12 Not-So-Common Menopause Symptoms and Their Treatments
You probably heard about hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings as common menopause signs. (If you are looking for information about these symptoms, just skip to the bottom for the link).
But did you know that the frequent feelings of lightheadedness can also be a menopause symptom? Or that your constant struggle to remember where you put the car keys (or the milk, or the check, or the …….) is related to the change as well?
Here we will give you information and treatment options about 12 not so common menopause signs:
- Breast Pain
- Joint Pain – Menopausal Arthritis
- Memory Loss and Menopause
- Menopause and Dizziness
- Menopause Fatigue – Sluggishness
- Frequent Urinary and Yeast Infections
- Incontinence and Menopause
- Gastrointestinal Symptoms- Constipation, Nausea and Bloating
- Water Retention
- Osteopenia, Osteoporosis
- Adrenal Fatigue
- Thyroid Problems
It is actually rather common to have breast pain and breast tenderness during perimenopause.
When your ovaries get toward the end of fertility, the body has to work harder to get to ovulation. In order to prepare an egg for ovulation, the body releases more Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), which in turn spikes the production of estrogen.
When estrogen is not balanced by progesterone, your body has too much estrogen (estrogen dominance) which causes your breast pain.
Related to this are fibrocystic breasts because estrogen stimulates the growth of tissue. Sometimes these cysts become so large and painful that they have to be surgically removed.
|If you experience any changes or lumps in your breasts make sure to get a breast exam to rule out any serious illness.|
There are numerous causes for joint pain and a proper diagnosis is the start for the best treatment. Often, when women seek help, doctors cannot find any signs of arthritis, injury or other reasons for their pain.
Joint pain often starts suddenly when women start menopause. It is common in the hands and feet but every area of the body can be affected.
There is even a name for it: menopausal arthritis.
The reason for menopause joint pain is the drop in estrogen levels. The increased risk of inflammation due to low estrogen is well documented, including inflammation of the joint areas.
But many doctors, even rheumatologists, deny that low estrogen can cause menopause joint pain even when many women get relief from estrogen supplements (oral or topical).
Treatment for menopausal arthritis depends on the severity of the symptoms. Estrogen therapy is certainly one of the options but natural treatments may help you if your pain is not too severe.
Here are your options for natural treatments for menopausal arthritis:
- Borage Oil which helps with swelling
- Green tea extract
- White willow bark
Other treatments include:
- Omega 3-fatty acids
- Niacin (one of the vitamins of the B-complex)
- Methylsulfonylmethane or MSM
Additional tips for dealing with joint pain:
- Lose weight to alleviate pressure on the joints
- Exercise to keep the body flexible and the muscles strong
- Avoid additional pain from muscle tension. It is normal for the body to avoid painful movements. Progressive relaxation can help with muscle tension.
This is certainly the most frightening of all menopause signs, at least it was for us.
We seriously thought that we were experiencing the first indications of dementia. It was a great relief to learn that our menopause memory loss was a sign of hormonal changes and not of dementia.
Related to memory loss and menopause are:
- Problems with Concentration
- Fuzzy Thinking
These symptoms are difficult to describe because they are different from “normal” forgetfulness.
It is as if you are walking through your day not registering what is happening around you. You feel like your head is wrapped in cotton and can’t concentrate. Then you have to remember something… And for the life of you – you can’t.
Recently researchers have found that women in menopause don’t forget more. Things that happen around them are not processed to create a memory in the first place. So it is more the inability to concentrate that is the problem.
The reason for the memory problems in menopause are related to the changing hormones, especially estrogen.
The sudden drop in estrogen which happens sometimes during perimenopause, affects the level of specific neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are necessary for the cognitive function of the brain. This in turn causes the problem with concentration and the resulting memory loss.
Treatments for memory loss and problems with concentration during menopause include:
- Ginkgo is a well known herb to help with memory and concentration.
- Panax Ginseng helps with concentration and boosts energy.
- Many women experience great relief from this mental confusion and lack of concentration when they add natural estrogen, either through natural remedies or through hormone therapy.
Dizziness is a catch phrase for a variety of symptoms. It describes both lightheadedness or feeling faint; and vertigo which is feeling your surroundings move when they are actually steady.
Severe dizziness can cause a loss of balance and nausea, even vomiting.
During menopause some women experience more of the common dizzy spells for a variety of reasons. Hormone fluctuation is causing changes in the blood vessels and nerves, which in turn affects the sensory input from skin and joints.
Heart palpitations and anxiety attacks can cause dizziness because of changes in blood pressure.
Another common reason for this menopause sign is heavy menstrual bleeding during peri-menopause.
Dehydration can also lead to dizziness, so it is important to drink plenty of healthy fluids (non-caffeine, no sugar, not carbonated).
Increased risk of urinary tract, yeast and vaginal infections are common menopause signs. The increased risk is caused by changes in the vaginal lining because of the drop in estrogen levels.
The normal mucus produced by the vaginal lining is slightly acidic which prevents foreign bacterial growth and yeast infections. It also prevents irritations in this area.
When estrogen levels drop during peri-menopause, the vaginal lining reduces the production of this natural lubricant.
To prevent urinary, yeast or vaginal infections, combat vaginal dryness by using vaginal moisturizers and lubricants, and by boosting your estrogen level. The estrogen level can be raised by adding natural estrogen to your body or through topical estrogen cream.
Severe fatigue and sluggishness during your menopausal transition are common. Menopause is a high stress period for the body and the mind. You have to battle the numerous menopause signs and cope with the changes in your body and your life. This will affect your energy levels and leads to menopause fatigue.
