The Menopause Edit by Sarah C, gives you the lowdown on Menopause, Perimenopause and Skin Ageing. 

Sit back, put your feet up and Happy Reading..

 

….SHHHHH DON’T SAY THE ‘M’ WORD

Just when women should be rewarded for getting as far as they have in life, they get thrown another curveball. Menopause. And usually, we’re totally unprepared.

We are told about puberty; we are guided through pregnancy… but ask about menopause and there’s an embarrassed silence, even from most doctors.

PERIMENOPAUSE or MENOPAUSE?

For 2 to 12 years before periods actually stop, the ovaries gradually produce less oestrogen. This time is known as the perimenopause. It usually starts in a woman’s 40s, but can start in the 30s as well. 

Menopause actually begins 1 year after the last period.  Given that the average age for menopause is 51, many women spend at least half of their life in perimenopause and menopause. So you’d think we’d understand it better.

white egg with 40 + written on it

But let’s look at this another way.

Menopause is returning women to the levels of hormones they last had before puberty, when they were children. So how can it cause ageing?

MENOPAUSE UNCOVERED

Despite it seeming quite random, with women experiencing very different levels of symptoms, the timeline of perimenopause into menopause actually follows a set pattern for everyone.

First of all, progesterone starts to fall, despite you still having regular periods. This can prompt a whole raft of symptoms, including anxiety, breast pain, heart palpitations, night sweats, migraines and crazy, heavy periods. Remember those heavy periods when you were a teenager? That was also because of low progesterone.

As the progesterone falls, oestrogen can often increase, adding in symptoms such as irritability, breast pain and heavy periods (again!). It’s often the drop from high to low oestrogen that can cause symptoms such as hot flashes as well. This is when symptoms such as insomnia, memory loss and vaginal dryness can come in.

blue clock on a cloud

 

THE MENOPAUSE EDITS WORD OF WARNING 

Remember that not every symptom in your forties can be blamed on perimenopause. Pain and fatigue could be an indication of an underlying health problem so make sure you check with your doctor. Take thyroid disease for example. Thyroid problems often start at around the same age as perimenopause. It’s not caused by the perimenopause, but can be amplified or worsened by it.

We often get the two mixed up because the symptoms are so similar.

MENOPAUSE & AGEING SKIN

womans ageing face

As oestrogen production finally falls, the skin can become thinner and drier with reduced elasticity and sometimes changes in Pigmentation. Its protective role also becomes compromised as it becomes less resistant to oxidative stress and damage so wearing SPF becomes even more relevant.

You may also notice that wounds take longer to heal, and hair becomes thinner and more likely to fall out.

So that’s the hormone link. But there another reason for ageing skin at this point, and it comes down to a link with our old friend, sugar.

As progesterone and oestrogen levels fall, your cells become less able to process sugar. The reason behind this is through another hormone called insulin, which the body produces to deal with sugar. As the ability to deal with sugars diminishes, more sugar is left to slosh around in the system, often causing weight gain around the middle. But there’s another direct link to ageing skin here. Too much sugar in the system can cause many cells to harden and become rigid. This is especially true for skin cells, because the sugar causes the collagen in the cells to stiffen. Skin may lose its elasticity and become drier and prone to wrinkles. The technical name for this is glycation.

Finally we need to think about collagen production. It is well known that natural collagen production decreases by 1% or more per year after the age of 20. This accelerates during menopause, when the overall synthesis of collagen drops to 30% of it’s original levels. Collagen is actually the most abundant protein in the body. It basically forms the scaffolding for our skin, joints, ligaments and throughout the whole body.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

If you are not taking HRT to replace oestrogen, you may want to think about adding some phytoestrogens to your diet. These are compounds that occur in foods that can mimic natural oestrogens, causing our body to behave as if the natural oestrogens were still present.

Phytoestrogenic foods include flax seeds, soy, broccoli, legumes and several herbs. It has often been suggested that women in Asia who consume a lot of soy products such as tofu and miso, have many fewer symptoms during menopause because of the phytoestrogenic effects of the soy.

To avoid the problem of insulin resistance, it is important now to cut any excess sugars from the diet. Concentrate on eating plenty of lean proteins, a variety of vegetables and essential fats.

hrt pills laid out on blue background

A WORD ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS

Taking a good collagen supplement during and after menopause can certainly help prop up the body’s natural supplies. Look for hydrolysed collagen with low molecular size. Some protein drinks contain collagen with an average size of 70kDa. The best supplements have used enzymes to break down the molecules to 3kDa. These smaller molecules will enter the body far more easily.

You’ll find plenty of discussion on the internet about the pros and cons of bovine vs. marine collagen. Marine collagen contains Type 1, which is the most abundant collagen in the body and particularly the skin. Bovine contains Types 1, 2 and 3, which can also support joints, cartilage, eye and gut health, spinal discs and muscle recovery. Decisions on which collagen to take are often made on religious, dietary or cultural reasons.

Either way, finding a supplement with added Vitamin C, zinc, copper and manganese (co-factors necessary for collagen production) alongside a good amount of hyaluronic acid should give the best results. So it’s worth shopping around and paying a bit more for the better product.

As well as collagen, I advise all my over 40s to have regular checks on their nutrient levels. Making sure you have adequate vitamin D, essential fats and several of the key minerals will help your body function optimally and keep you looking and feeling active for many more years yet!

Download the copy of my blog here The Menopause Edit