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The super-annoying side effects of menopause mom never told you

By Kim Crawford, M.D. Last updated: April 20, 2020
side effects of menopause

What do I mean by side effects of menopause?

Side effects of menopause are the things that are not popularized like hot flushes (the correct name for hot flashes), loss of bone mass and increased risk of heart disease. You know about this stuff, right? Mom or magazines told you the hot flushes would go away. Your Ob-Gyn said you needed to start getting bone scans because your bones would thin out.

lose weight during menopause to protect your heartYour cardiac risks may have been explained, and your cholesterol may have been monitored more carefully.

You may have also heard about vaginal dryness due to estrogen loss, and may even be on intra-vaginal estrogen pellets.

Someone might have mentioned loss of libido (low sex drive), but I’ll bet they didn’t tell you how to fix it, did they?

Let me ask you some questions about yourself in case you’re wondering what on earth I mean by side effects of menopause.

Did your doctor recommend you take bisphosphonate drugs for your bone health?

Did you put on 15-20 pounds during your menopause?

Did you get a “muffin top” or love handles or just plain stubborn fat on your belly?

Did it seem like your once firm arms got flabby almost overnight?

Did it seem like your face developed more lines, wrinkles and even sagging skin almost overnight?

Do you feel a bit more anxious than you used to?

Did your doctor put you on an anti-depressant for “menopause symptoms”?

Did you develop some depression which was a new thing for you?

Do you have trouble sleeping now? Falling asleep, staying asleep?

Are your energy levels down?

Do you have more cravings for sugar?

Are you more hungry than you were pre-menopause? Do you eat and/or overeat more frequently?

Are you more forgetful?

Do any/all of these side effects of menopause resonate with you?

I thought so.

Let’s talk about weight issues:

Losing weight during menopause or after menopause is going to be trickier than losing it before all of your hormonal changes happened. Why did the pounds just pack on with “no warning?” Annoying, isn’t it? We women deal with the lack of quality sleep mainly due to progesterone loss (more to come). We deal with getting drenched with hot “flushes” day and night with an interruption of sleep due to that as well. But this weight? Where did it come from?

working hard is how to get rid of menopausal belly fatIt wasn’t there three years ago, was it? Well, I’ll tell you where it came from.

You have lost estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone-the three hormones that opposite the weight-packing punch of cortisol.

Cortisol goes up due to age and stress levels.

Stress levels are up because, well, you’re under stress physically by definition. You probably also under stress because you’re juggling “kids” (they are always our kids), a career and, likely (like me), two elderly parents and a husband.

It’s a LOT. Not only that, time is a premium because there’s more on your plate, so it’s hard to schedule stress-relieving activities like a nice gym work-out or a pilates or yoga class.


The second reason is the “hunger hormones” leptin and ghrelin are out of whack due to hormones too. So, you eat more and have more cravings. Actually the cravings part is a little more complicated, but here’s the Reader’s Digest version. Your happy brain chemicals, serotonin and dopamine, are increased by the three hormones I mentioned previously. When the happy brain chemical levels drop, your cravings increase.

Further, there is the whole menopause belly fat, muffin top thing. Why that for goodness sakes? Is this a cruel biological joke or what? That’s how it feels, doesn’t it? Well, your pal cortisol is preferentially choosing your waistline to plop the fat on. It’s the same “mechanism” as the weight gain. For the weight and the belly fat, there are also a bunch of remedies targeted just for the menopausal physiology.

Fix the weight, fix the muffin:
anti-inflammatory diet planDiet

You need to eat an anti-inflammatory diet and alternate that with the ketotic version of it to help normalize leptin and ghrelin and lower inflammation which will de facto, be up due to being overweight.

The diet and the details of the above are in my best-selling weight loss book I’ll leave you for at the end of this article (free), but keep reading for now as there is more “good stuff” to come.

Please make note I have articles in this blog specific to weight loss in menopause so find them too. I can’t go into depth in this here “wastebasket” article about the side effects of menopause.


Leptin and ghrelin normalization is helped with proper supplements. Cravings are helped by taking supplements which raise serotonin and dopamine levels. The loss of testosterone has made you lose metabolically active muscle mass, so you need to hit the gym or some great alternative.

Leptin and ghrelin normalization is helped with proper supplements. Cravings are helped by taking supplements which raise serotonin and dopamine levels. The loss of testosterone has made you lose metabolically active muscle mass, so you need to hit the gym or some great alternative. Weight lifting supplements will help you gain lost muscle more quickly. You would benefit from healthy non-stimulant metabolism boosting supplements until you see some fat loss and muscle gain. You should have your thyroid checked as hypo-thyroidism (“low thyroid”) is easily missed by doctors evaluating menopausal women.

