General Health Symptoms
General Health Symptoms associated with menopause - as you already know there have been 34 symptoms of menopause documented - most occur in peri-menopause.
Where to begin? I will start by listing and then going into a little detail about each
Hair loss/thinning hair
Increased hair growth
Muscle tension/joint pain
Osteoporosis/decreased bone density
Reduced saliva level
Lower oestrogen levels brought on by menopause can lead to dehydration, as oestrogen contributes to regulating water levels in the body and this can leave your nails brittle and weak.
How can you help yourself?
When you are doing anything that involves your hands being submerged in water for a long time, protect your hands by wearing gloves. Check that you are not using a harsh soap which may dry out your hands.
Up your essential fatty acids - just 6 almonds a day could have a positive impact on your nails, or adding a little avocado to your meal.
Use a natural hand cream that doesn't contain harsh chemicals. Vitamin E cream is a natural, effective product.
Treat your nails to an almond oil soak once a week (do one hand at a time so that you can hold the wine glass in the other!)
Because the lack of oestrogen means your body does not retain water as well as it did - ensure you are keeping hydrated.
Dry hair/Hair loss/thinning hair:
Men look great with no hair - some of my favourites:
However, as a woman, you need to be incredibly self-confident to carry off the bald look. I lost my hair during chemo and certainly did not feel self-confident - I was in a new relationship and wanted to move out because I didn't think he could handle me looking this way.
From an early age, we are rather conscious about our hair; colouring it, cutting it into the latest style, curling it, straightening it....you name it, it's quite important to us.
Leading up to menopause, many women notice a change in their hair, sometimes it doesn't grow as much as it did, sometimes it goes wavy when it used to be straight and vice versa, the texture changes and the hairbrush is suddenly full of hair every time you brush it. You may notice thinning either at the crown, the sides or indeed all over - this is described as Female pattern hair loss (FPHL).
What can you do?
Cut down on the use of hair dryers, straighteners and any other heat tools. Use a thickening shampoo and conditioner specially formulated for menopause hair.
Ensure you are eating a healthy and varied diet.
Topical solutions to increase hair growth can be purchased. These take several months to take effect and must be used on an ongoing basis, or hair loss will return.
Although the long-term safety and effectiveness of low-energy laser light are unknown, a trained therapist may be able to stimulate hair growth.
Talk to your GP if your hair loss is significant and see if there are any medications that you are on that have a side effect of hair loss. They may be able to suggest something to help.
Because your hair may be thinning this increases the chances of developing long-term sun damage to your scalp. Ensure you cover up and use protection.
Be reassured. Most menopause-related hair loss does slow down with time.
Increased facial hair growth:
We have all been there - we look in the mirror in the morning and there is, what feels like, a three-inch hair protruding from your chin or nose or neck.....I'm sure it wasn't there yesterday??
Increased facial hair growth occurs during menopause because of the changing oestrogen and testosterone levels. The imbalance, where testosterone (the male hormone) becomes more present and dominating within your hair follicles causes these random hairs to appear.
What can you do?
The increased growth of facial hair during menopause is very normal and is easily treated
Laser hair removal is the most effective facial hair removal for permanent, long-lasting results
Manual removal like waxing, plucking and threading are perhaps more favourable when it is just the odd random hair.
Scientists have revealed that menopause makes women age faster. According to a new study, women who entered menopause at 42 appear older physically by age 50 than women who entered menopause at 50.
You may not be sleeping as well as usual, which will take its toll on your general health.
What can you do?
A study showed that women who received hormonal replacement therapy after menopause had much younger cells than those who did not. - speak to your GP if this is bothering you.
Muscle tension/joint pain:
Joint pain is common in menopause. GP Dr Verity Biggs experienced it herself, and says: "it made me feel old before my time."
A lot of women struggle with pelvic or girdle pain, which is around the hips and lower back, but it can affect any joint.
Here, GP Dr. Verity Biggs,, gives a short introduction to joint pain and menopause, explaining how taking supplements like calcium and vitamin D are good ways to protect our joints. They can sometimes be prescribed but are also available over the counter.
Gum problems/metallic taste/reduced saliva:
This is an actual condition called burning mouth syndrome (BMS), which may affect between 15-33% of menopausal women. It’s thought to be caused by the drop in oestrogen levels, which can lead to less saliva, dry mouth, a metallic taste and a burning sensation.
When your salivary glands fail to produce enough saliva to wash away bacteria in your mouth, germs can accumulate inside your mouth, raising your risk for gingivitis and tooth decay.
What can you do?
Some women report that boosting their zinc intake can help, as can sucking on sugar-free sweets (but not too many!) that increase saliva production, and also staying hydrated.
Ensure that you have regular checkups with your dentist, regularly brush your teeth, floss and have a balanced diet.
Osteoporosis/decreased bone density:
Our old friend oestrogen protects bones. This explains why as women reach menopause, and their oestrogen levels decline, they are at a higher risk for bone loss. This coupled with the fact that women’s bones are lighter and less dense makes them more susceptible to osteoporosis.
What can you do?
.exercise regularly, including weight-bearing exercises, where your feet and legs support your weight (like walking, running or dancing) and resistance exercises (for example, using weights)
eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruit, vegetables and sources of calcium, such as soy products, legumes and kale (if you follow a plant-based diet) Dairy, beans, tinned sardines (if you don't)
get some sunlight on your skin as this triggers the production of vitamin D, which can help keep your bones healthy
take vitamin D supplements
stop smoking and cut down on alcohol
Taking HRT can reduce the risk of osteoporosis - speak to your GP.
It's that oestrogen again; a lower level of oestrogen can cause an irregular heartbeat in menopausal women, these are nothing to worry about but if they become very frequent please see you GP.
The British Heart Foundation has an article relating.
Blimey, it feels like we've covered a lot today. As always, whilst these symptoms are common in menopause please see your GP if you are at all worried.
next week: Your skin during menopause