Written by Oladapo Ashiru - Nigeria
Menopause literally means the end of monthly cycles (end of monthly periods or menstruation). It signals the end of the fertile phase of a woman's life.
In addition to being defined by the state of the uterus and the absence of menstrual flow, menopause can also be described as the permanent cessation of the primary function of the ovaries: the ripening and release of ova and the release of hormones that cause both the creation of uterine lining and the subsequent shedding of the uterine lining.
In Nigeria, menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 years. In the United Kingdom, the average age for menopause is 52 years (National Health Service) while in the USA it is 51years (National institute of aging). About one fifth of women in India experience menopause before they clock 41.
A woman is born with a finite number of eggs that are stored in the ovaries. The ovaries also produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which regulate menstruation and ovulation.
Menopause occurs when the ovary no longer releases an egg every month and menstruation stops.
Menopause when it occurs after the age of 40 is considered a normal part of aging. But some women can experience menopause early, either as a result of surgery, such as hysterectomy or damage to the ovaries through chemotherapy. Menopause that occurs before age 40 regardless of cause is called premature menopause.
Some symptoms of menopause are hot flashes, insomnia, fatigue, racing heart, headache, changes in libido (sex drive), vaginal dryness, depression, joint and muscle aches and pains.
Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well being.
Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, worried, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, hurt or restless. They may lose interest in activities that once were pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions and may contemplate or attempt suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy or aches, pains or digestive problems that are resistant to treatment may also be part of the symptoms.
Depressed mood is not necessarily a psychiatric disorder. It may be a normal reaction to certain life events, a symptom of some medical conditions or a side effect of some drugs or medical treatments.
Adrenal fatigue is a common and disturbing symptom of menopause. It makes women feel deeply exhausted even though they haven't done a great deal of physical activity. If not dealt with, it can greatly impact a woman's day to day life.
Adrenal fatigue during menopause is a debilitating and complex disorder that causes body exhaustion and poor stamina. Such feelings can seem relentless as they aren't improved by bed rest and may be made worse by physical or mental activity.
Causes of adrenal fatigue during menopause can be divided into two areas: psychological and physical. However it is widely accepted that physical causes are responsible for the majority of women.
Psychological causes: adrenal fatigue is a result of the adrenal glands' inability to deal with anxiety and other forms of daily stress. It is the job of the adrenal glands to organise the body's responses to every kind of stress through hormones that control processes, such as energy production and storage, heart rate, immune function, muscle tone and other procedures that enable the body to cope with stress.
Inability to meet the demands of daily stress results in emotional instability and imbalances of body functions which prompts adrenal fatigue during menopause. Generally, these cases are temporary and stops when prolonged periods of stress come to an end.
Physical causes: hormones such as estrogen have a definite effect because they regulate the effect of cortisol (hormone responsible for tiredness). If oestrogen level drops, cortisol is uncontrolled and so produces adrenal fatigue. This is why maintaining hormonal balance is so important in the fight against adrenal fatigue during menopause.
Until recently, it was common to prescribe hormone replacement therapy to treat the underlying hormonal imbalance behind menopausal fatigue. However, many doctors are reconsidering this option after the discovery of HRT's consistent links to breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease and other life threatening side effects.
Many Nigerians agree that the most effective approach to combat fatigue is to combine changes in lifestyle with alternative treatment options. There are two approaches to treating adrenal fatigue: lifestyle changes and alternative therapy both entailing very low risks.
The first tier (life style changes) demands the most self control. Often, simple lifestyle adjustments can greatly improve fatigue as well as overall health.
Fatigue in the daytime can be tied to a woman's sleeping habits. Paying attention to diet is very helpful. Eating alkaline forming foods are beneficial in fighting fatigue. If a woman is experiencing fatigue due to anxiety or stress, practicing stress reduction techniques e.g breathing exercises and yoga will help. Lifestyle changes are an outstanding way to relieve fatigue and improve health