Some women sail through menopause hardly noticing, except to be happy they are no longer having periods. They find that the personal freedom of not having to worry about getting pregnant just adds to the richness of their sex life. Not to mention, by the time we are in our 50's, we have shifted our priorities from 'ego' based love to really appreciating true intimacy. But even though all of these changes apply to Highly Sensitive Women as well, it is she that will no doubt be bombarded with at least a couple of the symptoms of menopause just because she is so sensitive.
How & When Does Natural Menopause Begin?
Basically, menopause starts with the end of your last period when the ovaries no longer respond to releasing eggs each month. This reduces the amount of estrogen and progesterone produced. It is the decreased levels of these hormones that give rise to the symptoms of menopause.
In the United States, most women begin menopause at approximately 50 years old. However, due to stress levels of living in a modern and technological society, and the food chain being affected by chemicals and added hormones, menopause is now being seen in women as young as 30 years old, with girls reaching their menses at earlier ages than ever.
You may have irregular periods, even as much as a few years, before ever reaching menopause. And, you may, or may not, experience some of the symptoms of menopause during this time. This particular cycle of menopause is called perimenopause. During these irregular periods, you may bleed more heavily. Many women opt for a total hysterectomy to eliminate this messy phase, but I do not personally support this. It is my belief that this will only serve to imbalance your hormonal system very suddenly, not to mention innumerable left over problems as a result of the surgery.
Just so you know, women who have only their uterus removed, with ovaries left intact, will begin to go through menopause within 2-3 years after surgery.
Post-Menopause is generally considered to be the absence of menses and when menopause is over.
Signs & Symptoms of Menopause
Lack of Interest in Making Love
Muscle & Joint Aches/Stiffness
Loss of Muscle Tone
Suicidal Day Dreams
Feeling Like a 'Case of Ugly'
Hair Thinning or Falling Out
Changed or Absent Monthly Flow
Not Wanting to Leave the House
Feeling As Though You Have ADD/ADHD
Being Easily Irritated
Feeling Too Hot
Flushing, Hot-Flashes and/or Night-Sweats
Vaginal Dryness, Pain and/or Discharge
Vaginal Skin Color Changes
The Role of Sex Hormones
The Role of Estrogen
Estrogen, the female hormone, is a steroid, which is a fat-soluble molecule related to cholesterol. Estrogen provides the appearance of being female, stimulates the uterine lining, and helps maintain bone mass by preventing calcium loss. During menopause, estrogen levels decline causing unpleasant symptoms. Progesterone and testosterone levels may also decline, or decline rather than estrogen. Unbalanced hormonal levels cause the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood-swings, sleep and vaginal disturbances. Our endocrine system lords over our hormones, which are regulated by the adrenal glands.
Did you know that hormones make up who we are on an emotional level? They lend particular expressions of personality and attitude. The woman who listens to her husband barking about the bad day he's had and lends a sympathetic and loving ear, even when she had a hard day as well, can be the same woman who will lay in bed next to her husband the following week and can't stomach the sound of her husband’s breathing. Why? Hormonal imbalance, that’s why. Take away estrogen and the woman who was once loving, calm and open becomes moody, aggressive and uninterested in doing the things she once loved. She may even become violent.
Granted, our partners sometimes do things to drive us crazy and make us fantasize murderous thoughts, but if they haven't hormones may be the driving force. Before you make your significant other walk the plank, and then push him overboard, get your hormones checked. Then if you still feel the same way about him, once your hormones are in check, at least you will be able to make some solid-minded decisions about your relationship.
The Role of Progesterone
A sure sign of progesterone deficiency (and resulting estrogen dominance) is weight-gain. Ask any woman who is on ERT (Estrogen Replacement Therapy) and she will tell you she has gained weight since beginning treatment from using estrogen alone.
Many women do not realize that they may need progesterone replacement, as well as estrogen. Some may even need additional testosterone. These three hormones perform numerous functions in the body, in each and every cell. In fact, progesterone must be available in order to produce all other hormones in the body. It is thought that while estrogen can help with hot-flashes and vaginal dryness, progesterone is the precursor to estrogen and by taking it alone estrogen levels often return to satisfactory levels. This is not completely agreed upon.
It is agreed that estrogen and progesterone used together in a cyclic manner have the best results in relieving menopausal symptoms. If they are natural (bio-identical) and not synthetic that’s even better. Synthetic hormones treat only the symptoms of menopause and not the cause.
Natural, or bio-identical hormones, replace the hormones you have lost. Your doctor should know the difference and if she does not, either share the findings below with her or find someone who does.
Synthetic vs. Bio-identical Hormones
Synthetic Estrogen: Premarin and other conjugated estrogens.
Synthetic Progesterone: Provera, Amen, Prempro (a combination of Premarin and Provera), Norethindrone, Norgestimate and Nordestrel.
