In honour of Menopause Awareness Month, Beauty Daily by Clarins delved into Google search data and spoke to experts to explore the most unexpected menopause symptoms. While awareness of common symptoms like hot flushes, brain fog and weight gain is high, a lot of British women aren’t making the link between other health struggles in relation to the menopause.
Tremors, defined as a neurological condition that includes shaking or trembling movements in one or more parts of the body, most commonly affecting a person’s hands – was the most unexpected menopause symptom search with only 0.2% of UK searches associating it with the menopause.
Linked to falling levels of oestrogen, this can impact nerve function. Dr Fionnuala Barton states: “Oestrogens and androgens exert a powerful regulatory effect on the central and peripheral nervous systems so when either of these important sex-hormones are in flux (in perimenopause) or persistently low (post menopause), this regulatory effect is lost resulting in changes to how nerves function. Thus, tremors which are a manifestation of dysregulated messaging through the nerves, can therefore be a symptom of perimenopause or menopause”
She advises that before establishing if tremors are linked to the menopause, it’s important that other causes are ruled out and treated alongside considering hormone replacement therapy (HRT) if appropriate.
While chest tightness could be linked to something more serious; chest tightness, a new awareness of your heartbeat, or the sensation of heart skipping or racing are the second most unexpected menopause symptoms. As only 0.3% of Brits make the association on Google searches, this is a symptom not talked about enough.
Dr Fionnuala Barton revealed: “At menopause we see rates of cardiovascular disease level up in women. With lower levels of circulating oestrogen, our blood lipid profiles become less favourable. This means there are more low-density lipoproteins (“bad” cholesterol) and less high-density lipoproteins (‘good’ cholesterol), which can contribute to the narrowing of arteries.”
According to Dr Barton, Oestrogens also exert a potent anti-inflammatory effect. When this changes in perimenopause and menopause, we are at higher risk of abnormal inflammatory response within blood vessels, increasing our risk of heart disease and strokes. “Oestrogens promote relaxation and dilation of blood vessels, so when levels are fluctuant or low our blood vessels may become more reactive and tense. This increases blood pressure, reduces blood flow and oxygen supply to muscles, including the heart. This may manifest as a sensation of tightness or difficulty catching breath.”
She advises that these symptoms respond well to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and lifestyle optimisation, however it is imperative that primary cardiovascular or other causes of these symptoms are ruled out and treated.
Ringing ears is another condition not usually associated with the menopause, as only 0.5% of Brits make the connection. Tinnitus is often only deemed as a condition from the result of natural age-related hearing loss. However, this condition is also linked to hormonal changes perimenopausal and menopausal women face.
As oestrogen and progesterone decline, this can also impact auditory systems. Oestrogen especially has been shown to contribute to the development and maintenance of auditory pathways in the brain, revealing how low levels of the hormone may impact hearing. Often described as “ringing in the ears”, tinnitus can also manifest as buzzing, humming, grinding, pulsing, whistling or hissing.
Dr Fionnuala Barton explains “The underlying cause is not fully understood but is likely to be multifactorial and unlikely due to hormonal changes alone, which may explain why it is not a universal experience. Tinnitus that is pulsatile or associated with dizziness or hearing loss must be assessed by a Doctor as could be due to a serious cause. As well as considering stress reduction, improving sleep and considering HRT, the mainstay of treatment is to reduce the perception of symptoms by distraction sound therapy, CBT or tinnitus retraining therapy.”
Irritability is another unexpected menopausal symptom, with only 0.6% of UK searches directly linking it with the menopause. This is defined by intense irritability to the point at which perimenopausal and menopausal women can experience surges of anger as a result.
Dr Barton explains that changes in oestrogen and testosterone levels impact the areas of the brain involved in perception, processing, decision making as well as areas of the brain responsible for regulating mood and emotion. This can show up in both physical and verbal ways. For example, crying, shouting, aggressive behaviour and violent outbursts.
She recommends ways to regulate or retrain the biological and emotional response: “This will vary from individual to individual but may include stress management/avoidance, talking therapies, somatic therapy, mindfulness practice, exercise, optimising nutrition and of course HRT. SSRI medications can be particularly helpful too.”
Emma Bardwell, Specialist Menopause Nutritionist recommends: “Keeping blood sugar levels stable can be incredibly helpful when managing mood. Start the day with a protein-rich breakfast, something like eggs, scrambled tofu, Greek yoghurt or even a protein shake if time-poor. This helps to quash cravings, keep blood glucose levels steady and also keeps you feeling full and satiated so can help with weight management. If you’ve always suffered from PMS type symptoms then a B6 supplement may well help too.”
Gum disease can develop due to lower levels of oestrogen, causing bleeding gums.This can also cause gum inflammation, mouth and gum tenderness, dry mouth and bad breath. ‘Bleeding gums’ has a total of 79,200 yearly Google searches, however only 0.7% of searchers associate it with the menopause.
There are often other reasons which can contribute to gum disease that are more common than menopause. However, low oestrogen levels can impact oral health as it increases chances of gum disease. Dr Barton explained: “Dialling up dental hygiene is important at this stage. My advice would be see your Dentist and Hygienist regularly, eat a diet that is packed with antioxidant and vitamin C and prebiotic packed plants, avoid excess sugar, alcohol and acidic drinks, stop smoking and consider breathing exercises to promote nasal rather than mouth breathing, particularly over night. HRT can help here but you need to lay good foundations with your oral health as well.”
When looking at regulating menopause symptoms more generally through diet, Emma Bardwell reveals that women should focus on eating a good source of protein with each meal, alongside lots of plants and some healthy fats. She adds “Try to minimise snacking, alcohol and ultra processed foods. Also aim for three calcium sources a day. For example, dairy, fortified plant milks, sardines, broccoli, tofu, almonds, kale, spinach, white beans and oranges are all good sources.”
In regards to supplements she explained: “Supplements are highly individual and most are not necessary (beware of meno washing!). Creatine Monohydrate is very helpful for menopausal women (all women, in fact). It helps with muscle building, stamina and recent research is now linking it with brain benefits. As always, please check with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.”