Louise Skeen – Excerpt from her book Hot Flush to Hot Body in Just 6 Weeks
Now here’s a topic that you may want to know more about because it’s not every day you share menopause symptom stories openly. Have you ever tried to discuss or elaborate to a male or to a female much younger than you who’s never experienced menopause, how your hormones are giving you grief? They may tell you they “understand”, but there’s no way they can, I guess.
I do believe it’s important to have some basic knowledge on what happens with your hormones when menopausal.
Not understanding your hormones and the effect they have on you from the average age of 45 years onward, may be good reason why you may struggle understanding your behaviour, emotions, thoughts and rapid body shape changes.
A hormone is a chemical substance made by an organ like the thyroid gland or ovary. These hormones send messages through your blood stream to help control many body functions such as digestion, repair of cells, body temperature, reproduction and sexual function. They alert the body to eat, to sleep, to grow, to store fat, to build muscle – to keep conversations going between cells and organs.
Menopause alters these stable hormones…. And this is when the roulette wheel may begin to spin.
The years and months before menopause (peri or pre-menopause) see levels of some hormones fluctuate irregularly and this happens as your ovaries function less and therefore produce fewer hormones. The two main hormones that have regulated and protected your body up to pre-menopause are oestrogen and progesterone.
Oestrogens role is to protect your heart and bones, as well as maintain healthy organs and body function. Progesterone means “promoting gestation” so clearly this female sex hormone’s role is essential for fertility and sustaining a pregnancy. With these hormones now depleting from your body, protection and fertility reduce greatly and although progesterone may seem unnecessary after menopause, a balance of oestrogen and progesterone are needed to avoid dominating hormones that could cause weight gain, depression, mood swings, thyroid dysfunction, low sex drive and other symptoms.
At pre-menopause you may begin to experience interesting symptoms that ring an alarm that your body is beginning to change. As you reach post menopause, when you haven’t had a menstrual period for 12 months or more, some of the symptoms may disappear however, but be prepared because your symptoms may get worse. There’s no way to determine what your hormones will do.
If all your symptoms disappear when post-menopause, then you’re remarkably fortunate and many women may be awfully envious, including me, because several symptoms decided to hitch a ride in my body for a good number of years.
Some women, however, are not so fortunate and the change in their hormones greatly affect their quality of life. Statistics find that 94% of women have difficulty sleeping, 92% complain of severe forgetfulness, over 85% have night sweats and 87% report irregular irritability. I don’t write this to scare you, or prepare you for the worst, but to offer you the awareness that every female body will experience menopause differently. Keep in mind though, these studies do not offer information on how many women actually exercised daily and had a healthy daily diet.
I do strongly believe, that a healthy lifestyle with regular movement to challenge your fitness and strength, a balanced daily diet to suit your dominating hormone and with a reduced intake of inflammation creating foods such as sugar, plus sufficient quality sleep to allow your body to repair, all contribute toward a more regular transition through menopause and post-menopause.
Unavoidable hormonal changes have a lot to answer for and even women who have undergone a hysterectomy or severe surgery that changes their regular timeframe around menopause, experience hormonal changes with one common complaint being fatigue. Many women report the fatigue they experience is complete exhaustion – no energy to do anything and at times life can be extremely overwhelming.
Physical and/or mental fatigue is usually brought on after a large exertion of prolonged energy, or from skipping meals, or from eating highly processed foods and the body has no energy to draw upon to replenish the cells. It may build gradually over a number of hours, resulting in you feeling like you are moving while wrapped in heavy chains.
It can however be managed with an intake of nutrient rich foods, lots of water, a brisk walk, or a twenty minute cat nap.
For years, I too experienced fatigue. I would wake feeling fatigued. Not exhausted, just fatigued. The foundation of this fatigue would be deep in my body from the brain to every deep muscle. My clean lifestyle didn’t seem to improve the symptoms, physical activity was difficult to do and rest made no difference. This symptom lasted for about three years and then left as suddenly as it came. I often wonder what I might have experienced should I not have fitness and health on my side!
As your oestrogen levels fluctuate, your energy levels are significantly affected. When your oestrogen hits rock bottom, you may feel constant fatigue contributed to by: -
Regular broken sleep or apnoea
Lack of exercise
Alcohol or drug use – including prescribed medication
Be aware of lifestyle habits and personal issues that may be responsible for fatigue. I can only reinforce the importance of a healthy daily diet and plenty of physical exercise each week.
Healthy, non-toxic foods and ample fresh drinking water offers healing properties for many early stage illnesses and diseases. Along with regular, sensible physical activity, you may have the formula to combat long term or debilitating fatigue and other health concerns.
An active libido! Wow, they were the days girls!
Like all people, an active libido in your 20s, 30s and maybe even your 40s is normal. Having only a basic knowledge on menopause, when I started going through it, I had no idea what was wrong with me when the house was cleared of kids, the night was my husband’s and mine to fine dine and drink wine and the last thing I wanted my husband to do was touch me!
Now, I love my husband completely. He’s extremely fit and I find him attractive but I soon came to the realisation, and so did he, that he did all the instigating of getting “up close and personal” and I found all the excuses humanly possible to not touch him or allow him to touch me.
I even visited several doctors in my early 40s with the complaint that I had lost my sexual desire and none of the doctors suggested I may be menopausal. One tried to suggest I had depression and all said it was because I worked too hard, there was too much on my mind and therefore, I have no time for “play”.
Loss of libido is a common complaint among menopausal women and there are several reasons for loss of libido during menopause.
Testosterone – women produce testosterone. In fact, we produce one third of the amount men do. It’s an important female hormone necessary to maintain energy, burn fat, build muscle, retain bone strength and retain libido. Now, when ovarian progesterone alters or has ceased, then testosterone production and function is abnormally altered.
Progesterone – is known as “the feel good hormone” and this is because progesterone plays a major role in regulating a woman’s libido. If a woman is oestrogen dominant, which can happen with fluctuating hormones during menopause, then her libido will drop. A woman requires a balance of oestrogen and progesterone for her libido to be active and this is difficult when women who are in peri-menopause or menopause because those two hormones are constantly fluctuating and depleting.
It's so good to have an understanding to how hormones change us during menopause.
By the time I researched and realised why I was lacking libido and appreciate that I’m not a weirdo and my experience was common, my husband either got used to the idea that he was only going to “get some” if I set the mood and instigated it or, what I believe to be true, is that he is now well and truly into male menopause – Andropause – and his desire and need to touch me and be touched, has also toned down dramatically.
Male menopause is very real. It’s very rarely written or spoken about but the male body is not too different from a woman’s in respect to hormones, cells, organs (most), skeleton, etc. Males go through puberty and, ok, they don’t have reproductive organs and the same levels of hormones to carry a baby as a woman, but they do experience hormonal change later in life with the decrease of testosterone and their body changes with the increase of belly fat, the onset of disease and cancers because their hormones are not protecting them, depression rates increase, they experience brain fog and confusion, insomnia, decreased bone density. My husband even complained about hot flushes. His symptoms were very real.
As a woman, if your symptoms are quite bad and affecting your day to day functioning, you may need to take firmer measures and choose to undertake Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT) which used to be known as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Menopausal Hormone Therapy is the latest term which umbrellas the different hormone combinations available. It costs nothing to talk to your medical practitioner for advice.
Check out Louise's Book here.