Menopause is still a mystery. The big FIVE-OH. An age I remember well as I watched and learned from my mother. I remember saying to my mom... "omg.. mom if you would just lose weight you wouldn't be hot all the time". Oh yeah, that was a mistake then (she lost it on me, as she should have) and it is now. This morning I went to the Doctor's office and explained that I have started having night sweats again and she said "hmmm, well we can prescribe you something, but let me grab you a pamphlet. You know she went to look for the "pamphlet" and said "oh I thought we ordered those, I guess not. Try google". I asked said, maybe a supplement not a hormone replacement. Yes, a good idea she said. Then there was nothing else said. EVEN our doctors treat menopause as a mystery.
The one thing we do know is besides death and taxes, women all go through menopause, oh and yes even Whales go through menopause (true story). But there are so many variables that continue to leave us and doctors in the dark.
When will it start? How old will I be? How long am I fertile? What are the symptoms, Is this normal? What is normal? Am I out of shape or are these "hot flashes", Am I too young? Am I going crazy? Am I depressed? and on, and on and on.....
I am not a doctor, so I am not going to give you any medical advice. I am however going to talk to you about symptoms that are exacerbated by menopause and perimenopause. This is helping me to understand my body and helping me to answer my own questions.
Most symptoms of menopause can be traced to at least two causes. If you know which of these is causing your issue, you can take measures to alleviate your symptoms. These causes are:
Lower Estrogen Levels.
Lower Progesterone Levels.
Common symptoms of Lower Estrogen Levels:
1. Breast tenderness
Sore breasts are a telltale sign of low estrogen that’s normal. This is because during the part of your cycle before your period, estrogen levels naturally decrease.
2. Fatigue and sleep issues
Estrogen is intimately linked to serotonin, and serotonin makes melatonin. Melatonin is the primary sleep hormone. This means, if you’ve been sleeping less and feeling fatigued, you could have low estrogen.
3. Irregular menstrual cycles
Irregular cycles also point to low estrogen. This is common during perimenopause.
4. Disappearing menstrual cycles
Estrogen drives your period. If you don’t have enough, your cycle could disappear completely. This is normal during perimenopause, and of course, menopause.
5. Mood swings and depression
Estrogen triggers serotonin production. Serotonin is a feel-good chemical responsible for your good mood. When estrogen is low, so is serotonin. Some studies show just how essential estrogen is for mental health.
Headaches, especially migraines, can be a result of low estrogen. This happens because estrogen impacts brain chemicals responsible for pain.
7. Hot flashes and night sweats
Estrogen affects the hypothalamus, which regulates body temperature. Low estrogen causes hot flashes and night sweats, two annoying symptoms of menopause and perimenopause.
8. Frequent urinary tract infections
Estrogen helps the lining of your urethra do its job. Namely, to keep unhealthy bacteria out. Low estrogen can cause a thinning of this lining, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter. Urinary infections often follow.
9. Bone loss
Another strange thing that happens when estrogen levels are too low is bone deterioration. Your bones need estrogen to maintain strength and density. They can fracture more readily when estrogen is low because this hormone works in tandem with calcium, vitamin D, and various minerals.
10. Vaginal atrophy
Vaginal atrophy is one of the more severe symptoms of low estrogen and is also quite common. Also known as atrophic vaginitis, this is the vagina’s slow deterioration that comes with age. This vaginal malady is characterized by a thinner, dryer, and even shrunken vagina. Inflammation often takes over and sex can become painful.
You experience pain during sex
You bleed after sex
Your vagina is dryer than it should be
Your vagina is itchier than it should be
Your vagina burns during urination
You feel an urgency to go to the bathroom
You can sense your vaginal canal becoming shorter and tighter
Natural Remedies to Increase Estrogen
1. Phytoestrogen-Rich Foods
Phytoestrogens, found in plants and plant-based foods, have a similar structure to estradiol, which is the strongest of the estrogen hormones. Upon entering the body, phytoestrogens are recognized by estrogen receptors and mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.
Although their effects may be milder than pure estrogen, phytoestrogens are thought to help the body function better during times of estrogen deficiency. Phytoestrogen-rich foods include soybeans, flax seeds, and chickpeas, as well as dried apricots, raisins, and dates.
