The dreaded term older women don’t like to hear. Menopause is an aging barrier that affects reproductive hormones. The levels of estrogen and progesterone begin to drop, the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. It is a natural process that the female body goes through, but one that not many people like to face. The female body no longer has functioning eggs. At birth, females start out with anywhere from 1 to 3 million eggs, which gradually decrease in number over time. At the first menstrual cycle, the female may have about 400,000 eggs left. When menopause hits, a female can have about 10,000 eggs.
The follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is the hormone that produces eggs during menstruation. When menopause begins, the eggs begin to resist FSH and the ovaries produce less estrogen and less testosterone (which affects sex drive). When menopause strikes varies from person to person and is influenced by family history, autoimmune diseases, smoking, and even chemotherapy/radiation. The average age of menopause is 51 years.
That said, menopause does mean the beginning to the end of one’s menstrual cycle. It is officially determined that you have gone through menopause when there has been no menstrual cycle for 12 months. However, the symptoms of menopause are what wreaks havoc for many. Those hot flashes, the emotional roller coaster and the lack of energy make this time particularly undesirable. Other symptoms include vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, weight gain, night sweats, chills, slower metabolism, thinning hair, and dry skin. Weight gain can be due to genetics or the fluctuation in hunger signals leading to hormonal imbalances that could increase appetite. Sleep deprivation doesn’t help either.
There are several natural remedies or approaches to help relieve menopause-related symptoms. Eating foods rich in phytoestrogens helps mimic the role of estrogen in the body. These include tofu, flaxseed, beans, sesame seeds and tempeh. The dryness that comes with menopause means it’s important to drink plenty of water. Processed foods and refined sugars should also be kept away or very limited. Some studies have even said that diets high in processed foods can amplify the emotional roller coaster of moods that menopause can bring. Weight control is key, so skipping meals or eating much less than your body needs could actually be more harmful than good. Maintaining stable blood sugar levels by eating more often and less often would be a good way to support metabolism. Protein is a good food choice to help keep you full and satisfied. There are also natural substances. Black cohosh has been found to help reduce the intensity of hot flashes. Cranberry extract, probiotics, prebiotics are other suggestions for suppressing symptoms.
Frankly, menopause is a natural part of life, just like anything else, the better we take care of our health, the better we navigate everything our bodies have to deal with. Hormones are not an easy topic to deal with and understand as each body can vary in levels and how the body uses them. The best approach is to have a positive body posture and use some natural remedies to help menopause.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Menopause – PMC (nih.gov)
NAMS Menopause Diary | The North American Menopause Society, NAMS
Menopause Symptoms and Their Treatment – PMC (nih.gov)
Menopausal Hormone Therapy: Latest Developments and Clinical Practice – PMC (nih.gov)