12 Aug 2014

Menopause Myth-Busting 101: The Top 5 Debunked

Myths-FactsMyth #1: Menopause begins at 50

The average age of menopause is 52…but there’s a huge spectrum of experiences out there. Some women sail through with nary a hot flash. But others begin having symptoms like weight gain, irritability, fatigue, anxiety and insomnia in their mid-30’s. And perimenopausal symptoms can last for more than 10 years!

That’s why it’s critical to pay attention to your body. If you start feeling like aliens have abducted you, consider the possibility that hormone shifts are beginning.

Perimenopause can last from a few months to up to 13 years prior to menopause. Some women experience more symptoms during perimenopause than during menopause itself. This is because your sex hormones, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone naturally fluctuate more during this time. And these hormones are very sensitive to abnormal adrenal function which occurs with ongoing stress.

And remember, suffering is optional! Hormone testing can help identify imbalances and a large percentage of women can be helped with lifestyle changes and supplements.

Myth #2: Weight gain is inevitable in menopause

Weight gain is very common in menopause because hormonal shifts make weight loss more complex. It’s no longer as simple as “calories in, calories out.”

As you transition into perimenopause and menopause, your ovaries make fewer sex hormones, and your body may respond by trying to protect itself. Its preferred method of protection is to store fat, especially around the waist, hips, and thighs. Fat stored in these areas also produces more estrogen, which in turn, leads to more weight gain. Add stress to the mix with higher cortisol production and it’s a recipe for weight gain around the waist.

Despite these changes, you can still achieve a healthy weight. One of the best things you can do to help yourself is eat! If your first reaction to weight gain is to cut back calories, think again. That throws your body into stress mode and cortisol kicks in. Excellent nutrition and lowered carbohydrates help women balance their hormones and gradually return to their natural weight. One of my recent Lose Fat over 40 clients lost 32 lbs in 12 weeks by working with me to get her hormones balanced and eating a low glycemic index diet.

Myth #3: There’s no difference between natural menopause and “surgical” menopause

If you’ve had a hysterectomy, you probably know this is UNTRUE. A hysterectomy creates hormone imbalance overnight instead of over months or years. This is very hard on your body.

Even if your ovaries are left intact, there’s likely disruption of the blood supply to them which will keep them from fully functioning. Changes may be less severe when you keep your ovaries, but they are unpredictable. Many women need estrogen, progesterone and testosterone replacement to feel their best after a hysterectomy.

And don’t let your doctor tell you that you don’t need progesterone. You have progesterone receptors all over your body (not just in your uterus). They need love too.

Myth #4: Sex is a thing of the past after menopause

Sex can be enjoyable and healthy at any age. But I hear from women that they’ve been told that a decrease in sex drive is a “normal” part of aging. Decreased interest in sexual activity is often a sign of hormonal imbalance, which can cause both physical and emotional symptoms that have an effect on your sex life.

Approximately 50% of post-menopausal women will experience vaginal dryness which can make sex painful. This can be helped greatly by using an estrogen vaginal cream (you’ll need a prescription.)

Myth #5: The first sign of menopause is hot flashes

There are approximately 34 symptoms of perimenopause…any of which could be your first sign that your hormones are shifting. Common ones include:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Irregular periods
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Cravings
  • Fuzzy thinking
  • Low libido
  • Forgetfulness
  • Heavy periods

With such a wide variety of symptoms, it’s no wonder that many of us don’t connect these to a perimenopausal hormonal imbalance. I hear from women all the time who are desperate to find out what’s going on with their bodies. And it’s always a relief for them to learn that what they are experiencing is normal!

If you’re looking for relief, let’s talk. There’s so much misinformation out there and having someone to guide you through this transition can be helpful and comforting. Please email info@drannagarrett.com for more information on scheduling a complimentary 30 minute call to discuss ways we might work together.

Dr. Anna Garrett

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