While there’s plenty of information about the most common symptoms of the menopause from hot flushes, to anxiety and low libido there are also a handful of not so common symptoms that could start to pop up. Susie Debice BSc Hons, Dip ION Food Scientist and Nutritionist highlights three unusual and perhaps surprising symptoms to keep an eye on…
- Digestive disturbance
We can become so focused on the effects that oestrogen and progesterone have on the monthly cycle that it’s easy to overlook that fact that these hormones also have an impact on other areas of the body. Researchers have discovered receptors for oestrogen and progesterone on the cell membranes of cells found within the digestive tract. Oestrogen is known to have a contracting influence on smooth muscles (the type of muscle fibres found along the length of the intestine and in the stomach wall) and progesterone tends to have a relaxing influence. So you can understand how these two hormones work as a team to contribute to the rhythmic wave of peristalsis movement that keep the bowels regular and working smoothly.
However, the fluctuating hormone levels of the perimenopause and menopause could have a somewhat confusing and conflicting impact on gut muscle function that sends your bowel rhythm out of whack, which is why constipation, bowel irregularity and even IBS could become problematic during your menopause. Fibre and a healthy microbiome are also very important for normal bowel function so focusing on your 5-a-day everyday and considering supplementing your diet with a good quality probiotic could help offer up some bowel settling support.
- Sore or tingling teeth
Saliva is vitally important for healthy gums and teeth as is a good blood supply to the teeth roots. Adequate saliva helps maintain a good level of friendly bacteria in the mouth which is important for healthy teeth and gums. Falling oestrogen levels during the menopause has an impact on the amount of saliva produced, often leaving the mouth dryer than usual which contributes to a drop in oral health.
Collagen is also important for the maintenance of healthy gums and teeth and a decline in oestrogen is often mirrored by a loss of collagen which could impact on the structural support for teeth within the jaw and gum. Falling oestrogen levels also impact on the nervous system creating little electric shock sensations, tingling or a sort of feeling of pins and needles within the teeth.
Vitamin C is a key nutrient for collagen formation and healthy gums as are CoQ10 and hydrolysed collagen peptides so supplementing with these could be helpful. Vitamin B12 and omega 3 oils found in krill oil are also important for supporting the nervous system so it’s worth topping up on these nutrients too. Exercise is very important for circulation so finding ways to be more active helps the blood supply reach the body’s extremities such as the hands, feet and teeth.
- Sore feet and heels
Years of standing, walking, running and moving mean that our feet change as we age and by the time you hit the menopause your feet may have become wider, flatter and the arches may have dropped a little. The padding underneath the feet which protects the nerve endings and cushions the feet from hard surfaces may also become thinner. This is thought to be associated with changes in hormone levels which impact on skin tone, loss of collagen and connective tissues. Couple this with the typical weight gain that the menopause treats us too and the feet can really start to feel sore and uncomfortable, this extra pressure isn’t what you need when you are already feeling hot under the collar. This condition is known as plantar fasciitis and you may find that wearing a night splint, arch sleeves or devices that deliver high frequency pulses may offer some pain relief.
The good news is that these more unusual symptoms are likely to settle down once you’re through the menopause and your hormone levels settle, but if you have any concerns then do visit your GP.
By Susie Debice – Food Scientist and Nutrition Therapist