What is Menopause?
Menopause is a normal part of life. It is one step in a long, slow process of reproductive aging. For most women this process begins silently somewhere around age 40 when periods may start to be less regular. Declining levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone cause changes in your periods. These hormones are important for keeping the vagina and uterus healthy as well as for normal menstrual cycles and for successful pregnancy. Estrogen also helps to keep bones healthy. It helps women keep good cholesterol levels in their blood.
Some types of surgery can bring on menopause. For instance, removal of your uterus (hysterectomy) will make your periods stop. When both ovaries are removed (oophorectomy), menopause symptoms may start right away, no matter what your age.
Hormones and Change
A woman's body changes throughout her lifetime. Many of those changes are due to varying hormone levels that happen at different stages in life.
Puberty often starts when a girl is about 12 years old. Her body changes-breasts and pubic hair develop, monthly periods begin.
Menopausal transition, commonly called perimenopause, is the time when a woman's body is closer to menopause. At this time, a woman's periods may become less regular, and she may start to feel menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats. Perimenopause usually begins about 2 to 4 years before the last menstrual period. It lasts for about 1 year after your last period.
Menopause is marked by a woman's last menstrual period. You cannot know for sure what is your last period until you have been period free for 1 full year.
Postmenopause follows menopause and lasts the rest of your life. Pregnancy is no longer possible. There may be some symptoms, such as vaginal dryness, which may continue long after you have passed through menopause.
What Are the Signs of Menopause?
Changing hormone levels can cause a variety of symptoms that may last from a few months to a few years or longer. Some women have slight discomfort or worse. Others have little or no trouble. If any of these changes bother you, check with your doctor. The most common symptoms are:
Changes in periods. One of the first signs may be a change in a woman's periods. Many women become less regular; some have a lighter flow than normal; others have a heavier flow and may bleed a lot for many days. Periods may come less than 3 weeks apart or last more than a week. There may be spotting between periods. Women who have had problems with heavy menstrual periods and cramps will find relief from these symptoms when menopause starts.
Hot flashes. A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat in the upper part or all of your body. Your face and neck become flushed. Red blotches may appear on your chest, back, and arms. Heavy sweating and cold shivering can follow. Flashes can be as mild as a light blush or severe enough to wake you from a sound sleep (called night sweats). Most flashes last between 30 seconds and 5 minutes.
Problems with the vagina and bladder. The genital area can get drier and thinner as estrogen levels change. This dryness may make sexual intercourse painful. Vaginal infections can become more common. Some women have more urinary tract infections. Other problems can make it hard to hold urine long enough to get to the bathroom. Some women find that urine leaks during exercise, sneezing, coughing, laughing, or running.
Sex. Some women find that their feelings about sex change with menopause. Some have changes to the vagina, such as dryness, that makes sexual intercourse painful. Others feel freer and sexier after menopause - relieved that pregnancy is no longer a worry. Until you have had 1 full year without a period, you should still use birth control if you do not want to become pregnant. After menopause a woman can still get sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as HIV/AIDS or gonorrhea. If you are worried about STDs, make sure your partner uses a condom each time you have sex.
Sleep problems. Some women find they have a hard time getting a good night's sleep - they may not fall asleep easily or may wake too early. They may need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and then find they aren't able to fall back to sleep. Hot flashes also may cause some women to wake up.
Mood changes. There may be a relationship between changes in estrogen levels and a woman's mood. Shifts in mood may also be caused by stress, family changes such as children leaving home, or feeling tired. Depression is NOT a symptom of menopause.
Changes in your body. Some women find that their bodies change around the time of menopause. With age, waists thicken, muscle mass is lost, fat tissue may increase, skin may get thinner. Other women have memory problems, or joint and muscle stiffness and pain. With regular exercise and attention to diet, many of these changes may be eased or prevented.
National Institute on Aging
Early Menopause Symptoms - Are You Suffering From First Symptoms of Menopause?
By Olinda Rola
Early menopause symptoms - every woman at some point in her 30's or 40's will wonder if what she is experiencing is really the first symptoms of menopause. Menopause is defined as the cessation of menses or the end of menstrual cycles for a period of 12 months or more. Menopause is a natural process for a woman, not an illness. It is quite common for a woman's hormone balance to begin shifting in her early 30's to 40's, resulting in early menopause symptoms. Why? There are several reasons why.
Women often demand much of their bodies. Stress exists in many forms for an active, involved woman today. Women have demanding and stressful careers. Women have family responsibilities. The relationship with the spouse or partner may not be the best. Aging parents can add to the burden. These and other responsibilities add up in the toll they take on the body, health and well-being of a woman.
And at the same time, the woman's body may not be getting the support it needs to function as it was designed. Obesity, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, excess caffeine and alcohol add to the problem instead of helping the body cope with what is demanded of it. This stressful, demanding lifestyle, coinciding with inadequate support given to the body, contributes to experiencing many of the early menopause symptoms.
