Menopause is a natural process, not an illness. Even so, the accompanying symptoms can affect the whole body. How menopause feels, the intensity of the symptoms, changes from day to day and from person to person. With the correct knowledge, menopause is a phase every woman can accept and live through with calm and comfort.
Cause of menopause
Menopause is a sudden decrease in the activity of the ovaries and an accompanying decline in the secretion of estrogen. One of the most common indicators of menopause is continuous irregular periods. Startled by the sudden hormonal change, the hypothalamus (a tiny gland deep in the brain) secretes abundant gonadotropin (follicle-stimulating hormone) to coax the ovaries into producing more estrogen. The ovaries, in turn, ignore this call. Confused by the unresponsive ovaries, the hypothalamus starts to behave erratically. Put simply, the body goes into a state of panic due to the lack of estrogen.
This panic disrupts the autonomic nervous system, which is also regulated by the hypothalamus, and adjusts involuntary body processes such the body temperature, perspiration, breathing, digestion, the pulse, and blood pressure. A heavy sweat to cool off or a pounding heart in a fight-or-flight situation are everyday examples. A disruption in the normal functioning of the autonomic nervous system is the cause of early menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and palpitations.
Typical symptoms of menopause
Typical menopause symptoms include hot flashes, chills in the lower back and limbs, palpitations, a stiff neck, numbness of the arms and legs, migraine and nausea, constipation and diarrhea, frequent urination, dizziness and ringing in the ears, insomnia, irritability and forgetfulness, and dryness and roughness of the skin.
Menopause usually arrives between a woman’s late forties and fifties and passes when the body gets used to the lack of estrogen. How those symptoms feel is unpredictable. For some women the symptoms are severe and unrelenting, while for others they may be too mild to notice. The differences in symptoms are linked to differences in the functional decline of the ovaries and the fall-off in hormone secretions. Women who feel most stressed usually have more severe symptoms. The menopausal stresses of dwindling estrogen can easily disrupt the balance of the autonomic nerve system.
The most typical mental effects of menopause are depression and anxiety. Mild cases of depressive psychosis are also common. The decrease in estrogen also effects the brain, in some cases causing forgetfulness or poor judgment.
Common symptoms of menopause
(n=117 Japanese women after completion of menopause, multiple responses)
Skin during menopause
During menopause our skin experiences various changes. In addition to the gradual symptoms brought about by aging, the hormonal changes of menopause also appear on the skin. The decrease of estrogen results in a decrease of collagen and contributes to the appearance of wrinkles and sagging. To care for the skin from menopause onward, the best approach is to stimulate blood circulation and protect the skin from dryness and UV.
- Stimulating blood circulation
Promoting the skin’s blood circulation helps to normalize the rhythm of turnover. The best approaches to stimulate microcirculation are skin massages used in combination with skincare masks, beauty essences and creams.
- Protecting against dryness
Skin during menopause is particularly prone to loss of moisture and oil. With double moisturizing we can effectively replenish the skin with both components. First, a moisturizing lotion to replenish moisture, followed by an emulsion or cream to replenish oil.
- Protecting against UV exposure
The skin is easily damaged by UV radiation. To prevent the accelerated skin aging through UV exposure (photo-aging), the skin should be protected with daily sunscreen and foundation with UV block.
- Did you feel uncomfortable when using skincare and makeup?
(during menopause, after completion of menopause
n = 206 Japanese women)
- Fifty-five percent of the respondents indicated that they felt discomfort. Here are their top responses:
1: Makeup doesn’t blend well with the skin 25.7% 2: Skin dullness 21.8% 3: Prominent lines and sagging even when makeup is applied 20.9% 4: Prominent lines and sagging even when skincare is applied 16.0% 5: Prominent dark spots even when makeup is applied 15.5%
Treatments for menopause symptoms
For intense symptoms of menopause there are various treatment methods available. An important first step is to discuss all of your concerns with a doctor who will take the time to listen and give you thorough explanations. Advances in modern medicine bring a host of therapeutic options. Be sure you understand the information accurately and remember not to over-worry. Following is a brief summary of the therapies to choose from.
- Therapies in the transitional phase through to the post-menopausal stage
- Improvements in symptoms→HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Includes the use of pills, patches, and gels.
- Improving the condition of the whole body→Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Kampo medicine (Japanese herbal medicine adapted from TCM)
- Treatment of psychological symptoms→Consultations with gynecologists, specialists in psychosomatic medicine, psychiatrists, etc.
Six practical self-care therapies for menopause
There are several self-care therapies to alleviate moderate menopause symptoms.
- Discussing your concerns with sympathetic listeners
Rather than worrying all on your own, you can gain reassurance and support by discussing you experiences with like-minded menopause sufferers.
- Reviewing your diet
Menopausal women should also watch their diets, as their bodies may absorb higher levels of cholesterol and neutral fat from the foods they consume. Following are some of the foods likely to be effective during menopause.
Isoflavonoids are structurally similar to the female hormone estrogen. When ingested they compensate for the shortage of estrogen. In addition to alleviating menopausal symptoms, they help to maintain a beautiful skin and prevent osteoporosis.
Isoflavonoids are abundant in soybean products such as soybeans, soybean milk, and tofu.
Surveys have shown that menopausal symptoms tend to be less severe in Japanese women than in their Western counterparts. One of the main reasons for this may be the higher proportion of soybean products in the Japanese diet.
Note, however, that excessive intake of isoflavonoids can be harmful to the body. Be careful with high doses of isoflavonoid from food supplements.
Calcium and Vitamins D and K
The increased risk of osteoporosis following menopause is a good reason to take in more calcium from food. Vitamins D and K play important roles in supporting the activity of calcium and maintaining the health of the bones. These nutrients are abundant in milk, fish, and green vegetables.
Other points about diet
Foods such as sesame, wheat, and peas are rich in resorcylic acid lactones (RALs), a family of substances that mimic the actions of female hormones. RALs are said to protect against menopausal symptoms by mechanisms similar to those of estrogen-like isoflavonoids.
- Recreational physical exercise
Appropriate body weight is an essential protection against illness. Physical exercise allays stress and has beneficial relaxing effects. It also helps improve symptoms such as osteoporosis and abnormal lipid build-up. Walking, stretching, and muscular exercise are all effective. Select the exercise type most comfortable for you.
- Psychological stability
Breathing methods are a simple, effective way to maintain emotional balance. Try breathing in deeply and slowly. Yoga and Qigong work especially well.
- The power of nature
Contact with nature is another great way to maintain emotional balance. Gardens, forests, and other places with lots of greenery are naturally calming, as are healing methods such as herbal therapy and aromatherapy. The fragrances in aromatherapy can brighten a mood wonderfully. (Geranium, rose, neroli, bergamot, jasmine, lavender, clary sage, etc.)
Everyday life can be adorned with mood-lifting colors in clothing, interior décor, and makeup. Clothes and makeup in colors that highlight the face enhance your overall beauty and do wonders for the mood.