If you have severe night sweats and your sleep is disrupted, no wonder you will feel tired and sluggish the next day.
Additionally, menopausal women often experience insomnia which also contributes to the fatigue. (Check out our information about menopause insomnia at the end of the page if you have this symptom.)
Additionally, your changing hormones play a key role in sleep related problems. So any help for this menopause symptom should tackle both reasons – ensuring a good night’s sleep and boosting your energy level.
Natural remedies for menopause fatigue include: Asian Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Licorice Root and Maca Root
The most common form of incontinence in menopause is stress incontinence. Stress incontinence is the leaking of urine during any kind of physical activity, such as lifting, laughing, sneezing etc.
The physical strain causes the abdominal muscles to press on the bladder and the urine leaks out because of weakened pelvic and sphincter muscles. This is one of the most annoying signs of menopause.
Although low estrogen levels play an important role in maintaining muscle tone, other reasons exist for weakened pelvic muscles, such as child birth, certain medications, and injury. Treatments for incontinence include Kegel exercises, medications and, in severe cases, surgery.
Vaginal estrogen may help if your symptoms are not too severe.
During menopause many women experience increased gastrointestinal problems. So many menopausal women report problems, that there is very likely more to this symptom than just a lack of fiber in their diet.
Menopause and Constipation
Estrogen is important for proper digestion, especially for the release of bile. Constipation during menopause is often caused by a lack of bile in the intestine.
Bile allows water to bind to the stool and allows the muscles in the intestines to function properly. The exact mechanisms of the estrogen – bile relationship is still under investigation.
A lot of vegetables contain precursors to the hormones your body produces naturally. These substances are called phytosterols. One of these groups is natural estrogen (phytoestrogen).
You have to eat a lot of these foods to make a difference for severe low estrogen symptoms (like hot flashes etc.) but for menopause related constipation they are a great option. The substances are found in beans, nuts, flaxseed, whole grains and many other foods.
Menopause and Nausea
Many menopause symptoms such as nausea are caused by the drop in estrogen, especially during perimenopause. The changes in the hormone levels trigger changes in the intestines. This is turn causes several of the gastrointestinal symptoms in menopause, and nausea is one of them.
Another reason for menopause nausea is dizziness. Severe bouts of lightheadedness or feeling faint are common in menopause. And nausea can be a result of the dizziness.
Consider adding a natural estrogen to support your hormonal balance in addition to a healthy diet.
Bloating in menopause has the same underlying reasons that cause constipation and water retention during the change.
Any woman who has experienced water retention before starting her period (one of the dreaded PMS symptoms) is familiar with this symptom.
Water retention is a build up of fluid in the tissue, most notably in the feet and ankles. Often bloating in menopause is related to the water retention.
Water retention is caused by spikes in the estrogen level, a common occurrence during peri-menopause. Estrogen plays an important role in many of your body’s functions including the regulation of fluids.
A good way to deal with estrogen dominance symptoms like water retention is to use hormone balancing herbs like Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex) or Maca Root.
So if you are on hormone therapy, water retention may be one of the side effects and is a sign of estrogen dominance (estrogen not balanced by progesterone, or too much estrogen)
Women are protected from osteoporosis until they reach menopause. Estrogen helps the absorption of calcium into the bones. During peri-menopause, when estrogen levels are dropping, women are at increasingly higher risk of developing osteopenia. (Osteopenia is the beginning stages of osteoporosis.)
Your doctor may want to do a bone density test (somewhat like an x-ray) to check for osteopenia.
Although there are certain risk factors you can’t control (age, gender, slight bone structure), you can control some of them. The most important thing to prevent osteoporosis is to be physically active and do weight bearing exercises.
Also take 1,000 – 1,500mg calcium with vitam D daily, to supplement the calcium from food and to prevent osteoporosis and osteopenia.
The adrenal glands produce the hormones that help you deal with stress – mainly adrenalin and cortisol. But they also play a vital role in balancing over 50 other hormones.
If stress becomes chronic, your adrenal glands are getting tired and stop functioning properly. Consistently high cortisol levels keep female sex hormones low because the cortisol does not break down into estrogen and progesterone. This is the reason that women with adrenal fatigue have worse menopause signs and symptoms.
Restoring the functioning of the adrenal glands to treat adrenal fatigue takes time, usually several months. It is done by avoiding the core reason for the problem – stress.
It is important to support your body with smaller, well balanced meals, and to make dinner the lightest meal of the day. Avoid stimulating drinks such as caffeine and use adrenal supporting herbs, such as licorice root extract or Liquorice tea.
You have tried everything under the sun to help with your menopause signs but the fuzzy thinking, memory loss and fatigue are just not going away. This could be because of undiagnosed Thyroid problems.
Menopause signs, and symptoms of thyroid disease are almost identical (with the exception of hot flashes and night sweats). If you experience severe menopause symptoms have your doctor evaluate your thyroid levels.
Some of the menopause signs are probably hardwired by genetic and cultural factors. If your mother had a difficult time in menopause, chances are that you will as well.
The good news is that despite many unanswered questions, women today do know more about menopause and it is no longer the taboo subject that it once was. There are also many more treatments available and even hormone therapy has come a long way.
You have probably noticed that most of these menopause signs are somewhat related to the fluctuation in estrogen. Most menopause signs will get better if the estrogen is balanced.
If you are in perimenopause and estrogen dominance symptoms bother you, try a hormone balancing herb like Maca.
There are some menopause supplements that have specific blends of herbs to balance the fluctuating hormones. Check out our review of the most popular supplements to help with hormone balance.
Later during the menopause transition, when estrogen levels stay low, estrogenic herbs like Black Cohosh or Red Clover will provide relief.