First off, what is Menopause?: Menopause is a natural process that signals the end of a females' capability to reproduce. This process will usually begin between the ages of 40 and 50 years old. At the same time that a women's cycle ceases, so does the production of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. It is important to remember that menopause is NOT a disease although the dominant medical view treats it as such. It reflects the normal hormonal changes that result in one's ovaries ending their roles in ovulation. Menopause serves to create a new situation in which there is a reassignment of various endocrine gland functions, so the body must be ready!
Common Symptoms of Menopause: Some women may not experience symptoms related to menopause. Others may experience any of the following: nervousness, hot flashes, chills, cold hands and feet, excitability, fatigue, apathy, mental depression, inability to concentrate, crying episodes, insomnia, palpitation, vertigo, headache, numbness, tingling, muscle pain, urinary tract infections, and gastrointestinal disorders.
How to Stay Healthy During Menopause:
Below are six tips to help support the endocrine and reproductive systems during menopause.
1.) Reduce daily stress. Activities such as yoga, exercise, meditation or even a 10 min. daily “timeout” go a long way.
2.) Avoid contact with harmful cleaners, detergents, pesticides and the majority of personal care products.
3.) Eat plenty of saturated fat, protein, and cholesterol. This will help maintain strong bones and support hormone function.
4.) Eat vegetables, vegetables, and more vegetables.
5.) Avoid unfermented soy products like soy milk and tofu. Unfermented soy can interfere with hormonal functions.
6.) Avoid refined sugar.
Keep Your Endocrine System Healthy: The endocrine system is made up of ductless glands that work together as a planning committee. This planning committee is responsible for both short-range (i.e. stress response and blood sugar control) and long-range (i.e. immune system activities, conception) goals. These glands are located at considerable differences from one another, and therefore communicate with each other by the release of hormones via the bloodstream. The effectiveness of the endocrine system, and ultimately your well- being during menopause relies on all the members within it.
Important Note: Unlike hormones produced by the male endocrine system, there are major cyclic changes in the hormonal levels (mainly estrogen and progesterone) produced by the female endocrine system as a part of the menstrual cycle, so keep it healthy!
The Major Players Within the Endocrine System:
1.) Hypothalamus: This gland is located inside of the brain, and releases hormones that control the secretion of hormones by the pituitary. This gland is intimately connected with and effects one's emotions.
2.) Pituitary: This gland is in charge of releasing hormones that reach out to all the other endocrine glands.
3.) Thyroid: This gland is closely tied to the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, and is responsible for regulating growth and metabolic rate.
4.) Parathyroid: These glands function as a regulatory agency for controlling the amount of calcium in the bloodstream.
5.)Adrenal Glands: The adrenal glands allow you to cope with stress, both internal and external, along with inflammation.
6.Pancreas: This organ is responsible for releasing digestive enzymes, along with lowering and increasing blood sugar levels as dictated by the adrenal glands.
7.) Pineal Gland: This hormone is responsible for tracking seasonal changes, moon cycles, and light fluctuations. Its major hormone, melatonin, is responsible for regulating one's wake-sleep cycle.
The Sex Hormones:
Controls the development of female sex characteristics and the reproductive system.
Stimulates bone growth.
Responsible for the deposition of fat, a reason why women have a higher percentage of body fat than men. Estrogen stores fat in places like the breasts, thighs, and buttocks.
Estrogen causes the skin to be soft and smooth.
After menopause, the main source of estrogen is fat cells and the adrenal glands.
Prepares the lining of the uterus for implantation of a fertilized egg.
Readies the mammary glands to secrete milk.
Responsible for casing the endometrium to be expelled from the uterus if no fertilization occurs.
The secretion of these hormones is cyclical and is governed by complex factors including other hormones the body makes via the thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands. Meaning that the entire endocrine system is involved and requires nourishment in order more menses to occur with regularity and ease.
The ability to produce enough estrogen and progesterone helps to keep women healthy and happy.
Body Fat: As a woman goes through menopause, it is normal to gain between 10-15 lbs. One of the main reasons for this weight gain is the cessation of estrogen production by the ovaries. Fat cells, particularly those in the hips and thighs are responsible for producing much of the circulating estrogen in postmenopausal women. The stress society places on thinness and low-fat meals run counter to the natural functioning of the body. In fact, thin postmenopausal women are at a higher risk for osteoporosis than are those who kept their few extra pounds. Body fat percentage is an indication that the endocrine system in the women's body is healthy.
Yes, Male Menopause is a Thing: It is not uncommon for men to also experience a decrease in the production of sex hormones, in particular, testosterone, as they get older. This process is called andropause. Symptoms of andropause include irritability, moodiness, depression, weight gain, and docility.
Sources: “Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary”, by Donald Venes MD., “Guyton and Hall’s Textbook of Medical Physiology”, by MDs Guyton & Hall, “The Endocrine System and Chakras”, The National Institute of Whole Health, “Wise Choices, Healthy Bodies: Diet for the Prevention of Women’s Diseases”’ by Sally Fallon & Mary Enig PhD, “The Weston A. Price Foundation.”;