What Menopause Looks Like in 2023: An Exclusive Interview with Andrea Donsky
October is Menopause Awareness Month. It is estimated that by 2025, more than a billion women will be in menopause, which represents 12% of the population globally. With a huge community, a love for menopause research, and a goal of educating as many people as possible about this phase of life, we reached out to nutritionist Andrea Donsky to highlight her incredible work in the perimenopause and menopause space.
If you are not familiar with Andrea, she is an icon in the natural health-and-wellness industry. She has won multiple awards over the past 23 years for her work as a nutritionist, healthy living expert, media personality, and cofounder of Naturallysavvy.com. She is now known as the “Menopause Educator” and “Menopause Researcher” to her nearly 320,000+ TikTok followers. She recently launched a new company called Morphus (wearemorphus.com) with her long-time business partner, Randy Boyer, to tackle the stigma around perimenopause and menopause, and to empower women to take control of their physical and emotional symptoms with nutrition, lifestyle, education, mindset, community, and research.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Andrea to talk about her work and goals.
Flourish: What inspired you to pivot your career to talk openly about perimenopause and menopause?
Andrea: Personal experience! I was sitting with my husband one day and I was in tears over how many symptoms, especially hot flashes, I was having—one right after another, with no relief. They were debilitating and I couldn’t function. I looked him straight in the eyes and said: “I need to figure out how to manage these hot flashes because this isn’t living.”
It was like a déjà vu moment for me, because nearly 20 years earlier, I was in a similar situation where I was having major stomach issues and it was at that point that I decided to go back to school to become a nutritionist. Back then, I took matters into my own hands so I could help myself—and others—and this time was no different. I learn everything I possibly can so I can share this knowledge with others who are on a similar journey.
My goal is to help as many people as possible understand this phase of life, because I knew so little about it when I was going through it. I have been working in the health-and-wellness world for decades, so it was a natural progression. I pivoted to help women navigate this time in their lives so they feel supported and validated.
Flourish: When did you first realize you were in perimenopause?
Andrea: That’s a great question. I had no idea I was in perimenopause for 11 of the 14 years I went through it. I had many symptoms, but I never related it to “the change” because I didn’t even know what the change meant. That was a huge shock to me because, as a nutritionist and someone who worked in the health-and-wellness world for so many years, I had zero clue about this stage of life. Nada. Nothing. So, I figured if I had no idea, then other women didn’t either, and I was right!
I got my first hot flash at 47, and it was then that I asked myself: “Am I in menopause?” I didn’t even know the word perimenopause existed.
I now realize I started perimenopause at 36. I had something called phantom smells (it’s when you smell things that others don’t). This symptom lasted for several years, and I kept going to my doctor for tests because I smelled smoke all the time. I kept getting a clean bill of health, so there was no other explanation for them.
Once my hot flashes appeared, I started putting together pieces of my life as if it were a puzzle. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could about perimenopause and menopause so I could help myself and others.
Flourish: Tell us about your menopause research.
Andrea: I am passionate about understanding the “why” behind many of the symptoms we experience in perimenopause and menopause. I love data and the more data we have, the more I can understand how to help women in this phase of life. Because of my love for research, we launched research surveys on our website so we can dive deep into symptomatology. We currently have multiple surveys running, including one on the signs and symptoms of menopause, one on stress and anxiety, one on sleep, one on phantom smells, one for women in the workplace who are currently working, and one for women who are not currently working outside of the home. Any woman over the age of 35 can fill them out. They are short, so they won’t take long to complete.
We are trying to break barriers for women at this stage of life and help them advocate for themselves when it comes to their physical, mental, and overall health.
Flourish: What surprised you the most about going into perimenopause and menopause?
Andrea: How little I knew about it. I never spoke to my mother about her experience, I didn’t speak to my doctor about it until I already knew I was in it, and when I did speak to my friends and colleagues, many of them couldn’t relate because they weren’t experiencing the same things I was. It was a lonely time.
Flourish: In your opinion, how can we change this for women who are approaching this phase of life or are already in it?
Andrea: By talking openly with our family members, friends, and colleagues. By learning about it in school. By asking our doctors and health-care practitioners questions. By asking our friends what their experiences are like or have been like. By following brilliant women in the menopause space who are paving the way with education and awareness. My website contains a lot of info, as do my social media videos. Everyone is free to share all my content with others.
Flourish: According to your research, what are some of the lesser-known symptoms of perimenopause and menopause?
Andrea: Some of the lesser-known but still very common symptoms include itchy ears; digestive issues like gas, bloating, constipation, and loose stools; B.O.; bruising; phantom smells; blood-sugar issues; tinnitus; and vertigo.
Flourish: What are some of the biggest myths surrounding menopause?
Andrea: Hands-down, the number one myth or misconception I hear over and over from my community is that we’re too young to be in perimenopause or menopause even in our 40s and 50s. It’s simply not true. Another one is that there are only 34 symptoms. Again, false. Our research shows there are 103+ symptoms, which is way more than 34! And another common one is that we are told we must suffer through the symptoms because it is a natural phase of life and there is nothing we can do to help ourselves. Again, so not true. There are many options these days including nutrition, lifestyle (exercise and stress management), supplements, mindset, and hormones.
Flourish: How do you help women on their perimenopause and menopause journeys?
Andrea: My wheelhouse is nutrition, lifestyle, supplements, and research. My team and I help women navigate through perimenopause and menopause with education and awareness.
It can be a challenging time for many of us, but when we know what to expect and we are provided with options on how to deal with it—it makes it a much smoother process. Plus, knowing we are not alone on our journey is crucial. My company, Morphus (wearemorphus.com), is committed to supporting women with community, education, laughter, research, and validation.
We are also putting on a live, in-person event on October 21, 2023, in Toronto. We are hosting a full-day event where 15+ expert speakers will share their experiences and knowledge on how to navigate perimenopause and menopause.
Flourish: What message do you want to leave for women who are in the throes of perimenopause or menopause right now?
Andrea: That they are not alone. They are not crazy, and there is hope. I know, because I was there. And to find a health-care practitioner who understands them and who understands how to treat women in perimenopause and menopause.
Flourish: Thank you for everything you are doing for women’s health in general, and for women in perimenopause and menopause.
Andrea: Thank you for shedding light on this important topic. I appreciate you.