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Chemicals and the Menopause

By Dr Ornella Cappellari

Today, we are surrounded by chemical agents everywhere.

From the environment to cosmetics to cleaning products in our houses, chemicals represent a potential danger to our hormonal/endocrine system. There is a lot of research that links Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) to an earlier onset of menopause.

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals are chemicals that can interfere with human hormones in the body. Some EDCs mimic natural hormones by binding the target cell receptor (binding occurs when a hormone attaches to a cell receptor, that is a part of the cell designed to respond to that specific hormone). EDCs can start the same processes that the natural hormone would start. Other EDCs instead block normal hormone binding and thereby prevent the effects of the natural hormones. Still other EDCs can directly interfere with the production, storage, release, transport, or elimination of natural hormones in the body. This can greatly affect the function of certain body systems.

Between the EDCs we can find pesticides, plasticizers and sometimes natural chemicals found in plants. Menopause has been found to occur 2.5 years earlier in women that have been exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and 2.3 years earlier in women that have been exposed to phthalates. PCBs were banned in 1979 but can still be found in older products. Phthalates are found in many plastic products and in many cosmetics.

We can find EDCs in the following products:

  • Cosmetics
  • Household products
  • Environmental pollutants

Each of these play an important role as we are exposed to them daily.

Cosmetics

Cosmetics contain a vast number of chemicals. Most of them are not under the FDA or any other regulations. Everything that claims to prevent a disease or alter the body in any way is subject to regulations as it is considered a drug. Cosmetics are not. Up to now only 11 chemicals has been highlighted to have damaging effects on health. Among them we find: parabens, phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and siloxanes. But what are they called and what are they used for?

  • Butylated hydroxyanisole is a preservative
  • Alpha Hydroxy acid is a skin plasticizer
  • Beta Hydroxy acid is a skin exfoliant
  • Coal tar dyes are a color dye
  • Diethanolamine compounds are emulsifiers, foaming agents and pH adjusters
  • Parabens are cosmetic preservatives
  • Phthalates are fixatives (used to stabilise the components) in fragrances and solvents
  • Polyethylene glycol compounds, are used as a cream base and increases the permeability of skin to cosmetics
  • Siloxanes are used to soften, smooth, and moisten cosmetics
  • Triclosan is a preservative and anti-bacterial agent

Other EDCs found in most common cosmetics are:

Formaldehyde, which is a well-known carcinogen that can dissolve in water and in air (think of the strong smell nail polish). Exposure to this chemical can also produce symptoms like a scratchy throat, asthma, and difficulty breathing.

Toluene which is known to impede development in children (and some scientists found traces of it in breast milk) can be irritating to the skin upon exposure.

Dibutyl Phthalate. Some nail polish brands swap this phthalate for TPHP (Triphenyl Phosphate), but it’s no better for your health. In fact, it possesses similar health risks such as hormonal disruption and reproductive system toxins.

Most of the cosmetics we use contain some of the described chemicals. It is pivotal to read the label carefully and discard/avoid any products in which the composition is not stated. More and more studies have found that exposure to those chemicals can lead to premature menopause and other significant hormonal changes during our life.

Household Cleaning Products

When it comes to household cleaning products, we find that there is no standard, enforceable definition of a “non-toxic” or “environmentally friendly” household cleaner. The detrimental part about household products is that manufacturers don’t need to list everything that they put in their products, so it’s not easy to find hidden substances. For example, flame retardant chemicals (PBDE, polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are used in many common household products. Research shows that these chemicals escape from electronics, couches, and baby products and collect in your household dust. Phthalates are a class of chemicals typically found in fragrances. Fortunately, a fragrance isn’t necessary for a product to function well or be effective. It is possible to choose fragrance-free products. It is important to check ingredient labels to find out where else fragrance lurks; it can show up also in nappies or garbage bags.

Other chemicals include: Bisphenol A (BPA), which lines food cans made of tin; phthalates, which are used when manufacturing plastic food containers; and pesticides such as chlorpyrifos and organophosphates.