Surgical or non-surgical options

Lastly, let me talk about surgical and non-surgical options for a moment. So, I know you think that getting liposuction or a tummy tuck is the answer for belly fat and maybe fat elsewhere. What I would suggest is you get hunger, cravings, and your overall weight under control with my method. Then, evaluate with a good plastic surgeon if you still think you “need work done.” Liposuction is being replaced by non-invasive techniques, and  SculpSure is replacing cool-sculpting.

this is how to lose weight during menopauseI have seen patients before and after both procedures and the CoolSculpt results I’ve seen leave a bit of an indentation where the SculpSure (pictured) does not.

Plus SculpSure tightens up the skin if it’s not an outright “big pouch.”

I have no stake in either company and do not provide this in my practice, by the way.

Also, if you have a lot of “hanging skin” from childbirth or weight loss a tummy tuck might be the answer.

Liposuction will give you more immediate results than SculpSure, but then there’s the whole surgery and post-op thing versus the waiting and 2-3 trips for results. It’s up to you. I’m just giving options! You might be wondering why an anti-aging doctor is even talking about this stuff. Fair question. It’s because I’ve seen women who are “doing everything right” and I have them on estrogen, progesterone, testosterone as well as cortisol suppressing supplements. Despite this, they still just cannot manage to lose that blasted muffin. It’s really stubborn fat when it goes to the belly, so I’ve softened my stand on procedures in the last 10 years.

Why are you anxious and maybe depressed?

No, it’s not because your “life is over” or anything like that-cut that out-when you get used to the whole thing, it’s actually quite liberating not to have the monthly you-know-what. You are anxious because your glutamate to GABA (excitatory to inhibitory) relaxation brain chemicals are flipped with glutamate now being a bit more prominent, often enough to cause anxiety for sure. It’s the estrogen and progesterone loss. Yes indeed, estrogen especially calms you down. This is why women should rule the world. Hee hee- I’m taking quite the liberty here, knowing my readers of this article are just we women.

Yes, estrogen is a wonderful thing. While you should obviously make your own choices about bioidentical hormones, I will tell you bioidentical estrogen and progesterone have been studied and are not just safe, but protective too.

So, the fix here is either bioidentical hormones or some excellent natural stress relief techniques on a regular basis and chewable GABA supplements. If needed, you can do a combo of them all.

Similarly, natural mood enhancers will boost the brain chemicals you are deficient in (due to hormonal losses).

Also, the anti-depressant your doctor might have prescribed can quickly be weaned if you do this.

Why be on drugs when you can “go natural?”

Why is sleep disruption one of the side effects of menopause?

Falling asleep is the Glutamate to GABA “thing” I discussed above. Progesterone helps as does pregnenolone which is available without a prescription and “breaks down” to primarily progesterone. Chewable GABA also helps. Waking up is due to hot flushes or due to high cortisol levels. This is controllable with supplements. The best natural sleeping aid is usually a combination of several natural ingredients. We have one which contains melatonin, GABA, inositol, and L-theanine. It’s very popular and works like a charm.

Why is energy lower?

what is the best natural sleep aid for this woman? Read blog.This too is a consequence of prolonged high cortisol which has made you sleep deprived and now is impacting your energy.

See the article symptoms of adrenal fatigue to see if this is your issue.

It’s common in menopause.

No, you’re not developing dementia:

If you have “brain fog,” that’s progesterone deficiency-treated with progesterone, helped with pregnenolone. If you have some memory issues and even a little short term memory loss, that’s a combo of estrogen and progesterone and experts feel, likely due to some human growth hormone deficiency which tends to accelerate during menopause as well.

The answer is to replace your lost hormones and to start a proper brain supplements regimen for brain protection and brain cell/brain cell connection regeneration. My brain book is a really good book (if I say so myself) and is free in the footer for you.

Bisphosphonates for bones:

May I be totally honest with you? I hate this class of drugs. Fosamax, Actonel, and Boniva have all racked up celebrity endorsements and are quite the money makers for the pharmaceutical companies. However, the side effects of everything from blood clots to esophageal cancer to osteonecrosis of the jaw (which is quite a nasty thing and not all that uncommon) makes me just hate these drugs. Especially when I know, we can do what is needed with hormones. Safe, bioidentical hormones.

takes metabolism boosters supplements and also runs to be so in shapeAt the first sign of minor bone loss called osteopenia (not osteoporosis yet) many doctors pull out the prescription pad.

