“I feel like I’m in an oven sometimes and other times I feel like I’m in a freezer,” said Jean, a woman in her seventies. She was a patient who was going through the symptoms of menopause like vaginal dryness, weight gain, trouble sleeping, and hot flashes. For many women that’s what happens during menopause. After we did some testing and started to address the reasons her body wasn’t functioning properly, she started to see these symptoms resolved.
After several months she said, “I’m so happy my menopause symptoms went away.” I looked at her and said, “Jean, you’re still in menopause because menopause is a stage of life.” That moment changed the way I looked at menopause. That’s the reason I think differently about menopause. Menopause happens to every woman, but it doesn’t have to be the symptoms they experience.
Why are these menopause symptoms and the onset of menopause so feared? It is because menopause is so misunderstood. The language used to talk about menopause suggests that these symptoms are inevitable. If you go to any of the major medical websites, they say menopause is normal part of life and so are the symptoms of menopause. That’s just not true. Do any of the symptoms of menopause sound like they should be a normal part of life? No!
What Are the Symptoms of Menopause Women Fear?
Many women are afraid of the symptoms of menopause. Here are some of the symptoms that women may experience when they are transitioning from their cyclic years to menopause. But remember, just because these symptoms are common doesn’t mean they are normal. What are the symptoms of menopause that are way too common?
- Hot flashes
- Irregular periods
- Thinning hair
- Vaginal dryness
- Trouble sleeping
- Night Sweats
- Pain during sex
- Weight gain
- Loss of breast fullness
Actually, these aren’t symptoms of menopause. They are a sign of hormone problems. Many women ask me, “what are the symptoms of menopause?” I am happy to tell them that if they’re taking care of their hormones, they won’t experience these symptoms.
Look at Jean. She had “symptoms of menopause” but then they went away. She was still in menopause when those symptoms went away. It wasn’t menopause that was causing her symptoms. I also didn’t change her gene pool. It wasn’t genetics that was causing her symptoms. There is no way to cure menopause and I wouldn’t want to. It’s a normal part of a healthy life but that doesn’t mean menopause symptoms are normal. To understand that you have to understand what happens during menopause.
So, What Happens During Menopause?
Menopause is a transition just like puberty is a transition. It’s the time when your body transitions from cyclic years to your noncyclic years. When a woman enters her cyclic years after going through puberty her ovaries start releasing eggs which causes menstruation. Each woman is born with a certain number of eggs. When a woman’s body is done releasing eggs her body transitions again to menopause. Menopause like puberty doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. The female body was made to go through menopause. The body has symptoms if hormones can’t convert properly.
Wait, let’s back up a second. Did you know that all your steroid hormones were made from cholesterol? Yes, all of your steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol and are converted to the different steroid hormones in different organs of the body. Check out the chart below.
Many women aren’t aware they have multiple hormones that can impact their hormone health. It’s not just estrogen or progesterone. In fact, there are multiple estrogens and no woman who has come into my office with hormone problems has had them all tested. Testing your hormones fully can help identify what is contributing to your hormone symptoms.
What can cause the symptoms many women attribute to menopause? Well, I always say the body is like a Swiss Watch. That’s why there isn’t a one-size-fits-all-natural menopause treatment. It can be that hormones aren’t converting in your liver or it could be that you have been under so much stress that your adrenals are fatigued. If your adrenals are fatigued, they aren’t going to do as good of a job converting hormones. You know where else hormones can be converted? In fat. That’s why so many women gain weight during menopause because the human body is smart. If it can’t convert one way, it will try to find another way!
Learn more about taking care of your hormones to help menopause symptoms in the videos and tips below:
How to Take Care of Your Hormones and Help Menopause Symptoms
- Get tested
- Take care of your liver
- Add schisandra
- Take care of your adrenal health
- Reduce your sugar intake
- Eat cruciferous vegetables
- Reduce Stress
1 – Get Tested
This is the most important thing you can do for your hormonal health. It is impossible to assess the function of the body if you have an incomplete picture of the hormones. So many women are suffering and so few have had their hormones fully tested. Find a practitioner that will look at how your whole body is functioning!
2 – Take Care of Your Liver
The liver is key to converting hormones and that’s why it is so important for hormonal health. Unfortunately, the American diet and lifestyle isn’t kind to the liver.
3 – Add Schisandra
I don’t often recommend herbs without testing, but this herb is the best for herb for women. Schisandra won’t manipulate the liver but will help restore those liver pathways that are critical for your body’s function. This herb will help cleanse the liver and is going to support your body’s liver and digestive health.
4 – Take Care of Your Adrenal Health
Make lifestyle choices that reduce stress on your mind and body to help support your adrenal health. I know it is easy to say, and harder to do, but reducing mental stress is so important. Adding Ashwagandha is so beneficial for adrenal health that I’m going to recommend this herb too! It’s an adaptogen and will help ease everyday environmental stresses. Another way to help the adrenals is an inversion or yoga.
5 – Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Processed sugar is bad for you in so many ways and can contribute to fatty liver disease. Your liver is important for detoxification, digestion and converting hormones. Don’t let that sweet tooth get the best of you. Sugar intake can also add calories which can lead to increased fat. If you create too much fat tissue you will create conversions that you don’t want to.
6 – Eat Your Cruciferous Vegetables
Don’t hold back when it comes to cruciferous vegetables. You can eat as many of these as you want and they are full of nutrients and antioxidants. Those yummy veggies are great for supporting hormone conversion and your body. Want some inspiration? Try my favorite veggie treat – Kale Chips.
7 – Reduce Your Stress
I know I talked about this one earlier when we talked about adrenal health but this one deserves repeating. Ladies, you have to reduce your stress, or you will destroy your hormonal health. When you stress out, you affect your health.
Don’t Be Afraid of Menopause
Many women fear it because they don’t understand what happens during menopause. Menopause is a normal part of a healthy, long life. The only way to avoid it is not to have a long life. You don’t want that! You can have a healthy, happy menopause but you have to have a full picture of your hormones to properly support them.
Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn
Learn more about understanding menopause in this episode of A Different Perspective: