Blame it on Menopause!

Most women are familiar with such common signs and symptoms of menopause as hot flashes, night sweats, loss of menstrual period, vaginal dryness, decreased sex drive, loss of sexual sensation, difficulty achieving orgasm, bone loss, and changes in hair, skin, and nails. However, you might be surprised to learn that there are many other signs, symptoms, syndromes, and conditions that are attributable to menopause, but which are typically not recognized as such. Rather, they are viewed and treated as separate, unrelated health issues or are simply attributed to “just getting older.”

In fact, these myriad other signs, symptoms, syndromes, and conditions often brought about by menopause are typically early warning signs of chronic, degenerative diseases of aging. By “degenerative diseases of aging” I am referring to such diseases as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s dementia, osteoporosis, and stroke.

Menopause Promotes Degenerative Diseases

The loss or compromise of any hormone system causes metabolic imbalance. Menopause is the permanent loss of your sex hormone system. Therefore, menopause is one of a number of potential causes of metabolic imbalance. However, what makes menopause deserving of special attention and understanding is that, unlike the other potential causes, menopause happens to all women who live to middle age. Making it even more important for you to fully understand menopause and its potential effect on your immediate and long-term health, is that, in general, the medical profession doesn’t.

Physicians are not trained to understand the connection between menopause and degenerative disease, its acceleration of the aging process, and its relationship to the numerous signs, symptoms, syndromes, and conditions identified in this article. Therefore, it is critically important that you do!

The degenerative diseases of aging typically develop over a long period of time; it takes years for a healthy metabolism to deteriorate to an out-of-balance metabolism, and then to a damaged metabolism, as evidenced by the presence of chronic disease. Prior to developing a chronic disease, people usually experience signs, symptoms, syndromes, and conditions triggered by the imbalances in their hormone systems.

Though they may seem mild and more bothersome than dangerous, problems such as heartburn, headaches, fatigue, digestive problems, allergies, body aches and pains, and/or sleep disruption without a known cause, are actually health issues that foreshadow bigger, more serious problems to come.

When such problems occur, you do not have a full-blown disease yet. But if left unchecked, or only treated symptomatically, these types of health issues, along with others, progress to chronic degenerative diseases of aging.

Therefore, fixing the underlying systemic imbalances that lead to these health issues is crucial to maintaining good health, today, and for the long term. Simply treating the symptoms of these health issues by using acid blockers, analgesics, laxatives, allergy medications, sleep aids, etc. does not fix the metabolic imbalance that is the cause of these symptoms. Only treating the underlying problem can do that.

In the case of menopause, this means treating the loss of the sex hormones – restoring the missing estradiol (the estrogen made in the ovaries) and progesterone with bioidentical hormones administered in a bioequivalent manner.Once you properly treat the cause, the resulting symptoms and problems go away.


Menopause Signs, Symptoms, Syndromes, and Conditions

The lists below identify signs, symptoms, syndromes, and conditions caused or promoted by imbalances of the sex hormone system. Some of these are generally associated with menopause but most of them are not. You might recognize some of them as being symptoms of other hormone system imbalances such as the insulin, thyroid or the adrenal gland systems. This is because there is overlap.

Remember, the various hormone systems of your body are interrelated and interdependent. If left untreated, any one of your hormone systems will affect all the other hormone systems, putting them out of balance.

The key is to discover which hormone system is primarily responsible for the issue(s) in question. How do you do that? You will know if a sign, symptom, syndrome, or condition is primarily related to menopause once you rebalance your sex hormones. If the problem goes away, it was entirely due to imbalances in the sex hormone system. If it does not completely go away, there is another hormone system(s) out of balance that also needs attention. Such other imbalance(s) are not necessarily attributable to a malfunction of another hormone system(s) but, rather, and, most likely, to poor nutrition and lifestyle habits.

