The ‘seven dwarves’ of menopause

By: Tania Adams

A pharmacist colleague of mine once aptly described the symptoms of menopause as ‘The Seven Dwarves of Menopause’: namely Itchy, B***y, Sweaty, Sleepy, Bloated, Forgetful and Psycho!

If you are feeling this way, you are certainly not alone. Women start their hormonal journey early, with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), where physical and emotional changes occur just before a period.

By the time we reach our 40s, many will start to experience peri-menopause with symptoms that might include migraines, heavier periods, mood swings, weight gain, night waking and other hormonal changes*. These symptoms can last up to 10 years before women finally reaching menopause at the average age of 52.

You are considered to have reached menopause after 12 months in a row of no further periods. Menopause symptoms include hot flushes, trouble sleeping and vaginal dryness*. The low levels of oestrogen associated with menopause can also lead to a higher incidence of urinary tract infections. 

But everyone is different. Average is just that – there will be many who reach menopause earlier or later. Symptoms may be minor for some, unbearable for others. In fact it has been found that those women who ‘burn the candle at both ends’ may struggle more with peri and menopausal symptoms, so it’s important that you try and look after yourself early on.

A recent study by Deloitte’s showed that women in New Zealand are participating in employment at higher rates than ever before, despite their workloads at home being double that of their male partners. We are busier than ever before and at some stage, this impacts our health.

I always believe that an all-round approach is best, as with any health issues. Constructive changes to your lifestyle can actually have a positive bearing on your peri-menopause and menopausal symptoms. Things like reducing your coffee and alcohol intake can help. Keeping your bowel healthy and high fibre intake can stop oestrogen recycling in your system, so may keep some symptoms at bay.

Natural health supplements can be considered, such as magnesium, which plays an important role in many bodily functions. There are also other natural health supplements available. Speak to your pharmacist about what might suit you best. Prescription medications might be worth considering and can be discussed with your doctor or pharmacist. Remember you are not alone.

* It is important to note that certain other health problems can exhibit similar patterns and therefore need checking with your doctor.

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