Women's Health

10 common symptoms of menopause

Written by Matthew Ainsworth | Wednesday 26th Oct 2022 |

How well do you know the symptoms of menopause?

Do you suffer from:

  1. Brain fog?
  2. Unexplained fatigue?
  3. Sudden weight gain?

If you said yes to any of these and haven’t been able to understand why…  you might be experiencing the symptoms of menopause or perimenopause. 

10 common symptoms of menopause

Menopause and perimenopause can create a number of obstacles for women as they embark on their fat loss journey. But what are the symptoms of menopause and how do they impact your day-to-day life?

1. Changes to your body weight

10 common symptoms of menopause - belly fat

You might notice you’ve gained more belly fat during perimenopause. This is normal and one of the biggest physical changes most people will notice when looking in the mirror.

But why do you gain belly fat?

This comes down to hormonal changes and how your body stores fat.

During your reproductive years, fat distribution to these areas provides an energy source for eventual pregnancy and lactation.

As your estrogen levels decline, fat is redistributed to other parts of the body, such as the abdominal area.

2. Muscle and joint pain

10 common symptoms of menopause

Many women find themselves becoming stiffer and less mobile during perimenopause.

Your joints contain estrogen receptors which are affected by the changes to your hormones during perimenopause and menopause.

Estrogen protects your joints and reduces inflammation. When your hormone levels fall, inflammation can increase and the risks of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis also rise.

These changes can cause pain and make it harder to maintain regular movement and exercise while going through perimenopause and menopause. This can have a knock-on effect on weight gain as slowing down will cause you to burn fewer calories on a daily basis.

As testosterone falls in women along with oestrogen and progesterone, some women also find it harder to maintain muscle strength.

3. Hot flashes

10 common symptoms of menopause - Hot flashes

In response to the lowered levels of estrogen, your glands release a higher level of other hormones that affect your body’s thermostat, making it harder for your brain to regulate your body temperature.

They can come on suddenly and rapidly and last on average anywhere between 1 to 5 minutes.

A major hot flash can cause facial and upper-body flushing, sweating, chills, and sometimes even confusion due to its intensity.

The frequency of hot flashes will vary from person to person with some women having a few over the course of a week while others may experience 10 or more in a single day, PLUS some through the night.

4. Difficulty sleeping

10 common symptoms of menopause

This common symptom of menopause can, in part, be down to the effects of hot flashes, which can also occur throughout the night and cause disturbance to your sleeping patterns.

As a result of these interrupted sleep patterns, you might experience other symptoms associated with fatigue, including low mood, feeling irritable, and lacking the energy to carry out day-to-day tasks and activities.

5. A lack of energy

10 common symptoms of menopause

If you’re not getting enough sleep, your body won’t have a chance to recharge properly and this can have a knock-on effect on your energy levels throughout the day.

Your hormonal changes also reduce your energy at a cellular level.

Estrogen and progesterone reduction can have a knock-on effect on other hormones, including your adrenal and thyroid.

Estrogen in particular plays a role in the growth of thyroid cells which regulates metabolism by turning food into energy.

6. Vaginal dryness

vaginal dryness

Estrogen helps to keep your vagina healthy by acting as a natural lubricant during sex, as well as stimulating the presence of good bacteria that protects against infection.

As your estrogen levels decrease, the tissue lining of your vagina thins and your blood supply is reduced, resulting in dryness which can cause discomfort, especially during sex.

7 out of 10 women suffer from vaginal dryness as a result of perimenopause and menopause.

7. A reduced sex drive

10 common symptoms of menopause

There are several reasons, both physical and mental, that you might experience a reduced sex drive.

Physical changes to your body might make you feel more self-conscious around your partner and have a knock-on effect on your mental health and your libido.

Hormonal changes that cause symptoms that make sex a less pleasurable experience if not treated (such as vaginal dryness) can also decrease sexual desire.

Reduced levels of testosterone can also lead to reduced libido.

8. Heart palpitations

10 common symptoms of menopause

Low estrogen can increase your cholesterol levels which increases your risk of developing heart and circulatory disease.

As your hormones fluctuate this can cause your heart to beat faster than usual (this is typical during hot flashes). This results in heart palpitations.

Heart palpitations can commonly be felt in the neck, throat, or chest. You’ve probably had them at some point before, however during perimenopause they can become a lot more frequent.

The good news is that heart palpitations are usually harmless. If you do feel a need for concern, seek advice from your doctor.

9. Brain fog

10 common symptoms of menopause

Brain fog is one of the most common symptoms of menopause and perimenopause that our clients talk to us about.

Estrogen plays an important role in cognitive function and synaptic health.

Estrogen stimulates the brain, keeping neurons firing, supporting the growth of new cells and helping existing cells to form new connections.

When your estrogen levels fall during perimenopause, your entire body is sent into a state of deprivation. This causes your body to burn more glucose (your main source of energy), and this leads to reduced brain energy levels.

This deprivation mode can cause a number of symptoms including memory loss, difficulty staying focused, difficulty finding words, losing your train of thought, and getting easily confused.

10. Mood swings

10 common symptoms of menopause

Almost a quarter of women will experience mood swings as a result of perimenopause and menopause.

Hormonal imbalance, combined with the additional stress that symptoms of menopause and perimenopause add to life, can cause your mood to fluctuate. It can also result in anxiety, tension, nervousness, panic, and worry.

Mood swings are more commonly reported in women going through perimenopause than menopause.

What can you do to combat the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause? 

There are a few general lifestyle changes that you can make immediately to help combat the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause. These include:

  • Making sure to stay active and get plenty of movement into your day. Set yourself a daily step goal. This will help boost your energy levels, increase your total daily energy expenditure to help fight off fat gain, and combat joint and muscle deterioration. 
  • Taking part in regular resistance training will prevent osteoporosis (bone deterioration) and help to maintain and build muscle.
  • Making sure you have an overall nutrient-dense diet won’t just help you physically – it can also help improve your cognitive abilities, clearing the brain fog and improving your memory. 
  • Getting enough sleep. Sleep is your superpower. Without sleep, the brain struggles to function properly as it doesn’t have an opportunity to reset, which means that neurons become overworked and unable to function effectively, leaving you feeling physically and mentally fatigued. 
  • Minding your alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to conditions such as osteoporosis and increased risk of heart conditions which can exacerbate common menopause symptoms like hot flushes, and muscle and joint pain. If your alcohol intake is also regularly putting you into a calorie surplus, this will contribute to fat gain, which due to the hormonal changes in menopause, will often be most evident around the stomach area. 
  • Stay well hydrated. You should drink 2-3 litres (68 – 101 fl oz) per day to stay well hydrated. This will affect almost all of the symptoms of menopause including getting rid of brain fog, helping your body to regulate temperature, protecting your joints, aiding digestion and also helping you stay fuller for longer which will help you to lose fat by making it easier to maintain a calorie deficit.

What if these things don’t work?

If none of these things work, and symptoms persist, speak to a doctor about getting blood tests done to determine whether there could be any other underlying health conditions. 

Many women are prescribed hormone replacement treatment to help regulate their hormones and alleviate symptoms of menopause and perimenopause.

Your doctor will determine if this is going to be the best course of treatment for you. 

To learn more about how you can build habits that will set you up for success on your weight loss journey, click here to apply for coaching.

Written by Matthew Ainsworth

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