In this episode, Lisa talks to Mel Kettle about her new project Just as Juicy – aimed at encouraging people to start talking about menopause and perimenopause, and to really educate themselves about the changes happening in their bodies during this time.
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
Lisa: Welcome to the podcast everybody. Iâ€™m not too sure I would have been tackling this topic if I didnâ€™t know an amazing woman, who I started to get to know around the traps, in the social media world.
You know when you start an online business, suddenly these people kind of pop to the surface, and you become aware of them, and theyâ€™re very clever at certain things. My guest today, Mel Kettle, is one of those people.
Weâ€™ll talk about what she does in a second, but Iâ€™m really here to talk to her about a little side project sheâ€™s got going on, which is called Just as Juicy, and itâ€™s a blog about menopause. Or, more specifically, perimenopause. I am really excited to talk to her about that today. Mel, welcome to the podcast.
Mel: Thanks Lisa. Great to be here.
Lisa: I got to know you, was it at the first ProBlogger that I was at? Or, how did we cross paths? We both live in Brisbane. Mel is extremely good at communications, especially online and social media. She was, kind of, a bit of a go-to person for me, always with helpful advice. Did we first meet at ProBlogger in 2016?
Mel: No, I think we first met at an IABC event, International Association of Business Communicators, when I spoke there last year. Maybe after Social Media Marketing World last year, and you came along. Weâ€™ve got mutual friends, and I thought I must meet you.
Iâ€™d heard a bit of your story, and I thought, â€˜Yeah, okay. We need to get to know each other.â€™ And I think that was how it happened. And then we met at ProBlogger last year again, and caught up, and then a week later you spoke at an event with me. You invited me to talk to people in Government, and all very serious.
Lisa: I had no idea!
Mel: And you were great!
Lisa: Well, I went and saw you speak. Because, hereâ€™s the thing, I like food, and I like talking to people about food.
Mel: Me too!
Lisa: You know, I had a blog, and I ran programs, and Iâ€™m just really interested in the best way to communicate with people. Like, I find communication fascinating. I worked in a bit of TV and journalism, and all that stuff.
When you came back from Social Media Marketing World, it was really just, like, video is the next thing, and I thought, â€˜Oh, I really wanted to know something new. Like, I love video. Iâ€™ve been doing video a lot.â€™
It was just, I guess, affirming for that, I donâ€™t know, Iâ€™m just going to keep doing my own thing. But thereâ€™s this whole world out there of people who arenâ€™t quite incorporating video in their online marketing. Anyway, letâ€™s not get sidetracked here, because you and I could talk social media stuff for hours.
Mel: We could, and maybe weâ€™ll need to do that on another occasion.
Lisa: I really think maybe we should. But on this podcast, I really wanted to talk to you about this new project youâ€™ve started up, â€˜Just as Juicyâ€™. Because menopause, perimenopause, is not a commonly talked about subject. When you started doing this, I felt all kinds of uncomfortable. Like, â€˜Why is she talking about that? Why is she using the V word? I donâ€™t know if I want to read this, this is making me feel a bit uncomfortable.â€™
Iâ€™m 37, I feel like thatâ€™s a long way in the future for me, even although my mum went through menopause quite early. So, can you talk to us about why you have decided to write a blog about menopause?
Mel: Yes. So, Iâ€™m 47, and two years ago, I was having all the symptoms of perimenopause. I wasnâ€™t sleeping very well, I gained a shitload of weight in a really short period of time, and hadnâ€™t made any changes to my diet or my exercise, or lack of exercise, routine. I was having mood swings all the time, I was really anxious about things I had no control over.
So, my husband is a shift worker, and is a delivery driver. If he was home five minutes after he told me he would be home, I would automatically assume he was dead in a car accident. That type of anxiety is not anything Iâ€™ve ever experienced before, ever.
Then there was a bunch of other little things, as well. Like, my skin was getting dry, and my hair was really dry and horrible. My sex drive had gone, and all of these things, I just thought, â€˜Oh, I reckon it could be perimenopause.â€™ I have no idea of my family history, because my mother died seven years ago, and weâ€™d never had the conversation around it.
