concerned woman face

Early menopause can be confusing! In your 40s you may notice irregular periods, weight gain and low libido but you think, I’m still young — it’s just the beginning of perimenopause. But then your periods stop… and don’t come back. What’s going on?

You may be in early menopause. Early menopause occurs when a woman between the ages of 40 and 45 experiences menopausal symptoms and goes a full 12 months without a period.

Menopause at this age may understandably be unexpected and unwanted, but early menopause doesn’t mean you have to spend your whole life suffering from symptoms. When you understand what’s changing in your body, you can balance your hormones and feel better with just a few simple, and natural, steps.

14 early menopause symptoms

Are you experiencing one or more of the symptoms below?

Are you in early menopause?
  • Are you between 40 and 45 years old?
  • Have you not menstruated at all in the last full year?
  • Are you experiencing symptoms like insomnia, vaginal dryness, fuzzy thinking or hot flashes?

If you answered “yes” to all these questions, you may be in early menopause.

  • Hot flashes and/or night sweats
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Fatigue, lack of energy
  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Poor memory / brain fog
  • Weight gain, especially around the middle
  • Lack of libido
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Cravings
  • Irregular periods (before menstruation stops completely)
  • Palpitations
  • Urinary frequency or urgency
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Skin changes (increased wrinkling or dryness)

In addition the symptoms above, bone loss may be an indicator of early menopause. Ask your doctor to check n-telopeptide in your labs. This is a urine test that measures bone turnover. Elevated levels of NTX indicate increased bone turnover.

How do you know for sure if it is early menopause, perimenopause or menopause?

You may hear the terms early menopause, perimenopause and premature menopause used interchangeably, but each has its own distinct differences.

Early menopausePerimenopauseMenopause
AgeAge 40-45Can start at age 35 and last until menopause, although most common in mid to late 40sAverage age 52
Menstrual cycleNo menstrual cycle for 12 full monthsMenstrual cycle continues, although it may be irregular until the average age of full menopause (52 years)No menstrual cycle for 12 full months
SymptomsExperience symptomsExperience symptomsExperience symptoms

Before the age of 40, some women may suffer from premature ovarian failure (POF). This happens when ovaries slow or stop production of mature eggs and reproductive hormones. There are similarities with premature menopause except some women with POF may still have occasional periods.

In addition, women at any age may experience “surgical menopause” after a hysterectomy, oophorectomy (removal of ovary/ovaries), and certain other pelvic surgeries, or they may enter “medical menopause” following disease treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy.

woman smiling looking up to the sky

What causes early menopause?

Early menopause occurs when a woman’s sex hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, start to fluctuate more rapidly or abruptly sooner than is typical. The average woman will reach menopause around the age of 52.

As these early and dramatic changes intensify, your body’s ability to produce hormones continues to decline, leading to symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and sudden fatigue. Each woman’s body has its own ideal balance of hormones but, at some point, all of us will experience the hormonal shifts that lead to menopause.

4 factors that influence early menopause

While there isn’t one specific cause of early menopause, some common factors can alter the healthy balance between your hormones:

  • Family history. Women with a family history of early menopause are 60% more likely to go through menopause sooner.
  • Poor nutrition. We often don’t get enough of the vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and lean protein we need for hormonal balance. This is especially true when much of our food is filled with preservatives, white sugar and chemicals.
  • Environmental toxins. Certain chemicals including xenoestrogens from BPA found in plastic, toxins and potent synthetic substances may disrupt normal hormonal activity when absorbed into your body.
  • Smoking. If you smoke, there’s a 30% increase in your risk of transitioning more quickly into the earliest stages of menopause.
Herbal Equilibrium

Herbal Equilibrium is an exclusive combination formula to provide relief for the 10 most common symptoms of hormonal imbalance in menopause. Learn more.

How to reduce early menopause symptoms and feel more like yourself

Even if you’re undergoing severe hormonal imbalance, you can take steps that make the shifts less extreme. This can reduce how often you experience symptoms and how intense they are. Here’s what to consider: (please make a numbered list)

1. Balance your hormones with herbal remedies. Many herbs have been proven to be adaptogenic in your body, which means that they boost your resilience to stress.

Specific herbs, such as black cohosh, passionflower and ashwagandha, included in our Herbal Equilibrium, provide effective relief for menopause symptoms and help smooth out the spikes and plunges in hormones to balance cortisol, estrogen and progesterone near early menopause. Read more.

2. Get enough of the right nutrients. To restore your hormonal imbalance, make sure you’re getting enough key vitamins, minerals and essentials nutrients in your diet and supplement routine. Many nutrients depend on the presence of other nutrients to do their jobs. For example, vitamin E works more efficiently with vitamin C. And calcium has a much higher absorption rate when taken with magnesium. This is exactly why many women find that a daily multivitamin is helpful, even if they are trying to eat a healthy diet.

3. Add supportive lifestyle changes. Getting enough sleep, eliminating toxins and getting exercise all have positive effects on hormonal balance. Reducing stress helps keep the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, more even. Sustained high cortisol interferes with levels of other key hormones, creating imbalances with estrogen, testosterone and progesterone.

woman sitting on floor

4. Take care of your heart and bones. Early menopause means paying attention to a specific set of health risks at a younger age. The same inherited factors for early menopause could also raise your risk for osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Research shows that women who enter menopause before age 46 are twice as likely to suffer a stroke or coronary heart disease. But don’t panic.

