Symptoms of Perimenopause, Menopause, & Hormone Imbalance
Hello Beautiful Blossom!
Welcome to our My Body Is an Alien blog series. Today, let's talk about how we feel (mind, body, and soul) with our hormones doing what they do: "normally" as with depleting levels over time for perimenopause and menopause, and not so normally with hormonal imbalances. As in, let's talk "symptoms."
From the time we are prepubescent to post-menopausal, just about every part of our bodies (if not our whole bodies) are impacted by our hormones, whether they are functioning normally or not. (Read this AWESOMELY enlightening post: Life Under the Influence of Estrogen & Progesterone.)
For instance, our skin is impacted; ask any teen blossom with acne. Our bones are impacted; ask any post-menopausal blossom who is experiencing bone loss and osteoporosis (That's a possible outcome from losing our estrogen protection.).
As you read from the lists of reported and acknowledged symptoms further on in this post (mostly associated with perimenopause and menopause - but some also from our more fertile period years, too), you will grow your understanding of just how widely we are impacted ... truly, mind, body, and soul.
Symptoms of perimenopause, menopause, & hormone imbalance can be your body's way of letting you know it's not getting what it needs to perform optimally.
Before we dive into the many different symptoms, there's a few things I feel I should say about how all these symptoms make us feel ... and to give hope right up front.
I, myself, have been through my own personal hell with my ever fluctuating hormones and the resulting symptoms. I've talked with friends, loved ones, colleagues, and I've read and read and read about other women with their stories and their challenges. And if I've learned anything, it's that although we can have some similar experiences, each of us will travel our own road and experience our own journey. What we feel and go through varies so widely, it seems bizarre. But is it bizarre? I don't think so. I think it actually makes perfect sense.
Each of us beautiful blossoms have lived unique lives in our unique bodies. No two of us have the same exact biochemistry, physiology, and genetics. Nor have any of us lived under the same exact conditions: food supply, water supply, air supply. None of us exercise or get movement into our bodies exactly the same. None of us sleep exactly the same. None of us use all the same personal care products. None of us live in the same exact environments. Our jobs aren't the same. Our stress levels aren't the same. Etc.
As such, none of us will experience the same exact things. All of these factors make a difference and change and influence our experience.
And the hopeful, good news up front: Since all of these things influence and change our individual and unique experiences, we have control over many of these factors and can make changes to our living to help us feel better. We can help ourselves in many ways to feel better ... and that beautiful blossom is POWERFUL and EMPOWERING!
We'll talk more about what we can do, but first, let's see this list of symptoms! I'm going to break it into 2 parts: symptoms I've personally experienced, and symptoms I haven't had, but are reported and acknowledged as hormonally influenced.
2 important points I need to make about symptoms:
- Each one is variable. It can range in intensity from mild to severe, and even disabling. Each blossom will be different, but with similarities.
- All symptoms pretty much suck.
Mary Kate's Personal Symptoms
The following is a list of my personal symptoms over the years, mostly focused on perimenopause (cuz that's the state I've been in for nearly a decade now.)
Prior to "official" perimenopause, during my years of periods and "relative" fertility, I came to nickname my periods as "monsters," because of how immobilizing and debilitating my periods used to be ... cramps that would drop me to the floor, weakness, migraines ... I knew the first day of my monster was a wash (that I would be pretty much stuck in bed on a sick day ... yep, I used almost all of my sick days for my period when I worked for other peeps.).
- Hot “flashes” (For me "flashes" is hilarious ... my heat could last minutes to hours. Stripping my shirt off, standing in front of an open winter window, drinking ice cold water, and putting ice packs on my chest and back helped.)
- Night sweats (sheet soaking)
- Achy knees, like when I’m sick with the flu ... I hate this feeling!
- Irregular periods, ["fertile years" 23 - 37 days; perimenopause mostly 27-30 day cycles, but finally and excitedly starting to see more irregularity 12-34 days (sign of the "end" in sight ... bring on my last egg!!! ... let's do this menopause thing!!!)]
- Food tastes affected (especially dairy ... My husband laughs, cuz I'll tell him the milk tastes like "farm ass." And he says, "No it doesn't. It tastes like regular milk." ... uh, no ... it tastes like farm ass. lol.)
- Increasing allergies/sensitivities (mint – toothpaste, floss, fluoride rinse; honey; lip balms) sensitive to strength of drugs; taking children doses oftentimes, when painkiller or Benadryl needed; and worthy of its own note as you'll see as you read ... these allergies & sensitivities eventually developed into lung challenges requiring the use of an inhaler.)
