You’ve reached midlife — you’ve waited years for this glorious time when you take back your life! It is time to have to all of those things you’ve been dreaming of while working, raising kids and taking care of a family. You are there! Except, you are exhausted and feel terrible. Ah, menopause. The dreaded “M” word has arrived just in time to foil the best laid plans. Because let’s be real, the symptoms associated with the menopausal years are not enjoyable. No one can say that night sweats, hot flashes, unwanted weight gain and anxiety are a good time. We have been told that these are to be anticipated and that it is just part of getting older. However, while these symptoms are common, they are not a requirement for transitioning into menopause. And there are, in fact, ways to head into midlife and beyond looking and feeling your best. So get ready to take on the world!
What is Menopause?
While the term menopause is usually used to describe the period of time that actually leads up to it, this is actually perimenopause. In perimenopause, women still experience a cycle, but this is when hormone levels begin to change. Perimenopause can begin 8 to 10 years before menopause. During this time, both estrogen and progesterone start to decline and symptoms may appear.
These symptoms can include (but are not limited to):
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Irregular periods
- Decreased libido
- Thinning skin/hair
- Weight gain
- Vaginal dryness
- Increased UTIs
- Mood changes
- Joint pain
Sounds fun…said no one ever.
Menopause is actually reached when a woman has been an entire year without a period. Generally speaking, this occurs in a woman’s late 40s to early 50s. At this point, a woman’s ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and producing most of their estrogen. After the twelve months are up, and menopause is reached, a woman is considered postmenopausal.
Help! Can anything be done to help minimize these sucky symptoms?
For many, the symptoms that define perimenopause, decline once menopause is reached. This isn’t the case for everyone and symptoms may persist for years after. You can blame those pesky hormones for that. If you have reached menopause and still suffer from any of the unwelcome symptoms, it is wise to speak with your provider to determine if Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is right for you. More likely than not, you’ll need to find a functional medicine or anti-aging doctor. Your Ob/Gyn is likely not going to be the one to prescribe BHRT. And please, if they suggest hormonal birth control – gently decline and start your search for a new provider. If you need help, reach out.
There are also diet and lifestyle modifications to consider and it is never too early to start incorporating them into your daily routine. Sometimes the simplest actions can have the most profound results. Things like prioritizing sleep, eating a nutrient-dense diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods and high in protein, taking targeted supplements, and incorporating stress relieving activities into your daily life can go a long way towards creating sustained health.
In this series, we will explore the various strategies that women can employ on their own to seamlessly transition into menopause. Stay tuned to learn how to be proactive about your hormonal transition and thrive in midlife.