9 Things You Didn't Realize Might Cause Early Menopause
When engaging in most of our habits, we don't usually tend to think "I wonder if this will have an effect on when I go through menopause." However, there are a number of surprising things that can cause early menopause, some of which you might even be engaging in every day. Many daily activities can actually influence your hormones, which may make you more likely to experience early menopause, whether you realize it or not.
Early menopause is when menopause occurs prior to the age of 40. "Early menopause happens for the same basic reason that menopause in general happens: something disrupts the cyclic production of hormone from the ovaries," Joseph Chang, MD, senior vice president and associate chief medical officer of the Parkland Health & Hospital System, tells Bustle. "That 'something' can be internal or external to the person. It can also be a result of disruption of different parts of the body. Sometimes, it is not really menopause, per se, but a temporary interference with effective hormone cycles."
There are some habits that make these types of interferences more likely to happen, many of which are usually avoidable. Here are 11 things you might be doing that can cause early menopause, according to experts.
Smoking can impact many aspects of your health, including your fertility. "Smoking has been know to cause menopause earlier by 4-5 years," Marcelle Pick, MSN, OB/GYN NP tells Bustle. "Studies have shown that the preservative and toxins in the cigarettes increase the loss of eggs which cannot be replaced. Once they are gone, then they are never rebuilt."
2. Heavy Drinking
Drinking in excess might also increase your risk of early menopause. "Chronic heavy drinking can lead to irregular periods, stopping of periods, and early menopause," Dr. Chang says. Women who drink often may find that their periods become irregular or stop altogether.
3. Using Certain Beauty Products
Environmental toxins in makeup, skin care, and hair products all can get into the skin and cause significant problems with hormones. "These are called estrogen disruptors, and they have been associated with early menopause as well as Premature Ovarian failure," says Pick. "The Environmental Working Group has a list of safe products that do not cause estrogen disruption."
"Overdoing exercise can increase cortisol levels, which play a large role in hormonal disruption," Pick says. "Studies have been done showing an association between increased long periods of exercise and early menopause. Exercising on a regular basis helps to keep hormone levels more stable, but the reality is you want a balance — you do not want over do it or do too little."
5. Stressing Out
Leaving stress unmanaged can sometimes lead to hormonal issues, which could eventually lead to early menopause. "There are a number of studies that have shown the association with increased stress and direct correlation with thyroid disruption and also significant hormonal dysregulation," Pick says. "We cannot change the stress that we have, but we can change how we respond to this stress." Feeling stressed out doesn't automatically spell out early menopause, but if it is something you have difficulty coping with, speaking with a loved one or therapist may help you develop habits to manage it.
6. Getting Surgery
"One that is obvious, but often overlooked, is surgery," says Dr. Chang. "Removal of the ovaries for any reason results in instant menopause. Even though it is logical, many have not considered menopause as a consequence of ovarian removal."
7. Using Plastic
Most plastics contain phthalates, chemicals that can lead to hormonal issues and early menopause. "It is very important to not use plastics in the microwave and also to not drink water from plastic bottles, especially if they have been in the heat," says Pick. "It's also best to avoid pollutants and processed foods as much as possible." While exposure to plastic is hard to avoid, and doesn't necessarily mean the worst case scenario for your health, experts say it's worth keeping in mind if early menopause is something you are concerned about.
8. Eating Foods With PCBs
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are other chemicals that can mess with your hormones, and they can be found in certain fish. They are often found in larger, fatty fish, especially around certain areas like the Great Lakes. These chemicals accumulate in the fat, so removing the skin of these foods can help limit your exposure.
9. Using Candles & Air Fresheners
They may make your home smell nice, but most candles and air fresheners contain chemicals that can mess with your hormones as well. Like plastics, many candles and air fresheners also contain phthalates, which can be absorbed into your skin and lead to early menopause. Many air fresheners may contain phthalates, even if they are not listed as an ingredient. That doesn't mean you have to automatically throw away all the sweet-smelling scents you have in your home, but speak with your doctor if you are concerned about these effects on your health.
Being aware of these habits, as well as checking in with your doctor if anything seems amiss, is the best way to look after your health long-term.