Menopause is a different experience for every woman. Symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats are widely recognised as being a typical symptom but there are other less obvious symptoms and conditions that are linked to this hormonal shift.
Dry, Irritated Skin
The loss of oestrogen, especially if it has been sudden can have dramatic effects on the skin. Oestrogen acts as a ‘plumper’ for the skin and when it drops, the loss of collagen can leave your skin a little unprotected. Good quality moisturisers with natural oils can help.
Burning Mouth Syndrome
At the extreme end of the dry mouth spectrum, burning mouth syndrome can not only be painful but can affect your choice of foods and therefore, your nutrition. Thankfully not very common, the drop in saliva production that leads to this symptom can also affect the health of your gums and teeth.
Breast soreness can occur with any hormonal change – puberty, pregnancy and menopause. The pain may come for days or weeks prior to your period and may be associated with swelling. Some women find herbal therapies very useful in relieving this symptom. If the pain is more persistent, associated with heat, fever or is limited to a particular spot, talk to your GP about having a breast examination.
Often triggered by menopause, lipoedema is a symmetrical buildup of fatty deposits under the skin of the hips, buttocks, legs (but not feet) and upper arms. It is painful and can make the skin quite spongy in texture, cold to touch and bruise easily. It is hereditary and not relieved by exercise and diet.
Oestrogen has protective effects for a woman’s bones and after menopause some women experience a dramatic loss of bone density. Other risk factors for osteoporosis are a lack of weight-bearing activity, calcium and vitamin D deficiency, some chronic diseases and medications used to treat them as well as smoking, excessive alcohol intake and obesity. Bone density will increase for modifying some of these factors.
Women frequently notice changes to their shape as they move through peri-menopause and menopause but the metabolic changes occurring aren’t all visible. Oestrogen has many protective effects on the cardiovascular system and when it drops, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol can rise, providing a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Combine this risk with obesity, high blood pressure or inflammation and the risk is amplified.
Menopause is associated with a decrease in pancreatic function and insulin secretion, making women more sensitive to carbohydrates that during their fertile years. Early signs of insulin sensitivity are weight gain around the middle, fatigue, increased thirst or frequent urination. Insulin sensitivity left unchecked can lead to Diabetes but can usually be managed with diet and exercise.