#2.2 Menopause symptoms: Why they happen and how to deal with them

As mentioned previously, I think we can be quick to blame our hormones for absolutely everything in menopause when there may be other drivers for them. It is always worth considering whether there are other factors that are contributing to how you feel and then exploring ways to make changes to help.

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This section is a guide to some of the symptoms you MAY experience, why they may be occurring and some ideas of how you may be able to reduce them. Of course there are many more symptoms that you may feel relate to this stage of life but I am highlighting the most common ones that women seem to experience and giving a brief overview of some simple strategies that can help you to overcome them. As you go through the sections in the program you will discover more about how we can help ourselves and just how much everything has an affect on everything else!

There are herbs and plants that, if you want to explore that avenue, can help alleviate symptoms. However do check with your health provider that they are safe if taking them along with any other medication.

As always, this is not conclusive and not a replacement for medical advice. You should always seek the help of your health provider if you feel it necessary.


Vasomotor symptoms are the most commonly reported symptoms of menopause. Hot flushes and night sweats are caused by a sudden increase in blood flow, often to the face, chest and neck. They last typically for 1 to 5 minutes and can become debilitating, embarrassing and a real nuisance! You may notice redness in your face, neck or chest and perspiration, not the best look. And then as you find you’re getting stressed about it, it makes it even worse!

Most research suggests that vasomotor symptoms occur when decreased oestrogen levels cause your body's thermostat (hypothalamus) to become more sensitive to slight changes in body temperature. When the hypothalamus thinks your body is too warm, it signals to the body to cool down which creates the hot flush. You can then cool right down afterwards and feel cold.
They are one of the main culprits for sleep disturbance which in turn has its own knock-on effects so if we can find a way to manage or reduce the severity of them it makes a big difference.

NOTE: there can be other medical reasons for vasomotor symptoms

Potential drivers
  • Stress
  • Low oestrogen
  • Fabrics of clothing / bed linen
  • Sugars / alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Spicy foods
  • Smoking
  • Poor sleep / sleep hygiene
What you can do to help;
  • Use breathing techniques/deep breathing/relaxation
  • Visualisation combined with deep breathing –cool place–cold mountain stream, swimming in a cooling lake, cool shower
  • Sipping iced water as a flush starts
  • Meditations/positive self talk/Apps (eg “calm”)
  • Keep still!
  • Cool room at night
  • Keep an ice pack on your bedside table
  • Cooling bed linen/nightwear
  • Nutrition –Japanese/Mediterranean diet can be beneficial
  • Stress reduction
  • Dressing in layers/mindful of clothing choices
  • Herbal supplements
  • Take away the potential triggers –alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine, smoking

Lack of concentration, brain fog, or loss of memory. Things you know you should remember (such as people’s names), is another classic symptom of menopause. I can remember so well totally forgetting PINs to cards, names of people and places and all sorts of things!

However, like many of the ‘classic symptoms’ it may not be totally down to hormonal changes. Things may be happening in life (like for me I had recently lost my lovely Dad) that could be causing these symptoms.

Potential drivers
  • Cortisol imbalance / blood sugar imbalance
  • Dehydration
  • Low Oestrogen
  • Alcohol
  • Low iron levels
  • Stress
What you can do to help;
  • Keep blood sugar steady by looking at your nutrition –include lean protein with every meal and snack –almonds, oatcakes with hummus, peanut butter on apple slices
  • Eat regularly and enough as low energy intake can affect concentration
  • Make sure you are well hydrated
  • Include oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring) as these fish have been linked to improved brain health
  • B vitamins are essential for brain function –include dark, leafy vegetables, beans, eggs, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, cheese, meat and fish in your diet
  • Balance hormones
  • Take regular exercise to aid neurochemical delivery to your brain

Many women do gain weight during the menopause but how much weight you gain is something you can control. As our hormones change this can promote fat storage, especially around the middle of the body but hormones are not the only reason for weight gain!

Potential drivers
  • Cortisol imbalance caused by stress
  • Changing sex hormones
  • Sugar consumption/ alcohol–check labels
  • Poor nutrition and food choices
  • Lack of movement
  • Regular socialising!
  • Poor sleep

As we age we tend to notice more aches and pains in our body. Much depends on lifestyle factors, how much wear and tear your body has encountered and physical changes due to your changing hormones. Once again, we cannot blame our hormones alone.

Potential drivers
  • Lack of exercise
  • Too much exercise of the wrong sort for you
  • Hormonal changes
  • Changes to soft tissue & tendons
  • Stress
  • Dehydration
What you can do to help;
  • Address exercise balance
  • Balance hormones
  • Hydrate well
  • Reduce and manage stress

We know from when we were teenagers going through puberty that irritability and mood swings are common with hormonal changes. As a woman you will have most likely experienced the ups and downs of your hormonal cycle. Because we tend to suffer with various other menopausal symptoms alongside mood changes it can seem to heighten the irritability we feel. Lack of sleep, having constant hot flushes and being forgetful is enough to change our mood

Again, as you can see, nothing happens in isolation or just because our hormones are changing.

Potential drivers
  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Life!
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Blood sugar imbalances
  • Lack of structure / purpose
  • Lack of exercise
What you can do to help;
  • Exercise
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Reduce and manage stress
  • Look at your eating patterns and nutrition
  • Reduce alcohol
  • Restorative activities / nature

Another common complaint many women have is how the menopause is affecting their sex life.

Potential drivers
  • Loss of interest
  • Tiredness
  • Discomfort
  • Issues with pelvic floor health
  • Loss of confidence in the way you look
  • Night sweats
What you can do to help;
  • Check testosterone levels
  • Address sleep issues
  • Use lubricants
  • Explore the use of oestrogen pessaries –talk to your GP
  • Address pelvic floor issues
  • Try ways of reducing vasomotor symptoms
  • Take time to implement strategies that can help you feel you are at your best – be kind to yourself!

Such a big subject! So many women report terribly poor sleep during their midlife years –but also at other stages of their life. This can have an effect on so many areas of our life so definitely worth exploring ways to help yourself.

Potential drivers
  • Night sweats
  • Worry and anxiety
  • Hormone changes
  • Poor sleep hygiene
  • Nutrition and drinking habits
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of restorative activities and relaxation
What you can do to help;
  • Manage your menopausal symptoms
  • Look at your eating and drinking habits
  • Take more exercise and fresh air
  • Practice relaxation, breathing, meditation
  • Practice good sleep hygiene habits

You can read more in the sleep section

These are just some of the most common symptoms that women experience.
There are, of course, many more symptoms that you may be experiencing, many of which we will look at in the various sections in the program.

I wanted to highlight that we should never just blame our hormones!

As always, if you are struggling with symptoms that are affecting your day to day life and you have tried to alleviate them through other methods, do seek help from your medical practitioner.