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.
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.
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/
Mental health concern or disorder is when an individual display an emotional or behavioural pattern that is considered abnormal for the individual or the society, they live in. It can impair or causes distress to their everyday functioning such as; working, getting dressed, socialising, sleeping, etc. This can impact an individual’s mental and emotional part of the body which takes place in the brain. Just like physical health, mental health needs support, love, understanding and care for an individual to recover from it. However, mental health is often misunderstood, stigmatised and discriminated against. Mental and physical health are interlinked in many ways, and one can have an impact on the other.
Although experts are not exactly sure of what causes a decline or a complete breakdown in mental health, many of these factors can contribute to a mental health disorder.
Substances (whether recreational or prescribe): Substances are complex chemicals that react to the chemicals and electrons in our brain. Sometimes these reactions have a very negative impact on the overall functioning of the brain which can cause a mental health breakdown.
Life Stressors: Life is full of ups and downs (stressors) and sometimes too many stressors can have a significant impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Life stressors can be anything and everything an individual finds difficult to overcome, so things like finance, bereavement, job loss, divorce, parenthood, exams, isolation, illness, etc. can be stressors.
DNA: This is one factor that is really hard to trace as most of us only know our DNAs up to our grandparents, grandaunts/uncles so, we don’t really know our family history let alone the different personalities and medical histories. However, if any members of your family had suffered from a mental disorder, then there is a possibility that you may suffer from one. Your DNA can also be linked to your coping mechanism and resilience you are with life stressors.
Lifestyle: Lifestyle is looking more at your diet and sleeping pattern (even though the above factors are part of your lifestyle). The type of food we consume; the amount of food we consume; the length and quality of sleep we receive can have an impact on our mental health.
People you associate with: The people we associate with and the interaction we have with them can have an impact on our mental health.
Weather: The weather also has an impact on our mental state. Us Brits (as well as most Northern and Southern hemisphere countries in the world) are very much aware of this during seasonal chances such as winter.
Below is a list of the different types of mental health concern an individual can be affected by with brief information of what it is and how it effect can take place. Please note that individuals can suffer from more than mental health concerns.
Anger: We have all felt anger at some point or another. However, this becomes a disorder when an individual cannot manage it and exact their frustrations on others in a physical and/or emotional outburst frequently.
Anxiety and Panic Attack: It is an intense emotional worry (this is when our adrenaline is increased to the Fight, Flight or Freeze response) that increases our heart rate and blood pressure. Anxiety and Panic Attack can be caused by a thought, a feeling or a physical sensation.
Bipolar Disorder: This is a mood disorder and can affect individual people differently as we all experience different moods in a slightly different way. There is also different severity of the disorder. There are two parts to Bipolar, which are Manic or Hypomanic episode and Depressive episode. A Manic/Hypomanic episode is when the sufferer is on a high and a Depressive episode the sufferer is on a low.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder: This disorder is when an individual is overly anxious about their body image. This can present itself in eating disorders, over exercising and excess cosmetic surgery.
Clinical/Chronic Depression: This is a very deep, dark and extremely low mood type of depression, where an individual can self-neglect and seize to (or finds it extremely difficult to) function in their everyday life.
Hoarding: Finding it very difficult to throw anything away (regardless of the value), has emotional attachment to things and feels anxiety at the thought of throwing anything away
Loneliness/Isolation: Feelings of being along and physically being alone for a long period of time without any social interaction.
OCD: This stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This is a disorder that has two components which are Obsession and compulsion. Obsession is a repeated but unwanted thoughts, images, worries, doubts and urges in an individual mind. This can cause a feeling of anxiousness. Compulsion repeated activities or actions that helps to reduce anxiety cause by the obsession.
Personality Disorder: Is having difficulties in relating with others and yourself, and having problems in coping with day to day life.
Perinatal Depression: is a depression that is associated with pregnancy and up to the first year after giving birth.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: It is an anxiety type disorder that can happen after experiencing and/or witnesses a traumatic situation or events
Psychosis: This is when an individual interprets and/or perceive reality differently from those around them and their society (this can be delusion, paranoid delusion, hearing voices, etc.)