Environmental Pollutants

The additional problem with environmental pollutants is that they are difficult to avoid. Sometimes we are exposed and we are not even aware of it. It is important to be aware of their potential sources, including plastics in food packaging (BPA, bisphenol A, is one of the biggest EDC). Furans are by-products that we are mainly exposed to through animal products like dairy and fatty fish. They are released into the environment mostly through toxic waste incinerators.

To conclude the only power we have against excessive exposure to dangerous chemical is to try to keep ourselves informed, read all labels carefully and avoid brands that do not provide a full list of ingredients.

SOURCES

Post Reprod Health. 2015 Mar;21(1):5-6.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals associated with earlier menopause. Brown S. Fertil Steril. 2016 Sep 15;106(4):978-90. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2016.08.020. Epub 2016 Aug 18.

Cosmetics use and age at menopause: is there a connection? Chow ET1, Mahalingaiah S2.

Persistent Organic Pollutants and Early Menopause in U.S. Women. Natalia M. Grindler, Jenifer E. Allsworth, George A. Macones, Kurunthachalam Kannan, Kimberly A. Roehl, Amber R. Cooper

Household Chemicals Linked to Earlier Menopause. Sarah Bruyn Jones Feb 13, 2015 Menopause, Infertility

Catching the wave of change… sex after the menopause

Life was good. I had met The One, and we were blissfully happy, in love and in lust. Then menopause hit, and I lost all my desire, for life and for sex, writes Gemma Fullam

Gemma Fullam. Photo by Steve Humphreys
Gemma Fullam. Photo by Steve Humphreys

 

I can live without it all, love with its blood pump, sex with its messy hungers, men with their peacock strutting, their silly sexual baggage, their wet tongues in my ear. Erica Jong – ‘Becoming a Nun’

Those words of novelist Erica Jong – she of the zipless fuck – reflect a truth my menopause revealed to me: I am enough.

“The change” entered my life almost 10 years ago, when I was 38. Its first stealthy soundings came in the form of occasional panicked pregnancy tests prompted by a newly irregular menstrual cycle; almost two years later, a random blood test revealed the hormonal castration that had been taking place while I was foolishly misinterpreting missed periods as evidence of my fecundity.

The bombshell that I was in menopause left me blind-sided, grief-stricken and angry. Boy, was I angry. In a culture that cherishes youth and beauty, it is impossible not to absorb the subliminal signals society sends out. Despite the appearance of a few token older females in the pop-culture sphere, ageing is not sexy, nor is it an aspirational state. And here I was, plunged into decrepitude; a vile reverse puberty with atrophied flesh at its end.

I had reason to rage. Twelve months before, I had embarked on a relationship with a man who, decades previously, I had fallen for on sight; a blue-eyed, tousle-headed dream of a man who intrigued me, and filled me with lust and longing. We had bonded over a shared passion for books, which endured while the intervening years of life and circumstance kept us apart; he introduced me to Philip Roth and Richard Ford, while I lent him Nancy Friday and Anais Nin. Our decades of back-and-forth dispatches led to a deeper passion when it finally arrived on the agenda; sex was, indeed, on fire. Until, one day, it wasn’t.

I wasn’t completely unprepared for the vicissitudes of menopause. When my mother’s had hit, I devoured Leslie Kenton’s Passage To Power, curious to understand this new stage of life she was experiencing. Kenton’s assertion that, in her crone phase, a woman becomes “deeply and spontaneously sexual, assertive, straight, incorruptible, prophetic, intuitive and free” had baffled me and filled me with an inexplicable unease. Truly, the word ‘crone’ was enough to send shivers down my spine. And now the old hag had arrived at my door, and sneaked in when I wasn’t looking.

That book’s cover featured a serpent: a fitting symbol encompassing temptation, sex, betrayal, danger, death, transformation and the kundalini – the ‘coiled one’ at the base of the spine; a goddess energy that, once awoken, devours all in its path.

