natural thickening agent derived from the root of the konjac plant that has been shown to stimulate weight loss, particularly in overweight and obese individuals. Research indicates that soluble fibers help lower blood cholesterol, slow glucose absorption, lower the glycemic index and promote regular bowel movements. Look for a weight loss supplement like femMED Weight Management with glucomannan to help fight weight gain at midlife.