You can offset risks for heart disease and other health threats by taking regular exercise, quitting smoking and keeping a healthy weight with improved nutrition. Also include high quality omega-3s to help reduce triglycerides, a known risk factor for heart disease.

Bone health can also be put at risk by early menopause. One simple way to add bone support is simply by taking vitamin D daily. It’s easy, inexpensive and makes a huge difference — and the pill is usually tiny.

5. Take extra care of your emotions too. Finally, early menopause can have a very real emotional impact on your life, and your plans for the future, especially if it occurs suddenly or unexpectedly. You may be mad at yourself or your body, but remember, that we are all different and to take things a day at a time. With a little proactive care and attention, you can overcome any emotional challenges, as well as support your body so that you’ll look and feel your very best right now and in the years to come.

We truly believe that you if you’re motivated and committed to making long-term adjustments, you will see positive results. As women, we’re often told what menopause is going to mean for us, usually in a negative way. While your first response may be “I’m not ready for this!” we encourage you to stop and think a bit about physical and emotional steps you need so that you can take control and make this time of your life a wonderful one.

References

1 World Health Organisation Scientific Group. 1996. Research on the menopause in the 1990s. 866.

2 Olsen, D. [No publication date listed.] Early menopause: How common is it? URL: http://www.menopauseatoz.com/How_Common_is_Early_Menopause.shtml (accessed 03.05.2010).

3 Page, J. 2007. Menopause at 30 for millions in poverty. Doctors identify malnutrition link. Problem greater in rural areas. URL: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines07/0123-03.htm (accessed 12.14.2009).

Kok, H., et al. 2007. Genetic studies to identify genes underlying menopausal age. Hum. Reprod. Update, 11 (5), 483–493. URL: http://humupd.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/11/5/483 (accessed 01.07.2010).

4 Torgerson, D., et al. 1997. Mothers and daughters menopausal ages: Is there a link? Eur. J. Obstet. Gynecol. Reprod. Biol., 74 (1), 6–66. URL (abstract): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9243205 (accessed 01.07.2010).

5 Stolk, L., et al. 2009. Loci on chromosome 19 and 20 are associated with age at natural menopause: A meta-analysis of 10,399 women. Nat. Gen., 41 (6), 645–647. URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3000545/ (accessed 09.26.2011).

6 He, L-N., et al. 2009. A polymorphism of apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene is associated with age at natural menopause in Caucasian females. Maturitas, 62 (1), 37–41. URL (abstract): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19058936 (accessed 01.06.2010).

7 Wikipedia. 2011. Apolipoprotein E. URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apolipoprotein_E (accessed 10.12.2011).

8 He, C., et al. 2009. Genome-wide association studies identify loci associated with age at menarche and age at menopause. URL (abstract): http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v41/n6/abs/ng.385.html (accessed 01.07.2010).

9 Kok, H., et al. 2005. Genetic studies to identify genes underlying menopausal age. Hum. Reprod. Update, 11 (5), 483-493. URL: http://humupd.oxfordjournals.org/content/11/5/483.long (accessed 09.26.2011).

de Bruin, et al. 2001. The role of genetic factors in age at natural menopause. Hum. Reprod., 16 (9), 2014–2018. URL: http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/16/9/2014 (accessed 01.06.2010).

10 No author listed.] 2009. Gene linked to early menopause. URL: http://www.ivanhoe.com/channels/p_channelstory.cfm?storyid=21545 (accessed 01.06.2010).

11 Paturel, A. 2008. Recognizing early menopause. URL: http://www.everydayhealth.com/menopause/early-menopause.aspx (accessed 01.06.2010).

12 Page, J. 2007. Menopause at 30 for millions in poverty. Doctors identify malnutrition link. Problem greater in rural areas. URL: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines07/0123-03.htm (accessed 12.14.2009).

13 Sammel, D., et al. 2009. Factors that influence entry into stages of the menopause transition. Menopause, 16 (6), 1218–1227. URL (abstract): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19512950 (accessed 01.06.2010).

14 He, L., et al. 2009.

15 Chang, S., et al. 2007. Premenopausal factors influencing premature ovarian failure and early menopause. Maturitas, 58 (1), 19–30. URL (abstract): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17531410 (accessed 01.06.2010).

16 Kok, H., et al. 2005.

17 Lisabeth, L., et al. 2009. Age at natural menopause and risk of ischemic stroke: The Framingham Heart Study. Stroke, 40 (4), 1044–1049. URL (abstract): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19233935 (accessed 12.14.2009).

Wilson, C. 2009. Reproductive endocrinology: Women with early menopause have an increased risk of ischemic stroke. Nature Rev. Endocrinol., 5 (6), 295. URL (registration required): http://www.nature.com/nrendo/journal/v5/n6/full/nrendo.2009.73.html (accessed 12.14.2009).

18 Lisabeth, L., et al. 2009.

19 Harding, A. 2009. Cholesterol level jumps with menopause, study shows. URL: http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/12/11/menopause.cholesterol.jump/ (accessed 01.07.2010).

Reference on symptoms of early menopause

[1] [No author or publication date listed.] Menopause: Early and premature menopause. URL: http://www.epigee.org/menopause/early.html (accessed 01.06.2010).