So, I went and had a chat with my GP, and she said to me, â€˜How old are you again?â€™ And I said 45, and she said, â€˜Oh, youâ€™re too young. My average patient is 52 when they have menopause, so come back then, and Iâ€™ll just pop you on HRT.â€™
Lisa: And you thought, â€˜Thatâ€™s helpful.â€™
Mel: I just said, â€˜Oh,â€™ I was dumbfounded. Particularly because Iâ€™d been going to this doctor for twelve years at that stage, and every time she wanted to prescribe me a medication, for some reason, weâ€™d had an argument about it, and it took her six-to-twelve months to convince me. Unless it was an antibiotic for something like tonsillitis, every other time I would say to her, â€˜Letâ€™s go the non-drug route first.â€™
So, for her to just, in a very blasÃ© way, say, â€˜Oh, Iâ€™ll just pop you on HRT,â€™ Iâ€™m surprised that I didnâ€™t have steam coming out of my ears, because I just couldnâ€™t believe it. So, I walked out, felt very dissatisfied, and started Googling for information, and I couldnâ€™t find anything that resonated with me. So, I thought, â€˜Well, there have got to be a lot of other women who are my age, or thereabouts, with the same questions, so Iâ€™ll just write a blog.â€™ And that was how it started.
Iâ€™d written a food and travel blog for a long time, and I really loved writing that blog, but I was getting a bit bored with it. I thought, â€˜I want to write a blog that has a purpose, and thatâ€™s helpful and useful.â€™ And I thought, â€˜I want to write a blog that I can still share my story, thatâ€™s at the phase Iâ€™m at in life,â€™ and I thought, â€˜Where am I in life?â€™
Then I just had this lightbulb go on, and itâ€™s like, â€˜Well, Iâ€™m in my mid-forties, and Iâ€™m facing down the menopause barrel. And I thought, â€˜Thatâ€™s a great story,â€™ particularly after my doctorâ€™s comments to me.
Lisa: Yes, which is zero helpful, and Iâ€™m sure she was probably dumped thereafter.
Mel: Yes, she has been.
Lisa: So, I guess on the other end of the spectrum, a lot of times with Small Steps, Iâ€™m talking to women who are dealing with unanswered questions about their children from doctors. And it does force you to be going, â€˜Well, I know something is up here.â€™
And you declare, like, first up on the blog that you are a total geek researcher. You know, this is your bag. You donâ€™t mind going down the rabbit holes, finding the research, and trying to understand things. Itâ€™s so amazing that someone like you has put together this blog. One of the first things that I found interesting that I read on it was the actual definition of menopause.
Mel: So, menopause is actually one day, and itâ€™s the day that marks twelve months since you last had a period. And the time before that is perimenopause, and the time after that is post-menopause. So, thereâ€™s a lot of confusion around that, because most people donâ€™t realise that menopause is just that one day.
Lisa: Yes. I found that fascinating, because when youâ€™re throwing around the word â€˜perimenopauseâ€™ I didnâ€™t even really know what it meant. I was like, â€˜Oh.â€™ So really, when weâ€™re talking about going through menopause, itâ€™s actually experiencing perimenopause.
Mel: Yes, thatâ€™s right. Or post-menopause, because a lot of the symptoms happen after youâ€™ve stopped your periods as well. But for me, itâ€™s perimenopause. But I use the words reasonably interchangeably, because, like you, most people donâ€™t realise what menopause actually is, or what the difference is. So, I do explain that in the blog, but when Iâ€™m talking to people, I explain it, and then I just use interchangeably because people are confused sometimes.
Lisa: Yes. So, you explained some of the symptoms that you were experiencing. Are they the textbook symptoms? Like, how do we know that weâ€™ve started that perimenopause phase?
Mel: The only way you can really know is to have a blood test that measures your hormone levels. It depends on when in your cycle you have that blood test, because your hormones fluctuate throughout your cycle. So, at the middle of your cycle when youâ€™re ovulating, your oestrogen is a lot higher than it is when youâ€™ve got your period.
But if youâ€™re going through the symptoms that I mentioned, things like unexplained weight gain, anxiety, night sweats, hot flushes, and youâ€™ll know if you have any of those â€“ trust me, youâ€™ll know when youâ€™re having a hot flush â€“ theyâ€™re disgusting.
Lisa: I can remember mum almost just wanting to lie on the tiles, and literally just sweat just pouring off her.
