With close to 2 billion women entering menopause, you’re not alone with anything you’re going through during this rollercoaster transition.
But that doesn’t make your own experience any easier if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms commonly associated with menopause.
Unfortunately, 1 in 4 women encounter problems acute enough to adversely affect their lives. (1)
What Does It Mean Once You Have Gone 12 Months Without a Period?
The official definition of menopause is once a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without a period. (2)
If you fall into that category, you’ve passed perimenopause and are now menopausal.
This transition can be overwhelming for many, especially if you suffer from problems that make your life uncomfortable, or even painful.
Today, we’ll map out some of the most frequent symptoms you might encounter during menopause and then we’ll briefly explore some treatments that could help, both natural and prescribed.
What should you be looking out for?
Some Common Symptoms You Might Experience Next
- Bone Health: As estrogen levels tumble during menopause, this depletes calcium in the bones. As bone density plummets, osteoporosis can ensue. You might feel stiff and experience aches while also becoming more prone to bone fractures. (6)
- Incontinence: As the pelvic muscles begin to relax during the change, incontinence can occur. This tends to be urge urinary incontinence rather than stress urinary incontinence. (5)
- Hot Flashes: Also known as hot flushes, around 75% of women suffer from these random and irritating spikes in body temperature. For the vast majority of women, hot flashes subside after 2 years. Sometimes combined with an increase in heart rate and often coming in the form of night sweats, hot flashes occur as a result of decreased estrogen levels. (3) (4)
- Vaginal Dryness: From general dryness and discomfort through to itching or pain during intercourse, vaginal dryness is common during menopause. A possible consequence of this thinning and drying of the vaginal walls is the development of urinary tract infections.
- Weight Gain: It’s always tough to determine whether weight gain during menopause is due to changing hormone levels or the natural aging process. Either way, being overweight can exacerbate hot flashes while also increasing the risk of heart disease.
- Depression: Some studies have shown that menopausal women are at heightened risk of major depressive order. While many women undeniably experience changes in their mental health around menopause, it’s awkward to pinpoint whether this is due to declining estrogen levels alone. New opinion is emerging suggesting that the stress of getting older and the change in the role of women after menopause could be equally culpable. Either way, it’s not at all uncommon to experience dips in your mental wellbeing during this transition. (7)
While that might seem like quite a list of symptoms, there are fortunately many ways in which you can fight back. We’ll look next at some natural treatments then round out with help you can seek from your doctor.
Some Natural Treatments Available To Alleviate Symptoms
Naturally Managing Hot Flashes
Different triggers can bring about hot flashes so identify yours and avoid them.
Try cutting back on alcohol and coffee if applicable. Spicy food often worsens hot flashes as do warm environments. Stress doesn’t help. Quit smoking if at all possible.
Dressing in multiple layers is a smart move so you can rapidly regulate your body temperature. Consider investing in a decent fan if you live somewhere warm.
Naturally Managing Weight Gain
Rather than going on a diet, focus on positively overhauling your eating habits.
Slash the amount of sugar you consume while increasing the amount of calcium in your diet. Eat fewer unhealthy fats.
Incorporate 3 hours of gentle exercise each week into your lifestyle if that’s practical. Try to aim for an hour of more intense exercise if you are able.
Strength and flexibility training is also worthwhile.
With all forms of exercise, though, work well within your limits. Everyone is different so this is absolutely not a suggestion to overdo it. You know your own body. If you’re in any doubt at all, speak with your doctor about diet and exercise.
Naturally Managing Bone Health
- Prioritize foods rich in calcium such as leafy grains, salmon, almonds and dairy products.
- A vitamin D supplement can also help in many cases.
- Double down on your exercise routine as above.
- Think seriously about your alcohol and tobacco consumption if you drink or smoke.
Some Treatments Your Doctor May Prescribe To You
The most obvious general course of treatment your doctor can provide is hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
For bone loss, you can pursue a number of prescription calcium treatments (bisphosphonates) under your doctor’s advice. Some estrogen products also work well. Speak with your health provider for specifics. (8)
Lubricants, whether prescribed or over-the-counter, are an easy way to combat vaginal dryness and discomfort.
Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to pursue hormone-based treatment is entirely up to you.
The good news is that if you follow the natural methods outlined above, unpleasant aspects of menopause symptoms can be effectively brought into line even without medication.
- The Vergo iOS symptom tracker (emailable to your healthcare provider)
- The Vergo QuikTrak symptom tracker (the refillable pdf version, also emailable)
- Vergo’s Interactive Education Program, Journey Without a Roadmap: Understanding Menopause
- Curated guides to the biggest questions and hottest topics around menopause symptoms and treatment options
- Must-have information on male menopause: There’s an Andropause? (an overview of what your guy could be going through)
- Terminology Cheat Sheets