Menopause is the stage in womanhood that most women dread, but the truth is, menopause and postmenopause are when we really shine. We’re smarter, sexier, and more in our power than ever before.
The thing is though, we don’t want to hit menopause too early. Menopause is when a woman’s monthly period ends, marking the end of her reproductive years. It typically occurs in the late 40s or 50s. So if you are in your 20s, 30s, or even early 40s and experiencing early menopause symptoms, that can be frustrating/confusing/scary. I hear you.
In this article, we’re going to talk about early menopause signs, what causes early menopause, and how we can naturally support and remedy this time.
What is menopause?
As we’ve learned, most women begin menopause between their late forties and early fifties. The average age of menopause for women in the United States is 51 years old. Early menopause usually means menopause begins before the age of 45, but early menopause in 30s or even 20s is even possible—and considered “premature”.
Menopause happens when your ovaries stop producing eggs and estrogen levels go down. A woman is considered to be in menopause when she hasn’t had her period for more than 12 months. She also typically experiences hot flashes and fatigue.
During this time, hormone levels are rapidly changing.Hormonal changes during perimenopause and menopause wreak havoc on sleep and can lead to mood swings, irritability, depression, memory loss, and more.
Symptoms of early menopause
Before we get into the symptoms of early menopause, it’s important to touch on perimenopause. Perimenopause is the first stage in the process and can begin eight to 10 years before menopause. During this stage, you can experience these symptoms listed below:
- Hot flashes
- Irregular periods (light or heavy periods, PMS without bleeding)
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Lower libido
- Mood swings
- Digestive issues
- Anxiety and depression
- Headaches and migraines
- Weight gain
- Breast soreness
- Joint pain
- Dizzy spells
- Muscle tension
- Thinning hair
- Gum and mouth issues
- Brain fog, poor memory
- Itchy or flaky skin
- Brittle nails
- Urinary incontinence
What causes early menopause?
Oftentimes, if there is no obvious reason for early menopause to occur, the cause is considered genetic. Understanding when your mother and women in your lineage first experienced onset menopause could be helpful for understanding if it will/is happening to you.
Research found that more than 75 different genes can cause ovarian insufficiency and premature menopause. Which brings us to the next potential cause, chromosome defects.
Some chromosomal defects like Turner syndrome can lead to early menopause. Women with Turner syndrome have ovaries that do not function properly and can cause early menopause. Other chromosomal defects can be the cause as well. Usually, with a chromosomal abnormality, ovaries do not function and periods and secondary characteristics must be brought on with hormonal replacement therapy.
Autoimmune diseases like thyroid disease or rheumatoid arthritis can also be a cause of premature menopause. Inflammation from these diseases can impact the ovaries, and as we know, menopause starts when the ovaries are done working.
Lifestyle factors can also have an impact on the timing of your menopause. Smoking cigarettes has an anti-estrogen effect that can trigger early menopause. Research found that long-term or regular smokers are likely to experience menopause earlier than women who don’t smoke. At least one to two years.
Body mass index or BMI can also play a role in early menopause. Because estrogen is stored in fat tissue, women who are very thin have fewer estrogen stores. This means they can be depleted sooner.
Keeping your body nourished with healthy fats, adequate protein, and beneficial carbs can help with this.
A 2015 research review linked viruses to premature menopause. HIV, mumps, tuberculosis, malaria, and other viruses could potentially lead to ovarian changes and premature menopause.
Exposure to toxins
Those who have undergone chemotherapy or radiation therapy have a higher risk of premature menopause.
One study also looked at the exposure of estrogen-disrupting chemicals. It found that exposure to phthalates and pesticides increased your risk of early menopause.
How is early menopause treated?
Early menopause doesn’t require treatment. However, there are a bunch of options available to help manage the symptoms that come with menopause.
Premature menopause (occurs before 40s) on the other hand, will oftentimes be treated with hormone replacement therapy.
Natural Ways to Support/Prevent Early Menopause
Reduce exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals
Xenoestrogens are found in conventional cosmetics, food storage containers, plastics, cleaning products, and food. Here is how to reduce exposure:
- Swap conventional chemical-laden cosmetics with organic, all-natural alternatives
- Switch from plastic storage containers to glass food containers
- Reduce consumption of red meat
- Buy organic and hormone-free foods whenever possible
- Purchase BPA free cans
Nourish your body
If we want our body to function properly and optimally, we need to support it. Healthy fats from avocado, coconut, nuts, and seeds should be incorporated into every meal. Do not be scared of carbs! Only highly-processed carbs are the bad guys. Colorful vegetables and fiber-rich grains will help stabilize blood sugar. Make sure you are getting enough healthy protein in every meal.