Schizoaffective Disorder: Is both mood and psychotic disorder that can happen within a couple of weeks from each other during a single episode and can cause individual to self-neglect.
Schizophrenia: This disorder can cause hallucination, delusion, paranoid delusions and disorganised speech and thought. Individual suffers self-neglects
Seasonal Affective Disorder: This is a type of depression that individuals can experience during a particular season (weather) or time of year.
The signs that you or someone you know may be suffering from a mental health breakdown are:
Eating problem/difficulties: Having difficulties in eating where they will play with their food or hide their food. They may also over eat (more so than their normal eating habit)
Hypomania: Full of energy, over spend and shop a lot, extremely happy and euphoric, over talkative (can’t get words out fast enough), increase in sex drive, easily distracted in thought and concentration, irritable and agitated (please remember that this should be outside of the norm for the individual)
Paranoia: This is when an individual thinks and believe they are under threat (even though there are little to no evidence of this) or have an exaggerated suspicion (i.e. people making a nasty rumour or comments about them)
Self-Esteem: It is how individual perceive and value themselves based on self-opinion and beliefs. During a mental health break down, individuals can have very low to nonexistence self-esteem.
Self-Harm: This is a coping mechanism, where individual participate in self-destructive behaviour to help cope with difficult events, situations, feelings, thoughts and painful behaviour. Self-harm is a short term realise pressure and pleasure but the original distress is still present as it have not been dealt with (also self-harm may cause other distress as a result).
Sleeping Problem: Finding it very difficult to sleep and feeling more tired than usual.
Suicidal Feeling: Feeling that you cannot go on living and that life would be better minus you (but this is wrong as you may be causing more harm to your loved ones than you will realise). Please remember that all problem has some sort of solution and help should be seek immediately if you or someone you know have these feelings.
To get support there are many people and organisations you can turn to, to receive the right support.
Hospital: You can go to the accident and emergency department who will then contact the right team and professionals to help and support you
Call: You can dial 999 (UK), 911 (US) and 112 (Europe) to be transported to emergency department if you are unable to go (please remember that this is for serious emergency- for example if you feel suicidal). Also, you can call 111 NSH direct (England) or 0845 46 47 (Wales) for advice if it is none emergency.
Samaritans: In the UK you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123 who can then provide you with a good listen ears and advice (if you need any)
Crisis Team: In the UK you can contact your local crisis team who are specialist mental health professionals available to provide you with the support you need.
Crisis House: Offers a short-term support in a residential setting Crisis House can be a safe haven for many
GP: Your GP will refer you to the right mental health team or professionals
Therapy: Every area has at least one specialist services that consists of Psychologists, Psychotherapists which may include: Psychologists, Arts therapists (including Arts/Music and Sound/Dance and Movement and Drama Therapists), Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners, Occupational Therapy. These are highly trained professionals who will try to provide you with the right type of support. These are the many therapy service you can access: Anxiety UK, Mental Health Matters, IAPT (England)
Medication: Your GP or a Psychiatrist may prescribe you medication
CMHT (UK): CMHT stands for Community Mental Health Team, this is a specialist team that contains many health professionals to support you in your road to recovery in the community and at home. The professionals can be made up of Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Mental Health Nurse, Occupational Therapist, Social Worker and now an Employment Specialist. These key workers are there to support you with every aspect of your life from understand your illness and medication (if you are on one), to providing you with your medication, finance, working life, family dynamic, physical health, etc.
Charities (UK): There are many charities that can provide you with support and possible advocacy such as Mind, Young Mind, Samaritans, Mental Health Foundation, Nightline Association, Beat, Calm, Shout, The Mix, OCD Action, Turning Point, Rethink, Cruse Bereavement Care, Rape Crisis. These are some of national charities but there are local charities as well- ask your GP or your local NHS mental health services for more information.
Mental Health UK: https://mentalhealth-uk.org/help-and-information/conditions/
World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/mental_health/management/en/