Menopause

What is it?

Menopause is the natural circle where the female hormones’ oestrogen and progesterone decreases and women’s fatality come to an end. Women’s menstrual circle (periods) ceases, the body can no longer release eggs (women are born with all their eggs), and they can no longer conceive children naturally.

The process of menopause can take place suddenly or progressively and on average can last for about 4 years. However, 10% of the female population can experience menopause for up to 12 years. Menopause starts between the ages of 44 and 55, but some women can experience it at a young age (premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency is used to describe menopause experienced by younger women). There are some factors which may cause premature menopause such as some breast cancer treatments (Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy), removal of the ovaries and some underlying conditions such as  Addison’s Disease and Down’s Syndrome.

Symptoms

Many women will experience symptoms and some at a more severe level. The symptoms of menopause are:

Hot Flushes: Is a sudden heat that spreads throughout your body, but there was no causation for this to take place. Sweat, heat or heart palpitation and flush on the face may be experienced during hot flushes.

Racing Heart: Heart palpitation (heart beating fast, strong (can feel the heart beating) or irregular) may increase between 8 to 16 beats per minutes (regular resting heartbeat is between 60-100 beats per minute) whilst experiencing hot flushes due to the huge drop in oestrogen level. There are times when a woman can experience heart palpitation when the body suffers a hormone imbalance such as pregnancy and during their menstrual circle.

Night Sweat: This is when your clothing and bedding is extremely wet, and the room or atmosphere is cool/cold.

Vaginal Dryness (discomfort during sexual intimacy): This can be self-rectified by using water-based lubricants before and during intimacy; part take in foreplay for longer and use unperfumed soap. If this continues, you may want to seek medical advice and referral.

Difficulty in Sleeping: If you are finding it very difficult to sleep, you can go to your Doctors who can advise on the right treatment for you;  such as CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), or you could talk to your local pharmacist.

Low Mood or Anxiety: This is when the person feels sad, anxious, etc. See our mental health post here for more information on how to get support.

Low Libido (Low Sex Drive): For anyone worried about this, please speak to your UK GP (General Practitioner) or your regular doctor (outside the UK) for advice. You can seek information or referrals from other health professionals such as, Psychosexual Therapist or your local pharmacy as well as visiting sexual health services in your local area or visit this charity website: https://sexualadviceassociation.co.uk/ which offers many fact sheets on different sexual problems.

Increase Urination: Some women may experience Overactive Bladder (OAB), this can include anything from urine leakage (leaking urine before getting to the bathroom), using the bathroom two to three times a night, to a sudden urge to use the bathroom and urinating more often. OAB may increase the likelihood of a fall as you are trying to rush to use the bathroom

Dry Skin, Mouth and Eyes: Menopause can bring many changes to the skin (think puberty but minus the wrinkle) such as tingling, pins and needles in some extreme cases; these symptoms are called paraesthesia. Some women may even experience formication; this is when you think you have creepy crawlers (insects) crawling up and down your skin. If you experience any itchiness on the skin for more than 3 days, please seek medical advice to rule out any other underlying health issues. Menopause can also cause your tears ducts to dry out.

Weight Gain and Low Metabolism: Weight gain is not a sudden process during menopause, but rather a gradual process. Individual lifestyle choices and other factors can impact the speed at which they gain weight.

Loss of Breast Fullness: This happens when the skin and connective tissues become dehydrated and have less elasticity, therefore the breasts lose firmness and fullness.

Sore or Tender Breast: This can be a burning, soreness, throbbing, stabbing or sharp pain in one or both breasts. The discomfort can vary from woman to woman and this pain is different from puberty or menstrual sore breast.                                                             

Hair Loss or Thinning on the Scalp:  is caused by the drop in oestrogen and progesterone level. These two hormones are very important in supporting hair growth. These hormones encourage speedy hair grown and allows the hair follicles to stay on the scalp for longer. These hormones are the main components to thickening the hair, however, due to drop of these hormones in the body and the hormonal imbalance, the hair can become thin and hair loss can occur.

 

Increase Hair Growth on Other Parts of the Body: Dues to the hormonal imbalance.

Headaches: Headaches in some women (the severity varies from women to women) tend to take place during perimenopause as the hormonal imbalance isn’t consistent.

Reduction in Bone and Muscle Masses: Oestrogen is a natural protector of the bone and the drop of oestrogen can cause the development of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes the bone to become less dense and thin.

Memory Problems and Difficulties in Concentration: Research has found that just under 2/3 of middle-aged women have experienced some form of cognitive issue, including concentration and the numbers increase in women experiencing perimenopause.

How to Reduce Hair Loss

A  healthy diet can play an important role in hair loss during menopause.

Complex proteins are the making of hair, and the main protein that makes up the hair strand is Keratin. Amino acid makes up keratin. Eating protein and amino acid-rich diet can enhance the health of the hair and support the strength of each strand during menopause and perimenopause.

