In this article, we will examine the condition called menopause, the role estrogen plays in a woman's normal muscle functioning and the results of a study that documents the adverse impact menopause can have on proper muscle function in women.
What is Menopause?
Menopause marks the stage of life when a woman can no longer bear children. The reasons this natural phenomenon occur is because the ovaries and other sexual and reproductive organs eventually stop producing and circulating important hormones like estrogen. Diminished reproductive tract function combined with decreased hormonal concentrations ultimately bring about an end to menstrual cycles.
The Symptoms of Menopause
Hormonal decline often precipitates a host of manifestations including dwindling periods, hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue and irritability. Other relatively well-known symptoms include frequent and sometimes dramatic mood swings, weight gain and a diminished libido (sex drive), skin and hair issues. That said, not all women experience the same manifestations and some might encounter symptoms that are not as commonplace. One such occurrence is stiff muscles and potentially decreased muscle function.
Menopause And Estrogen Affect Muscle Function
Some scientists maintain that estrogen plays a significant role in building muscle strength and in improving the quality of muscle tissue. Therefore, it should be no surprise that declining systemic levels of estrogen could precipitate manifestations like decreased muscle mass, muscle wasting and muscle injuries.
A recent study examining more than 20 women either entering or currently experiencing menopause conducted by researchers representing Finland's Jyvaskyla University found that estrogen actually improves the quality of muscle tissue by fostering muscle cells to utilize energy more efficiently. In addition, these scientists opined that estrogen stimulates production of estradiol, a steroid-like hormone responsible for helping muscles maintain their strength and protecting them from injury and disease.
With these facts in mind, medical professionals are encouraging menopausal women to employ strategies designed to both maintain muscle health and boost estrogen levels. Such endeavors might be accomplished by engaging in activities like:
Acquiring additional weight supplied by increased muscle mass is thought to stimulate estrogen production. Arguably, the most direct method of accomplishing this goal is through engaging in moderate levels of exercise, preferably weight training.
Some medical professionals suggest that menopausal women consume at least half their body weight in ounces of water on a daily basis. The muscles are often the first regions of the body to feel the impact of dehydration through cramping and stiffness. Proper hydration helps maintain strong muscles and leaves the structures less susceptible to injury.
Over the course of a woman's life, her body may collect a host of allergens and toxins. These potentially harmful substances are thought to interfere with estrogen production and absorption. Ridding the body of these threatening particles is considered another means of possibly increasing systemic concentrations of estrogen. That said, detoxification should be undertaken under the supervision of a medical professional.
Avoiding Unhealthy Foods
Health experts and nutritionists suggest that menopausal women adopt an anti-inflammatory diet. Foods that can precipitate inflammation inside the body's cells, tissues and organs include those that are high in sugar content, contain unhealthy fats and frozen or processed foods. These edible items should be eliminated from a menopausal woman's diet at all costs. Not only do these products interfere with the body's ability to produce and absorb estrogen but also contribute to inflammation that could cause extensive damage to muscles.
Eating Estrogen-Stimulating Foods
Many different types of foods are believed to help the body naturally increase estrogen production including: various fruits, vegetables and seeds, soy products, beans and other legumes and edible herbs such as thyme, turmeric and sage.
Using Dietary Supplements
Nutritional supplements containing natural ingredients such as plants and herbs often possess hormone-balancing qualities. Common examples include maca, eleuthero, damiana, ginger, passion flower and lavender.
Undergoing Hormone Replacement Therapy
Estrogen therapy has been an effective means of replacing lost hormones and easing the associated manifestations for a solid percentage of menopausal women. That said, several potentially serious health risks have been associated with this treatment protocol such as the development of cardiovascular problems like blood clots, specific types of cancer and heart disease.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) should be administered after a thorough physical examination by a would-be candidate's physician and be considered if menopausal manifestations are severe or the woman in question is not at high risk of developing any of the associated complications.