For whatever reasons, every woman has a different and unique set of health problems that arise after menopause begins, problems which are experienced in differing ways and to differing degrees. Some women may experience their problems more mildly and for only a short time, while others will experience them more severely and for longer periods. Don’t be fooled — regardless of frequency, duration, timing, or severity, these signs, symptoms, syndromes, and conditions are being caused by imbalances of your hormone systems and, in combination with certain nutrition and lifestyle habits and/or medication side effects, lead to accelerated aging and chronic, degenerative diseases.

They are each a cry for help – a warning to pay attention before they worsen and cause your metabolism and general health to further deteriorate into a degenerative disease.


May I Have the Envelope Please…

So, here’s the list, and it’s a long one. Before you dive in, it is important for you to appreciate that menopause is not necessarily the sole cause of these signs, symptoms, syndromes, and conditions. In many cases it is, but in many other cases, it is not. Quite often, due to poor nutrition and lifestyle habits, women in menopause are already on the brink of metabolic imbalance. The hormone imbalance caused by menopause is simply “the last straw.”

But don’t despair. With proper care and treatment of your menopause including proper attention to your nutrition and lifestyle habits, you can prevent, avoid, or minimize everything on this list.


Aches and Pains — All these aches and pains can be caused by increased inflammation due to the loss of the sex hormones:

  • Backache—upper or lower back stiffness or pain
  • Hip pain—either arthritis-like or sharp hip pain
  • Joint pain and stiffness– swelling and pain in the fingers, wrists, ankles, and knees
  • Leg cramps – intermittent cramps in the feet and legs, generally occurring at night
  • Neck stiffness—can cause tension headaches
  • Plantar fasciitis or severe heel pain—worse after sitting or sleeping for a while. Just getting up to walk can trigger excruciating pain
  • Trigger point—areas of extreme sensitivity due to increased muscle stiffness that feel like tight bands or knots in the soft tissue just beneath the skin


Digestive Tract Problems — The following digestive tract problems stem from one, a combination, or all of the following and can occur when estradiol levels are low: the inability to make digestive enzymes as well, the inability to stay hydrated when estradiol levels are low, lower serotonin levels, and higher cortisol levels:

  • Bloating after meals— distension of the intestines due to an accumulation of gas
  • Constipation—difficulty in having a bowel movement, usually associated with hardened stool
  • Food allergies and intolerances—rashes and/or headaches, increased nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, and mental irritability
  • Heartburn—damage to the lining of the esophagus and stomach, which sometimes manifests as a painful burning sensation in the chest
  • Intestinal irritability—bloating that can be present with or without eating
  • Increased flatulence and gas pain
  • Nausea—an unsettled feeling in the stomach associated with the urge to vomit


Brain Function — All hormones, including the sex hormones, are neurotransmitters that affect other neurotransmitter levels such as dopamine, GABA, and serotonin. When the sex hormones are out of balance, so are these neurotransmitters. The degree of impact differs from woman to woman:

  • Cognitive decline — decreased concentration, focus, learning, memory, language, spatial abilities, and judgment and reasoning skills
  • Inability to multitask — reduced ability to meet personal, family, and work demands simultaneously
  • Inability to handle typical stresses — small issues are magnified and overwhelming
  • Inability to continue with a conversation theme — you may not be aware of this, but it can be very noticeable to your family, friends, and co-workers
  • Forgetting normal everyday words; loss of nouns – more than embarrassing, this can be frightening because women worry that they may be developing early-onset dementia.
  • Loss of self-identity — women perceive themselves as different because their capabilities and coping mechanisms have changed
  • Loss of sense of humor — due to a changing sense of self, frustration, and feeling overwhelmed
  • Memory loss — forgetting people, places and things more often. “Why did I come into this room?” Many women worry that this, also, is a sign of early-onset dementia.


