A woman may experience menopause symptom for years before she is actually "in menopause", which is when a woman has not had a menstrual period for a full year. The signs of menopause vary from woman to woman. Some women only experience mild symptoms of menopause and are not particularly bothered by them. Other women seem to have all of the different menopause symptoms and search for relief.
Hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia are some of the first signs of menopause that women usually notice. Hot flashes may happen at any time of the day. They are described by most women as a warm sensation that begins in the chest or around the breasts and then spreads up the back of the neck. Beads of sweat sometimes pop out on the forehead and some women experience red blotches on their skin. Hot flashes are caused by changing estrogen and other hormonal levels.
Night sweats are hot flashes that occur at night and may interrupt sleeping, leading to insomnia. Women sometimes wake up covered in sweat, with pillows and other bedding wet. Getting up, cooling off and coming back to bed, only to find that now the bed is too cold, chilled from the dampness. Anything that will treat these early symptoms of menopause is welcome and most women try a number of different herbal and natural products before they find something that works. Some women resort to hormone replacement therapy, which was once thought to be safe, but is now believed to be associated with serious health problems in post-menopausal women, including heart disease, breast cancer, blood clots and stroke.
Other menopause symptoms include mood swings, fatigue, depression, irritability, racing heart, headaches, joint and muscle aches and pains, vaginal dryness, decreased or increased sex drive and bladder control problems. Women who experience migraines during their teenage years and early twenties, may seem them return before or during menopause. It has been difficult for researchers to determine if all of these signs of menopause are related to changing hormonal levels. Some may be related to other factors.
Of all the different symptoms of menopause that a woman may experience, the only one that doctors fully understand is cessation of menstrual periods. When the ovaries stop producing eggs and a woman is no longer fertile, then menstrual periods stop and this, by definition is menopause. During perimenopause or pre-menopause, women may notice changes in their menstrual periods. They may become irregular, heavier or lighter. Doctors sometimes prescribe birth control pills to regulate menstrual periods when women experience these menopause symptoms, but, as most women know, birth control pills have sometimes unpleased and unwanted side effects and if they are not needed to prevent pregnancies, most women would prefer not to take them.
When signs of menopause include mood swings, depression, anxiety or fatigue, doctors sometimes prescribe anti-depressants. Anti-depressants have side effects of their own, including a decrease in sex drive, difficulty obtaining orgasm and a general feeling of numbness. Natural products, including many common vitamins may help relieve these symptoms of menopause, without the side effects. Good nutrition is important at all times during a woman's life, but it is particularly important at this time of her life. Not only to decrease menopause symptoms, but to decrease the risk of post-menopausal health problems, such as osteoporosis, arthritis and heart disease.
Before a woman finds the routine that works best for her, experimentation is often necessary. Since the signs of menopause vary so greatly, it is often difficult for a doctor to know what to prescribe. We often hear, "Let's try this," which is understandable, since so little is known about the hormonal changes that cause the symptoms of menopause, but still frustrating. This writer knows exactly how frustrating all of this can be. Visiting the whole round of doctors becomes a seemingly endless circle of frustration, which increases the depression, the mood swings and the anxiety, not to mention the fatigue. Then, when she finally finds something that works, it comes not from the world of modern medicine, but from the natural world, the "earth mother" herself.
If you are over 40 and you are beginning to see some or all of the menopause symptoms described above, take a deep breath and relax. There is help. You do not have to suffer from the symptoms of menopause for ten years like your mother did. Osteoporosis is not a part of life. Breast cancer and heart disease can be prevented. It will take some effort on your part. But, probably the first step is to recognize the signs of menopause when you first see them. Begin a regular vitamin regimen, quit smoking, continue to exercise regularly and eat a health diet that is rich in vegetables and other plant foods. Use meat as a side dish and restrict your intake of dietary fats, sugars, caffeine and alcohol.
By increasing your vitamin intake, particularly the B-complex vitamins, you will increase your energy. You will feel more like exercising and regular exercise, rather than wearing you out, will increase your energy levels, reduce fatigue, improve your sleep and increase your sex drive, in other words, combat the symptoms of menopause. Calcium, vitamin D and according to recent studies, vitamin K reduce your risk for developing osteoporosis. Black cohosh and other herbs can reduce or even eliminate night sweats and hot flashes.