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4 Substances That Manipulate the Onset of Menopause

By HERWriter
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Woman with bottle of milk in market Syda Productions/Fotolia

If the onset of menopause matters to you, read on to learn about what may be affecting the timing of changes in your reproductive ecosystem. Some you can control, others may be out of your hands. Find out what substances may be hitting the fast forward button on your menopause, as well as one trigger for the pause button!

Smoking kills fertility

The old cigarette ads targeting women in the 70s tried to tap into the glories of the women’s movement by praising them with a condescending pat on the head and the line “You’ve come a long way, baby!” A more accurate statement might have been “Keep smoking, and you won’t have a long time to have babies!”

If the threat of cancer wreathing your head like a giant smoke ring wasn’t cause enough to nix the sticks, add the threat of early menopause to the list. Dr. Nanette Santoro, M.D., professor and E. Stewart Taylor Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, says it’s the number one cause of early menopause.

Got galactosemia?

Another famous string of ads, the Got Milk? campaign, could hold a clue to a cause of early menopause onset that has largely been forgotten. Galactose is a simple sugar that is part of a larger sugar structure called lactose. Women with galactosemia can’t properly break down galactose and use it to produce energy.

“Women with extreme problems can have menopause in their 20s or 30s,” said Santoro, a member of The Endocrine Society and a member of the board of trustees of the North American Menopause Society. “I think if you have a relative with galactosemia, you might want to wonder about it a little. If you know you have it you can minimize the damage by being strict in your diet.”

Get the lead out

In its report titled “Introduction to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) A Guide for Public Interest Organizations and Policymakers,” released in December 2014, the Endocrine Society cites multiple studies that indicate even low-level lead exposure cannot only delay menarche (first menstrual bleeding) but also accelerate menopause (last menstrual bleeding).

“The collective evidence on delayed pubertal timing coupled with those on earlier menopause suggests that lead exposure, even at low levels, may shorten women’s reproductive life span,” the report reads.

Isn’t it ironic?

And finally, let’s end with one substance that can actually extend the time before menopause knocks at your door – hormonal birth control. It turns out women who have been on long-term (10 to 20 years) hormonal birth control methods can delay menopause and thereby preserve their fertility by about six months. Santoro says there’s not a lot of specific evidence of the success of one type of birth control delaying menopause more effectively than another.


Nanette Santoro, M.D. via phone conversation. December 6, 2015. http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/colleges/medicalschool/centers/SurgicalInnovation/about-us/faculty-members/Pages/Nanette-Santoro.aspx

Gore, Andrea et al. Introduction to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs): A Guide for Public Interest Organizations and Policy-Makers. The Endocrine Society. p. 48. http://www.endocrine.org/edcguide

Reviewed December 22, 2015
By Philip Sarrel, M.D. and Lorna Sarrel, M.S.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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