- Increased anxiety (good goddess ... worthy of its own post ... for now, know this, over time my little bit of anxiety grew and grew and grew, and then the pandemic hit, and well, THERAPY!!!)
- Insomnia and sleep disturbances (and the worst is when I'm exhausted, but still ... can't ... sleep!!! Also when I wake up after 3-4 hours with no going back to sleep), or sometimes I wake up a lot during my sleep.
- Extreme fatigue (developed into chronic fatigue; worthy of its own post. I called my fatigue the Tireds. I would sleep for long periods, 12-17 hours. Started off as a few days a month, ended up being almost every day of the month ... for 7 long, disabled years!!! CF is hard to explain until you feel it. Like trying to explain to someone what chocolate tastes and feels like. But I can say this ... it's depletion like nothing you've ever felt. Everything is a monumental task. Even breathing. You don't have the energy to move, lethargy on steroids! You're too weak. You feel exhausted, but can't sleep. Life is lost stuck in bed. It is the major suck!!!!
- Known to have low blood pressure, always previously asymptomatic, but now I get woozy at times and lose my balance. Sometimes I fall.
- Intensely chapped, cracked lips that won’t heal or respond to any amount of lubricant (have tried Vaseline, every kind of organic lip balm – until I get allergic to it - and now Shea Butter). And it’s not just that my lips are cracked, it’s that the elasticity of my mouth/lip shape is affected. I can barely open my mouth, and it takes ripping my lips to do it. This, like all my symptoms comes and goes, and when it comes it’s not always the same intensity, but when it’s at its worst, it’s seriously NOT fun. In recent years, I pretty much ALWAYS have cracked lips. It's painful.
- Migraines ... heating pad to the forehead while I whimper and beg for mercy. Also "regular" headaches.
- Thinning hair (I had trouble for a while. In the shower an alarming amount of hair would just appear in my hands as I washed my hair. I used bio-identical progesterone cream for a while, and it seemed to have helped. No more hair scares.)
- "Weepy” feeling. What started out as occasional "weepy" sensations, teary eyes has developed into all out sobbing fests at time ... for no apparent reason. One minute I'm fine, and then ... sobbing like I'm suffering the worst depression of my life. Every once in while, I actually feel sad with it ... but mostly, it's just freaking sobbing and releasing ... like my body just needs to get "it" out ... what is "it"? ... I dunno ... but I hate how it feels ... and currently, I tend to have a spell of this just about every damn night. Ugh. (BTW: not usually a big crier. Never needed to cry to release before. Not really a sad person. But when I get really sad, sure, I cry. But now ... I'm a big crier. Blaaargh!)
- Loss of libido … way harder to gain interest … been going on for years. Uh, this sucks. I want to be all sexy kitten for my honeybun, and my body is like ... nope. Nothing. And it really is my body. My honeybun is still sexy as hell to me. I look at him and get googly in my heart and mind, but my body is like ... maybe next time. Blaaaargh!
- The "girls" are shrinking ... I'm losing breast tissue.
- Sometimes hard to concentrate. I'm a big thinker. Big on education. Big on learning and growing myself all the time. So this one ... bothersome. But relative to chronic fatigue and cracked lips ... uh, tolerable.
- Memory … what memory? I walk into a room and ask myself , Why am I in here? My least favorite is being in the kitchen making a meal, and I'll walk over to the pantry and be all like, "What am I doing? What am I looking for?" And I'll have to reexamine my work area and try to figure out WTH I was coming over for.
- I have to pee more and more and more.
- Urinary Incontinence … leaking pee for a few minutes after peeing; peeing when I cough. Blaaargh.
- Bowel movements can be impaired at hormone changes (constipation) for period onset and ovulations.
- Constipation back pain, relieved after pooing.
- Swollen ankles (edema/fluid retention ... if this happens to you, try Legs Up the Wall pose, it's a miracle!)
- Face breakouts, acne.
- Receding gums. OMG. It's so much harder to care for my teeth and gums now. It's like my gums are forgetting they are supposed to support my teeth. Results in tooth sensitivity.
- Teeth sensitivities due to sinus issues.
- Breast tenderness (btw: word to the wise, if yo' breasts be tender, you likely are having an estrogen dominant moment ... not a good thing ... consider detoxing your liver (like with milk thistle or apple cider vinegar) to help your body get rid of the excess. For me, red meat (which has estrogen analogs - look alikes within your body) is a huge aggravator of my estrogen. I eat red meat, I get sensitive breasts.
- Occasional bouts of irritability. I’m not an irritable person.