Simply doing daily weight-bearing exercise will fix this one and yet-drugs! Ugh! But what’s the answer?

It’s NOT massive doses of calcium.

Note if you take more than about 300 mg of calcium at a time (many doctors still recommend 1200 mg-WRONG! (Oh no! That sounded like our President-INCORRECT!) that you will be calcifying soft coronary artery plaques, rendering them permanent.

So, yes, ingest enough calcium but realize you also need vitamin D (with vitamin K for absorption) and magnesium for many reasons. I have used a variety of hormones to thicken up the most fragile bones very safely. So, find an A4M boarded doctor, like me, and have a consult if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Do know your options.

The side effects of menopause no one discusses! (You’ll love this one):

What is up with your face and no it’s not your imagination. When we lose estrogen and human growth hormone we women experience  “rapid elastin loss.” Elastin is one of the two skin building blocks, and it’s known for being the component that prevents sagging skin. Now, lift up your arm, straight out to the side, palm facing front. Take your other arm and feel how firm or not firm the underbelly or triceps area of the raised arm is. If it’s flabby, you’re not alone.

side effects of menopauseFor some reason, this is the first place rapid elastin loss hits.

You can catch it with early hormone replacement, and I’ll confess I was personally “ready.” I mean you do NOT wait until you stop menstruating entirely or you have all but (note I said all but) lost your chance to fix this carnage.

The other place this happens is your jaw line, and under your eyes, so those wrinkles or sags are not your imagination.

What can be done about the arms? Unfortunately, super-training triceps muscles doesn’t fix the flab. Nor does after-the-fact hormone replacement.

Topicals have not been shown to work in this very stubborn area.

Wait, all is not lost! Galvanic treatments at the estheticism are a start.

It takes a long time to see results, but it’s reportedly helpful. Surgery can take away the flab, but then you’ll have a long and visible scar all along the back of your arm, from elbow to armpit. To me, this isn’t a great option at all. But, recall the SculpSure (and honest, I don’t even have stock-nothing, nada) I discussed when we were discussing the belly fat issue?

Well, guess what?

I have a patient who is a famous and talented Plastic Surgeon. He has a SculpSure machine in his office and has been experimenting successfully with the under-arm area. He is going to report his findings, but I’m telling YOU this appears to be helpful-very helpful, downright impressive-before his findings are published. See? I have the inside scoop on so much that you MUST keep following this blog! In fact, if you open the newsletter, containing “best of” blogs, medical news, and four products at a 25% discount, and don’t like anything, just delete it.

Oh, you want to know how to “fix the face,” right?

So, starting BI hormones “early” is a great preventative. Also, we know there are some good ways to stimulate collagen and elastin “non-invasively.” I review everything in my how to look young forever article but will give you the basics here. You want to use either Titan or Ultherapy laser treatments to “keep things tight” and should start this prior to everything falling apart! It’s pricey, but it beats having a facelift which, if you read my articles, you should never have, anyway. (Note: plastic surgery should be done in “zones,” not all at once)

Further, now we have “Nova-threads” to assist with lifting and stimulating collagen and elastin. Remember, no permanent threads as they can make a mess. Dissolvable threads are fine and can be used all over the face, jaw, and neck. Finally, you need to use the best anti aging skincare products on your face, neck, and décolletage. This is where “cheap” gives you cheap results. You have my permission to splurge where it counts.

best anti-aging skin productsA good cleanser, good exfoliation mask, and a good nighttime moisturizer is fine-great isn’t a requirement, good is fine.

Toners are entirely optional.

Notably, you need a great, stem cell, cytokines, growth factor-packed day and night serum that helps you produce more collagen and elastin, helps firm up the sags and bags and keeps your dermis thicker (meaning tauter) then el-cheapo brands.

You might decide you need a special under-eye product.

Again, see if you need good or great here too. Same with your neck.


These are the years we all need to “pay attention, ” or we’ll want to go running to my patient, the great Plastic Surgeon. I have vowed that I’m not going there, though. Have I had some of the non-invasive “work” done that I’d mentioned? You bet I have, sister. I’m going down fighting this aging thing, inside and out.

If you want my help with any of this, just contact me. You can shoot me an email or find me on chat, and it’s FREE. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed writing it for you. I hope it made you feel better about “things.” :-) Oh, I forgot to discuss libido-usually testosterone replacement fixes that and if not we add oxytocin.


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