Hormonal Changes and Health: Understanding Menopause

Posted July 25, 2023 by in Health + Fitness

Hormonal changes and menopause are synonymous. When you start talking about menopause, you cannot miss out on mentioning the hormonal changes, which are the main culprit behind all the physical symptoms which occur then. 

Menopause is a phenomenon where you do not have periods for a full year. The average age for menopause is 51 years, but the time frame is between 45 and 55 years. Menopause occurring before 45 and 40 years are called early menopause and premature menopause, respectively. 

Menopause doesn’t occur suddenly. The associated symptoms show up at least 7-8 years before menopause, in the perimenopause phase, which starts in most women when they are 40-44 years old. 

The time that follows after menopause, wherein your periods have stopped completely, is the postmenopausal phase. 

Let’s take a look at the association between hormonal changes and menopause. Also, we’ll get to know the impact these changing hormones may have on your body.

What is the Role of Hormones in Menopause and the Transition Phase?

The two hormones that play an effective role in the female’s reproduction are estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are abundantly produced by the ovaries. However, the fat cells and adrenal glands also play a role in estrogen production, in small quantities though.

 Now, when the perimenopause phase begins, the ovary produces a lesser number of eggs than before. There is also a decline in estrogen and progesterone production in the perimenopause phase. The reduction is slow but consistent. In the last one or two years in the perimenopause phase, the hormonal levels fall rapidly.

Now, estrogen isn’t just a reproductive hormone. It has other functions as well. It has an immense influence on the skeletal, cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and skeletal systems as well [4]. That is why a drop in estrogen levels affects most of the bodily functions. 

How Do the Fluctuating Hormones Bring In Menopause?

One of the major changes you’ll go through in menopause is irregular periods. Since ovulation becomes unpredictable due to reduced egg production, and fluctuating hormone levels, your periods start to get irregular. The length between two cycles may either be immensely long or increasingly short. You may either experience very heavy bleeding or extremely light bleeding. 

In the last one or two years, the hormone levels have fallen drastically. The periods become increasingly irregular. You’ll have them in some months, while in some months, you’ll have no periods at all. When the irregularity in periods is to the extent that you don’t have periods for a year, it means menopause has begun. 

What Are the Common Symptoms Hormonal Changes Cause During and After Menopause? 

Hormonal changes result in various symptoms in women with menopause. Let us take a look at some of the common and important ones. 

  1. Hot Flashes

When you have hot flashes, you’ll feel warm in the upper parts of your body, mainly in the neck, chest, and face. The skin could also turn red like you are blushing. In most cases, a hot flash could end in sweating. 

A single episode of a hot flash lasts for one to two minutes or a maximum of five minutes. 

Keeping a cold water bottle by your bedside, dressing in loose, breathable clothes or layered clothing (to cope with hot flashes in a cold environment), and avoiding trigger foods like spices, alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and cigarettes may help lessen the incidence of hot flashes [9]. 

  1. Vaginal Dryness

The estrogens help to lubricate the vagina and keep it thick and elastic. When estrogen levels decline, the vaginal walls may get inflamed, dried, and thin. This causes itchiness and dryness in the vagina. Using vaginal lubricants and creams may help relieve dryness. 

  1. Dry Skin

Blame it on the reduced estrogen levels again. These hormones ensure that there’s proper distribution of oil in your skin. So, they help your skin look smooth, plump, and elastic. Low estrogen levels reduce the elasticity and smoothness of the skin making it itchier and drier. 

Keeping your skin moisturized will help lessen the dryness to a great extent. If you still don’t find your skin getting any better, contact a dermatologist. 

  1. Changes in Breasts

During menopause, a woman’s breast becomes so soft to the extent that the normal lumps on the breast become prominent. The estrogen hormones help the breast to remain elastic and hydrated. When the levels of this hormone go down, the mammary glands and ducts shrink. This affects the firmness of the breasts, making them change their shape. 

  1. Mood Changes

Serotonin is that chemical in the brain that helps to manage your mood and make you feel better and rejuvenated. Low estrogen levels hamper serotonin production, making you feel depressed, jittery, and anxious. 

Eating healthy, doing a lot of physical exercises, and practicing relaxation techniques are some of the ways to brighten up your mood. 

  1. Sleep Problems

Besides the fluctuating hormone levels, another reason for sleep problems is the increased frequency of vasomotor symptoms, i.e., hot flashes and night sweats. Plus, there is the mood swing which you must take to count. 

Maintain a regular sleep schedule. You should also stay away from electronic gadgets before bedtime. Resort to exercises and relaxation techniques for a better night’s sleep. 

  1. Weight Gain

Because of the fluctuating hormone levels, most women gain during and after menopause. It is their abdomen, which mostly appears heavier than their thighs and hips. Maintaining a proper exercise regime and eating healthy are the two prerequisites for maintaining a proper body weight. 

  1. Thin Hair

The fluctuating hormones lead to hair fall during the menopause transition and the menopause phase as well. This causes the hair follicles to shrink, making the hair appear fine and thin. 

You must wash your hair regularly twice or thrice a week using a mild shampoo. Also, avoid brushing wet hair. In case you are going through excessive hair loss, it is better to consult a doctor. 

Besides the ones mentioned above, there are other symptoms of menopause too like: 

  • Metallic taste 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Dental problems 
  • Dry and brittle nails 
  • Dizziness 
  • Light-headedness 
  • Vaginal pain (not dryness) 

To know more about the impact of hormones in menopause, do take a tour of  SimplyMenopause.net

Will Hormone Replacement Therapy Help to Lessen Your Menopausal Symptoms? 

Hormonal replacement therapy, or HRT, is said to be one of the effective ways to treat the symptoms of menopause. In fact, in this method, the lost estrogen levels are replaced in your body through medication. 

HRT is said to alleviate symptoms like vaginal dryness, hot flashes, bone loss, etc. But, it comes with its risks, though, making one susceptible to strokes, blood clots, and breast cancer. So talk to the doctor before going for it. 

Menopause is one of the pivotal phases of your life, where you’ll be met with umpteen challenges. Maintaining a healthy body and a healthy mind and improving your overall lifestyle may help you cope with the hormonal changes better. 

Read more: