From brittle nails and muscle pain to heart palpitations and bruising, these are a few surprising symptoms of the menopause that you may not expect.
Menopause affects women in many ways, but did you know that there are around 34 different symptoms? Some of the most common and well-known include hot flushes and mood changes, but do you know what the others are? And how can you alleviate them? I’m not going to go into the full list of symptoms here, but I will discuss a handful of the strangest, often unexpected symptoms of menopause and how you can tackle them if they’re taking over your life.
What is the menopause?
In basic terms, menopause is when the ovaries can no longer produce the hormone oestrogen. During the lead-up to menopause (the perimenopause), they become less active and efficient until they eventually stop entirely. After this point, no more eggs are produced and a woman will stop having periods. During perimenopause, a woman will still experience periods, but they may be heavier or lighter than usual, and they may also start to become irregular. During this time, you will also begin to experience the symptoms associated with menopause as your hormones change.
So, what are the stranger symptoms of menopause?
You may find these symptoms ‘strange’, as we don’t often hear them spoken about, so we don’t automatically associate them with menopause. But these symptoms are relatively common – so don’t feel like you’re alone- and they can be controlled with the right approach.
Your sense of taste may change
There is a link between oestrogen and saliva, which means that for some women declining oestrogen levels can result in a reduction in saliva flow (which may also lead to menopause-related dry mouth). Since we all need saliva to break down food into individual chemicals, your taste buds may detect those chemicals as different flavours. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a result of menopause though. Getting older, in general, can affect your taste buds, and even your sense of smell, making sensations less intense for both women and men.
Perimenopause can affect a woman’s sense of coordination, resulting from sleep changes and brain fog, commonly known symptoms of menopause. This lack of coordination can lead to clumsiness – and even minor bumps can quickly turn into significant bruises. This is because fluctuating hormones can make skin thinner, making you bruise easier.
This is a lesser-known, rather strange symptom of menopause that is rarely discussed, so, it can be pretty worrying for those who experience it. You may feel a burning or scalding sensation in the mouth that can affect your gums, tongue, lips, the inside of your cheeks, or the roof of your mouth. Like so many other menopause symptoms, it can be linked to loss of oestrogen – as can other changes in the mouth, including dryness and changes in your sense of taste and smell. But it can also be linked to many other medical conditions, so discuss this with your doctor if you’re experiencing it.
The sudden speeding-up or irregularity of your heart rate is a common yet not often talked about symptom of perimenopause. They are usually caused by increasing levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) as your body tries to stimulate ovulation. You may also experience hot flashes or anxiety along with them.
Lower oestrogen levels brought on by the menopause can lead to dehydration, and this can leave your nails brittle and weak. This can also affect your hair health and is the reason behind many skin changes we may experience.
If you start to get aches and pains in your 40s or 50s, oestrogen is likely to play an important part. Oestrogen affects your cartilage (which is the connective tissue in joints) as well as the replacement of bone, and so, when it declines during menopause, you may experience inflammation and pain. Regular exercise and stretches can be beneficial, and even gentle movement can make a difference.
How to overcome these symptoms
Just like any symptoms of menopause, the best way to combat all the above is by replenishing hormone levels in the body through hormone replacement therapy or bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). It involves taking hormones such as oestrogen, testosterone, and progesterone to help improve mood and reduce hot flushes and other symptoms.
Exercise can drastically improve your physical and mental health, and you can be entirely in charge of this. A combination of both cardiovascular and resistance exercise is the best way to release the feel-good hormone endorphin, as well as to improve your general health.
Assess your diet and choose wholesome, fresh, fibre-rich foods and lean proteins. They provide you with folate, omega-3 fatty acids and the nutrients to help improve your symptoms naturally.
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