Mel: Yes. Your cardigan is your best friend when youâ€™re having hot flushes, and lots of layers of clothing, so that you can just easily take them off, and put them back on. Iâ€™ve been known to be sitting on the couch, under the fan, with the air conditioning, and just putting on, and taking off, layers of clothes. Because when I have a hot flush, once itâ€™s passed, I get really cold. Not for very long, just for a few minutes. Itâ€™s like all the heatâ€™s gone out, and then I just get really, really cold.
Lisa: And all the sweat on your skin. Like, your bodyâ€™s done the right thing to try and cool yourself down, I guess. Is this a conversation that is happening? Are people talking about menopause at that age? Or is this something people are suffering in silence? I sort of thought to myself, â€˜Am I just not there yet? Itâ€™s just not the conversation in the circles that Iâ€™m in? Or is it just one of those taboo subjects, people are just, kind of, doing it in silence?â€™
Mel: I think itâ€™s probably a combination of both. From an age perspective, your hormones start changing from when youâ€™re 35. So you would definitely, I would imagine, be having some of that hormonal change at the moment. But it also is a very taboo subject, and a thing that women donâ€™t like talking about. I think our generation, and maybe the next generation, will talk about it more, but I know my mother never talked about it, and my aunts never talked about it.
There have been times when Iâ€™ve been in both personal situations with groups of friends, and friends of friends, or in professional situations, when Iâ€™ve been introduced to potential clients, or in a workshop with clients, and somebody has said, â€˜Mel writes a menopause blog,â€™ and itâ€™s been really interesting to watch the reactions of both the men and the women in the room. The men have been really interested, in a lot of instances, and the women have been horrified, and not wanted to talk about it.
Mel: I think a lot of thatâ€™s because our society has such a stigma around women ageing, and the media get rid of women of a certain age from TV screens, and from newsrooms, and from pretty much any form of public space. So, women, from what Iâ€™ve observed and surmised, donâ€™t want to admit their age in case that causes them to be discriminated against in their job, or in any other way.
Lisa: Thatâ€™s just so fascinating, isnâ€™t it?
Mel: Yes. Thatâ€™s why I think women arenâ€™t prepared to talk about it.
Mel: But I think out generation is a lot more vocal, and feels a much greater sense of self, and self-worth, and power. And doesnâ€™t have that fear that women of the generation ahead of us may have felt.
Lisa: Yes. And, you know, itâ€™s a different time. With social media, with access to conversations going on around the world via blogs, and Facebook, and all that sort of thing. Thereâ€™s always someone talking about something, I guess.
Mel: But if I can just add, having said all that, I have lost count of the number of friends, including some really good friends, whoâ€™ve said to me, â€˜I love what youâ€™re doing with Just as Juicy, but I am not going to like your Facebook page for that page, because I donâ€™t want other people to see that Iâ€™m of that age, and going through that.â€™
Lisa: Get out!
Mel: Yes. And I just went, â€˜What?â€™
Lisa: You know, I know this from someone else, who had a Facebook page, and then a private group, to help people through infertility. So, these women didnâ€™t want other people to know that they were struggling to have a baby.
Mel: I can kind of understand that a little bit more, because having had quite a few friends whoâ€™ve gone through IVF and had fertility problems, they were sick of people saying to them, â€˜Howâ€™s it going?â€™ And them having to say, â€˜Not very well,â€™ and being completely heartbroken by it.
But menopause is a thing, every single woman who turns 40 goes through menopause. So, itâ€™s not like fertility treatments, where some women donâ€™t have any issues, and some women have every issue under the sun. Every single woman who reaches the age goes through menopause.
Lisa: And do some women just breeze through it? Is it only an issue for a small percentage, or do most women experience uncomfortable symptoms?
Mel: From my readings, thereâ€™s approximately, I think, 10-15% of women who donâ€™t have any side-effects, or donâ€™t experience any symptoms other than their periods stopping. Iâ€™m very jealous of those women.
Lisa: Yes, wow. I want to be one of those.
Mel: Because I am not one of those women. And I have quite a few friends who are in their early sixties, who have said to me, â€˜Menopause was a breeze, I didnâ€™t have any symptoms.â€™ And Iâ€™ve looked at those women, and what they all have in common is that theyâ€™re really conscious about what they eat, and theyâ€™re very conscious about doing regular exercise.
