When living our lives and going about our daily activities, we rarely bother thinking about how our actions may have future consequences. Turns out there are many things we may be doing right this second that may be encouraging early menopause. I’m 26, and shocked that I engage in far too many of these, far too regularly, and may be at risk!
According to the NHS, early menopause happens when women’s periods stop before the age of 45. Some early warning signs may be:
- Infrequent periods,
- Night sweats
- Hot flushes
- Pain or discomfort during sex
- Difficulty sleeping
- Low mood or anxiety
- Vaginal dryness
- Issues with memory or concentration
- Reduced sex drive
Visit your GP ASAP if any of these symptoms are noticed!
There are many unavoidable factors and hormonal changes of which contribute to early menopause e.g. autoimmune diseases, cancer treatments and ovary surgery, however there are habits and lifestyle factors we adopt and control, that can be playing a huge role in our risk of encouraging early menopause. You might be thinking ‘Woo Hoo! My period stopping early? I can’t wait!’ But, a review of menopause studies has concluded that women experiencing early menopause have significantly higher risk of strokes, heart disease, osteoporosis, depression and dementia – be careful what you wish for.
These are the 10 things …
Drinking alcohol in general doesn’t induce early menopause, however, a National Institutes of Health Study shows heavy drinkers are more likely to experience irregular periods, reduced fertility and early menopause. Limit those drinks ladies! GOV.UK recommends 14 units per week; and no, not all in one night!
2. Being an unhealthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things we can do for our hormones.
Women who are underweight, or who yo-yo diet, are 30% more likely to enter the menopause earlier than those who have a sustained BMI; an unhealthy BMI is 18.5 or lower. This, however, doesn’t mean you can run to the cupboard, grab the crisps and chocolate and cancel that gym membership for the sake of your health! Women who are overweight can experience late menopause, which carries many of its own risks, such as increased chance of breast cancer.
Check your BMI: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/bmi-calculator/
If there aren’t enough reasons to quit smoking already, here’s another… Smoking is possibly the worst culprit for inducing early menopause; the toxins in cigarettes have a major effect on our reproductive system and hormone levels. A BBC News report looked at information from 93,000 women and found that heavy smokers were more likely to experience early menopause; and in general, reached menopause 1 to 2 years earlier than non-smokers. The study also showed that women experiencing second-hand smoke, although not in such vast figures, were also at risk.
4. Using beauty products containing toxins
Who would have thought the products we love and use every day could be harming us? A study of 31,000 women from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealed hormone disrupting chemicals in these women’s blood samples and warn that these can lead to early menopause. Don’t panic yet! Luckily, many companies have taken action to become more natural. However, knowledge of our beauty products goes a long way…
Here’s a list of some of the ingredients you should try to avoid:
- BHA and BHT – mostly used in moisturisers/ makeup to preserve
- Dyes containing ingredients listed at ‘CI *****’ ( 5 digits after)
- DEA related ingredients, MEA and TEA (not the afternoon cuppa type)- found in moisturisers and shampoos
- Dibutyl Phthalate – found in nail products
- Formaldehyde releasing preservatives (the stuff used to preserve dead bodies! Check your pulse, are you alive? Yes? Enough said!) – search ingredients for: DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine and quarternium-15
- Parabens- more preservatives
- PEG compounds
- Petrolatum – may be in hair products, lip balms and lipsticks
- Ingredients ending in -siloxane and -methicone
- Sodium laureth sulfate – may be in foaming products (shampoos, cleansers, bubble baths)
- Triclosan- used in some antibacterial cosmetics (toothpastes, cleansers and antipersperants)
5. Excessively Exercising
We all want to be fiercely fit like the Instagram models we see every day, however, overdoing exercise may be just as bad for us as doing none at all. The evidence on this point is very conflicting, some studies agree excessive exercises brings on menopause, others do not. Many experts link overdoing it at the gym with stress, self-esteem issues and eating disorders (maintaining a healthy weight) which may be the main link to encouraging premature menopause. Moral of the story- listen to your body, don’t push yourself to exhaustion, love yourself the way you are and seek help if you are struggling with eating disorders <3.
6. Eating Processed /Junk food
Processed foods contribute to insulin resistance and lead to unbalanced hormones, they are also usually stored in packaging containing toxins, both of which can lead to early menopause. 39.000 UK women were surveyed and those who ate diets high in fish, legumes and beans whilst avoiding processed and junk foods entered menopause at a natural age. Let’s think twice before that drive-thru.
7. Not Managing Stress
Managing stress is easier said than done. And although there is no concreate evidence to directly link stress to early menopause, stress is linked to craving and eating bad foods, missing periods, weight changes, lost sleep, and craving alcohol drinks; all of which can be associated! So, let’s take a deep breath, accept how we feel, and find ways to overcome and manage our stress! None of us are the same so find what works best for you; some suggestions are to exercise, practice mindfulness, chewing gun, laughing at your favourite YouTube videos, writing lists of tasks, spending more time with loved ones (time with pets works great) and if you are feeling particularly overwhelmed visit your GP.
8. Using Plastics
Whilst balancing plastic on your head may not induce menopause, drinking from plastic bottles and microwaving plastics (ready meals and reheating food) may do so due to harmful chemicals. Washington University School of Medicine conducted a study on menopausal women and identified hormone disrupting chemicals in women who more frequently partook in plastic consumption. Results found these chemicals had the ability to provoke early menopause. Suggestions are to not drink directly form plastics, stay away from microwave meals in plastic containers (best to stay away from these full stop), and if necessary to reheat food, use a plate.
9.Not Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important activities for a healthy body and mind- this includes healthy hormones! Without enough sleep, hormones become uncoordinated, leading to fluctuating levels of estrogen and potential early menopause. Bad sleeping habits can also have effect on our metabolism, stress levels and the way your body filters out toxins; all of which can have their own possibility to encourage early menopause. The Sleep Foundation recommends adults aged 18-64 get 7-9 hours of sleep per night- so, put down that phone, turn off Netflix, wind down a little earlier and catch those extra Z’s.
10. Using Candles
Perhaps one of the most surprising on the list. Candles, air fresheners and diffusers emit fragrance through the air and some of these products contain phthalate; a chemical that can seep into your skin. A study by Washington University School of Medicine found that women exposed to these chemicals are at risk of a decline in ovarian function and potential early menopause. The Prevention.com website suggests choosing soy-based or beeswax-based candles with lead-free wicks and fragranced with essential oils or phthalate-free fragrance. Be warned, just because a product says fragrance free, all-natural / naturally scented does not mean they are phthalate free. Let’s get to know the products we use!