Journal / Menopause

How Hormones Cause Symptoms As We Age

Nancy L Belcher

Written by Nancy L Belcher Ph.D., MPA

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Green OB/GYN

Last updated November 25, 2022

How Hormones Cause Symptoms As We Age

Article Content 4 mins read

  • What is the "Menopause Transition"?
  • What hormones are involved in menopause symptoms?
  • What are the symptoms of decreased hormones?
  • Common menopause symptoms include:
  • What can I do about dropping hormones?

At Winona, we often hear, "How can hormones cause all of these symptoms?" Well, the answer is it's complicated.

Starting in your 30s or 40s, you will produce less and less estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. This stage is called perimenopause. Eventually, your menstrual periods will stop with the continued drop of these hormones. After 12 consecutive months of no period, you have completed menopause and are in the stage called postmenopause.

Hormones are responsible for many bodily functions. Consider them 'chemical messengers' that move through the bloodstream and impact the way your cells and organs function. It's normal for hormones to shift at different times of your life, but at menopause, the levels go up and down dramatically. When hormones drop too low, the body may not operate as well as it used to. 

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What is the "Menopause Transition"?

The complete transition with menopause is called the 'Menopause Transition' (MT) and is spread out for some 20 years or more and typically starts sooner than most women think. About 10% of women go through perimenopause before they turn 40!

MT includes the phases of perimenopause (typically age 35-45), menopause (somewhere between 45-58), and ends with postmenopause (the rest of your life).  MT is triggered by a decrease in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause are normal and natural stages and aren't 'curable' - but the symptoms of the decreased hormones during these stages can be alleviated. It is critical to keep hormones balanced in order to feel our best since we have hormone receptors all over the body.

Hormones are released from various glands throughout your body. Through the proper release of these hormones, your physiology can play like a symphony throughout your life. Sometimes that symphony is rollicking and deserves an ovation, while other times, it is discordant, and you feel ‘off.’ 

During MT, the decreasing release of hormones is often not well-orchestrated and can result in symptoms that can be very concerning, including weight gain, brain fog, and memory lapses. The body's hormone systems must all work in harmony and continually rebalance in response to physical and emotional events in your life for you to feel your best.

What hormones are involved in menopause symptoms?

Suddenly waking up at night in sweat or noticing a bulging tummy becomes a new normal, while some women feel overwhelmed by hot flashes and exhausted by heavy periods. Of course, those lucky few women have no apparent symptoms.

The changing hormones produced by the ovaries are the main reason for menopause symptoms. We all know estrogen as the primary "female" hormone, and its levels irregularly decline during perimenopause. The reduced estrogen production beginning in perimenopause can have far-reaching symptoms listed below.

In addition to estrogen, the levels of other hormones produced by the ovaries—

progesterone and testosterone —are also changing and creating all sorts of menopausal symptoms.

Untreated menopause can serve up debilitating symptoms and serious side effects that can completely derail a woman's life and cause serious problems in her relationships. Suppose the drop in hormones in perimenopause is not corrected. In that case, women are at a greater risk of heart attack, diabetes, colon & breast cancer, stroke, bone disease, dementia, and even suicide. 1,2,3 

For 80% of women in perimenopause, they will have far-reaching symptoms – including brain fog, anxiety, weight gain, low libido, depression, sleeplessness, exhaustion, and stiff joints. 4,5 The good news is that they can achieve effective treatments for perimenopause available at Winona.

What are the symptoms of decreased hormones?

Most women have the same menopausal symptoms throughout their menopause transition, just at varying levels. Some symptoms will worsen, while others may start to lessen (like hot flashes). Here are the signs that may be caused by the drop of hormones during menopause.

Common menopause symptoms include:

  • Weight gain & changes in weight distribution (belly fat)

  • Skin and hair changes (thinning or loss)

  • Irregular periods (shorter, longer, or uneven gaps between them) and more intense premenstrual syndrome symptoms (during perimenopause)

  • Hot flashes, night sweats, and difficulty sleeping (insomnia) 

  • Fatigue and mood changes, including depression

  • Vaginal and bladder changes (vaginal dryness and incontinence)

  • Decreased interest in sex & maybe painful sex

  • Brain fog or difficulty concentrating

  • Occasional racing heartbeat

  • Tingling, twitching, or electric shock feelings

  • Unexplained joint and muscle aches

Age beautifully. Goodbye getting old.

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Age beautifully. Goodbye getting old.

What can I do about dropping hormones?

Refuse to "Endure It" or "Suck-It-Up." Why Should You? Surveys of thousands of women in menopause transition show that they felt better about life after treating their menopause symptoms than they did 10 years ago. They experienced more hope, increased happiness with their bodies, newfound optimism about careers, and were excited about their family 2,4,5

"The compounded estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone worked brilliantly... Within four days, my hot flashes and palpitations disappeared, my memory returned, my mood lifted, and my joints became supple. Estrogen was the oil I needed in my engine."

“This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.”

References

  1. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/health-and-wellness/menopause/what-treatments-are-there-menopause-symptoms

  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/perimenopause-rocky-road-to-menopause

  3. https://www.baptisthealth.com/services/womens-care/conditions/menopause-perimenopause-and-postmenopause

  4. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/may/09/mission-menopause-my-hormones-went-off-a-cliff-and-im-not-going-to-be-ashamed

  5. http://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopauseflashes/menopause-symptoms-and-treatments/are-we-there-yet-navigate-now-with-our-guided-menopause-tour

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