- Oily bumpy hairline
- Digestive challenges: painful, instant bloating that doubles me over with gastric spasms from hell; gassy, burpy, pooty. Slowing digestion (for me, helped by taking digestive enzymes at the beginning of my meals)
- Lack of appetite ... I'll ask my honeybun, "Hey, Honey, what do I want to eat?" and he'll decide for me, cuz NOTHING sounds good.
- Smells affected: weird and more intense. Repulsive. I now can't stand to be around when people wear cologne. Blehck.
- Sometimes I smell funny ... like super noticeable armpit odor ... and that's pretty unusual for me.
- Hot hands ... I don't even know how to explain. But think swollen and hot internally ... I put my hands between ice packs ... sucks.
- The “hots” patches of skin that get really red, flushed, and hot … like hot flashing, but not flashing, and on the thighs, shoulders, chest, etc
- Loss of hair on legs (The one constant … all women and blossoms will experience this. But no one really complains ... cuz ... less shaving ... hallelujah! )
- Eczema and skin issues ... for me ... as a teen, just a bit around my nose, but as a perimenopausal person, holey shizzzzz ... So bad, I had a near death experience in having faced a systemic infection from the severity of the cracking on my hands. FREAKING hate this symptom. It's disabling. I've had it for just over a year now. I have to be EXTREMELY careful with my hands and skin. Showering turns me into an inflamed nightmare. I have to medicate. I am debilitated. Have to wear eczema gloves. Limit hand washing to fingertips only as much as possible, like seriously. Household chores have become CHORES. (Like my chronic fatigue, I hope to find a solution to make this go away ... it is the SUPER GINORMOUS suck!!!)
- Skin tone changes ... saggy skin under my butt cheeks on my upper, upper thighs, "crepe" paper look ... this is a collagen thing ... guess what ... yep, waning estrogen impacts collagen production, and this makes us lose our vibrant, firm, elastic skin ... feel free to say it with me, Blaaaargh! ... also part of the reason we start peeing our pants ... our urethras lose their tone. Double Blaaaargh!
- Depression ... occasional and weird. Notice all my cute art work ... I live in my creative happy place with my honeybun in our lil tiny starry cottage on the bog. I'm not a depressed person. So when I get depressed ... we freaking notice.
- Dizziness ... not seemingly related to my low blood pressure.
- Developed lung issues (asthma/reactive airway disease … which sounds terrible but is a “pre-asthma”)
- Increased night terrors and bad dreams
- Increased difficulty sleeping through the night … sleeping so lightly as to be ridiculous. I get up to pee like 4 freaking times a night. If my honeybun snores, I wake up. If he moves in bed, I wake up. This is HIGHLY counterhelpful for the idea of getting a good 6-9 hours of restful sleep a night to promote wellness
- Weird hair growth (upper backs of my thighs, just appeared outta nowhere and each patch has become denser over time)
- In my early 30's, my low and waning progesterone caused infertility issues. I was never able to conceive.
- Clumsiness (falling down, tripping, knocking things over, dropping things ... you'd think I've forgotten how to use my limbs)
- Varying vision ... This one is weird and occasional. Simply stated, sometimes my eyesight is less ... I can't see as well. I check my goggles, but they're clear. I check my eyes for goop, but they're clear. Comes and goes. Doesn't last long. Maybe coupla hours at a time. As I said, weird.
- Cervical tissue transient changes ... For this one, I'm mentioning it just because it super freaked me out when I suddenly "failed" my Pap Smear. For 3 years, every 6 months, I had to see a specialist "just to be sure everything was ok." All it ended up being was a patch/line of abnormal cells that the doc chalked up to being a hormonal transition moment. The cells healed up or went away on their own. But so again, I mention this, in hopes that if you suddenly have something like this happen to you, it will inspire calm in the face of the storm.
For me, hands down, my worst and most debilitating symptoms are and have been my chronic fatigue, eczema, cracked lips, and lung troubles.
I passionately dislike each of these horrible symptoms, and do everything I can to help my body cope and heal, (which I will talk a little bit more about later in this post.)
Other Possible Symptoms Reported and/or Experienced By Other Blossoms (essentially, symptoms are reported that I haven't experienced).
As if after reading my personal list anything else could be challenged, but OH YES, It can.
- Change in Menstrual Cycle
- Menstrual Flooding
- Exacerbation of any Chronic Illness or Existing Condition
- Interference With Dream Recall
- Muscle Cramps
- Low Backache
- Gall Bladder pain, spasms and discomfort
- Hypoglycemic Reactions
- Food Cravings
- Increased Appetite
- Dark Circles Under Eyes
- Joint and Muscle Pain, Achy, Sore Joints, Muscles and Tendons
- Increased Tension in Muscles
- Increase in Facial Hair
- Unusual Hair Growth, around Nipples, between Breasts, down your back, places where your hair was finer, less coarse.