Lisa: Okay, so letâ€™s talk about this. Letâ€™s talk about what we can do. Okay, weâ€™ll talk about HRT, or hormone replacement therapy, afterwards. But Iâ€™d love to know what youâ€™ve learnt. I mean, weâ€™ve chatted before. Iâ€™ve chatted on your podcast about food, and you grew up with a really wholesome approach to food, and you still have that today.
What else have you learned about food, exercise, the role those things play, at that menopausal stage of life?
Mel: So, when I got no answers from my doctor, I started to see a naturopath, and she sent me off to have a whole bunch of blood tests, and none of them showed anything alarming. They showed a very slight change in my hormones, and Iâ€™m about to go back and have another set of blood tests.
Itâ€™s been eight months since the last lot, so itâ€™ll be a good comparison to see where things are at now. But other than that, there wasnâ€™t anything that jumped out and said, â€˜This is the reason why youâ€™ve had weight gain, youâ€™ve had anxiety, youâ€™ve had all these other things.â€™
So, she said to me, â€˜Would you consider doing an elimination diet?â€™ And I said, â€˜Iâ€™ll do anything to find out what the situation is, and to make it better.â€™ And I didnâ€™t actually know what an elimination diet fully was, until I started it, and realised it went for fourteen weeks, to three-and-a-half months.
Lisa: Thatâ€™s a long time!
Mel: It was a very long time. So, I eliminated pretty much everything. So, for the first three weeks, all I could eat was most meat, fish, most fruit, and most vegetables, some rice, some millet, and coconut products. So, no sugar, no gluten, no caffeine, no alcohol.
Lisa: No dairy?
Mel: Actually, there was no seafood, no fish, no crustaceans, no dairy, no tomatoes, no corn, no citrus, and a few other things. And no sugar, and no nuts. So, it was pretty full-on.
Lisa: Good times! â€˜Itâ€™s great, letâ€™s do this.â€™
Mel: Anyone whoâ€™s done the Whole30, the Whole30 is a piece of cake compared to the elimination diet. And no eggs.
Lisa: No eggs? I mean, how does one-,
Mel: Yes, that was hard, breakfast was hard. And then, at the end of the three weeks, you reintroduce one food, or one food group, at a time, and it takes five-to-six days to reintroduce each one properly. So, after about four or five days, I started to feel amazing.
After three weeks, I felt so incredible. I had no gut issues, I had no toilet issues, I had no brain fog. I was waking up in the morning with so much energy. I was sleeping really well, I wasnâ€™t waking up through the night. My anxiety went away completely, I couldnâ€™t believe it. But mostly, I just had all this energy, I didnâ€™t need as much sleep, and I felt incredible.
The first food I reintroduced was dairy, and I had an exceedingly unpleasantly violent reaction within two hours of drinking a glass of milk, which made me realise, â€˜Okay, dairy is a food that I shouldnâ€™t consume.â€™ The next food I introduced was gluten, and I had a not as strong and unpleasant reaction, but I still had an unpleasant reaction.
One of the things that really interested me when I reintroduced gluten was I had a full-on temper tantrum the night that I ate a bagel for lunch. I didnâ€™t associate that with eating gluten until a couple of days later, when I thought about it, and I just thought, â€˜Holy crap, thatâ€™s unbelievable!â€™
Lisa: Food is just so powerful.
Mel: Yes. So, I reintroduced all these foods, and it showed me that I had intolerances to gluten, dairy, coconut, like, certain coconut fats. I can eat little bits of it, but not lots of it. Legumes, if I have them too often, alcohol and caffeine.
So, in a perfect world, I wonâ€™t eat those foods, and Iâ€™ll feel amazing. The worldâ€™s not perfect, and Iâ€™ve got a dairy addiction. Iâ€™ve been quite good about not eating gluten, but the others, Iâ€™ve been a bit slack on.
I can tell instantly when Iâ€™ve pushed the limits since having those foods, because again, I start to have sleepless nights, and I start to feel exhausted, and I struggle to wake up in the morning, and I feel bloated and revolting.