2. B Vitamins
Because B vitamins play a vital role in the creation of estrogen, low levels of B vitamins can result in reduced production of estrogen. Vitamins B2 and B6, in particular, are associated with healthy estrogen levels.
In a recent study, for example, researchers tracked levels of B vitamins to the risk of breast cancer in menopausal women. The results indicated that women with higher levels of B2 and B6 showed lower risks of breast cancer.
This connection is believed to be due to the positive impact that B vitamins have on estrogen levels.
3. Vitamin D
Working in tandem, vitamin D and estrogen not only reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease but the presence of vitamin D in the body also has an impact on the production of estrogen. In one study, the link between vitamin D levels and estrogen was investigated.
Of the 616 menopausal women aged between 49 and 86 who took part, none were taking vitamin D or estrogen supplements. The results showed a “positive correlation” between vitamin D and estradiol (the strongest estrogen hormone).
In other words, women with high levels of vitamin D also had high levels of estradiol. Whereas the women with lower levels of vitamin D had lower levels of estradiol. Indicating that a vitamin D supplement would improve the production of estrogen.
4. Chasteberry (also known as Vitex Agnus-Castus)
Vitex agnus-castus is the Latin name for Chasteberry, the dried fruit from the chaste tree. Its benefits as a natural remedy for women’s health were first documented over 2500 years ago when the Greeks and Romans used it to treat menopausal symptoms.
Acting as an adaptogen to stabilize the body’s stress response, a chasteberry supplement, likeVitex Chasteberry Supplementfrom Intimate Rose helps the pituitary gland to rebalance estrogen and testosterone during all three stages of menopause (perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause).
Research on the hormone-balancing abilities of chasteberry shows that it significantly reduces menopausal symptoms such as mood swings, breast tenderness, pelvic discomfort, interrupted sleep, as well as hot flashes by rebalancing estrogen and testosterone.
Boron is a mineral that can be used for a variety of roles in the body. Primarily, it helps the body to break down key minerals and vitamins. Boron also manages bone health, treats osteoarthritis, and influences hormones like estrogen and testosterone.
While estrogen works together with boron to fight osteoporosis, researchers also believe that boron allows the body to more easily use the estrogen that is available in the body. Boron is naturally found in leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, as well as apples, nuts, grains, raisins, and prunes.
To increase your intake of boron, experts recommend upping it through diet as opposed to supplements.
6. Black Cohosh
Black Cohosh is a traditional Native American herb that has been used to treat PMS, hot flashes, and menopausal symptoms for centuries. In a 2012 study to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of black cohosh for treating menopausal symptoms, researchers found that it stimulates estrogen receptors when estrogen is low during menopause.
7. Evening Primrose Oil
Due to its high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, evening primrose oil has been used as an ancient herbal remedy for treating PMS and menopause. Though there is little current-day research on the advantages of taking evening primrose oil for increasing estrogen, it has been anecdotally reported to help.
For example, in a 2015 study 48% of women who ceased using hormone replacement therapy and began taking an evening primrose oil supplement instead, reported a reduction in the symptoms of low estrogen during menopause.
Lower Progesterone Levels
During reproductive years, Progesterone helps to become and keep a viable pregnancy. So during menopause, our Progesterone levels drop. However without normal levels of both Estrogen and Progesterone, then Estrogen takes over and starts creating all kinds of mayhem. Progesterone is generally not supplemented in women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms of hormone imbalance. This is because menopausal symptoms are mostly caused by low estrogen levels. However, if you are having symptoms it is important to look at all levels to ensure a balance. Here are some effects of low progesterone levels.
Migraines or headaches
Depression, anxiety, or other mood changes
Menstrual cycle irregularity or absence
Natural remedies for raising low progesterone levels include:
Increasing your intake of vitamins B and C
eating more foods with zinc, like shellfish
controlling stress levels, since your body releases cortisol instead of progesterone when you’re stressed
Menopause is a natural process that happens to every woman, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy. The effects of hormones on menopause can be difficult to manage, both physically and emotionally. That’s why we created an online community for real conversations about menopause – because we want you to know you’re not alone. We hope you will join us in our discussions and share your own experiences with menopause. Together, we can make this journey a little bit easier.