Common first symptoms of menopause for women are:
. Irregular menstrual cycles
. Light or heavy menstrual flow
. Lumpy or tender breasts
. Fibroid tumors
. Mood swings
. Water retention and bloating
. Sleep problems
. "Foggy, fuzzy" thinking and memory lapses
. Anxiety and depression
. Inability to handle stress
. Hot flashes and night sweats
. Vaginal dryness
. Weight gain
Then there are the hormones, the menstrual cycle and hormone production in the body. In the normal menstrual cycle and a healthy woman, estrogen is the dominant hormone that is produced for the first 10-12 days following the previous menstrual flow. Ovulation then signals the female body to produce progesterone, which happens for the next 12 days or so. If there is no pregnancy, progesterone and estrogen levels will drop at around day 28, allowing menstruation to begin. However, if there is no ovulation, progesterone will not be produced by the body that month. This event, called an annovulatory cycle, is a typical occurance today for women in their 30's and 40's - no ovulation, no progesterone. This leaves the woman with an excess of estrogen and a deficiency of the hormone progesterone.
Many women in their 30's and 40's are actually having fewer ovulations which creates hormone imbalance, resulting in many of the early menopause symptoms. And once ovulation ceases at menopause, progesterone levels fall to virtually zero. At the same time, estrogen is still being produced, again leading to hormone imbalance and the resulting first symptoms of menopause. If a hysterectomy has happened, surgical menopause means the woman no longer produces progesterone. Besides the problems created by missed ovulations or hysterectomy, excess estrogen is regularly obtained from other sources. Birth control pills, household chemicals and pesticides, certain foods that have been sprayed or given chemicals and many construction materials used in homes are all sources of estrogen which leads to excess in the body.
Doctors call this hormone imbalance condition of excess estrogen in the body "estrogen dominance". What are the symptoms of estrogen dominance? The symptoms include low sex drive, bloating and weight gain, headaches before the menstrual period, mood swings, irregular periods and excessive menstrual bleeding. If the amount of unbalanced estrogen in the female adult increases beyond what is desirable and healthy, you will definitely experience early menopause symptoms. On the other hand, when your hormones are balanced, you feel more alert, energetic and ready to take on the challenges of life.
How can a woman tell if the first symptoms of menopause being experienced are because of hormone imbalance? An easy and effective way is to take the online test provided by a leading womens health clinic for early menopause symptoms. It takes just a few minutes and the test is free. Find out more about your health, premenopause and menopause symptoms, what the symptoms are telling you and what to do about it based on your answers to important questions. Read more about hormone imbalance, estrogen dominance symptoms, side effects of a hysterectomy and physician-recommended natural treatments for eliminating the early menopause symptoms.
Copyright 2005 InfoSearch Publishing
Olinda Rola is President of InfoSearch Publishing and webmaster of http://www.safemenopausesolutions.com a website of physician-recommended natural treatments for a variety of health problems. Visit the website and learn more about early menopause symptoms and ways for improving your health.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/
By Cathy Taylor
Menopause relief is possible through self care. Western doctors treat women in menopause like they have a disease. In truth, menopause is a transitional imbalance, a change that can be comforted with some study and experimentation.
Peri-menopausal woman report experiencing symptoms including hot flashes, anger, urinary tract infections, irritability, hyperacidity, skin breakouts (acne), rashes, low sex drive, mood swings, and more. If the sole cause of menopause is a loss of hormones, as is commonly believed in the west, then why do some women experience no symptoms at all during menopause while others can no relief from menopause?
In the Ayurvedic tradition (medical practice of India), doctors report that if a woman reaching this stage already has an imbalance often caused by a diet of fast food, or eating foods with chemicals and preservatives causing an accumulation of digestive impurities, or if stress is a daily experience, she is likely to report more symptoms at this stage in life.
What are some of the things a woman can do to treat her most prevalent and disturbing symptoms?
Diet is a good place to start. If you have hot flashes and mood swings, avoid spicy foods such as chili, cayenne and black mustard seed, vinegar, salty and sour foods. Instead, go for bitter, astringent and sweet foods including vegetables, rice, milk, wheat and pasta, fruit (especially pears and plums), and spices such as cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, fennel and cumin seed.
If you are experiencing symptoms such as memory loss or vaginal dryness, eat cooked, warm foods that are low in fat. Include sweet, sour and salty with a breakfast of cooked apples, prunes and figs to cleanse the digestive system. Under all circumstances, avoid packaged, processed, frozen, and canned foods including leftovers.
Do eat organic when possible and foods that are cooked fresh on a daily basis. The bulk of your diet should be whole grains, fresh fruit, vegetables and legumes.
Don't eat meat, cheese, yogurt and frozen deserts. Don't skip meals and eat your main meal at noon, and if possible, try to take your meals at the same time each day so your body can count on the consistency.
