Classic signs of menopause and common problems
A lot of people know about classic menopausal symptoms: hot flashes and sudden sweats, as well as having trouble sleeping and mood swings.
These symptoms are caused by our endocrine glands (e.g. ovaries or testes) having been exhausted at a certain age.
If we succeed in balancing out this sex hormone deficiency, then the symptoms will disappear.
Rarer symptoms of menopause (climacteric)
There are, however, also less common menopausal signs and symptoms that are less well known; the reason for these symptoms is that a great many of our organs have hormone receptors, such as our brain, heart and vessels, skin, bones and joints.
More specifically, these less well-known symptoms could include:
- problems concentrating
- dry mucous membranes and dry skin
- irritable bowel syndrome: IBS,
- suffering from pain more frequently and unspecific complaints all over
- and, as already mentioned, hot flashes and sudden sweats
- as well as trouble sleeping and mood swings and lots more.
As most people don’t know that these symptoms are linked to hormones, unfortunately, quite often, no hormones are prescribed to alleviate them. But by doing so, hormone levels can quite easily be raised, and the hormone deficiency, which is causing the symptoms in the first place, will disappear.
Do you necessarily gain weight during the menopausal transition?
Sex hormones keep us young and give us strength and energy. That’s extremely important for the years in which we are capable of reproduction, as passing on our genetic make-up needs to be secured for the preservation of the species.
The different hormones have a different effect here. One effect is to stimulate our metabolism, for instance, to provide an expectant mother with enough energy. Another effect is to retain water to make our tissue “nice and firm” and to bring about pleasure and relaxation.
For that reason, hormone levels need to be well balanced.
Thyroid hormones in particular, but also the hormones that are produced by the adrenal gland such as cortisol (coping with stress and pain hormone) and aldosterone (regulating our body’s water and mineral balance – both synthesized from progesterone) are responsible for regulating our metabolism.
THUS: gaining weight during the climacteric is typical in the case of unbalanced and decreasing hormone levels. However, gaining weight is not inevitable.
It depends on the hormones and the ratio of hormones to each other; but, of course, it is also dependent on your genes and personal lifestyle (exercise, diet, stress levels etc.).
Why do some women experience hot flashes – but not all?
Hot flashes during the menopausal transition are caused by extreme sex hormone fluctuations, especially estrogen. For estrogen regulates your body’s temperature.
Thyroid hormones are involved too. And sometimes the reason can be an infection (as with the flu) and patients also suffer from sudden sweats. Those different causes can be set apart from one another by talking to your doctor and by carrying out some simple tests in the lab, and can subsequently be treated appropriately.
Because of the fact that not every woman experiences a fast and extreme hormonal decline around menopause, not every woman suffers from hot flashes.
Evidently, menopausal symptoms are also perceived to a very different extent depending on cultural background. We assume that 30% of women in Europe have very mild or no symptoms, 30% experience moderate symptoms and 30% suffer from very severe symptoms.
Will I experience spotting during the climacteric– and is that a cause for concern?
Spotting or changes in menstruation are absolutely TYPICAL for menopausal transition. Why? Because of the fact that hormone levels wildly fluctuate, the endometrium could thicken properly in one cycle, but could remain thin in the next.
If a good endometrial lining builds up, then it can also literally “bleed off”. If the endometrium does not thicken sufficiently, then intermenstrual bleeding or spotting can occur as a sign that the endometrium did not build up completely. So that’s nothing to worry about.
But: spotting AFTER menopause
A different thing altogether is bleeding that occurs after menopause (postmenopausal), i.e. with women who have not had a period for many years.
If bleeding unexpectedly occurs at that point, then that needs to be considered a warning in most cases (also for the gynecologist) and one will try and find out what is causing it.
A dangerous disease could be the cause for it (e.g. cancer), which of course urgently needs to be ruled out, usually by having an ultrasound scan performed.
Bleeding that occurs after hormonal treatment would be normal
BUT, as we all know, therapy with human-identical hormones (bioidentical hormones) raises your hormone levels to correct the hormone deficiency. And that leads to endometrial lining building up again in postmenopausal women (i.e. also women many years after menopause). That can then result in spotting or even proper menstrual bleeding.
