Menopause is a natural stage in life…but that doesn’t mean that most women look forward to it. In fact, the period before, during, and after menopause is frequently marked by wild fluctuations in hormone levels that can result in debilitating symptoms. After menopause, in the period known as post-menopause, the symptoms of hormone balance decrease, but studies have shown that women typically experience a dramatic increase in the risk of diseases like heart disease and certain types of cancer.
Fortunately, you don’t have to suffer from the hormonal swings of the menopause transition or the increased disease risk without fighting back. Studies have shown that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy for women can alleviate the symptoms of menopause while reducing disease risk—all while restoring your hormone levels to the levels you enjoyed in your prime.
The key is to recognize and identify symptoms of hormone-related imbalance. Many women don’t realize that their hormones can start to fluctuate as early as age 35. Below are some of the most common symptoms of menopause-related hormone imbalance. If these sound familiar to you, it’s time to call your local Genemedics clinic and set up your evaluation and blood test to determine if relief is around the corner.
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of menopause, affecting about 80% of women who are undergoing the transition into menopause. Fatigue can make this period more difficult by making women increasingly irritable. Women undergoing menopause may notice a significant decline in energy levels that can last all day or for short periods of time. Although fatigue is mostly caused by changes in the levels of a woman’s hormones, other menopause symptoms such as depression, sleep deprivation, and chronic stress may also lead to fatigue.
Hormones are the center of the human metabolism. They play major role in fat burning and energy utilization. When hormones are imbalanced, it results in a disruption of the female metabolism, which often results in unexpected weight gain. Studies reveal that, on average, women aged between 35 and 55 gain approximately 12 to 15 pounds.
Increased body fat often affects a woman’s self-esteem and even her quality of life. More importantly, increased body fat is linked to many serious health problems such as:
- Breast cancer
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Insulin resistance
- Kidney disease
- Sleep apnea
Low libido refers to a lack of sexual desire and interest. Although hormonal changes during menopause is the major cause of low libido, other menopausal symptoms such as fatigue, vaginal dryness, and pain upon intercourse can also play a role in low libido. The main hormones that affect libido are progesterone, estrogen and testosterone. These hormones directly increase libido by increasing sensation and heightening sexual response and orgasm. They also assist in the production of vaginal lubrication and maintenance of healthy vaginal tissue. Deficiency in any of these three hormones results in low libido.
Menopausal women often complain of memory loss and an inability to concentrate. This occurs when the levels of progesterone and estrogen start to gradually decline. Estrogen has many important roles in directly influencing memory and concentration. Estrogen activates various brain regions including the hippocampus (an area responsible for memory) and it also promotes increased blood flow to the brain. Other hormone imbalances such as adrenal fatigue and low thyroid (hypothyroidism) can also lead to memory problems.
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure and blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess body fat around the waist. Having just one of these conditions doesn’t mean you have the disease. However, any of these conditions increase your risk of having diabetes and other heart problems. If more than one of these conditions occur, your risk is even greater. Studies show that MetS occurs in 40% of postmenopausal women. Other factors that can increase one’s risk for MetS are hormone imbalance, obesity, and race (Hispanics and Asians are at a greater risk). Menopause and hormone imbalance also increases insulin resistance, which increases the risk of diabetes. Studies have also shown that hormone imbalance has been associated with an unhealthy cholesterol profile and that normal level of certain hormones such as estrogen and thyroid can improve cholesterol levels.
Hot flashes, also known as hot flushes, are unpleasant symptoms that are experienced by 75-85% of women undergoing menopause. Symptoms of hot flashes can include feeling hot, sweating, rapid heart rate, redness of the face and neck, anxiety, headache, dizziness, or weakness. The duration, frequency and severity of hot flashes vary from woman to woman and can occur at any time of the day. Symptoms may be minimal if there is a gradual decline in the levels of estrogen, or they can be severe if there is an abrupt decline such as in surgical menopause.
Estrogen plays an important role in regulating body temperature. A decline in estrogen levels result in a loss of body temperature control, which tricks the body into feeling overheated, even though the body is at a normal temperature. Hot flashes are the result of your body trying to adapt to the false sense of being overheated. It is more common at night because the levels of estrogen are lowest at night. Hot flashes at night can lead to night sweats and can interfere with a woman’s sleep pattern.
Insomnia and Sleep Disorders
If you are suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders, hormone imbalance could be the problem. Sleeping problems in menopausal women are related to fluctuating hormone levels. The hormones estrogen and progesterone can affect sleep differently. Testosterone decline can also contribute to sleeping problems such as snoring and sleep apnea. Imbalance of the stress hormone called cortisol is another contributing factor in sleep disruption.
Although insomnia is one of the symptoms of menopause, it can also result in hormone imbalance or worsen the symptoms of hormone imbalance. This occurs because the body needs enough sleep for hormones to function properly. Untreated sleep disorders can lead to other psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
Menopausal depression is caused by a decline in progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. This symptom can be difficult to detect because many other symptoms of menopause can also lead to depression. The following symptoms sometimes indicate menopausal depression:
- Depressed mood
- Difficulty with concentration
- Disruption in sleep patterns
- Feeling anxious
- Lack of libido
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of energy
- Sense of hopelessness
- Weight gain
It is estimated that hair loss affects 1 in 5 women. On average, humans lose about 50 to 100 hairs daily as new hair growth is constantly generated by the hair follicles. If more hair is lost than can be replaced, you eventually begin to suffer from thinning hair and, over time, baldness. Although there are many factors that can affect the rate of hair loss for women, the most common underlying cause is hormone imbalance during the menopause period. Symptoms of hair loss in menopausal women are the following:
- Hair falls out in large clumps when washing and/or brushing
- Hair thinning on front, sides or top of head
- Oily and itchy scalp
- Small bald patches on the scalp
Fifty percent of all menopausal women experience some level of hair loss. Since hair is associated with femininity, sexuality, and individual sense of style, hair loss in menopausal women is one of the most frustrating symptoms.
All women will have irregular periods as they reach the perimenopause and the menopause transition years. Irregular periods usually start in the mid-30s due to hormone changes. The primary hormones that play major role in the menstrual cycle are progesterone and estrogen. Estrogen is responsible for the thickening of the uterine lining to prepare the uterus for ovulation. As levels of estrogen fluctuate during menopause, the uterine lining sheds irregularly and can lead to heavy bleeding. Progesterone controls the intensity and duration of menstrual bleeding. Eventually, the periods will become shorter and completely stop during menopause, which marks the end of fertility and ovarian function.