Ascorbic acid, otherwise known as Vitamin C, is great at stimulating healthy hair regrowth after hair loss, as well as promoting healthy hair, by removing free radicals due to its anti-oxidant properties; this protects any structural damage to the protein in the hair. Shampoo that has ascorbic acid is very effective at removing mineral build-up from the scalp and hair and improving the hair’s ability to absorb moisture (water).

Vitamin A can help to speed up the rebuilding of new cells, and it is a key vitamin for retaining the moisture in the hair whilst preventing brittleness.

 Linoleic acid (Omega 6 fatty acids) and poly-saturated fats are vital to strengthening the hair structure. This acid and fats are found in various fish, olive oil and flaxseed, and are regarded as good fat.

 Niacin is also known as Vitamin B3: It is great at converting food into energy in the blood.  Niacin helping to maintain the structure of the blood cells, and improving blood circulation. This vitamin will help the flow of the blood to the scalp as well as providing the scalp and hair follicles with vital nutrients it needs for health and; therefore reducing the effect of menopause.

 Iron just like Niacin helps with providing good blood flow and essential nutrient to the body and scalp. Meat such as the liver and dark green vegetables such as spinach is a rich source of iron.

Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) is also a very good vitamin for blood flow. It aids in the production of red blood cells which carries oxygen around the body. It is responsible for maintaining the hair colour. Unfortunately, this vitamin is mostly found in meat and fish products so vegans and vegetarian will need to take supplements of Vitamin B12 to benefit from its goodness and not become deficient.

Another Vitamin B that can support hair health, reduce grey hair and rebuild the follicle cells is Folates. Cod, green peas, white beans, egg and liver are all sources of folates.

The scientific name for Vitamin B5 is pantothenic acid. This vitamin strengthens the cells in the hair follicles and aids a healthy balance of sebum (oil the scalp produce) and moistures which helps to reduce Dandruff and/or itchy scalp. Egg yolk, tomatoes, beef, sweet potatoes, fish and liver.

Due to the drop of the female hormones during menopause, zinc is a vital mineral to have during this stage of a woman’s life as it helps to regulate the hormones in the body. Zinc reinforces the building of protein structure within the body and can play an important part in the construction of DNA. Zinc is found in spinach, egg, sweet potatoes, oysters, nuts, and chickpeas.

Stress is very important in how often it shreds. During menopause, the body is under a lot of stress, and it is then vital to find time to relax and de-stress. These activities can help to reduce stress: walking/exercise, listening to music, massage/pampering, socialising, talking about your stressors/problems, meditation, etc.

Hydration is very important, both external and internal. Drinking plenty of water or sources (oranges, grapefruit, cucumber, coconut water, etc.) rich in water will help to combat hair loss.

Cutting the use of direct heat and/or chemical processing the hair can support the health of your hair. Direct heat can dry out the strands, breaking the hair bond, causing brittleness, and increasing the chance of breakage. Chemicals can break down the proteins and the bond in the strands weakening the hair, and accumulating in the likelihood of breakage. Swimmers should protect the hair by wearing swimming caps, deep condition often as chlorine can dry out and damage the hair causing hair breakage and loss.

IF you’re worried about hair loss or any of the symptoms mentioned in this post during the menopause, you can seek medical advice from your doctor, who can refer you to either a dermatologist (skin specialist) or a trichologist (hair specialist). For women who are experiencing continuous or adverse effects of the menopause, your doctor may prescribe you Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)- please be aware that HRT can have side effects as HRT are synthetic (man-made) hormonal drugs.

Reference:

NHS (2018); Menopause; NHS;  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/

NHS (2018); Treatment Menopause; NHS;  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/treatment/

Mayo Clinical Staff (2020); Menopause; Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/symptoms-causes/syc-20353397

Huizen. J Ernst. H and PA-C (2020); Everything You Should Know About Menopause; Healthline;  https://www.healthline.com/health/menopause#symptoms

Healey. N and Jarvis. S MBE (2019); Does the menopause cause hair loss? Patient; https://patient.info/news-and-features/does-the-menopause-cause-hair-loss#:~:text=%22Hair%20loss%20during%20menopause%20is,much%20thinner%2C%22%20Denning%20explains.

Cappelloni. L, Sullivan, D (2019); Menopause Hair Loss Prevention; Healthline;  https://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/hair-loss

The Marion Gluck Clinic (Accessed 11/2020); 10 Nutrients For Healthy Hair During Menopause; https://www.mariongluckclinic.com/blog/nutrients-healthy-hair-menopause.html

Durward, E (Accessed 11/2020); Hair loss and menopause Hair loss can occur because of the menopause; A. Vogel; https://www.avogel.co.uk/health/menopause/symptoms/hair-loss/

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