There are many heinous menopause myths pervading our society that have become firmly grounded in our cultural belief systems.
Even medical professionals accept the unfounded thoughts and misconceptions about menopause—despite the lack of research to support them. Western culture, in particular, perpetuates the perception of women’s deterioration around age 50, dubbing menopause a four-letter word, a curse. It is a punchline, a snide remark, an excuse, a platitude used to dismiss women.
I am done accepting this view of middle-age and these lies.
It’s time to annihilate this misinformation with cold, hard facts topped with research and medical experience. It’s time to rewrite the narrative about menopause and reveal it as the exciting new stage of life that it can be!
It’s time to flip these myths and get real about your body and your health. Here are 5 of the most common myths I hear women (and doctors) believing about menopause and the truth about each.
(Hint: You have WAY more control over how you feel and WAY more options than you probably thought!)
MYTH #1 – Menopause happens suddenly.
Menopause just doesn’t hit like a Mack truck. You don’t just suddenly wake up out of the blue one day with hot flashes, weight gain, moodiness, low libido, and body changes that mean “menopause” to so many of us.
It’s a gradual process, beginning with perimenopause (the 10+ year period leading up to menopause where your hormones are in flux). By definition, menopause begins when it has been a full year since your last period and continues for the rest of your life. Some people separate menopause from post-menopause, but the terms are talking about the same thing.
While the average age of menopause is 51, each of you is a beautiful, unique woman who will experience your own authentic changes. It’s going to hit you out of nowhere…once you get to know the signs, you’ll be able to prepare for this change and own it as the best time of your life.
Using powerful supplements, targeted nutrition choices and healing self-care will allow you to ease gently into menopause with minimal discomfort and maximum energy and vibrancy! This leads me to the next myth…
MYTH #2 – You are destined to feel like hell during menopause.
Hear me now: this is NOT the case.
There is no objective reason why you should feel terrible during perimenopause and menopause. Yes, as your ovarian function declines and your hormone levels shift, your body will change—there’s no getting around that. But it is a natural, normal process your body was designed to navigate.
You can and should experience optimal health during this time, including a good night’s sleep, clear thinking, stable moods, and pain-free sex. You always deserve a body that works for you. But this depends a lot on the foundation from which your body is functioning.
You have control of your hormones, even during menopause. With proper nutrition, exercise, supplements, and self-care, you can set up your body for success so that your symptoms are minimal.
MYTH #3 – Menopause means you are officially old. It is the end of your vitality, beauty, femininity, sexuality, and passion.
The only thing menopause ends is your ability to make a baby. Period.
Think about it — when you don’t spend so much energy each month on your period and hormone fluctuations that change throughout your cycle, you’ll have SO MUCH MORE energy to spend on other things! Here’s what menopause really means…
Freedom from periods and all the stress, pain, inconvenience, and energy spent on them.
Post-menopausal zest. Yes, this is a thing. Think about it. Now that your body isn’t spending its energy focusing on reproduction each month, it has the energy to spare.
Hormonal rebalance. After the rollercoaster of hormone chaos during perimenopause, your hormones will stabilize once you finally reach menopause. This leaves you with a predictable normal (albeit a new one) that you can support with daily habits and supplements to keep you feeling your best.
Reinventing yourself. With reproduction off your plate and symptoms easing, menopause offers the opportunity to focus on you. Menopause is the gateway to greater happiness and worth. It is time to inventory your needs and identify what brings you joy. Honor the wisdom you’ve gained through your life experience and fully step into it. Use your wisdom and newfound energy to prioritize self-care and claim the life of your dreams.
Once upon a time, when women’s life expectancy was significantly shorter, menopause may have occurred at the “end” of life. But now, as we’re living longer and well into our 80s and beyond, menopause truly is mid-life. Spend the next few decades happy, empowered, and thriving.
You are worthy.
MYTH #4 – Weight gain is inevitable during menopause.
Declining estrogen does trigger fat storage in our midsection and leaves us less satisfied and full after a meal. This means we may eat more than we normally would. But this does not mean that you need to find a way to make the middle-aged muffin top a new fashion trend. Instead of stressing over inevitable hormone changes, here are some simple tweaks to help you support total hormone balance and healthy weight:
#1 – Get a handle on stress.
The more you stress, the more your body cements itself in survival mode, and the more your nutrients are used to prepare for the worst-case scenario rather than fuel the best of you. A fast-paced lifestyle often pushes us to grab food on the go while stress is high. Since there are no veggie vending machines, our main staples include high carbs and sugar. Sadly, these two lead to high blood sugar, high insulin, and fat storage.
Chronic stress itself is enough to make your favorite jeans tight. High levels of cortisol (the hormone released in response to perceived stress) not only increase belly fat, but they also raise blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels go up, so does insulin, compounding the effects of a high-carb diet.
#2 – Be smart about your workout routine.
If you’ve been pushing through with your high-intensity workout but suddenly it doesn’t make any difference whatsoever in your waistline…it’s time to re-evaluate. Or maybe you haven’t exercised regularly in years, but now you’re ready to do it but you’re not sure where to start.
