If you’re confused about menopause, you’re not alone.

Our Advisors and Wellness Coaches hear from thousands of women each week who are struggling to find information they can trust — so that they can better understand what they’re feeling in menopause. And many are also facing the fear and worry that goes with being told the only “solution” to menopause is a prescription medication.

We would like to set the record straight — about what menopause really means, as well as the real relief options available for women suffering from symptoms. We’ve asked Pauline, one of the Women's Health Network Advisors, to share the most common questions and concerns she hears from women.

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After all, when you have information you can trust, you’ll be able to put an end to any confusion, fear, or worry you might have — and we know you’ll feel better too.

“What does being ‘in menopause’ really mean?”

Pauline: It can be hard to understand that all your symptoms may be related. Women tell me “I’m not in menopause because I don’t have any hot flashes or night sweats.” But when you ask about other symptoms, they say “yes, I am tired, yes, I am irritable, yes, I have fuzzy thinking”, and one that’s so common — “yes, I’ve gained weight.”

Menopause is normal, and we’re all going to go through it. And while you can’t avoid it, there’s a lot you can do to make it a whole lot easier.

Technically, being ‘in menopause’ means your menstrual periods have stopped — the conventional standard is going a year since your last period. The average age is 52; however, a woman can begin menopause as early as her 30’s— which we’re seeing more of recently — or as late as her 60’s.

During menopause and the transition leading up to it — known as perimenopause — our hormones really fluctuate. The ups and downs create big changes for the entire body. Sometimes our bodies have trouble responding to these shifts and can’t rebalance. That’s when we often experience symptoms including hot flashes, major mood swings, low libido, the weight gain, and fatigue — you name it.

As you can imagine, this time can make you feel quite uncertain — about everything.

“Why does my doctor say I’m fine or ‘too young for menopause’ when I still don't feel like myself?”

confusion around menopause

Pauline: Age is a big question for many women who are told “oh, you’re too young for that” even when they are suffering from multiple symptoms. Or the healthcare provider has done some blood work and said “your hormone levels are fine. Everything’s great. You’re not in menopause. Everything’s good.” Then women say they feel like their only option is go home and deal with their symptoms the best they can.

Using age or measuring the level of just one specific hormone doesn’t take into account a woman’s individual hormonal or possibly adrenal imbalance, or the diet, lifestyle and genetic factors that can make distressing symptoms worse. So, while your healthcare provider may be right in saying that a test doesn’t show a specific number, it isn’t really accurate to say that everything is fine.

Over the years, we’ve found the best indicator of your health in menopause is how you’re feeling. If your body‘s natural ability to make and balance your hormones is in flux or your adrenal glands are overtapped, you’re more likely to experience symptoms — which is your body’s way of asking you for help.

“What choices do I have to feel better?”

Pauline: Women tell us they hear messages like, “Here’s a sleeping pill. Here’s your antidepressant. Try hormones or birth control!” — without ever hearing about natural options. Many women don’t want to take drugs at all so that’s why they’re calling us. Or they’re already on one of those things and really don’t like how they feel but it’s what’s been recommended. It’s confusing. In fact, I think companies even advertise antidepressants for menopause symptom relief!

The assumption is made that women would want to take a pill rather than learn about natural alternatives and diet and exercise.

But we believe in giving women all of the options so they can make the choice that is right for their individual situations. We know from the Women’s Health Initiative that hormone replacement therapy is not the answer for every woman. And, sleeping pills, antidepressants or birth control pills don’t address the underlying root cause of hormonal or adrenal imbalances.

When women are considering what steps to take, we want them to know there are so many natural, commonsense ways you can actually help your body balance its hormones and adrenals. Adjusting diet, exercise, and sleep patterns really works. A simple detox can help flush out years of accumulated toxins. Taking a good multivitamin along with the right herbs and oils can do wonders. Looking at your family patterns and relationships is also quite helpful.

Pauline: This is an opportunity for many women to reevaluate their lives. To find out just how much better they can feel by making some lifestyle changes. Even those who THINK they eat right and don’t have a lot of sugar or caffeine in their diets may still not be getting the nutrients they need. Often, we’re still very locked in by what TV or what the grocery aisles are telling us and selling us.

It’s really neat when you talk to somebody who understands she doesn’t have to keep doing what she was doing before!

We started by talking about confusion, but I feel a lot of women I talk to are relieved to find out this is all pretty normal.

Once women understand more about menopause, they’ll be able to trust their inner guidance to choose the best course of action for them as individuals. That’s one of the reasons we founded the Women's Health Network website. We wanted to provide a way for women to share in the knowledge and insight we’ve gained from working with so many women throughout the years. That helps us constantly provide the most effective and realistic solutions for women who are going through the menopause transition.