By Ruth Casaletto.
Menopause is a natural phase within a woman’s life cycle. It is not an illness! However, looking after yourself mentally and physically as you approach this stage of your life is essential.
Every month or so, during a woman's reproductive stage, hormone levels play a vital part in the menstrual cycle.
Women’s ovaries produce various hormones, including oestrogen and progesterone, which control the reproductive cycle. Oestrogen levels rise twice during a cycle, the first time before ovulation( mid-cycle) and the second time towards the end of the cycle in preparation for pregnancy. Progesterone increases after ovulation to thicken the uterus lining in preparation for pregnancy.
If there is no pregnancy, oestrogen & progesterone levels drop, resulting in menstruation. The point at which these hormones drop is when women experience some form of Pre-Menstrual Symptoms, which may include cramping, skin issues, tenderness of the skin and breasts, mood swings, tiredness, headaches and migraines, and lower back pain.
These symptoms are very similar to early Menopause Symptoms as the cause is also falling levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. For most women, this is not a gentle, gradual reduction, with levels rising and falling unpredictably like a yo-yo. This fluctuating between normal and very low levels over time gives rise to a range of symptoms we’ll describe below. Sometimes menopause happens very quickly naturally or due to surgical procedures.
There are technically three stages to menopause:
Perimenopause or Premenopause is when oestrogen and progesterone levels start to fluctuate. Menstruation is still happening during this stage, so natural pregnancy is still possible.
Menopause is technically confirmed after a full year since the last menstruation, bleeding or spotting. It is technically a moment in time. Once this happens, a woman enters postmenopause.
Postmenopause is the stage after menopause where hormones are stabilised permanently at low levels and no longer fluctuate. Natural pregnancy is not possible after this stage.
During early menopause, fluctuating oestrogen levels may lead to various symptoms. Different women are affected differently; no two women experience identical symptoms.
We need to say that some of these symptoms might manifest because of other medical conditions - if in doubt, always speak to a HealthCare Professional.
Mood swings, mental fogginess, fatigue, sadness, sleep problems, anxiety and sometimes even depression. This is because lower oestrogen levels result in less serotonin being produced. Serotonin is a mood-regulating hormone.
Weight gain. Lack of oestrogen might change fat distribution, and you might notice that you tend to put more weight around your abdomen (tummy). However, genetic and lifestyle factors, like lack of exercise, unhealthy eating & drinking and lack of sleep, may also play a part. Natural ageing also tends to reduce muscle mass and the rate of metabolism (we burn food slower). Weight gain is the prominent reason females of menopausal age are at higher risk for Cardiovascular Disease.
Hot Flushes start when the epidermis capillaries dilate to cool you off. This typically happens in the chest and face area and can last as long as 4 minutes; when the symptoms occur at night, they are referred to as Night Sweats. The symptoms may vary from sweating to anxiety and sometimes even palpitations. Why these happen is still unclear.
Shorter, longer or missed cycles and spotting between periods.
Heavy bleeding is very common when oestrogen levels are high and periods become irregular. This can result in anaemia, which can cause fatigue.
Bladder control issues. Lower oestrogen levels weaken pelvic floor muscle, resulting in increased frequency of urination, urinary incontinence(leaking) and the increased need to pee at night.
Vaginal Dryness happens because lower oestrogen levels reduce the blood flow to the vagina and labia, causing the tissues to become thinner and dryer and resulting in possibly painful sex. It is also linked to Urinary Tract Infections.
Lower sexual drive is very common in menopause as a direct result of lower oestrogen and also indirectly due to vaginal dryness and all the symptoms above.
Hair Thinning. As hormone levels drop, hair grows more slowly and becomes much thinner.
Joint Aches. Oestrogen protects joints and reduces inflammation, so when levels drop, there is a higher risk of inflammation within joints. This results in stiff and painful joints, possibly developing osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
Skin ageing is exacerbated by menopause. Oestrogen directly stimulates fibroblasts within the skin to produce collagen and elastin, which give the skin structure strength and elasticity. Lower oestrogen levels hurt the skin structure and make it look dull and prone to thinning, sagging and wrinkling.
Research has shown that females…
…in their late 20s/early 30s lose around 1% of their collagen every year.
…in the first five years after menopause loses about 30% of their collagen.
…in the post-menopausal stage, indefinitely continue to lose 2% collagen yearly.
There are specific symptoms that we cannot control. However, there is A LOT we can do to help ourselves navigate this inevitable phase in life.
helps with mental wellbeing, weight control and stiff joints. Lifting weights (we advise at first under supervision) helps with osteoporosis.
Eat less, i.e. less total calories within a day, reduce sugars/alcohol and eat a balanced healthy diet with fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Try to get several hours of sleep and develop good sleep hygiene, e.g. a calm bedroom environment. If possible, avoid sleeping tablets as these tend to be addictive and become less effective over time.
Deal with Stress
Stress is inevitable, but finding healthy ways to deal with stress helps a lot. For some, it might mean a walk in the park or a nice bath; for others, it might mean seeking support within a group or professionally.
Knowing the triggers for hot flushes might help to reduce the regularity and intensity for some. Not all women have the same trigger. Common triggers include spicy foods, warm drinks, caffeine, alcohol and smoking. Dressing in lightweight, loose fitting and natural, breathable materials is best.
Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate!
The body needs water to be able to sweat and cool down. Plus, it keeps the skin looking healthier and plumper.
Aches & Pains
Joint pains are helped with losing weight if needed. Try gentle exercises such as Yoga & Pilates, and Light Therapy. For oral and topical pain relief, see advice from your healthcare professional.
If you find your hair is thinning, limit the use of hair dryers and straighteners. Wear a hat if you’re out in the sun or wind, and use nourishing conditioners and natural dyes when possible.
Speak to your healthcare practitioner if you are struggling with Vaginal Dryness and Urinary Tract Infections. Various products can help.
If you are experiencing heavy bleeding, speak to your doctor. You might want to take some iron supplements to help with any symptoms of anaemia.
Luckily ageing skin can be helped in many ways.
Avoid hot showers and baths, as this drys the skin.
Apply body moisturiser while the skin is slightly damp.
Pat your skin dry with a towel instead of rubbing it.
Drink water regularly during the day.
Wear an SPF every day and avoid tanning - there is no tanning without some sun damage, plus sun exposure ages the skin prematurely and worsens pigmentation.
Treat yourself to medical-grade technology treatments or facials that stimulate collagen production to help with fine lines & wrinkles, lax skin, thread veins and pigmentation. For anyone with sensitive skin, eczema, psoriasis, melasma, or want a relaxing, hydrating treatment, an LED Facial or treatment is the perfect answer (search "menopause" on our Skin Concern page).
A good skincare routine using products enriched with active ingredients makes the skin look and feel fabulous from the inside out. With foundation and premium ranges to focused care products for pigmentation, dry skin and frown lines, we can help you choose the best for your skin!
Supplements like Vit A+ help repair the skin; Youth Skin Biome is the future of supplements, with prebiotics and postbiotics that work on the gut to help the skin glow. Collagen Support provides the necessary nutrients for the skin to make new collagen for younger-looking skin. Skin Omegas supports the skin from the inside out and is effective on eczema, psoriasis and dry skin. Moisture Lock plumps and moisturises the skin using Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramides.
If you are going through menopause or want to start building up your collagen supplies to future-proof your skin healthily and naturally, get in touch!
We offer a free consultation in our clinic. If you live far away, we can still help you as we also provide free zoom consultations.