Lisa: I think once you can really know that feeling of amazing, then you get why you do the things. You know, itâ€™s probably been a while since Iâ€™ve been totally there. I could remember doing it once, it wasnâ€™t for as long, but I maintained certain things out of my diet for a really long time. I was like, â€˜Why would I ever go back?â€™
Then one day, it was maybe six months into us moving to Brisbane, and we met up with these new families that weâ€™d met in the park, and we all ordered pizza for dinner. I was like, â€˜Oh my God, that pizza looks so good.â€™ So, I had a piece, and that was kind of it, like, I was just, sort of, back, and working out how to not get to the point that youâ€™re talking about. Get to it so there are little bits in there, but itâ€™s not reaching bloated like Iâ€™m six months pregnant levels.
But gee, itâ€™s hard. And itâ€™s an up and down, for me, all the time, in the knowing what my body likes and doesnâ€™t like, and also, just living a life that is not full of food anxiety. But what Iâ€™d love to know is, did this improve your symptoms?
Mel: Yes, it did. So, the most obvious was that I lost 8kg in about eight weeks. I came off the Pill when I was 45, and gained 10kg in ten weeks, and then gained another 8kg over the next twelve months. So, to suddenly be able to lose weight was quite mind-blowing to me, because I hadnâ€™t been able to at all. You know, I would limit what I was eating, I tried a couple of ridiculously fad diets, and I just kept on gaining weight.
So, I just really know that for my body, itâ€™s back to basics. Itâ€™s wholefoods, real foods, lots of home-cooked foods is what I need, and not gluten, and not dairy. The other big thing, probably the biggest thing, was the anxiety went away, and that was remarkable to me.
Lisa: Thereâ€™s so much to be said. I mean, the science just keeps on coming out with more, and more, and more proof. Like, our gut health is-, not only our physical health, but our mental health is included in that too. Itâ€™s like the first place we all need to start.
Mel: It really is. I interviewed a woman on my podcast called Dr Felice Jacka, and she does research into the impact of food on mood. Sheâ€™d be a great guest for you, as well, because her research is ground-breaking, and sheâ€™s the only person in the world whoâ€™s researching the impact of food on mood. And itâ€™s fascinating.
Lisa: Yes. The A Quirky Journey podcast is all about that kind of thing, as well. There are some people doing some amazing things, and I know, I always see, when people give shit to Pete Evans, and just, â€˜Itâ€™s so extreme what heâ€™s saying,â€™ and all that kind of stuff.
You can have your opinions on Pete, but you go to his Facebook page, and see story after story after story after story of people who have improved their health through cutting out allergens from their diet, and so much of it is mind-related. Depression, anxiety, and all those things, but itâ€™s also not necessarily a super-quick fix. Not many people would feel like they could take three-and-a-half months out of their life, and just completely rejig-, make life really about food for a little while.
But what Iâ€™ve heard from many people who end up doing it is, it actually makes food easy, because youâ€™re not thinking about all the different things you could have. You just know that this is what youâ€™re going to be eating. So, it kind of cuts out that brain clutter.
Mel: Exactly. I wrote a blog post about what I ate, because a lot of people had said to me, â€˜What did you eat?â€™ And I just basically cooked a roast three times a week, or two or three nights a week, I cooked a roast with a heap of vegetables. I could eat potato, and sweet potato, so it wasnâ€™t low carb, it was just low lots of other things.
So, my husband loved it. He said to me, about six weeks in, â€˜I love this new eating style, can we do this forever?â€™ Iâ€™m there going, â€˜I need pizza and pasta, I want a hamburger!â€™
Lisa: What did you have for breakfast?
Mel: Breakfast was really hard. I just basically had chicken and vegetable soup, or meat and veggie soup, for quite a few breakfasts. I had stir-fried veggies quite a bit. I had to eat meat, because the only protein source I could have for the first three weeks was meat. And Iâ€™m not a big meat eater, so I found that really difficult.
I made pork, or chicken Kanji, and ate that quite a bit for breakfast, because I could have rice. So, with the elimination diet, once you reintroduce a food, and you work out whether your body likes it or not, youâ€™re supposed to take it out and not have it again until youâ€™ve finished the whole process. But I said to my naturopath, â€˜I canâ€™t keep eating meat for breakfast, because Iâ€™m going mental.â€™
So, we agreed that when I reintroduced eggs, and when I reintroduced fish, if I didnâ€™t have a problem, I could keep them in my diet. So, I think eggs were the first or second thing I reintroduced, and so once I could have those, then I had an egg for breakfast most days, and that made it a lot easier. And Iâ€™d have an egg with lots of veggies, and thatâ€™s what Iâ€™ve been eating for breakfast for years and years anyway, so that wasnâ€™t a problem.
