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Integrative Family Health Clinic in Bolton and the Greater Caledon Area
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5 Things You Should Know About Menopause

Menopause, a pivotal life transition, marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles and signifies the conclusion of her reproductive years. The menopausal shift gives rise to a spectrum of physical and emotional changes, ranging from hot flashes and night sweats to mood swings and changes in bone density. 

Beyond the physiological aspects, menopause also carries psychological and emotional dimensions, impacting a woman’s sense of identity and well-being. Navigating this transformative period involves understanding the diverse manifestations of menopausal symptoms, exploring available treatment options, and embracing lifestyle adjustments to promote overall health and resilience. 

What is Menopause?

Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life that occurs when the ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone. 

There are a few phases to menopause, starting with perimenopause and ending in postmenopause: 

Perimenopause

Perimenopause refers to the transitional stage leading up to menopause, typically beginning in a woman's 40s but sometimes starting earlier.

During perimenopause, hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, begin to fluctuate, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and various symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, fatigue, and changes in libido.

Perimenopause can last for several years, and the duration varies from woman to woman. It ends when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months, marking the onset of menopause.

Menopause

Menopause marks the end of a woman's menstrual cycles and fertility. It is defined as the absence of menstruation for 12 consecutive months.

The average age of natural menopause in women is around 51, but it can occur earlier or later. Factors such as genetics, smoking, and certain medical conditions can influence the timing of menopause.

Postmenopause

Postmenopause refers to the stage of life after menopause has been reached. It begins the day after a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual period.

During postmenopause, hormone levels, particularly estrogen, remain at consistently low levels. As a result, women may continue to experience symptoms such as vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and mood changes.

Postmenopausal women are at increased risk of certain health conditions, including osteoporosis (due to decreased bone density), cardiovascular disease, and cognitive changes.

Understanding the stages of menopause can help women navigate the physical and emotional changes associated with menopause and make informed decisions about their health and well-being.

Hormones in Menopause

The hormonal changes during menopause involve more than just a decrease in estrogen. The interplay of hormones from various glands, including the thyroid, pancreas, adrenals, and ovaries, is intricate and dynamic. It is crucial for your provider to understand how each hormone interacts and compensates for one another in order to help you achieve hormonal balance during menopause.

 

Here are some key hormonal glands that your healthcare provider may consider:

  1. Thyroid gland – Thyroid disorders can mimic peri/menopausal symptoms such as weight gain, mood changes, fatigue, hair loss and sleep disturbance.
  2. Ovaries – Ovaries are the primary reproductive organs responsible for producing estrogen, progesterone, and small amounts of testosterone. During menopause, ovarian function declines, leading to a decrease in estrogen and progesterone production.
  3. Pancreas – The pancreas produces insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels and may influence weight management during menopause.
  4. Adrenals – Chronic stress during menopause can lead to dysregulation of adrenal function, resulting in symptoms such as fatigue, mood swings, and sleep disturbances. The adrenals are responsible for the stress response and take over production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone in menopause.

Five Things You Need To Know About Hormones in Menopause

Here are five ways that hormones can impact your health during the different phases of menopause: 

  1. Hormones Fluctuate During Perimenopause:
    Perimenopause is characterized by fluctuating hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone. These fluctuations can lead to irregular periods, hot flashes, mood swings, and other symptoms as the body adjusts to changing hormone levels. During this phase, testing for hormones can be a moving target. Collaborating with your healthcare professional can help avoid the trial-and-error approach when experimenting with various products and supplements.

  2. Low Hormone Levels in Postmenopause:
    After menopause, women experience a significant decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels, leading to various changes in the body. These changes can include decreased bone density, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and changes in cognitive function.
  3. Hormones Impact Bones, the Brain, and the Cardiovascular System:
    The decrease in hormone levels postmenopause can have profound effects on bone health, brain function, and cardiovascular health. Estrogen plays a crucial role in maintaining bone density, so low estrogen levels can increase the risk of osteoporosis. Additionally, estrogen has neuroprotective effects and helps regulate the cardiovascular system, so its decline can affect brain function and cardiovascular health.
  4. Menopause is More Than Just About Estrogen and Progesterone:
    Menopause involves a complex interplay of hormones beyond just estrogen. While estrogen levels decline, other hormones such as progesterone, testosterone, and hormones produced by the adrenal glands also play a role in menopausal symptoms and overall health. Understanding how these hormones interact and compensate for each other is essential for managing menopausal symptoms and promoting overall well-being.
  5. Balancing Hormones Isn’t A One-Size-Fits-All:
    Achieving hormone balance during menopause involves more than just replacing estrogen. It requires a comprehensive approach that considers the interactions between various hormones and addresses individual symptoms and health concerns. This may involve lifestyle changes, hormone therapy, nutritional support, and other interventions tailored to each woman’s needs.

By understanding the complexities of menopause and its impact on hormone levels, women can take proactive steps to manage symptoms, support their overall health, and navigate this important life transition more effectively.

How Naturopathic Doctors Help

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) take a holistic approach to assess and treat menopausal symptoms and related health concerns. They consider the interconnectedness of various bodily systems and focus on addressing the underlying causes of symptoms rather than merely managing them.

Menopause is a significant life transition that can bring physical, emotional, and psychological changes for women. Naturopathic medicine offers holistic approaches to assess and treat menopausal symptoms, emphasizing individualized care, lifestyle modifications, natural therapies, and mind-body interventions. If you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms or approaching menopause, consult with a licensed naturopathic doctor to explore safe and effective treatment options tailored to your needs and goals.

Get started with Dr. Salwan, ND or one of our NDs at Wildflower Health and Wellness today.