I was blissfully happy with The One. I had no need of zipless fucks; our congress was a communion, divine in its perfection. Then, almost overnight, my personality began to change with violent mood swings. I turned into the bitch to end all bitches. Vicious, terrible things spilled unprompted from my mouth. These barbs were always directed at my partner, and bemused us both. I, the Gemini, ruled by Mercury, the planet of communication, couldn’t explain the origins of my nastiness, and he began to stop trusting me, while trying desperately to comprehend what I didn’t myself – that this she-devil was not, in fact, me. It was the menopause talking. After a while, I knew he no longer believed me, and truth be told, I didn’t either. Our honeymoon period rapidly descended into hell.

Sex became a battleground. One evening, having returned home from a wedding, he was sober, while I had consumed several G&Ts. We retired to bed, where my drunken amorous advances were repeatedly rejected. Profoundly irritated and uninterested, my weary partner headed for the sanctuary of the spare room, and I, to my eternal shame, picked up a heavy glass ashtray and flung it in his direction, narrowly missing his head. In that moment of being denied sex, I was overcome by an uncontrollable red mist, the viciousness of which stunned us both into silence. The hole left in the wall echoed the one the menopause had begun to gouge in our relationship.

Some months later, fully in the throes of ‘the change’, I took to talking in my sleep. “Space”, I would grunt, over and over, while demarcating an expanse of mattress space with hands that mimed ‘menopausal line; do not cross’. Again, he decamped to the spare room.

Sex and sensuality are inextricably linked to one’s sense of self, and as the menopause advanced, I no longer felt like myself. I was inhabiting the body of a stranger; trapped within a fleshy frame that behaved as it liked, a sweaty, hot-and-cold carcass that was alien. Yet it was me. I was being consumed by the crone. She was feeding on me like a parasite, growing ever bigger and more powerful while I retreated ever further inside my own head.

I grew fat around the middle. I have a large chest that, with extra weight, looks matronly, and with the disappearance of my waist under ever-increasing blubber, my hourglass became a barrel. I could no longer dress myself; everything looked awful. I did not know this body. I hid under shapeless black, mourning my loss. There were days I looked in the mirror and was repulsed, and days I could not bear to look at all. I did not recognise the person I saw.

Sex is a joyous thing, but I felt no joy. So there was no sex. No more demands or pleading urges. Once my ‘power surges’ became ferocious in their intensity, my battered self retreated within to hide. I felt nothing. I was a void, a vacuum. The cues for intimacy – the glances, the tender touches, the playful flirting that had been so much a feature of our relationship before menopause – dwindled and died; our intimate language had changed and we no longer understood each other. The change had changed me and I didn’t know how, or if, I could change back.

In 1963, Dr Robert Wilson listed the “stigmata” of “Nature’s defeminisation” and how hormone supplementation can sidestep menopause’s worst effects on a female’s appearance, libido and mood. I had, as time went on, become desperate in my attempts to kill the climacteric hydra; for every move I made and symptom I controlled, two more would appear in its place. I cried for no reason; I felt consumed by despair; I couldn’t control my weight; my hair was thinning on my head, while appearing in unwanted places; my skin was dry and cracked; I could not sleep at night and had difficulty staying awake during the day, and I was drinking. Mostly wine, and far too much of it, in an attempt to escape from myself; an impossible mission. It only made me fatter and more despondent at what I had lost. I was now celibate; there was nothing else to be. Germaine Greer, in Sex and Destiny, touts celibacy in situations where no sex might be a better option than bad sex. Truthfully, I had no desire for sex of any description.

Our relationship was foundering. It wasn’t the lack of sex, it was the absence of what had initially brought us together, without which there could be no meaningful intimacy: communication and a common bond. I had become a stranger; a ghost; a cipher. Maybe it was drugs I needed. As women, we are fed the line that we can be eternally youthful; our ‘best selves’ living our ‘best lives’ – whatever the issue, there’s a pill, or a syringe of something, to solve it. So I went to the doctor. In fact, I went to several. None of them listened to me. None of them had anything to offer bar lectures on why no woman should have to go through a difficult menopause (But I am!) or testimonials for hormone replacement therapy. While I desperately wanted the nightmare to end, a small voice inside my head suggested that maybe synthetic hormones made from horse urine weren’t the answer. So I passed on the drugs.