Yes, breakfast was really hard. Lunch and dinner were easier. Dinner was, like I said, a roast or a stir-fry. Stir-fries were hard, because I couldnâ€™t have any of the sauces. I couldnâ€™t have soy, I couldnâ€™t have most of the sauces that go in a stir-fry, because I couldnâ€™t have the ingredients in them.
So, I couldnâ€™t add fish sauce, because I couldnâ€™t have fish. I couldnâ€™t have lime juice, because I couldnâ€™t have citrus. I couldnâ€™t have sugar, because I couldnâ€™t have sugar. I couldnâ€™t have soya sauce, because I couldnâ€™t have soy. I couldnâ€™t have Tamari because it had something else in it that I couldnâ€™t have. So, I could have herbs and spices, but I couldnâ€™t have sauces. So, I did a lot of stir-fries using chicken stock, that I had to make, and different herbs and spices to flavour it.
Lisa: I guess itâ€™s a bit experimental. Sometimes itâ€™s nice to mix things up. But itâ€™s like the difference between those jungle curries at a Thai restaurant, versus a nice green curry. You just would go the green curry.
Mel: Well, I could have a green curry, because I could make my own curry paste. As long as I left out the shrimp paste, I could make my own Thai green curry paste, and I could have coconut milk.
Lisa: Oh, you could have coconut milk? I thought coconut was out.
Mel: I could have it. I have an intolerance to it, but I could have it occasionally. And if I put a little bit of coconut cream in with an enormous amount of chicken stock, I was okay.
Lisa: Okay, got it. So, you can bend the rules slightly.
Mel: Yes. So, you can bend the rules slightly.
Lisa: Before we finish up, so there are two more things. Iâ€™d love you to give a few little bits of small steps advice, for people who might be experiencing perimenopause. But before that, letâ€™s just touch on what youâ€™ve learnt about HRT, or hormone replacement therapy. Whatâ€™s the go?
Mel: So, Iâ€™m not at that stage yet, so I donâ€™t know an enormous amount about it, but my advice for anybody considering HRT is talk to your doctor, and find out if that is the only alternative for you. My personal preference is not to put other things in my body if I donâ€™t have to.
There are lots of different forms of HRT. You can get oestrogen only, progesterone only, combined oestrogen-progesterone-testosterone HRT. A lot of people I know are back on the Pill, or have a Mirena, in order to manage their hormone fluctuations.
But again, ask your doctor, â€˜Do I need it? What other options are there for me? How long do I need to be on it for? Whatâ€™s going to happen to me when I come off it?â€™ And, â€˜What are the health implications, in terms of heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, breast cancer?â€™ And if your doctor doesnâ€™t know, or doesnâ€™t give you an answer that youâ€™re satisfied with, then do your own research.
There are a lot of studies out there on the subject of HRT, and thereâ€™s a lot of information out there. So, go in and make an informed decision, rather than just blindly saying, â€˜Yes Iâ€™ll go on it.â€™ And in Australia we canâ€™t buy HRT over the counter, but in countries like the United States, you can. So, donâ€™t just blindly buy it over the counter, without knowing whether you even need it.
And get a blood test, ask your doctor. The first thing you should be doing if you think youâ€™re going through perimenopause is get a hormonal blood test from your doctor, and find out whether you really are. And then, in a yearâ€™s time, get another one, to see how your hormone levels have changed in that twelve-month period.
Lisa: Thatâ€™s a great piece of advice, but can I just ask you. Itâ€™s funny, because your preference is not to go down that route, but then, how many years were you on the Pill?
Mel: I know. I was on the Pill for twenty-something years, and I can guarantee, if I knew when I was eighteen what I know now about the Pill, I would never have gone on it.
Lisa: Yes. So, when you started learning about the Pill, you were like, â€˜Iâ€™m out of hereâ€™?
Mel: I was out of there, yes. And it wasnâ€™t until I was 43, 44, 45, that I actually started learning about the Pill.
Lisa: What did you learn?
Mel: Oh, I learnt that I wish Iâ€™d never put it in my body, because itâ€™s completely stuffed it up. But I just think doctors are really quick to prescribe, and young women like me, at the time, I was terrified of getting pregnant. And so, the only alternative, the safest alternative, and the best alternative for birth control that I was aware of was the Pill.