Asians consume up to 6 servings of soy foods a day, and as a result, they report a significantly lower rate of menopausal discomfort. There are currently plenty of soy products on the market, but to consume the equivalent of 6 cups of soymilk (and its supplement called isoflavones) is difficult and some women find the taste of soy to be "chalky" and somewhat unpleasant. There is, however, a source where you can select The #1 Doctor-Recommended Soy Protein Supplement for Menopause Relief.
Other things you can do to get menopause relief from its uncomfortable symptoms include mild, consistent exercise as well as other information for menopause relief on this page.
Do you have a personal menopause and/or andropause story that you could share to help others? If yes, please click here to send us your story.
Cathy Taylor is a marketing consultant with over 25 years experience. She specializes in internet marketing, strategy and plan development, as well as management of communications and public relations programs for small business sectors. She can be reached at Creative Communications: email@example.com or by visiting http://www.everythingmenopause.com or http://www.internet-marketing-small-business.com
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/
What About Hormone Replacement?
In perimenopause, your doctor might suggest birth control pills as a menopause treatment especially if you are having problems with very heavy, frequent or unpredictable menstrual periods. This medication will make your periods more regular. It may also help with symptoms like hot flashes. However, birth control pills can hide the arrival of menopause. If you think you might have reached menopause, you can stop taking the pill for a while and see if you start having regular periods again. But if you were using birth control pills to prevent pregnancy, you should remember to use another type of contraceptive until you have gone 12 months without a period.
In menopause, your doctor might suggest taking estrogen and progesterone, known as hormone replacement therapy or HRT as menopause treatment. Hormone replacement therapy involves taking estrogen plus progestin. Estrogen alone, or ERT, is for women who have had the uterus removed. Estrogen plus progestin is for women with a uterus. Progestin, when used with estrogen, helps reduce the risk of uterine cancer. These hormones can be taken in a variety of forms such as pills, skin patches, creams, or vaginal inserts, depending on a woman's needs.
Hormone replacement therapy HRT or ERT may relieve menopause-related symptoms, such as hot flashes, and reduce loss of bone. However, Hormone replacement therapy has risks. It should not be used for long-term prevention of heart disease. Taking hormone replacement therapy increases, rather than reduces, the risk for heart disease and stroke. It also increases the risk of breast cancer and blood clots. But it appears to decrease the risk of colon cancer. Scientists are still studying the effects of hormone replacement therapy - the final answers are not yet available. Talk to your doctor about taking estrogen/progestin or about other treatments (for example, biofeedback) that may ease menopausal symptoms.
What About Phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like substances found in cereals, vegetables, legumes (beans), and some herbs. They may work in the body like a weak form of estrogen. Some may lower cholesterol levels. Soy, wild yams, and herbs such as black cohosh and dong quai, contain phytoestrogens and may relieve some symptoms of menopause. The government does not regulate phytoestrogens. Scientists are studying some of these plant estrogens to find out if they really work and are safe as menopause treatment.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you decide to eat more foods with phytoestrogens as menopause treatment. Any food or over-the-counter product that you use for its drug-like effects could interact with other prescribed drugs or cause an overdose.
How Do I Decide What to Do?
Talk to your doctor to decide how to best manage your menopause. Think about your symptoms and how much they bother you. You also need to consider your medical history - your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and breast cancer. Remember that your decisions are never final. You can, and should, review them with your doctor every year during your checkup. You can see a gynecologist, geriatrician, general practitioner, or internist.
For your grandmother and great-grandmother, life expectancy was shorter. Reaching menopause often meant that their life was nearing an end. But this is no longer true. Today women are living longer - on average, until age 78. By making wise decisions about menopause and a healthy lifestyle, you can make the most of the 20, 30, or more years you have ahead!
How Can I Stay Healthy Throughout Menopause?
• Don't smoke.
• Eat a healthy diet that is low in fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat. Your diet should ¬aim to be high in fiber and include fruits, vegetables,
and whole-grain foods. It should also be well balanced in vitamins and minerals, including calcium.
• Lose weight if you are overweight.
• Take part in weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging, running, or dancing, at least 3 days each week.
• Take medicine to lower your blood pressure if your doctor prescribes it for you.
• For vaginal discomfort, use a water-based vaginal lubricant (not petroleum jelly) or an estrogen cream.
• If you frequently feel an urgent need to urinate, ask your doctor about techniques such as pelvic muscle exercises, biofeedback, and bladder training that can help you improve muscle control.
• Be sure to get regular pelvic and breast exams, Pap tests, and mammograms. Contact your doctor right away if you notice a lump in your breast.
• If you are having hot flashes, keep a diary to track when they happen. You may be able to use this information to help find out what triggers them.
Try these tips to help manage hot flashes:
• When a hot flash starts, go somewhere cool.
• If hot flashes wake you at night, try sleeping in a cool room.
• Dress in layers that you can take off if you get too warm.
• Use sheets and clothing that let your skin "breathe."
• Have a cold drink (water or juice) at the beginning of a flash.
National Institute on Aging