The Mystery of “Normal” Menopause

By the year 2030, the global population will include approximately 1.2 billion women that have
entered menopause, a phase in life when menstruation has stopped for 12 or more months.
Typically, it starts between the ages of 45 and 53, and symptoms vary, including hot flashes,
sleep disruption, sudden weight gain, anxiety, loss of bone density, thinning hair and decreased
sex drive.A common misconception is that estrogen goes down with menopause, but most peri- and
postmenopausal women have plenty of estrogen, but many other hormones get out of whack.
Even though menopause is natural, many women are not ready to give up on life when it hits.
They still want and deserve the same quality of life as in earlier years. Here is a brief description
of what women can do to preserve and maintain their quality of life.Menopause has been linked to risk of several chronic diseases, like increased risk for
cardiometabolic disease, fatigue, diabetes, hypertension and abdominal obesity. Hormonal
changes in aging patients have also been associated with greater risk of frailty and disability,
likely due to disruptions along several hormonal axes, rather than deficiency of a single
hormone. The Mediterranean Diet has a cardioprotective effect for women during perimenopause
and menopause; of course, adherence matters.Chronic stress brings unfavorable biochemical, neurological and cellular changes to a woman’s
body. When ovaries starts to shrivel during “normal” menopause, the adrenal gland, responsible
for energy, mental clarity and mood, comes to the rescue and provides relief. Menopausal
suffering becomes more pronounced when perimenopausal stress has burned out the adrenal
glands, leaving the body devoid of this natural relief, a condition called adrenal fatigue. Thus
stress management with deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation and aerobic activity play an
important role. Vegan diets report less bothersome vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes.Toxicity accumulated over decades interferes with neural signaling in the body. Common
examples are endocrine-disrupting chemicals embedded in products such as pesticides, plastics
(BPA), chemical drugs (parabens) and heavy metals. Even personal hygiene products have been
linked to creating hormonal imbalance, producing emotional lability and non-restorative sleep. A
structured detoxifications using all natural foods can help alleviate these symptoms. Fruits and
vegetables may help alleviate symptoms of increased inflammation. Cruciferous vegetables like
broccoli and cauliflower, especially, contain glucosinolates that help the body send estrogen
metabolites down a pathway to prevent and suppress the development of hormone-modulated
female cancersThinning hair is a common quality-of-life issue. All of the hormones: estrogen, progesterone,
thyroid and insulin, need to be working in harmony for lush, shiny, smooth and youthful hair.
Their imbalance during menopause causes thinning. Adequate intake of protein and vegetables
help support hair, but only in a setting of balanced hormones. Two important enzymes that are
gatekeepers for estrogen and testosterone metabolism are aromatase and 5-alpha reductase.
Aromatase can affect the conversion of testosterone to estrogens, and 5-alpha reductase can
affect the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. Modulating these enzymes at the
help strengthen weakened or dormant hair follicles.Good communication is key to having the body working well as a system. Hormones are
important messengers. As these messengers begin to cease function or malfunction through
menopause, this presents as a wide variety of chronic conditions and women begin to feel
abnormal even in this “normal” stage of life.

This article, written by Dr. Meena Malhotra,  will be published in Natural Awakenings Magazine, issue of May 2022.