Menopause: a stage to pass smoothly
Menopause represents a stage of physiological upheavals in a woman's life. To better understand it, it is first important to understand the elements that define it. Although not a disease, menopause can be difficult for some women. Indeed, it exposes to multiple changes , some of which may appear painful on a daily basis. Solutions exist to alleviate the inconvenience that may arise. What if menopause was the time to make good resolutions for your health? Here are some tips to get through this step smoothly.
Menopause: how to define it and what does it correspond to?
The end of capital in ovarian follicles
Every little girl is endowed at birth with an ovarian follicular capital. With each cycle, starting at puberty, an ovarian follicle evolves and develops. Physiologically, premenopause corresponds to a progressive cessation of cyclic hormonal secretion by depletion of the ovarian follicular capital.
Menopause , on the other hand, corresponds to a cessation of menstruation for more than a year and generally takes place between the ages of 45 and 55 . The period surrounding menopause is reflected in a number of visible and invisible changes and signs.
The hormonal implications of this follicular exhaustion
Pre-menopause is the transitional phase that precedes menopause itself. All this is explained by changes in the hormonal secretion of estrogen and progesterone. It is these hormonal changes that cause a period of turbulence at the origin of the complaints and manifestations of women in whom the menopause gradually sets in.
Concerning the post menopause , it is defined a posteriori by an absence of menses for more than one year because of the stopping of the ovarian function .
Multiple and varied signs
It begins with an irregularity of the cycles, periods paradoxically more abundant than usual, a marked premenstrual syndrome, weight gain by water retention. Then come long cycles and much less abundant periods, so-called vasomotor manifestations (hot flushes, night sweats, etc.), mood swings (fatigue, depression, decreased libido) and skin and mucous changes (modification skin, vaginal dryness, urinary disorders, etc.).
What are the main signs and consequences of premenopause in practice?
It is a sudden sensation of a rise in temperature . Strictly benign, hot flashes are nonetheless socially disabling and can clearly affect quality of life (1) .
Short-lived, they disappear as quickly as they arrived and affect the whole body or just one part (face, cheeks, ears, palms and soles, etc.). Sometimes redness of these areas is associated. Their frequency and time of onset vary greatly from one woman to another.
In about half of the cases, they are accompanied by sweating (which aims to restore a normal temperature). It is also possible to experience other concomitant manifestations such as feelings of anxiety, palpitations, migraine.
Vaginal atrophy and urinary disorders
The vaginal dryness that appears with menopause is linked to variations in estrogen levels. The vaginal and bladder mucous membranes are under the influence of the latter (they are called estrogen-dependent).
The manifestations of vaginal atrophy can be extremely unpleasant : burning sensations, itching, discomfort or even pain during sexual intercourse. It is also a period of weakening of the vaginal flora.
Regarding the bladder mucosa, the drop in estrogen levels leads to leaks or even recurrent infections .
Mood disorders and insomnia
Some women, during this period, express that they no longer recognize themselves in their reactions. And for good reason: irritability, mood swings , lack of enthusiasm, depression are manifestations to be linked to hormonal changes.
Moreover, recurrent insomnia leads to fatigue, which increases the previous symptoms to form a vicious circle.
The libido can also be reduced or even disappear more or less abruptly.
Estrogens exert a stimulating role on bone production and, moreover, have a braking action on natural bone destruction. This explains why once the menopause has set in, the risk of osteoporosis and therefore of fracture and/or vertebral compression is higher.
Bone loss is significant the first 4 to 5 years. Of course, there are other risk factors for osteoporosis that should be detected as well.
The change in hormonal status, and in particular the drop in estrogen levels associated with menopause, has an impact on lipid metabolism .
Hypercholesterolemia, with an increase in LDL cholesterol and plasma triglycerides, constitutes an additional risk of cardiovascular pathologies .
What effective and natural remedies are available for the manifestations surrounding menopause?
Change your lifestyle
In general, maintaining a gentle and regular physical activity , as well as modifying certain eating habits are all measures from which you can obtain certain benefits.
Promoting appropriate food helps minimize the inconvenience associated with menopause (2) . Home cooking will be much better than industrial dishes, filled with sugar, salt and bad fats (3) .
Recommendations have been established for the needs of postmenopausal women (4) . Reinforce the intake of certain vitamins, essential minerals and proteins in sufficient quantity.
