How menopause has been commercialized and are we being taken advantage of.
As a menopause educator and coach and someone who supports women taking control of their own health and wellbeing, I am obviously very excited about the increased awareness, conversations, policies and support that is happening in the Menopause space.
Peri-menopausal and menopausal women for too long have been under-served, under-represented and not taken seriously. We are finally having our time in the sun as Menopause is being understood as a normal, natural life stage for women, and not something to be ignored, ridiculed, shamed or made to feel bad about.
However, as the awareness and conversations around Menopause grow, so does the “menopause industry”. All of a sudden, women 40+ are a demographic to be marketed to.
Hot Flashes Preventative Pajamas
Menopause Supportive Chocolate
Skin Enhancing creams
Vaginal rehydration gels
And most of all Menopause Supplements.
And it’s not just the products that are filling the shelves.
There are companies being created weekly specifically to meet the needs of a symptomatic menopause woman, including the growth of Fem-Tech.
Social media Influencers jumping on the bandwagon promoting a wide range of products and services, such as home testing hormone kits.
Book stores with ever expanding menopause related titles, that just didn’t exist 4 years ago.
Now on the one hand obviously this is a good thing! We are a demographic who is struggling with symptoms and we need help.
The explosion of menopause health practitioners, work place support teams, open conversation around symptoms and the range of treatment options available is something to be praised and encouraged.
However, there is a flip side to this story.
These numbers are mind-blowing and begs the question, are we being sold to, marketing to, manipulated to, being taken advantage of because we are an “easy and needy” target group.
Any woman struggling with debilitating symptoms without access to a menopause specialist, a sympathetic doctor, or is confused about her options because of the wealth of information available, will try things that purport to ease her symptoms and improve her life.
I am not saying that we are “stupid women” who can’t see through the b*llsh*t.
I am saying that companies are spending millions to produce and market products and services to us that may or may not do what they say on the label.
One of the products that has a huge chunk of this marketing budget is supplements and vitamins. I want to talk about this specific area of the market because it is slightly more complicated.
As a Menopause Coach who focuses on supporting women from an integrative, functional perspective I believe that natural support and lifestyle changes can significantly improve your menopause experience.
In addition adding things like Vitamin D, Magnesium Glycinate, Zinc, Vitamin B12, St. John’s Wort, DIM, Black Cohosh and phytoestrogens to name just a few can make a BIG difference to specific symptoms and your overall midlife health.
However, an article in Daily Mail online Health Supplement (3) sheds light on the dark truth behind many of these menopause support supplements being sold and it’s scary reading. With menopause supplements making up 95% of the menopause market and with not enough oversight on the companies producing and marketing these supplements, the research done by the journalist found that many of the products DID NOT contain the natural ingredients they claimed.
So I want to add my recommendations for how to navigate the menopause marketing we are being bombarded with and ways to be thoughtful in what we are buying in to:
1. You need to buy your supplements and vitamins from reliable, credible sources. So many supplements have fillers and additives in them that make the supplements ineffective at worst and just not great at best. One way to ensure your product is "real" if you are buying online and not from an actual pharmacist is to make sure it has a THR (Traditional Herbal Registration) label.
2. You need to know what dosage to take for each supplement. Dosage is important and very often women are taking too low a dosage. That means that even though you are taking the supplement it actually may not be effective in treating your symptoms – especially if it’s mixed with other things!
3. SOME supplements (specifically some adaptogens like St. John’s Wort and Ashwaganda) are actually serious herbs and whilst they can be a very effective treatment options for specific symptoms, they also can react with conventional medication. And they can’t be taken indefinitely without some type of monitoring. In my opinion adaptogens should be taken under guidance, purchased from a reliable vendor or combining Pharmacist and the dosage should be discussed based on symptoms.
4. Some medical professionals (including THE leading menopause doctor in the UK, Dr. Louise Newson) don’t advocating using natural supplements as a way of treating symptoms as there isn’t enough evidence to support their use. I strongly disagree with this approach. Firstly, some of the common supplements used for treating symptoms do have (limited) evidence to support their use. Secondly the fact that there is not enough evidence doesn’t mean that it’s not effective….. it’s more a sign that there needs to be MORE research into natural alternatives and that these need to be taken seriously as treatment options.
5. As I said, Menopause multi-vitamins/supplements are very popular in the marketing space and many women think that they are taking a general, all round good supplement. Some of these multi-vitamins can be effective and supportive. Some women tell me they feel so much better on specific “menopause support” supplements.
But many of them have low dosages of a range of different vitamins and adoptogens, and the number of capsules that you have to take to achieve the optimal dosage may be quite high. Plus you have no control over the combination of the ingredients.
I always recommend women take their supplements as individual, single ingredient capsules – that way you can have much more control of the dosage of each vitamin, and can change it as you need, depending on your symptoms
I want to end with a couple of basic principles.
I believe that suffering with symptoms, confusion about how to move forward and struggling to get through the day is NOT a pre-requisite for midlife women.
I believe that there is TONS you can do to manage, treat and improve your menopause symptoms without paying tons of money for products that are not proven to actually help.
I believe that you can feel amazing without it being complicated, without a massive investment.
I believe that small and simple changes can have a BIG impact in how you feel.
We should be excited about the growth in the menopause industry.
We should see it as a big step in recognizing, honouring, and supporting midlife women, a demographic that has traditionally been ignored and sidelined.
But we need to not be taken in by the meno-washing marketing that wants us to spend our hard-earned money on products that are just trying to get a piece of the $24.4 billion pie!