My poor mom. I grilled her about her annoying bout with menopause on many long phone calls to make sure I had all the facts before conducting my interviews for this story (I even spoke to a few of her friends). All I would do is mention the word menopause, and the tone would shift. Why?
When we think of menopause, we think of hot flashes and night sweats—known as vasomotor symptoms; migraines are one of these too—which result from constriction and dilation of blood vessels in the body, and affect approximately 75 percent of menopausal women. “Hot flashes last about three to four minutes and can cause discomfort at any time of the day,” says Louisville, KY OB/GYN Rebecca Booth, MD. These, along with night sweats, “occur as hormone levels fluctuate, creating a rush of adrenaline that provokes a surge or drop in body temperature,” says Hamilton, NJ OB/GYN Omnia M. Samra-Latif Estafan, MD. To keep cool when internal temperatures rise, try a spritz of Pause Well-Aging Hot Flash Cooling Mist ($39), which provides instant relief by creating the sensation of lowering your body’s surface temperature, cooling and calming skin, reducing redness and evaporating sweat.
Mary Jane Minkin, MD, OB/GYN and clinical professor of obstetrics at Yale School of Medicine, recommends over-the-counter Remifemin—a German product containing black cohosh, which has been proven to be more effective than soy at relieving menopausal symptoms—and Relizen, a Swedish pollen extract you can find online. “Studies show mixed results, but I’ve found these to be reasonable remedies for my patients,” she says. However, be aware of OTC herbs that make promises to erase symptoms, notes Dr. Samra-Latif Estafan, as some may have benefits, but could interact with other medicines.
Preliminary research is also underway on the positive effects of ingestible and transdermal CBD formulas on vasomotor symptoms, but Dr. Minkin says there’s “very little prospective randomized data,” although some of her patients have been using it and find it helpful. If you are a CBD fan, try The Good Patch Hot Flash ($12), a tiny transdermal patch on the inside of your wrist that helps stop the heat wave as soon as you feel it coming on thanks to a combo of CBD (15 mg), menthol and black cohosh.
Whether it’s a hot flash that wakes you up in the middle of the night or you just can’t doze off, sleep disturbance is a prevalent psychogenic symptom of menopause. “As we age, it has been found that we produce less melatonin, a chemical messenger that is important for sleep,” says Dr. Samra-Latif Estafan. With lack of sleep, fatigue is very common. “Exercise has been found to have fantastic benefits for promoting sleep, reducing mood swings and preventing fatigue, and can also help with weight gain that can occur,” she adds. “And a clean diet and cutting down on alcohol will assist in keeping your liver clean, allowing your hormones to function better.”
The imbalance in the estrogen-to-progesterone ratio can cause irritability and difficulty concentrating as well, adds Dr. Samra-Latif Estafan. “It is perfectly normal and will eventually subside.” It’s not atypical for feelings of anxiety and depression to escalate, too, but it’s important to discuss them with a doctor.