Most western women reach the menopausal years between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average being about 50 or 51 years. However each woman is different, some women reach menopausal age in their 30s and early 40s, while others keep menstruating until the late 50s.
This time in life is not the end of womanhood or sexuality. For some, the opposite is true. It is only the end of the reproductive cycle; it is not a sign of old age. This change has nothing to do with greying of the hair or a loss of sexual desire; post-menopausal women can live a very enjoyable and active life in all respects.
Causes of menopause
At menopause, a woman stops ovulating, and her ovaries stop producing oestrogen and progesterone.
In addition to its role in reproduction, oestrogen is required to stimulate receptors in the vagina, bladder, breasts, skin, bones, arteries, heart, liver and brain, and to promote normal function of these organs.
For example, oestrogen is required to keep the skin and vaginal tract moisturised and supple, keep calcium in the bones, boost libido maintain a balanced body temperature and keep the blood vessels unclogged. Cholesterol levels can increase when oestrogen declines. Menopausal symptoms may also follow a hysterectomy, or be due to an underlying hormonal disorder such as Premature Ovarian Failure or Hypothalamic amenorrhoea.
The onset of change of life may in some women be signalled by the menopause symptoms listed below. In others, the symptoms, apart from the cessation of the menstrual cycle, may not be noticeable.
- Hot flushes/hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Interrupted sleep
- Changes in her menstrual cycle
- Increased nervousness, anxiety or irritability
- Increased need to urinate
- Nausea, constipation, diarrhoea, cold hands and feet
- Weight gain
- ‘Menopausal arthritis’
- Light headed feeling
- Painful intercourse (due to changes to the vaginal wall and vaginal dryness)
- Loss of sexual drive/libido
- Urinary frequency
- New facial hair
- Dry skin
- Crawling feeling under the skin
The changes in biochemistry after menopause also lead to an increased risk of developing menopausal arthritis, dementia and heart disease.
The adrenal glands and menopause
The adrenal glands are small walnut-sized glands which are located at the top of each kidney. They secrete hormones in response to stress including cortisol and DHEA. Under stress, particularly prolonged stress, our adrenal glands can become exhausted or fatigued. This is known as hypocortisolism.
During menopause, our adrenal glands become our ‘surrogate’ ovaries and actually produce small amounts of oestrogen and testosterone. However, this role can be diminished if there has been stress.
The healthier the adrenal glands, the less menopausal symptoms a woman will experience. Yes, the more ‘adrenally challenged’ a woman is, the worse her menopausal symptoms are likeley to be. This is why it is important that adrenal support should be part of a menopause treatment plan (LINK)
Frequently, the diagnosis of menopause has already been made by the woman herself. However, when a woman presents with menopausal symptoms, their doctor will usually arrange a blood test for:
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): >40 (depending on the lab) indicates a menopausal state
- Luteinizing Hormone (LH): >20 (depending on the lab) indicates a menopausal state
- Oestradiol/Estradiol (E2): <44 (depending on the lab) indicates a menopausal state
I routinely test for hormone imbalances using Bicom Bioresonance testing and so therefore, rarely do I recommend any of the following (saving time and money for my patients!)
- Saliva Adrenal Hormone test measuring cortisol and DHEA
- Saliva female hormone panel including estrone, estradiol, estriol, progesterone and testosterone
- Serum (blood) expanded female hormonal panel, including testosterone and LH to FSH ratio
- Thyroid panel – TSH, T4, T3, Reverse T3, thyroid antibodies
- Blood lipid profile (cholesterol and triglycerides)
Menopausal Symptoms Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease?
Adequate oestrogen protects and benefits our brain. In recent years, the role of oestrogen as a neurone protective agents has been well documented.
Women with very low levels or oestrogen are more prone to developing dementia and even Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is there is safe, natural means to optimise oestrogen levels which I offer to my patients.