10 Menopause Symptoms Nobody Talks About
Menopause is not a sudden event, but it is a natural process of change that women in their 40s or 50s experience. It’s a phase in a woman’s life that often brings about mixed emotions. Women may look forward to it as it signifies the end of worrying about pregnancy or wearing white pants. Yet, they also dread menopause because of all of the symptoms that are known to be associated with it—hot flashes, night sweats and mood changes.
However, these are not the only symptoms associated with menopause. There are a range of symptoms a woman may experience and many of them have to do with the fluctuations in the important female sex hormone, estrogen. Here are 10 symptoms that no one talks about, which may come as a surprise to you.
10. Sugar cravings
Estrogen is responsible for many functions, including good mood. When the levels of estrogen decrease during menopause, so do beta-endorphin levels. This causes feelings of sadness and loneliness to become more prevalent. Apparently, this is responsible for sugar cravings in menopausal women as they desire the endorphin boost that sugary foods provide.
To help conquer your cravings, try grabbing a fruit instead of a chocolate bar or mix your sweets with nuts or a glass of milk to allow a gentler increase in blood sugar.
9. Loss for words/memory problems
It may be surprising to know that estrogen actually plays a role in memory formation. Though research is still needed in this area, what scientists do know is that estradiol binds to receptors in the cell membrane which activate a cellular pathway necessary for memory formation in the hippocampus. The pathways specifically lead to the formation of new synapses and structural changes in synapses (which are the means by which neurons pass signals on to other cells), thereby enhancing memory.
You can imagine, then, that when menopause begins and estrogen levels decrease, that memory starts to fade. Women experiencing menopause may have difficulty remembering new information or retrieving memories that are already stored. Hormone therapy may be one way of treating this, but doctors also recommend getting adequate sleep to keep the mind sharp.
8. Dental problems
How could menopause possibly affect your teeth? When estrogen levels decrease, your entire body gets drier, including your mouth. This is because estrogen normally causes an increased blood flow to the mucous membranes, causing them to thicken and moisten. So, with less estrogen, your mouth becomes drier, posing a problem for your teeth. A dry mouth causes bacteria to grow, lead to tooth decay and make your gums bleed. To treat this, you must be sure to drink plenty of fluids and take extra care of your mouth.
7. Dry, saggy skin and brittle nails
Again, the decrease in estrogen is to blame for dry skin and brittle nails. As estrogen decreases during menopause, your nails become brittle as they need moisture, too. Your skin also suffers as it needs estrogen to maintain its elasticity. Estrogen partially controls the synthesis of the proteins collagen and elastin, so without it, the levels of these protein decrease and your skin becomes thin, saggy and dry. The best way to deal with this is to remain hydrated, moisturize your skin often and eat a balanced diet.
6. Body odor
We’ve all heard of menopausal women experiencing hot flashes. These typically occur during perimenopause. But, what exactly is responsible for those pesky hot flashes? If you’ve guessed the fluctuation in hormones, you’re right.
Though more research is needed regarding the exact mechanisms, we do know that when estrogen levels drop, levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) increase. This causes blood vessels in the skin and head to enlarge, increasing blood flow to these areas and therefore raising their temperature. To balance the high temperature, the body begins to sweat. And as we all know, sweat comes along with an unpleasant odor. To avoid getting hot flashes, you can try reducing your stress levels, eating a healthy diet and showering more often.
Many women experiencing menopause have trouble sleeping. The main cause of this is hormone fluctuations which cause irritability, hot flashes and night sweats. All of these symptoms may wake a woman up in the middle of her sleep and cause her to be unable to go back to sleep. In addition, many woman experience high levels of cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) during menopause and this interrupts sleep rhythms.
The best way to deal with insomnia during this time is to establish a regular sleeping pattern, exercise daily and keep your room cool.
4. Decreased libido
You’ve probably heard of decreased libido as a symptom of menopause. But why does menopause cause women to be less interested in having sex?
Estrogen, again, is the main culprit. With a decrease in estrogen, women may experience a delayed orgasm due to physical and mood changes. They are also more likely to have vaginal atrophy, a condition characterized by inflammation and thinning of the vaginal wall. This condition is caused by low estrogen. As we now know, low estrogen also causes dryness and can even cause vaginal dryness, making intercourse very painful.
These are all symptoms which would turn any woman off from wanting to have intercourse. All hope is not lost, however, as estrogen therapy and over-the-counter lubricants may be able to help treat these symptoms.
3. Loss of bladder control
Since estrogen plays a role in the synthesis of elastin, a reduction in estrogen would lead to a loss of elasticity in the tissues of the vagina and surrounding pelvic muscles. This may cause women to lose control of their bladder or feel a constant need to urinate even without a full bladder.
To prevent losing control of your bladder, it’s best to stay away from alcohol, do strengthening Kegel exercises and stay hydrated.
Experiencing a major change in your life is always accompanied by an abundance of emotions. We know the biological explanation for depression in menopausal women (which is that estrogen is responsible for good mood in women, so the reduction of the hormone during menopause also reduces endorphins and causes feelings of sadness). However, there is also a psychological explanation.
Many women feel a sense of loss during the transition to menopause, as though they are becoming “less of a woman.” The symptoms they begin to experience, such as aging skin and memory loss also make them feel as though they are getting old. It is important for women to realize that these feelings are natural and that many other women are going through a similar situation. If depression begins to affect your life or you begin to have suicidal thoughts, it’s crucial that you seek professional help.
1. Growth of facial hair
No woman wants to look in the mirror only to see hair on their chin or upper lip; it’s simply embarrassing. Throughout a woman’s life, her ovaries produce a large amount of estrogen but they also produce a small amount of the male hormone, testosterone. When menopause comes around, estrogen levels drop but testosterone levels remain the same. This skews the balance between the male and female hormones, which can lead to the growth of unwanted facial hair.
An immediate solution is to tweeze the hairs, but if it is really bothering you, consider electrolysis or laser hair removal. Your doctor nay also be able to provide you with other options, such as topical creams.