Last week we shared a blog post on the misconceptions surrounding menstruation, and how perpetuating the idea of women as “impure” or “dirty” during their menstrual cycle is incredibly harmful to the overall health of women. If these stigmas surrounding women exist during their menstrual years, one might assume women would finally escape stigma or exclusion once they entered menopause. Sadly, this is not the case, as over 60% of women report they experience both shame and embarrassment as result of menopausal symptoms, while finding little help or support from their community or workplace.
Our hope is by initiating this conversation, we can begin normalizing this stage of a woman’s life, as well as validate her experience. Research shows one in four women find themselves struggling with menopausal symptoms, with nearly half failing to recognize they were even experiencing menopause. So, we also hope to encourage both education and dialogue amongst women regarding their menopausal symptoms. Half of the world’s population will go through menopause – one should not feel as if they are alone in this process.
What Happens During Menopause?
Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 49 and 52, and symptoms can last between four and eight years. A woman is considered menopausal once her menstrual periods have ceased for a full year, however women can be premenopausal for several years prior to menopause.
When a woman is premenopausal, her periods become erratic, as the ovaries production of hormones (both estrogen and progesterone) begin to decrease. This reduction in hormones often leads to a variety of symptoms, the most common of which is hot flashes (experienced by 75% of women). Hot flashes involve a rush of heat to the top half of the body, often resulting in sweating, heart palpitations, and/or feelings of dizziness. However, menopause symptoms can be experienced both physically and mentally, ranging from insomnia, weight gain, depression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and reduced bone mass. Women are often mocked or teased when experiencing menopausal symptoms, but these are very real issues that demand very real attention. The socio-cultural norms surrounding menopause are dangerous for women because these aren’t just physical inconveniences. These abrupt changes within a woman’s body can affect her mental health and wellbeing. There are 61-million women over the age of 50 in the U.S. workforce, and due to the embarrassment and shame surrounding menopause, most women find themselves drastically unprepared for the challenges of this new stage, making it nearly impossible to maintain their quality of life.
How the Brain Ages
Although there is no discernable difference between the male and female brain, the brains of men and women do uniquely age. And menopause plays a critical role in that process.
When we think of the brain, we may conceive it as an isolated organ, completely independent from the rest of our body. In actuality, our brain is in constant communication with our body, and this dialogue is mediated by our hormones. Men produce higher percentages of testosterone, and women produce higher percentages of estrogen, however the focus is not on the type of hormone, but their longevity. A man does not deplete his production of testosterone till later in life, which is a prolonged and fairly symptom-free process. Whereas a woman’s reduction in hormones occurs in midlife, and as we’ve mentioned, is anything but symptom-free.
Both the brain and the ovaries are part of the neuroendocrine system. This system is the mechanism by which the hypothalamus (a region of the brain) maintains and regulates various physiological functions within the body. Because both the brain and the ovaries are part of this system, the brain communicates daily with the ovaries, and the ovaries with the brain. Therefore, the health of the brain is greatly influenced by the health of the ovaries, and the opposite is also true. As such, estrogen is not solely involved in reproduction, but it also affects how the brain functions. Estrogen triggers neurons to burn glucose, which in turn creates energy in the brain. Estrogen activates the hypothalamus, which regulates body temperature. It activates the brain stem, which effects our quality of sleep. And estrogen activates the amygdala (our emotion center), and the hippocampus (our memory center). If a woman’s estrogen levels are high, the energy levels of her brain are equally high, and she can with relative ease, maintain homeostasis within her body. If her estrogen levels are low, the energy levels of her brain are low, thereby creating an imbalance, which can negatively effect body temperature, hunger, sleep, mood, and memory. It is important to mention here that although the reduction in estrogen is certainly affecting the brain, it does not affect cognitive performance. Meaning, although menopausal women are surely tired, they are just as astute and quick-witted as ever.
Treatments for Menopausal Symptoms
There are a variety of existing treatments for menopausal symptoms. Doctors will often prescribe anti-depressants, sleep-aids, or anti-anxiety medications. Of course there are benefits to using any pharmaceutical compound, but those benefits are always weighted against potential side effects.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a popular treatment for alleviating menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis. It is intended to balance a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels as she nears or enters menopause. Although obstetricians and gynecologists may support the use of HRT, most oncologists discourage hormonal therapy due to the increased risk of breast cancer.
At Rx Remedies, we recognized the need for a safe, yet effective menopausal relief product. We often discuss the potential anti-anxiety and anti-depressant benefits of CBD, but CBD also shows great promise in relieving insomnia. However, our Menopausal Relief product is more than just full-spectrum CBD and our concentrated terpene profiles, which are found in our other sublingual products.
Our Menstrual Relief sublingual drops include various compounds, such as vitamin-D3, a known hormone, which permits calcium absorption in the small intestines. Calcium ensures healthy development and maintenance of muscles, nerves, cells and bones. As calcium absorption decreases following menopause, vitamin-D3 supplementation becomes increasingly important. Research further indicates that vitamin-D3 can improve mood, and has anti-inflammatory properties. Black seed oil or black cohosh is another compound used in our Menopause Relief drops, and is one of the most well-studied supplements for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and sleeping issues.
What Can We Do
How can we better support women as they enter this new stage in their lives? As with most ideas or concepts, we can seek understanding by better educating ourselves on what women experience when they enter menopause. By better understanding the process, we are better positioned to support women. Many women report the mental and physical symptoms of menopause are exacerbated by archaic gender-and-age-related assumptions, both in the workplace and within their community. So, seek to drive change where you are, and hopefully, we can begin normalizing the conversation around menopause, a process that half our population experiences.
Sources and More Information:
Is Menopause a Taboo in Your Organization?
TedTalk: How Menopause Affects the Brain