Food supplements can complete the nutritional intake of this period. Evening primrose oil in capsules, magnesium and vitamin B6 are a useful trio to alleviate certain symptoms.
For other nutrients, it will rather be restrictive. Thus, it will be in your interest to limit sodium intake by moderating your salt intake. Alcohol and coffee are not good allies because of their stimulating effect. The same goes for peppers and spicy dishes that can increase hot flashes.
Use herbal medicine
There are phyto-hormones , that is to say plants that imitate the action of certain hormones. Estrogen-like plants, that is to say analogous to estrogens, act on the same receptors as these. This is the case with sage officinalis or black cohosh (5) . In food too, there are foods rich in phytoestrogens (soya, chickpeas, flax seeds, etc.). These effects can relieve signs such as hot flashes, mood swings or difficulty falling asleep. Others have a hormonal regulating effect (buds of
raspberry, chaste tree, cranberry buds…). Stonecrop may have a positive effect on feelings of weariness and libido.
The use of plants requires good control and must take into account the history of menopausal women because there are contraindications in some cases. The opinion of a qualified professional in herbal medicine is essential.
Initiate hormone replacement therapy if needed
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be prescribed in well-established indications that your doctor or your gynecologist will define. Indeed, like any drug prescription, it has certain contraindications that must imperatively be detected beforehand.
In addition, it is not devoid of adverse effects of which the treated woman must be informed of the possible occurrence. Depending on this, an adaptation of the dosages may prove necessary, which requires regular medical supervision.
What specific solutions according to the symptoms?
Hot Flashes: Trying Proven Remedies
It should be known from the outset that certain factors are known to favor the occurrence of hot flashes , such as tobacco, physical inactivity, stress. They are sometimes a good opportunity to change your lifestyle. Hot flashes usually respond well to herbal medicine and dietary adaptations .
Vaginal atrophy: hydrate and soothe for more comfort
Ectoin and hyaluronic acid are 2 components that can compensate for the lack of humidification of the vaginal mucosa linked to menopause and soothe unpleasant sensations.
Locally acting estrogens may also be offered. Thus, estriol is applied to the vulvovaginal mucosa in the form of cream or vaginal ovules.
Bone demineralization: stock up on nutrients for your bone capital
To fight against bone demineralization, it is important to reduce tissue acidity . In other words, aim for a diet low in acidifying foods.
Faced with the threat to bone density, it will be necessary to focus on foods rich in vitamins D3 and K, as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus. In addition, care must be taken to have a sufficient protein intake (at least 55 to 60 g / day depending on weight).
Finally, it is necessary to optimize the intestinal flora which is the site of the synthesis of vitamin K, which is important in maintaining bone health.
Dairy products, contrary to what is conveyed, are not necessarily the best allies to fight against bone demineralization. This is why, it is also necessary to bet on other sources of calcium : fruits and vegetables, mineralized waters, complete cereals, oilseeds (almonds for example) or fatty fish.
Some women see the menopause set in without any inconvenience. Others, on the contrary, experience all the uncomfortable symptoms. For this, effective remedies exist in combination with some changes in lifestyle, including food. The support of herbal medicine can also be invaluable. The subject of menopause is still taboo but we must dare to talk about it because, faced with the polymorphism of symptoms, personalized and adapted care is the key word.
2. Noll PRES, Campos C a. S, Leone C, Zangirolami-Raimundo J, Noll M, Baracat EC, et al. Dietary intake and menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women: a systematic review. Climacteric J Int Menopause Soc. 2021 Apr;24(2):128-38.
3. Noll PRES, Noll M, Zangirolami-Raimundo J, Baracat EC, Louzada ML da C, Soares Júnior JM, et al. Life habits of postmenopausal women: Association of menopause symptom intensity and food consumption by degree of food processing. Maturitas. Feb 2022;156:1‑11.
4. The nutritional references for vitamins and minerals [Internet]. ANSES - National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety. 2021 [cited 2022 Sep 9]. Available at: https://www.anses.fr/fr/content/les-r%C3%A9f%C3%A9rences-nutritionnelles-en-vitamines-et-min%C3%A9raux
5. Geller SE, Studee L. Botanical and dietary supplements for menopausal symptoms: what works, what does not. J Womens Health 2002. 2005 Sep;14(7):634-49.