However, that would be no sign of a disease, but would show that the hormones are doing a good job and have built up a capable endometrium.
So, if spotting or bleeding occurs a certain amount of time after menopause, it will need to be determined whether the cause is some kind of disease or a result of taking hormones (which would be normal and a good sign).
That frequently happens in the course of hormone therapy and is therefore quite normal, even though it can come as quite a surprise for the woman (and for her gynecologist).
What hormonal changes does your body undergo during menopause (the climacteric)?
Meno-pause literally means the pausing of menses (menstruation). The most noticeable sign is therefore that your menstrual period has stopped. That makes it perfectly clear to women that their fertile years have now come to an end and a new phase in life has begun.
We call this “menopause” and think that the menopausal transition only starts when menstruation has stopped for good.
However, the climacteric is not one point in life, but a process, which usually started already 5-10 years previously. Ovulation starts occurring less frequently between the age of 35 and 42. Thus, no corpus luteum is formed any more, and, if there is no corpus luteum, then also progesterone can no longer be produced.
This first phase is therefore called PRE-MENOPAUSE. Progesterone levels gradually hit rock bottom, but estrogen is still produced at completely normal levels for many years to come.
So, we initially experience a progesterone-DECREASE, while estradiol levels remain normal. After several years, also estradiol levels start to drop, resulting in less and less uterine endometrial lining building up (that applies to mucous membranes all over a woman’s body).
If the endometrium does not thicken enough, then also no bleeding will occur and menopause has arrived: menstruation has stopped, menses permanently pauses: MENO-PAUSE.
The most frequent symptoms of menopause/climacteric – sorted according to lack of hormones
Progesterone decline during menopause
So, the first symptoms can already occur somewhere between the age of 34 and 42: the symptoms of the progesterone decline (PRE-MENOPAUSE):
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- metabolism slows down
- connective tissue becomes less elastic (“flabby areas”, “saddle bags”)
- disturbances of your body’s water balance (aldosterone deficiency – see below: fluid retention, fluctuations in blood pressure, etc…)
- disturbances of your body’s mineral balance (aldosterone is synthesized from progesterone and is a mineralocorticoid)
- psyche: lack of clarity, doubts and anxiety, problems concentrating etc.
- difficulty sleeping
- loss of ease and resilience, less resistance to stress, increased irritability (cortisol is synthesized from progesterone and is a glucocorticoid, it’s important for sugar metabolism and keeps you resistant to stress, reduces inflammation and pain)
- higher sensitivity to pain
- more prone to inflammation
- cell regeneration and cell protection lessen
- defense against bacteria, viruses and cell damage (malignant cells) declines
Estrogen decline during menopause
Little by little, also the synthesis of estrogen comes to an end, which shows itself most clearly when menstruation stops permanently (MENO-PAUSE), in industrialized countries most often at the age of 51:
- irregular bleeding
- finally, absence of the menstrual period
- disruption in body temperature regulation (sweating, being cold all over)
- mood swings, depressive episodes
- bad moods, no longer able to enjoy things
- lower sensuality: eating (taste), seeing, smelling (odors), but also eroticism and libido are affected
- mucous membranes dry out: genitalia, but also mouth, nose, ears, intestines, joints, pericardium, pulmonary pleurae, etc…
- skin and connective tissue loses its firmness
- loss of breast fullness, sagging, changes in structure: small lumps, strands of connective tissue, dents etc.
- impact on hair growth
- waist disappears (women get “bigger”)
- cell renewal (regeneration) slows down
As has been mentioned before in this article, it is possible to adjust a hormone deficiency. If you choose to do so, then it is IMPORTANT not to undergo conventional hormone replacement therapy (because of the MODIFIED hormones that are prescribed there).
Get more information on refilling your supply of hormones with bioidentical (human-identical, UNMODIFIED) hormones applying the Rimkus Method (click HERE), in order to ease the many negative symptoms.