What exactly is menopause? It is that time in a woman's life when her menstrual cycles completely end for at least 12 months and some moves completely out of her reproductive years into the next phase. Most women are thrilled to be done with their period however with menopause comes a shift in hormones often resulting in unpleasant symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, night sweats, weight gain, vaginal dryness, and joint pain.
This is so not fair!
I know. In addition, the time PRIOR to menopause is known as 'peri-menopause.' Typically somewhere in her 40's, a woman's menstrual cycle becomes irregular (skipped periods, short periods, long periods), and some of those irritating menopausal symptoms begin. Unfortunately, peri-menopause can last for months to years (yes...years) and the symptoms may come and go.
So how do I know?
A woman is generally considered post-menopausal once she has gone 12 continuous months without cycling (if she gets her period somewhere in that 12 months she has to re-start the count). If she wants to be extra sure, she can do a blood known as an FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) test and see if it is elevated into the menopausal range. Be aware, if you're reading this and have gone more than 12 months without a cycle AND THEN YOU GET YOUR PERIOD, talk with your health care provider right away. A post-menopausal women should not bleed.
Let's talk hormones.
While there are A LOT of hormones in the female body, the big players we hear so much about are estrogen and progesterone. They are both made in the ovaries to help with all things reproduction, cardiovascular, bone, adrenal, brain, musculoskeletal and more. It's safe to say the balance of your hormones is very important therefore you may find yourself having your hormones tested in order to determine how "off" things are. Does this mean you have to take hormones in order to restore yourself?
Female hormones respond quite significantly to diet, stress, and lifestyle modifications. There may be specific vitamins, nutrients, and herbs that could help like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, B vitamins, Black cohosh, Red clover, and Ashwagandha. But first you should really get proper testing done - and don't forget to check other hormones like your cortisol and thyroid...but that's another article!