This month is National Menopause Month. To mark the welcomed spotlight this shines on a significant life stage 51% of the population will experience, we’ve been catching up with one of the newer voices in the menopause space, Rebekah Brown, founder of disruptive brand MPowder.
Tell us a little about your own menopause journey
Well, I entered perimenopause when I was about 43 - which is statistically when most of us will begin to experience hormonal changes associated with menopause.
The landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years, but at that time there was very little information out there about menopause - let alone the distinct biochemical stages our bodies go through as we transition from perimenopause to menopause and then into our post menopause years.
When I started to experience symptoms I had no idea what was happening to me. Almost overnight my confidence levels plummeted, my skin and hair changed and the food I had eaten happily for years suddenly made me uncomfortable and bloated. I was exhausted all the time. I became unsure of my ability to do my job. I simply stopped feeling like me. My experience at the doctor’s surgery was pretty typical too. Menopause often hits us when life is at full pelt. We may have children at home with changing needs or ageing parents. We may be at a critical point in our careers. I had all of that going on and my doctor decided I was ‘too young’ to be menopausal, offering me antidepressants and suggesting I take time away from work.
What did you do next to regain control of your health?
Like my doctor, I thought menopause was something that happened to us in our 50s too. But as I researched my broad range of symptoms this new word started to pop up more and more regularly - Perimenopause.
I was shocked to discover that this biochemical lifestage can last for around 8 years and that menopause, the phase I did know a little about, is simply a retrospective date . This happens around the 12 month anniversary of your last bleed.
The more I read, the more fascinated I became about the impact of this transition. Our hormones affect every single cell in our body, including our brain. Which is why the symptoms that come hand in hand with menopause are both psychological and physiological. It’s a whole body and mind experience and to feel well throughout requires a whole body and mind approach.
How did your experience lead you to the founding of MPowder?
I changed how I ate and how I exercised. I used tools to get better at managing stress. I experimented with herbs and supplements - including Bare Biology’s brilliant Life & Soul capsules. I sought out leading experts in the medical and complementary space. I snuck into functional medicine conferences. I unpicked reams of research data. I basically used myself as a human guinea pig!
As I started to feel better as a result of applying what I learned, I began thinking about my peers at work, my friends and the women I admired who were further along on their menopause journey. I found myself quietly ‘diagnosing’ people who were struggling with symptoms that I knew were markers of hormonal change.
I am acutely aware that menopause can be a difficult topic to broach unless invited to. But I felt driven to do something because I knew of the long-term health risk of simply staggering through.
So I began where I felt comfortable. I’m a researcher by trade. I tiptoed onto Instagram and started asking people questions and gathering personal responses. I learned that my own menopause experience was not uncommon. That doctors were struggling to identify menopause. That women were cycling through products and finding scant relief. That people were seeking robust insight, support tools and community. But, critically, as a group of individuals silenced and often made to feel invisible, women were also looking to collaborate and to have greater agency over their menopause journeys.
It was this final observation that had the greatest impact on what is now MPowder. I made the decision that, if I was going to make products and services, I wanted to do it ‘with’ as well as ‘for’ people in menopause. We’re the first brand I know of to co-create supplements with the women we serve.
Our recipes are formulated by our medical doctor and naturopathic team. But they are then verified and refined by our community. Their feedback - and the subsequent insight we get from every customer who signs up to our free symptom tracking service when they purchase a 30 day supply - makes us better.
What would be your advice to people reading this who think they may be in menopause?
It’s never too late or too early to take agency for your health and to harness your hormones.
Learn about your brilliant body
- Start tracking your menstrual cycle if you still have one - and monitor how your body and mind feels each month so you can track the onset of symptoms.
- If you’re on contraception, get a sense of how it may be impacting your body and your hormones. The Lowdown is the world’s first review platform for contraception and has a wealth of data to draw from.
- If you’re no longer having a regular cycle, establish where you may be on your menopause journey via a free online survey. I love the newly launched menopause questionnaire developed by the medical team at www.mymenopausecentre.org. It uses a clever algorithm to evaluate symptoms and presents you with a personalised report you can take into your GP using language they will understand and be able to act upon.
- And remember, what you think you know about HRT may well be clouded by years of woeful media representation. For many women in our community, it is incredibly helpful. Read up. Ask questions. And decide what is right for you, right now.
Eat to harness your hormones
- Prioritise anti-inflammatory foods and cruciferous vegetables, which are packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre as well as glucosinolates, which may protect against serious disease. Embrace healthy fats. Up your intake of whole grains and antioxidant-rich foods. And seek out phytoestrogens which occur naturally in plants and have a similar chemical structure to our own body’s oestrogen.
- Supplement smartly. The MPowder powdered supplement range is developed to support your body with just what it needs in perimenopause and postmenopause in a single daily scoop. We also always recommend the addition of a good quality omega-3.
Learn how to digest stress
Be mindful that changes to your plate won’t translate to changes to your body and mind if you’re overwhelmed by stress. In fact, stress is one of the biggest disruptors of our hormones. Take time to work out what stress reduction techniques work for you. From meditation to breath work, from journaling to dancing in the dark! Build a routine that allows you to preemptively ‘bank’ stress management tools - so they become second nature when you really need them.
The final thing I’d flag is that menopause should not be feared. In Chinese Medicine this stage of life is described as our ‘Second Spring’. Part 2 can be just as brilliant as part 1. And for many in our community, it feels even better.