What is menopause?
The menopause is a period in women's life cycle when hormonal change take place and the fertile phase of a woman ends. The technical term for this is menopause (from the Greek "meno" for month and "pausis" for "end"). During the menopause, the ovaries change their function so that the cycle changes and menstrual bleeding eventually stops. After the last menstrual period, it usually takes a few years for the hormonal processes to re-regulate. The menopause is therefore not an illness, but rather a natural transition period in midlife - even though many women suffer from the symptoms.
Most women experience this hormonal change between their mid-40s and mid-50s. According to statistics, most women in the UK have their last menstrual period, i.e. the menopause, at the age of 51. It can however happen that women still have their menstruation until their mid or late 50s.
How long does the menopause last?
The duration of the menopause varies greatly from person to person. Some women consider their menopause to be completed within three years, others describe a period of more than ten years. Since the beginning of the menopause cannot be determined exactly, the average duration of the menopause is usually assumed to be five to eight years.
Generally the menopause can be divided into three different phases:
- Premenopause: Until the onset of menopause
- Perimenopause: Around the time of the last bleeding / when the bleeding finally stops
- Postmenopause: Time period after the fertile phase of a woman
When people talk about the menopause, they generally refer to the peri- and postmenopause.
What are some signs and symptoms of the menopause?
Some women notice irregularities in their menstrual cycle as early as their mid-thirties; more often, the change begins in their early forties. Typically, menstrual bleeding occurs first at shorter, then at longer intervals. The intensity of the bleeding can also vary, for example light spotting and bleeding between periods can become more frequent. Menstruation may also stop for a few months, but then return again for some time.
Some women have faint symptoms without even knowing for sure that they are in the perimenopause. Around one third experience an almost emotional rollercoaster with various symptoms:
- Trouble sleeping
- Poor memory
- Sweating and night sweats
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Heavy bleeding during periods
- Dry skin and hair
These symptoms are a natural reaction of the body to hormonal fluctuations. However, they can be alleviated naturally by making a few dietary changes for example. You can read more on the best foods and diet tips for menopause by clicking here.
Which superfoods for the menopause?
Adding functional superfoods into your diet can further help with menopausal symptoms. Here are some mixes that can help you:
- Moon Balance mix: A favourite for women at any time of their cycle. This ayurvedic mix naturally contains calcium und adaptogenic plants such as shatavari and maca to help the body adapt to change and stress more easily
- Gut Restore mix: A complimentary digestive mix containing live bacteria cultures that diversify the gut microbiome. Use daily after meals to help with bloating or nausea and get your gut going!
- Plant Protein mix: Are you struggling to add enough protein to your (plant-based diet)? This vegan and fully natural protein mix can be easily added to shakes, smoothies, porridge or snacks!
There are more superfoods blends that will answer your needs during the menopause; learn more about it in this article.
What is perimenopause?
The perimenopause comes just before the menopause. The word "perimenopause" means "around the menopause" and thus describes the time leading up to the last menstruation. The menopause does not happen from one moment to the next - this phase can last from several months to years.
The perimenopause usually begins between the ages of 40 and 50. During this time, the body's production of oestrogen decreases. The ovaries have been producing oestrogen since the first period, so this change is not only a physical challenge, but also a mental and emotional one.
What are symptoms of perimenopause?
As the perimenopause is one of the stages of menopause, women may experience the symptoms mentioned above such as hot flashes, trouble sleeping, indigestion and dry hair/skin.
What are the stages of perimenopause?
Unlike with menopause, there are no set stages of the perimenopause as it is a substage of menopause itself. Since its length varies quite drastically from women experiencing symptoms from their 30s until their 50s, one cannot define different stages inbetween. However, during perimenopause the hormonal changes happen gradually.
Which supplements for perimenopause?
To help prevent cardiovascular diseases it is recommended to cut out "empty" carbohydrates from white flour products and sweets. Women should instead focus on whole foods and the flavourful Mediterranean cuisine provide the body with many indispensable nutrients.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help protect the heart and arteries. While most people might think of fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel, there are also lots of plant based sources such as chia seeds, nuts or oils such as walnut, olive, wheat germ or linseed.
As stated above, muscle mass declines with age so it is important to take care of the dietary protein intake to protect and maintain muscles during menopause.
Early menopause and premature menopause: all you need to know
Premature menopause is when the menopause occurs before the age of 40, when a woman undergoes menopause before the age of 45 it is called early menopause. This premature or early menopause can have many causes. They can be hereditary or related to illness or medication. Women who have had their ovaries removed at an early age experience it because of the lack of hormone production. Premature menopause is particular challengeing for women who have not yet completed their family planning. The diagnosis often changes the self-image of the women affected, e.g. they might suddenly feel older than they actually are and suffer from depressive episodes.
What you need to know about postmenopause
The postmenopause is the last phase of the menopause. It begins one year after the last menstrual cycle when the production of oestrogen and progesterone reaches its lowest point. Postmenopause generally extends over 10 to 15 years. Around the age of 60 to 65, the menopause ends and is replaced by the so-called senium.
Many women might experience symptoms such as hair loss, dryness of the skin and mucous membranes, brittle bones and sometimes facial hair growth. They are due to the relative excess of male sex hormones (androgens). While the production of female sex hormones (oestrogens) drops drastically during the menopause, the amount of testosterone hardly changes. In addition, perimenopause symptoms such as hot flushes, sweating and sleep disorders often persist in the postmenopause. Furthermore performance and focus as well as reaction time and motor skills decrease.