Synthetic Testosterone: Methyltestosterone. Estratest (estradiol and synthetic testosterone), and Premarin plus synthetic testosterone.
Bio-identical Estrogen: Estradiol, Estrone, Estriol. Synthesized in a lab from plant extracts (soybeans and yams) and are designed to be molecularly the same as the hormones in our bodies.
Bio-identical Progesterone: USP progesterone (Pro-Gest, Prometrium, Crinone) made from Wild Yam designed to be molecularly the same as the hormones in our bodies.
Bio-identical Testosterone: Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, an adrenal precursor to testosterone.
Before Doing Anything Else, Have Your Blood Tested
It is important hormone dosages are prescribed according to your blood test results. Even natural hormones can be powerful and may have side effects if used incorrectly.
Progesterone, estrogen and testosterone hormone levels can be checked through simple blood tests. They may be more accurately revealed through saliva testing. Regardless of the method used, your hormones should probably be tested every 3-6 months and doses of any hormonal product you are using should be adjusted accordingly.
Prescription hormones are, typically, synthetic hormones produced by drug companies, which only treat symptoms of menopause rather than replacing the hormones you have lost like bio-identical hormones do.
To learn more about bio-identical hormones, what they are, how to use them and where to buy them see my e-book, Navigating Menopause for Highly Sensitive Women, at the bottom of this page.
Being Tired, Fatigued, Exhausted or Burned Out 24/7
Suggestions for Cooling Off
Layer your clothing so that you can strip out of some in a hurry. At night, wear a tank top rather than long sleeve pajamas.
Keep a little spray bottle handy for misting your skin. In your vehicle direct your air vents toward your body and turn the air on high after misting. Take along pure water to drink as well. Drive with flip-flops on instead of shoes, especially long distance.
Curb the late night snacking and drinking. Try not to eat right before bed or drink caffeine within two hours of bedtime. Alcohol also disturbs sleep. Hot beverages generally create hot-flashes within moments of drinking them, especially ones containing caffeine or sugar.
Use bedroom etiquette. Keep your bedroom cool. Use light-weight blankets on your bed or use a down comforter, or something similar, that feels cool to the touch on its outer layer. This is nice for putting your feet against during a hot spell. Keep a glass of water on your nightstand. You may also want to keep one of those small battery operated fans there as well. Try to keep a regular sleep schedule. Our ‘sleepy time’ hormones are thrown out off kilter when sleep schedules are not consistent. Aim for being in bed and asleep by 11 PM. Falling to sleep after 11 PM wreaks havoc on your body and makes it hard for your body to repair itself. Your body is on a circadian rhythm and schedule whether you are or not.
Hot flashes and night sweats can be caused by anything that causes the body to become too acidic, such as acidic foods, especially white sugar, heat, unexpressed anger and stress, hydrogenated or saturated fats, intense exercise or sexual activities caffeinated drinks, chocolate, tea, coffee, cola, cayenne and black pepper, ginger (and other hot or spicy foods), tobacco and marijuana. Reducing acidic foods and increasing alkaline foods in the diet can be beneficial in reducing, if not eliminating, hot spells. See Nutrition & Diet.
Natural Old World Remedies for Menopausal Symptoms
Studies show that Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) using estrogen and progesterone combined, with all of the good and the bad that go along with them, work no better for you than stress management, alternative therapies, lifestyle modification, a healthy diet and exercise. Meaning, if you prefer to not use hormone treatments, prescribed or otherwise, there is still a way to be in control of your hormones and your body.
There are certain foods that contain phytoestrogens, which are found in plant foods (vegetables, fruits and grains). They are natural stand-ins for estrogen, such as apples, grapes, cabbage and lentils. Some foods are better at balancing hormones either way, meaning that they help to correct whatever imbalances you have, regardless of which of your hormones are lacking. I discuss these foods in my e-book, Navigating Menopause for Highly Sensitive Women, below.
Navigating Menopause for Highly Sensitive Women
When I was growing up, baby boomer that I am, no one talked about the ‘change' to us younger women, not even after we had children. Only those who shared the unmentionable cycle spoke of it in whispers, in side rooms, away from us, the children.
Most of us sail through menopause easily enough, but if you are a Highly Sensitive Women you may not be prepared for what lies ahead. When you are physically and emotionally sensitive, you are most likely to be sensitive to the changes menopause brings as well.
Navigating Menopause for Highly Sensitive Women answers questions about the stages of menopause, bio-identical hormones, what foods and supplements really help to balance hormones and includes recipes to cool hot flashes and remedy other menopausal symptoms, naturally.
Here's what you'll discover.
The first thing to do if you suspect you are menopausal.
How to design your own plan for navigating menopause.
Natural remedies for common symptoms and some you may not have heard of.
What bioidentical hormones are, where to buy, and how to use them.
Tips on managing the big stresses in life.
Put yourself back in the captains seat by learning to navigate menopause naturally!
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