Exercise during menopause is a delicate thing. Yes, being active is SUPER important for longevity, but it’s about working smarter and not harder. High-intensity workouts can actually put more stress on your already taxed adrenals. This ups your stress hormones and prevents weight loss. Switching to strength training or other gentler forms of movement to boost your metabolism and keep your heart pumping is the best way to approach it during menopause.
#3 – Adjust your diet to meet your hormones where they are.
Adjusting your diet significantly decreases your risk for a variety of health issues, including type 2 diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and osteoarthritis. Let your body do what it is supposed to do while you feed it nutrient-dense, hormone-friendly fuel. Changing your mindset toward nutrition will help you lose weight without even trying to lose weight.
Getting your foundation in order and resetting your gut, liver, and stress with targeted foods and supplements will drastically reduce menopausal symptoms. Estrogen is stored in fat, so obese women will have more estrogen and therefore more symptoms such as hot flashes, often sooner and more severe.
MYTH #5 – Chemically and surgically-induced menopause is the answer.
We all know women who were told that a hysterectomy, endometrial ablation, birth control pills, or synthetic hormones were the only way to get relief from symptoms. Here are a couple of the myths that your doctors may have told you, and a hopefully fresh perspective so you can really make the best decision for you:
#1 – Endometrial ablation is the cure for heavy bleeding.
You need to understand that heavy bleeding during perimenopause is not abnormal due to sporadic ovulation and increased estrogen levels. You may have thought that as you got older and closer to menopause your period would become lighter and lighter until it eventually stopped completely. This is rarely the case.
Fluctuating levels of estrogen in relation to progesterone cause all sorts of irregular bleeding patterns. Also, when your body doesn’t release an egg, the endometrium continues to grow, causing the next period to be heavier than the previous ones. This is normal.
I understand the allure of not having to slink off to the bathroom to recover from leaking pads or tampons, and that ditching the crampy, achy menstrual mess each month would be a relief. But please be sure that you have tried everything else to firm up your foundation—diet, exercise, supplements, stress management, self-care—to address estrogen dominance and hormonal imbalance before jumping off the deep end into a procedure that cannot be reversed.
In certain situations, I do agree that endometrial ablation can be a viable option. For example, when a woman has developed anemia that can’t be successfully reversed due to extreme bleeding, all other options such as supplementation and/or lifestyle changes have been exhausted, and she has decided that she is done reproducing.
#2 – A hysterectomy is a cure for heavy bleeding or fibroids.
Nope, it’s not. In some severe cases, the removal of all or part of the uterus most definitely should be seriously considered, for example in cases of life-threatening invasive cancer. But, when it comes to heavy bleeding and fibroids, please, consider and exhaust all options before agreeing to major surgery. There are lots of other natural and less invasive options available to treat these issues.
Eating a nutrient-rich diet, reducing your stress levels, and supporting your gut, liver, and thyroid function will help to moderate estrogen and stabilize your menstrual flow. Once you are in menopause, the bleeding will stop on its own.
In addition to hormonal changes, fibroids are a frequent cause of heavy bleeding. They are very common and their likelihood increases with age until menopause. Nearly 70-80% of women are affected by uterine fibroids in their reproductive years.
In many cases, fibroids don’t cause any symptoms so you may not even know you have them. That can change during perimenopause when women are likely to experience estrogen dominance. Estrogen/progesterone imbalance, which causes heavy bleeding, is the most common symptom, and many doctors recommend an ultrasound when the fibroids are detected. After menopause, fibroids usually shrink due to decreased estrogen levels.
Your body has these organs for a reason and removing them shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are many ways to treat underlying issues that preserve the uterus and ovaries because hormones—and the organs that orchestrate them—are important. Not just for reproduction–they are important for your total hormonal health.
Preserving your uterus and ovaries should be a primary goal rather than a throwaway option. Don’t take this decision lightly. Try natural and less extreme options to manage heavy bleeding and fibroids while maintaining hormonal balance before resorting to major surgery and removal of your uterus and/or ovaries. Implementing foundational lifestyle changes to support a healthy gut and liver and reducing stress will improve cycle regularity and flow, helping to relieve the symptoms of fibroids.
#3 – Birth control pills and HRT are the way to manage your symptoms.
You can fix hormone imbalance without adding hormones. You do not need the pill or any form of hormonal contraceptive to ease your symptoms.
While these synthetic hormones may temporarily hide symptoms, your body has to work harder to overcome their effect. And that is why new symptoms begin to appear: migraines, decreased libido, vaginal dryness, abnormal uterine bleeding and spotting, thyroid dysfunction, blood clots, and deep vein thrombosis, anxiety and depression, and the list continues.
Once again, blinded by symptoms and the promise of a quick, easy solution, our healthcare system puts a one-size-fits-all solution ahead of treating you as an individual and looking for your root causes driving your symptoms.
The only reason you should be on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is if you and your functional practitioner have discussed all of your symptoms, weighed all of your options, considered your risk factors and personal preferences, and determined it is right for you.
You do not need to be on HRT during perimenopause or menopause. It is not required for good health, including strong bones, a healthy heart, or a sharp mind.
Menopause is not a disease. Your body is not deficient and in need of synthetic estrogen to “fix” it. You can balance hormones without hormones using supplements, nutrition, and easy lifestyle changes! I view HRT as a last resort for short-term relief, and you should, too, because of the harmful effects it can have.
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