Cravings — cravings are caused by changes in blood sugar and neurotransmitter levels due to reduced levels of estradiol and/or progesterone:

  • Cravings for chocolate, sugar, and other sweets
  • Increased cravings for alcohol
  • Increased cravings for nicotine


Emotional Problems — caused by fluctuations and/or deficiencies in various hormone and neurotransmitters levels:

  • Anxiety — persistent feelings of increased concern over otherwise trivial issues
  • Apprehension – feelings of dread and doom
  • Argumentativeness — more inclined to pick fights over all issues
  • Depression — lack of desire to do the things you used to enjoy; a sense of being more over-whelmed; a sense of futility
  • Emotionally volatile — happy and laughing one moment, sad and crying the next for no apparent reason
  • Frustration — exasperation with the inability to function as effectively
  • Lack of Motivation — decreased interest and enthusiasm for work, play and other activities
  • Moodiness — irritable, unhappy, angry, overly tense
  • Panic — sudden uncontrollable, feelings of fear or anxiety that are unfounded
  • Paranoia — unreasonably suspicious


Eye, Ear, Nose and Mouth Issues — The following are caused by changes in one or several of the following: inflammation, hydration status, electrolyte and mineral levels stemming from the metabolic imbalances caused by menopause:

  • Bad breath and bad taste in mouth
  • Burning mouth syndrome — symptoms include: dry and sticky mouth; painful or burning feeling in the lips, gums, tongue, roof of the mouth or throat; tingling or numb feeling in the mouth or on the tip of the tongue; bitter or metallic taste
  • Argumentativeness — more inclined to pick fights over all issues
  • Depression — lack of desire to do the things you used to enjoy; a sense of being more over-whelmed; a sense of futility
  • Canker sores
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry nose — drying of mucus membranes
  • External ear pain — intermittent sharp stabbing pain usually occurring in only one ear
  • Increased eye pressure — can manifest as a localized headache or as increased eye pressure associated with glaucoma
  • Inflamed gums — localized mouth irritation and increased bleeding gums
  • Tinnitis — ringing in ears, bells, buzzing, whooshing sounds etc.
  • Tongue pain — feeling like the tip of the tongue has been rubbed off with sandpaper
  • Tooth and gum sensitivity — hot, cold and increased pain
  • Tooth pain — persistent dull aching of one or more teeth


Gynecological Problems — Directly caused by the loss of the sex hormones:

  • Body odor — change or increase from normal
  • Decreased ability to reach orgasm — usually due to low estradiol
  • Decreased sex drive — due to both stress and lower sex hormone levels
  • Increase or decrease in breast size — increase occurs due to replacement of breast tissue with fat tissue; decrease occurs from the loss of total breast tissue
  • Vaginal dryness leading to increased risk of vaginal infections and painful sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal atrophy—shrinking of vaginal tissue due to lack of estrogen


Hair, and Nail Problems — Directly caused by the loss of the sex hormones:

  • Changes in body hair — increased facial, upper lip, chin, abdomen, chest or back hair; decreases in underarm, extremity, or pubic hair
  • Changes in head hair — more “bad hair days,” dry hair, gray hair, changes in texture, thinning of hair, and/or male-pattern balding
  • Changes in fingernails — softer, crack and break more readily, do not grow as well


Heart, Lungs and Stamina — Caused by the changes in the sympathetic nervous system and/or the adrenal gland system due to the imbalances of the sex hormone levels:

  • Asthma — irritable airways
  • Crashing fatigue — feeling energetic one moment and then completely spent the next
  • Loss of stamina — running out of energy by the end of the day, greater difficulty completing daily tasks
  • Heart palpitations — feeling as if the heart is going to explode out of the chest, which can be a very frightening experience.
  • Irregular heart beats — periodic “skipping a beat”
  • Shortness of breath during exertion


Infections and Allergies — Caused by the changes in the immune system due to the loss of the sex hormones:

  • Herpes outbreaks — right before a menstrual period women are more likely to experience an outbreak — both around the mouth and vaginally
  • Increased allergies — evidenced by nasal congestion, food allergies, and cough
  • Increased risk of infections — urinary tract, vaginal, and respiratory infections including bronchitis and pneumonias
  • Increased sinus infections and colds


Injuries and Healing — Changes in various hormone levels due to menopause decrease the ability to rebuild, change spatial perception, and cause the loss of coordination, all which contribute to the following:

  • Protracted wound healing — it takes longer for a cut or bruise to heal
  • Increased recovery time from exercise — it takes longer to: catch your breath, return to baseline heart-rate, and clear lactic acid build-up in the muscles (sore muscles for longer time)
  • More accident prone — Women run into more things and have difficulty with tasks they used to accomplish without hesitation, such as parallel parking, because they cannot judge how close they are to other cars and the curb.