Lisa: Yes. I was put on it when I was sixteen, because I had seriously, seriously, seriously painful and bad periods. Like, horrible, and I needed to be able to do Year 12. I used to have to take days off school, because of vomiting. And no-one did any digging, it was like, â€˜Yes, that happens, so hereâ€™s the Pill.â€™
I was on it for nine years, and at 25, I just started to feel uncomfortable about it. I was living with Nick at the time, and I said, â€˜I just think I need to get my body off these hormones.â€™ And I can remember feeling like Iâ€™d woken up out of a cloud, and I actually lost weight when I came off it, because I think I was just constantly holding onto fluid.
Since then, and having this amazing platform, and interviewing people like Nat Kringoudis about the Pill, and finding out the effect it has on our gut health, similar to antibiotics. And youâ€™re like, â€˜Why are they saying that there are no side effects?â€™ I just donâ€™t get it.
Mel: I know. One of the things that frustrates me, and HRT does this to an extent as well, is that it masks the symptoms. Iâ€™ve got so many girlfriends who were on the Pill for the same reason as you, really painful periods.
I went off the Pill when I was in my late twenties, and went back on it within the year, because of excruciating periods. There was never any investigation done, but a lot of my girlfriends now canâ€™t conceive, because of massive endometriosis scarring, which the Pill hid. Thatâ€™s just criminal.
Lisa: I know. My issue was this big cyst that used to pop up on my right ovary each month, and then when I would ovulate it would, kind of, cut off, and then bleed out. So, it was all this bleeding in the wrong places, which was why I was in so much pain. It was obvious some sort of inflammation happening in my body, and the only time that I found that out was when I didnâ€™t take the heavy-duty, hardcore, biggest pain relief medication that you can get.
I used to have it for about 48 hours and just zonk myself, and I forgot to take it one night, and I could barely walk to the toilet. And Nickâ€™s like, â€˜Are you serious? This is what those drugs are masking? You should really get that checked out.â€™
Then, off I went down that road, which ended up leading to a laparoscopy, clearing off the scar tissue, and then a doctor saying, â€˜Well, nowâ€™s probably a good time to have a baby.â€™ And we hadnâ€™t even been married a year, and we thought, â€˜Oh, takes people a while. Alright, I guess so.â€™ And then we were pregnant, like, straight away.
But I would never have known that that was going on. I love what Nat says about any type of symptom. So, even your weight gain afterwards is just a symptom of something being off. And so much of it comes down to hormones. All we need to do, like, the whole, â€˜Canâ€™t lose weight no matter what youâ€™re doing,â€™ thereâ€™s a deeper issue going on, that you need to search for.
Mel: Yes, and that was why my naturopath ordered 25 things to be tested in blood tests, because she said, â€˜Thereâ€™s something else happening here, and we need to work it out.â€™ She tested me for a whole heap of autoimmune diseases, as well as hormones and smaller things, as well, but none of them showed anything. And that was when she went, â€˜Letâ€™s look at your diet.â€™
Lisa: Yes. Oh, man.
Mel: So, Iâ€™ve just had three weeks in the US, where I ate everything, and drank everything, that I wasnâ€™t supposed to eat. I think I had more coffee in three weeks than I had in the previous twelve months, and certainly drank a lot of alcohol, and ate my way through burgers, pizza, nachos, and other deliciously cheese- and gluten-laden foods.
Lisa: Bagels? Oh my God.
Mel: No, I only had one bagel, because bagels, I know, are very bad, and I decided that the pain of eating a bagel wasnâ€™t worth it. But the pain of a good burger was, and good pizza! So, now Iâ€™ve been back for a week-and-a-half, and Iâ€™m slowly starting to feel normal again, because Iâ€™m eating a million serves of vegetables a day.
Lisa: Isnâ€™t it funny? Our bodies know what they need.
Mel: Yes, they do.
Lisa: We can just switch that off when we want to override it, but itâ€™s lovely that you know what to come back to, and what feels good for you right now. So, you mentioned before, would you say the best small step for someone whoâ€™s experiencing these symptoms is to get a blood test?
Mel: Yes. Talk to your doctor about it, and if your doctor doesnâ€™t give you the answers that you want, then ask your network, and your friends, for recommendations of one who will be open to it. There are definitely some GPs who specialise in womenâ€™s health, and in menopause. So, look for one of them in your local area, or in your community.