It was after one of these trips to the doctor that I realised I wasn’t listening, either. What I was going through was normal and natural and had its own language, one I needed to learn if I was to begin functioning again; if I was to live, not merely exist. Maybe it was time to stop buying into reductive attitudes about the “tragedy of menopause” and try to ride the wave, so to speak.

I realised it was shame that was holding me back; shame to see myself naked, literally and metaphorically; shame at who I was, who I’d left behind and shame at my inability to begin again. It wasn’t misplaced Catholic guilt, I somehow dodged that bullet – helped in no small part by the writings of the aforementioned Nancy Friday, among others – but rather a deep fear of facing my authenticity, and owning it.

My desire to embrace that self has since taken me on many adventures, and to the wisdom of women, not least Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a Jungian analyst, author of Women Who Run With The Wolves. In it, she says, “To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one’s own luminosity without fleeing… It means to stand and live.”

To stand and live. Those words resonated profoundly with me. I think I had always been hiding, afraid of myself, and menopause forced me out of my foxhole.

Life, I have learned, is a cycle of death and rebirth; it continues regardless of whether one chooses to ignore it or embrace it. Just as the sexual orgasm is la petite mort, the little death, the menopause is also a form of dying.

In truth, the old me was never coming back, so my choice was to live with eternal regret at the loss of myself, or to get busy getting to know the new one. Relationship-building takes time, and it is only through giving myself time and space, that I have realised: I am enough. I no longer need to be the coquette, the giggling girl with batted lashes.

I am woman; hear me roar.

Passion, just like life, waxes and wanes. Wait long enough, and trust; it will return. And it has: stronger, deeper; forged in fire. As Ms Friday said, “No man can be really free in bed with a woman who is not.” I am there, Nancy. Finally.

I’m over the hump.

Sunday Indo Living

Top 10 UK Menopause Blogs and Websites in 2018

We are Number 5!

 

https://reclaimthemenopause.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/ce94a-uk_menopause_1000px.png?w=932&h=932

UK Menopause Blogs List.
The Best UK Menopause Blogs from thousands of UK Menopause blogs on the web using search and social metrics. Subscribe to these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information.

These blogs are ranked based on following criteria

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

 

Menopause Myth Busting

bigstock-Menopause-written-in-search-ba-97675367-compressed

Hello Ladies, would you like the opportunity to take part in a BBC programme looking at the Menopause?

The BBC are doing a bit of research to look at the impact of menopause symptom management. They are looking for women to take part in two parts of the programme:

1. Diet. They are looking for up to 5 women aged between 40-55 who take nutritional supplements such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, in the effort to prevent or stave off any unwanted symptoms. Filming would take place in a restaurant in London and the ideal dates are looking like the 26th or 27th June in the afternoon. They are particularly keen to hear from people who regularly eat Japanese food to see if this has had a positive effect on their symptoms.

2. CBT. Looking for women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms and have not yet tried any treatments to take part in a free CBT course based in London involving 2 group sessions and some at home reading. The first session will take place on Monday 25th June and the second on either the 5th or 7th of September (TBC). They are looking for up to 5 women to take part but would like to speak to as many candidates as possible.