- Painful or tender nipples
- Cold Extremities
- Painful Sex
- Vaginal Dryness and Irritation
- Ringing in the Ears, Tinnitus
- Abdominal Bloating
- Weight Gain
- Palpitations or Heart Racing
- Irregularities in your Heart Rate
- Tendency towards Candidiasis can increase
- Puffy Eyes
- Changes in Facial Pallor
- Flare up of Arthritis
- Loss of Bone Density, Osteoporosis,
- Dry Hair, Change in Skin Tone, Integrity, and Texture
- Changes in your Fingernails
- Itchy, Crawly Skin
- Muscle tone seems to slack and sag, and loose its previous response to normal exercise.
- Pelvic Pain
- Dry, Itchy Eyes
- Change in the normal Tongue sensation
- Feeling Faint
- Tingling in Extremities
- Sensation of Electrical Stimulation or Shock
For more on these (and also for some of my above symptoms), there is a helpful list online that I have resourced MANY times over the years to help me not freak out. The author of the original post/comment has recently updated the post with short descriptions of each symptom, but what is REALLY extra helpful is READING all the blossom comments that follow. Our experiences vary far and wide!!!
Important Lessons Learned, Wisdom Gained, and Loving Insight to Share!
Now that we've talked about and listed many numerous symptoms, I want to take a moment to share some gained wisdom and insight that I hope will be helpful to you.
Especially if you are perimenopausal (from my own experience and that of others' I've read about and listened to) ... there might be times when you are actually experiencing so many symptoms or just one or a few symptoms, but so badly, that you feel like you might be dying. It can be a really scary time. Our bodies are going through a biologically programmed decline of hormones ... but the thing is, our bodies and our organs, they're used to those hormones, and not having them takes some getting used to. And we feel this transition. We feel this attempt to adapt. Some blossoms more than others.
With all of the symptoms and how badly they can make us feel, it can be easy to see our bodies as alien. To feel like our bodies are the enemy. But nothing could be further from the truth!
We are in an intimate, personal, co-dependent relationship with our bodies. We need them; they need us! It's up to us to care and nurture and nourish ourselves.
So a couple of things:
- Talk to your doctor. Run tests. Make sure you are okay. Make sure the hormone depletion isn't causing actual disease, but if so, get the treatment you need.
- Beyond this, find love and support. Talk to other blossoms. Share your experiences. Don't ride this sometimes scary ride alone. Sharing shows us we're not freaks; we're not alone; we're not the only ones suffering. It's a helpful kind of reassurance knowing you aren't the only one, and being able to talk about it, process it, and move on.
- Self-care to the max. Learn to prioritize you and your wellness. Your body is kinda demanding it, and if you don't help it, it will bring your ass down ... hard.
- You can care for yourself so you don't succumb, so you can do MORE THAN survive, ... you can self-care to thrive in your new and ever changing normal.
- I encourage you to Nourish to Flourish with your self-care!
A big point here for sharing all of these symptoms of perimenopause, menopause, and hormone imbalance:
- ISN'T to say you will experience any or all of these symptoms (Your body, life, & environment are all your own ... your journey will be yours.).
- is to help make you aware of many of the symptoms of perimenopause, menopause, and hormone imbalance.
- is to let you know this list is NOT meant to be exhaustive (There's a zillion billion blossoms on this earth ... no way do we have reports on everything each blossom goes through.).
- is shared with you with the hopes and intentions to help you not feel isolated, alone, or "freakish" ... like no one else in the world is going through this, so something must be wrong with you ... Nope, NOT AT ALL ... our hormones regulate so many things in our body ... something wonky is bound to appear.
Let's talk "Stress" as a contributing factor
When we talk about stress, most of think "mental" or "emotional." Both of those types of stress count for sure, but the one that is missed or unknown is "physical" stress.
Physical stress is any physical challenge your body is having to navigate. An injury (ie pulled muscle) or illness (gingivitis, a cold, etc) causes stress to your system. Your body is having to fight or heal. Even endurance sports are a form of physical stress.
And the thing about stress is it causes the release of cortisol. And there are 2 biggy reasons why this is important:
- Cortisol is higher up in the "make hormones" chain, so your body will make cortisol instead of making your hormones, like progesterone and estrogen ... which can lead to hormone imbalance ... which can lead to a worsening of hormone related symptoms ... and that's so important for us here.
