A recent study identified 59% of women found that menopause affected their work and 30% took sick days due to their menopause symptoms.
- Perimenopause starts when the ovaries start to produce less oestrogen and progesterone. This stage can last up to 10 years
- As the production of these hormones decline, women begin to experience ‘menopause' symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings
- Many women experience anxiety and depression during stage of perimenopause but doctors don't always spot the link between these symptoms and hormones fluctuations. Medication for emotional symptoms don't address the hormonal root of the problem
- Menopause is when a woman's periods stop completely. A woman is in menopause after having no periods for 12 consecutive months
- Menopause typically happens between 49 and 52. In the UK, the average age for menopause is 51
- Symptoms often disappear when hormones re-balance at lower levels
Each individual has a different experience of menopause. There are oestrogen and progesterone receptors all around the body, so hormone changes produce a wide range of symptoms.
Some women have no symptoms at all as their hormones change. At the other end of the spectrum, some women find their symptoms are so severe that they affect their personal relationships and their performance at work. Fortunately, a range of solutions are available to rebalance hormones and support women as they go through these changes.
Lack of sleep is difficult to deal with at any time of life. Relentless insomnia can leave a woman feeling irritable and exhausted. It affects the ability to concentrate, make decisions and more likely to snack on sugary treats. Where possible, try to reduce stress. The adrenal glands can help to balance oestrogen levels but they can't perform effectively if they're preoccupied with producing stress hormones.
Follow a relaxing bedtime routine and close down screens at least an hour before lights out. In particular, make sure your bedroom is cool enough and invest in a fan or cotton sheets if it's still too warm. Try to avoid caffeine after midday and reduce alcohol as much as possible as it affects the quality of sleep.
Hot flushes and night sweats
These are particularly distressing and embarrassing in professional and social situations. It's not always possible to dash outside or take off extra layers. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and hot baths. Take cooler showers and wear loose cotton clothing in layers. Get a desk fan. Keep an atomiser of water to hand to spritz away the heat or run wrists under cold water to cool down.
Hot flushes get a lot of attention, but cognitive effects - known as ‘brain fog' - can disturb women coming up to menopause as oestrogen has a role to play in brain function and memory. Many women report constantly forgetting things, lacking focus and finding it difficult to concentrate. Performance at work can suffer which can eat away at a woman's self-esteem. The distressing symptoms naturally lead women to worry that they're experiencing early dementia.
Mood swings, anger, depression and anxiety
Doctors may not relate a woman's emotional difficulties to hormone changes during peri-menopause. Treatments like anti-depressants may not be as effective as they don't address the underlying hormone imbalance.
Changes to bone density are often a silent symptom of menopause that might not reveal itself until years later. Low levels of the hormone progesterone disrupt the body's natural process of bone breakdown and repair, and women can lose around 10% of bone mass during menopause. Supplements like vitamin D, magnesium and calcium along with regular weight-bearing exercise can help strengthen tissue and reduce further bone loss.
Skin and connective tissue changes in menopause
Oestrogen is an important factor in the development of collagen. Often the first effect that women notice is skin becoming less elastic and thinner. Skin becomes drier and itchy and some may notice a tingling, prickling or crawling sensation. Connective tissue is also made of collagen. As hormones fall, the risk of injury and tendon inflammation (tendonitis) rises and it may take longer for connective tissue to repair and heal.
Re-balancing your hormones can help to ease menopause symptoms. Just as everyone has a different experience of menopause, not all treatment options will be suitable for everyone. Talk to your doctor until you find the best one for you.
Phytoestrogens are plant-based foods that contain substances that have a similar effect to the oestrogen produced by the body. They're found in many foods including soya, flaxseed (linseed), lentils, kidney beans and split peas. Other natural remedies include:
- Sage for hot flushes and night sweats
- St Johns wort for depression
- Verbena for anxiety
- Passionflower or valerian for better sleep
- Wild yam for general menopausal symptoms
- Acupuncture for general menopause symptoms
Before taking herbal medicine please seek advice from a registered health professional. Remember that herbal supplements can conflict with some medications.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
HRT increases hormone levels by taking hormones prescribed by your doctor to relieve menopause symptoms. They are usually a combination of oestrogen and progesterone, or just oestrogen is prescribed after a hysterectomy. The hormones can be given as tablets, skin patches, gels or implants.
Written by: The Natural Alternative Health & Wellbeing Ltd
The Natural Alternative Health & Wellbeing Ltd was founded in 2006 by Anjanette Fraser whose previous career was in Corporate Finance at PricewaterhouseCoopers, London. With a previous career in finance and studying an MSc in Nutritional Medicine, Anjanette translates the latest scientific research into an easier to understand format to improve employee health, and making healthcare more accessible by bringing Nutrition health professionals into the workplace.
How CABA can help
If you're worried about the effects of menopause on your personal or professional life, get in touch with CABA. Our counselling and coaching services can support you while you get the help you need from your medical provider to re-balance your hormones.