If you would like to find out more do get in touch menopause@handsinc.co.uk

Half of women say their mental wellbeing suffers as a result of menopause, Woman’s Hour poll finds

mental

By Cara McGoogan
Nearly half of women (48 per cent) say the menopause has a negative impact on their mental health and mood, according to new research.
The poll commissioned by Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and BBC Radio Sheffield found the menopause makes 25 per cent of women want to stay at home, with a further 23 per cent reporting that it reduced their enjoyment in life.
It also revealed that women have a limited understanding of their biological clock, even as they approach the average age for the menopause (51 in the UK). Over 70 per cent said they didn’t have a strong understanding of the menopause, which led to some being unaware of the effects it would have on their physical and mental health.
“Our findings suggest that women don’t have enough information about the menopause,” said Karen Dalziel, editor of Woman’s Hour. “Whilst some of the physical symptoms are well known, we’ve discovered how the menopause is affecting women’s mental health.
“We also now know that women seem reluctant to talk about it – either with doctors or with their employers, and so could be missing out on sources of support.”
Of the women who reported a change in their mental health, just over a third said they consulted their GP about the problem. And only 70 per cent of women who were working when they experienced the menopause told their employer about the change in their mood.

There are around 3.5 million working women over the age of 50 in the UK. Previous research shows that around 50  per cent of women find employment difficult when undergoing the menopause, and 10 per cent have given up work because of the symptoms.
Physical and mental side effects associated with the menopause include low self-esteem, anxiety, memory loss and verbal slips.

“The impact clearly goes beyond the more commonly reported physical symptoms, often affecting people’s relationships, their jobs and clearly impacting mental health and well-being,” said Katrina Bunker, editor of BBC Radio Sheffield. “The results of our poll show there is much to be discussed about the menopause and many stories to be heard.”
The survey, which ComRes conducted on behalf of the BBC, involved 1,009 women between the ages of 50 and 60.

 

Police bring in hypnotherapist to help women going through menopause

 

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By Jimmy Nsubuga

A police force has brought in a hypnotherapist to work with women going through menopause.

West Midlands Police hired Steve Woods to help staff struggling with symptoms, which include sweats, lack of concentration and memory issues

He said: ‘In the case of menopause, the most common thing people think about is the night sweats and the lack of temperature control and that sort of thing..

‘You can teach people self-hypnosis so they can use their mind to go off to somewhere with a nice cool refreshing breeze and they feel the effects of that.’

Mr Woods, who runs his company from Cannock, held a meeting at the police’s headquarters in Birmingham last week and said it was a success.

He added: ‘One of the ladies emailed me back after saying she’d had the best night’s sleep in ages and another said she’d felt better than she had in a long time just after that group session that we did.

‘Almost any symptom, if you can imagine yourself without it, then you can use hypnosis to bring that about. It’s a case of structuring a process that people can make use of without using lots of time.’

Mr Woods said he was asked to come back on a regular basis but admitted he needed to learn more about menopause.

‘At that initial meeting we got some really good feedback,’ he said.

‘It was a learning exercise on both sides – them and me – as being a man menopause is not something I know a massive amount about.’

The hypnotherapist also supplies audio recordings to the women to help with the therapy.

The move to hire him comes as police forces around the country begin to offer more services to women going through menopause.

Several forces now run menopause education sessions for staff and Nottinghamshire Police have even opened up ‘crying rooms’ for women.

A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said: ‘Steve was invited to a meeting to talk about his services.

‘There was no endorsement or costs involved in this, just an information session provided as part of our ongoing support to colleagues through the menopause support forum.

‘Our intention is to provide information to enable people to make their own minds up, as part of a broader commitment to long-term health and well-being.’

 

Le Clitoris

 

Merci beaucoup Cecile for this excellent animation.  A must see!

It was celebrated in ancient Greece, ignored during the Middle Ages, and rediscovered by scientists over and over before the scientific community finally agreed that it exists. What are we talking about? The clitoris of course!

Canadian screenwriter and animation director Lori Malépart-Traversy has decided to educate the internet on what that elusive clitoris actually is. And she’s done it in the most adorable short documentary, which has already picked up multiple awards around the world including the Best Short Film Award at Festival Vues d’en face 2017 and the Best Documentary at Chicago Feminist Film Festival 2017.

So put on your science cap and let’s get educated!

 

It does have subtitles

https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2017/06/21/le-clitoris/

https://www.boredpanda.com/le-clitoris-documentary-lori-malepart-traversy/

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