- Chronic stress results in chronic cortisol. Which results in less of your needed hormones being made (see point above), BUT ALSO leads to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is the basis for many of the big killer diseases: heart disease, diabetes, and the Big C. And this takes us back to what is a physical stress.
Essentially, stress, when unchecked, can lead to a very unhappy, unhealthy, vicious negative cycle that can become harder and harder to address and fix.
For all the reading I've done to help me find solutions to all my challenges, every single source has indicated a need to reduce stress in every way possible.
Stress is absolutely acknowledged as a contributing factor for inducing and aggravating symptoms of perimenopause, menopause, and hormone imbalance.
Many of us blossoms live in Stress-ville. Families, relationships, kids, work, squeezing in time to do All the Things ...
So being told to reduce our stress can sound down right comical.
But sweet blossom, take it from me, a master of the 120 hour work week. The never give in. Never say die. Sleep is for other people, or later. What I'm going through (although I am now seeing amazing improvement with lots of intensive, life-changing self-care), but what I've been going through and experience now ... sucks. So if I can save you, even a little bit, by urging you to self-care and reduce your stress in all its forms, then I will feel gratitude for being able to help you live a happier, healthier life!
Resources MK Has Found Helpful
The following is a list of resources I have found helpful and guiding as I continue to navigate through my own wellness and health journey under the influence of my ever waning hormones.
Note: These are truly resources I use. None of these people know I exist, and they don't know I'm saying good things about them. This is just me trying to share with you what goodness has helped me.
- Dr. Axe (If it's on his website as nutritional guidance, I'm reading it and using it to help me!)
- The Hormone Cure (OMG, this book!!! I especially love the determine-your-imbalance self-help self-assessment at the front of the book, followed by all of the how-to-correct/help your imbalances, followed by all the info-tables at the end! Worth every penny.)
- Yoga with Adriene (She is my wellness angel on earth! I'm keeping her forever. She speaks my healing language, and I love practicing yoga with her!!!)
- Healthline (Online health info site that I find super helpful!)
- Dr. Amy Myers (Speaks the language of anti-inflammation and offers food/supplement products to assist in meeting these goals!)
- Online post: 66 Peri menopause / Menopause Symptoms you may experience
Some Wellness Steps You Can Take to Help Yourself Cope and Heal
It's vitally important for you to nurture and nourish your well-being, so you can flourish!
- Eat an organic, nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet (also helps to reduce toxins you eat)
- Hydrate (also helps to flush out toxins)
- Get movement into your body (check in with your body daily ... see how you are feeling ... work out your kinks, get your juices flowing a bit, and stimulate your lymph system ... which helps to reduce toxins and inflammation)
- Get restful, rejuvenating sleep (your body seeks to heal while you sleep)
- Laugh and Smile (releases your happy hormones and makes you feel better instantly!)
- Reduce your STRESS: spend time being creative (artsy, writing, knitting, etc), practice POSitude, reaffirmations, & gratitude
- Connect with and hug your loved ones (makes you feel so happy and so good ... releases happy hormones and reduces stress)
- Surround yourself with people who love and support you and who will be there for you as you navigate these challenges (join a women's circle or support group!)
- Paced breathing (stress reducer!)
- Get sunshine (stress reducer and helps you make vitamin D, which helps you be healthy!!!)
- Play and have fun (makes happy hormones and reduces stress!)
- Journaling (writing it out, seeing it in writing and getting it out of your head ... expressing your fears, hopes, dreams, reaffirmations, gratitudes, ..., all of it, it helps you feel better, helps you process the information and challenge more effectively, ... it helps you!!!
- Therapy! (Yes, please! So very helpful!!!)
Bottom Line: Live an Anti-Inflammatory Life, which means living for mental, physical, and emotional wellness through nutrient dense foods, quality hydration, rest, breathing, movement, reducing your stress levels ... all forms of goodness that nourishes, nurtures, and heals your body, mind, soul, and spirit.
I wrote a HUGELY helpful post on how to help you grow wellness into your life with, even for the busiest of us ... read it here.
3 very important POSitudes I remind myself of daily:
Well, sweet beautiful blossom, that feels like a pretty good "get to know you" for the symptoms of perimenopause, menopause, and hormone imbalance. I very much hope you find this helpful and loved-filled!
I hope this information and insight helps you find peace, calm, and healing!
Feel free to reach out to me!
Thank you for being here with me! I am filled with so much loving, big-hugging gratitude for being able to share this time and my experiences with you!