Maybe consider alternative therapies, like naturopathy, as well. I know my naturopath and my doctor, I use them together, and Iâ€™m getting the answers that are helping me work out whatâ€™s wrong. Because, you know, perimenopause can last you for fifteen years.
Mel: Yes, I know. So, you want to make sure that what it is that youâ€™re going through is to do with perimenopause. Because also, a lot of the symptoms can be symptoms of other things. So, a lot of the symptoms of perimenopause, such as bloating, and changes in bowel movements, and other gut-related things, and weight gain-related things, they can be related to really scary things like ovarian cancer.
So, donâ€™t stick your head in the sand. Go and get it checked out, if you have any doubts. And, you know, donâ€™t stop getting it checked out until youâ€™re satisfied with the responses that you had from blood tests, and from doctors, and from medical professionals.
Lisa: Such good advice, thank you Mel. So, if people want a bit more information on this stuff, where should they go? And then also, just gives yourself a plug away for the amazing other work that you do.
Mel: Oh, thanks! Well, you can have a look at the website, Just as Juicy, and I have the divine Alicia Lynch, Naughty Naturopath Mum, to thank for that name, because she came up with it for me.
Lisa: Sheâ€™s so smart!
Mel: Oh, sheâ€™s great. So, itâ€™s justas juicy.com, and I do send out a regular newsletter. I aim for every week, but I havenâ€™t sent one out for about six weeks. So, thereâ€™ll be another one coming soon, you can sign up for that.
On my social media and marketing stuff, itâ€™s all melkettle.com, and I do communication and social media consulting, and workshops, and help organisations get a better understanding of what they need to be doing for their customers and their clients, in social media world.
Lisa: Youâ€™re very good at it, and youâ€™re very well-known amongst the crew, especially in Queensland. So, Iâ€™m thrilled to have been able to have this time with you today, and to just shine a light on this topic that no-one else seems to be talking about. Youâ€™ve shared so freely.
Mel: Itâ€™s been great, thanks. Can I just encourage everyone to talk about it? Because the more of us who talk about our menopause, and perimenopause challenges, the less taboo that subject is going to be. And, you know, if youâ€™re embarrassed, just start by talking about it with your husband, or your partner, or your adult kids, if youâ€™ve got them.
Because I know I said to my husband, â€˜This is what Iâ€™m going through,â€™ and, like, when I was in my moody bitch phase, which was full-on for a while, I just had to say to him, â€˜Itâ€™s hormonal, and itâ€™s not you.â€™ And he was so relieved, because he had no idea whether heâ€™d done something wrong, or what the situation was.
So now, when Iâ€™m a snappy cow, he just says to me, â€˜Is it hormonal, or have I done something?â€™ And I can just tell him if heâ€™s done something, or I can tell him if itâ€™s hormonal. And if itâ€™s hormonal, heâ€™s like, â€˜Okay, see you later, Iâ€™m just going to leave the room and you can get it all out of your system.â€™
Lisa: And itâ€™s not even that. Like, when I was going through your blogs, I was like, â€˜Vaginal itching. Nice, letâ€™s talk about it!â€™ Because the thing is that itâ€™s a bit uncomfortable, and itâ€™s just not things that people talk about.
But I guess weâ€™re not doing ourselves, as a generation of women, any favours by putting our heads in the sand, or laughing it off, because the facts of the matter are that most of us are heading straight towards it, weâ€™ve experienced it before, or weâ€™re totally in it.
Mel: Yes, exactly.
Lisa: I love what youâ€™re doing. I love that that was the name of a blog post.
Mel: If anyone has any questions about anything to do with menopause, Iâ€™m really happy to research it for you and write a blog post about it. And I wonâ€™t name your name in it, unless you want me to. So, fire away with any questions. Iâ€™m really happy to be the researcher for you on that subject.
Lisa: Put the geek to work, is what Iâ€™m hearing here! So, okay, thatâ€™s a call to action, everybody. justas juicy.com, you want to head right there. Thank you Mel, it has been a really, really great chat, and just nice to talk to you anyway. Itâ€™s been a while.
Mel: It has. You too. Thanks very much, Lisa.
Lisa: Thanks Mel.