Muscle, Joint, and Tendon Problems — Changes in inflammation, growth hormones, lubrication and fluid balance due to menopause:

  • Increased arthritic changes—swollen, painful joints
  • Loss of muscle mass; slow to impossible to rebuild even with weight training
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Sore muscles, joints and tendons including carpal tunnel syndrome


Neurological Problems — Changes in nerve conductivity, fluid balance, and/or stress hormone levels, which can be caused by the loss of the sex hormone system, all contribute to the following:

Decreased reaction times such as when playing a sport — movement and reaction times are slower

  • Dizziness — feeling faint from sudden movements such as standing quickly or rapid changes in head position
  • Loss of coordination — more accidents
  • Pins and needles in the extremities — tingling-type rush sensation that may accompany a hot flash or a stressful moment
  • Vertigo –feeling like the room is spinning


Skin Issues — The loss of the sex hormones, decreasing levels of growth hormones and/or increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol contribute to the following.

  • Acne
  • Age spots
  • Dry skin
  • Itchy, crawly skin—feeling of ants crawling under your skin
  • Loss of elasticity
  • Skin tags and moles
  • Wrinkling of skin


Sleep Problems – Due to decreased production of melatonin, increased levels of stress hormones and/or increased hypoglycemia associated with menopause:

  • Loss of REM sleep— the deep restorative sleep associated with dreaming
  • Sleep disruption—the inability to stay asleep the whole night — welcome to the 2-4 AM club!
  • Waking up feeling tired even after a full-night’s sleep


Temperature Dysregulation and Dehydration — Caused directly by changes in the sex hormone levels:

  • Chills — mild to intense episodes of feeling very cold as hot flashes subside. Can occur without hot flashes
  • Dehydration — a lack of water in the body that manifests as dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, stomach pain and/or increased thirst
  • Hot flashes — sudden unpredictable and unpleasant rushes of heat, perspiration, dizziness, often accompanied by a pounding heart
  • Night sweats — sudden, profuse perspiration on all or parts of the body while sleeping


Urinary Tract Problems — Loss of estradiol directly affects the urinary tract tissues:

  • Frequent urination — increased number of times in a day and night, which may or may not be associated with an increased volume of urine
  • Urgency to urinate and urinary incontinence — unable to hold urine as well; loss of urine when laughing, exercising, sneezing, and coughing


Weight Issues — Changes in metabolism due to the loss of the sex hormones

  • Inability to lose weight despite improvements in nutrition and exercise habits
  • Weight Gain/weight redistribution — where did that new tummy come from?


A Final Note

The failure to recognize these many signs, symptoms, syndromes and conditions as being caused or promoted by menopause is consistent with the general misunderstanding of menopause and its broad impact on a woman’s overall health and wellbeing. For this reason, it is important that you be your own health advocate. It is time to take control of your own menopause! To do so, you need to continue to educate yourself about menopause and how it impacts your health both now and for the rest of your life. Remember, menopause is a permanent condition – once you are in it, you are in it forever.

The good news is that no woman has to endure the myriad health issues identified in this article. Preventing or curing them is very much under your control because they are due to metabolic imbalances. You can prevent or cure such metabolic imbalances through Hormone Balancing Therapy (HBTx). The essential elements of HBTx are improving your nutrition and lifestyle habits and rebalancing your hormone levels with bioidentical hormones administered in a bioequivalent manner. For more information about HBTx, please read “Treat the Problem Not Just the Symptoms With Bioidentical Hormones”.


To your health and happiness,

Diana Schwarzbein, MD