9 Effects of Menopause on the Body
It’s not just your hormones that are affected, so what else might be going on?
You’ve officially entered menopause when you have 12 missed periods in a row, but you can certainly see the effects long before this happens.
This natural life stage typically starts around your mid-40s to mid-50s and can last for several years. Oestrogen and progesterone are the primary female hormones so when ovarian function declines, and ovulation doesn’t occur regularly, it leads to irregular or missed periods.
Eventually, the ovaries stop ovulating altogether, and periods stop completely. This results in lower levels of oestrogen and progesterone production by your ovaries. However while oestrogen will continue to be produced in the fat cells of the belly, abdomen and thighs the progesterone levels fall more steeply,
So what exactly might be going on? These are all the areas that will be affected.
1. Reproductive system
While your period may have been changing over the last several years during perimenopause, you don’t technically hit menopause until your monthly period has stopped completely, but menopause can still affect other parts of the reproductive system.
When you’re no longer going through monthly cycles, you may not have any thickening of cervical mucus toward the middle of your cycle, a symptom that often signifies ovulation.
Overall vaginal dryness, and possibly atrophy, and a lack of libido can also occur with menopause. Supplementing with bioidentical hormones and an over-the-counter lubricant can also help.
2. Endocrine system
The endocrine system includes the hormones responsible for reproduction and certainly hot flushes are among the most talked about effects of menopause.
They can cause feelings of sudden hotness, along with flushed skin and sweating and can come on suddenly at any time of day or night. They can last just a few seconds or for several minutes at a time.
Hormone balance is needed as well as lifestyle changes such as avoiding caffeine, spicy foods, hot drinks and alcohol – all of which can bring on a flush.
Relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, aromatherapy and tai chi, may help too.
3. Weight gain
Menopause causes your body to reserve energy more, which means you won’t burn calories and fat as easily which can lead to weight gain.
Because you are more likely to have shifted production of oestrogen from your ovaries into the fat cells of the belly, then this is when excess weight can show up around your middle.
Hormone balance is essential here to keep the oestrogen levels in check, and supporting your hormones by increasing your progesterone levels can usually be helpful for this type of weight gain.
4. Nervous system
Menopause can affect your overall mood and so you may feel happy and like yourself one day but then down the next.
You may also experience mood swings that cause irritability and low progestrone can be linked to this, but for more severe anxiety or depression a combination bioidentical formula of both progesterone and oestrogen is more effective.
This can also be challenging during menopause, particularly if hot flushes and night sweats keep you up at night and can also make it difficult to fall asleep.
Because progesterone is a natural relaxant can help with sleep issues, and money find that herbal combinations are also effective.
6. Brain fog
No one really knows why, but menopause is also said to affect memory. This is certainly more common with age, but it’s unclear whether there’s a strict menopause connection or if another underlying cause may be at play here.
Staying alert, keeping your brain active with puzzles, games and hobbies will all help and brain fog does seem to also be related to low progesterone levels.
7. Immune and excretory systems
Even when you have a slight imbalance between hormones, it can cause a cascade of hormonal changes which can contribute to autoimmune conditions.
Women are more prone to the development of autoimmune diseases and again hormone balance of both oestrogen and progesterone is key.
A drop in hormone levels may also lead to bladder leakage and you may find you urinate more often or you leak when you laugh, work out, or sneeze.
Frequent urination can also interfere with your sleep so speak to your doctor and again check your hormone levels.
8. Cardiovascular system
Oestrogens exert a cardioprotective effect on the body but higher and unbalanced levels raise the risk for stroke and heart attack.
Oestrogen dominance, excess oestrogen not balanced by progesterone, is an increased risk at menopause for a number of conditions.
9. Skeletal and muscular systems
Menopause causes your bones to lose their density which can increase your risk of bone fractures. Menopausal women are also at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis because if they have high oestrogen levels – this is the hormone that clears away old bone – but not good progesterone levels – the hormone needed to build new bone – then osteoporosis is an increased risk.
A loss of muscle mass during menopause may also occur at a higher rate than before, possibly due to less exercise, and joints may also become stiff and achy.
Regular exercise can help reduce the loss of bone density and muscle mass and may also reduce symptoms of joint pain.
Frankly, menopause is all about change and it’s how well you adjust to it that can make a real difference. Symptoms may be problematic, but they can generally be helped and relieved by ensuring good hormone balance.
If you are not sure what your hormone balance might be then the following article can be helpful.