An Interview with Vanessa Ford, co-founder of MenoLabs
If you are experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, menopause, PMS symptoms, heavy periods, or other issues AND you are looking for alternatives that are less invasive than the ones given to you by your OBGyn or General Practitioner, you are going to want to keep reading!
I’m going to talk about my journey with my own care and how it impacted me and the way that I care for my patients. My guest today had a similar journey to me and she thought. There has to be a better way.
She went on to create a million-dollar business during COVID. Her mission is to help women everywhere take back control of perimenopause. Figure out the symptoms, get answers and inform you that you don’t have to use the conventional treatments. You have options.
About Vanessa Ford
Vanessa Ford is the co-founder of MenoLabs. It’s a company that is fundamentally changing the conversation, treatment, and research surrounding the menopausal transition. Vanessa was prompted to take action after experiencing severe symptoms and finding there was little in the way of help for her and for the millions of women just like her.
She refused to accept the situation as inevitable. She found the research, the team, and the capital to do something about it. Together they built a $30 million company during the Covid19 Pandemic. There are 25 million women in the United States who are in this perimenopausal transition. That’s a lot of us. If we can band together and ask for different solutions, we’re going to get them. Six thousand women transition into perimenopause every single day. We have to be trailblazers to help improve treatment for all women.
MenoLabs is amazing! They have probiotic formulations and their best-selling products Mental Fit and Mental Glow. They have an amazing App called MenoLife. It’s an app for you to figure out your symptom trends, figure out what’s causing them and get data to enable you to have conversations with your doctors.
Please share this episode with everybody you know. If you’re not in perimenopause, I guarantee that someone you know is. Please share this interview with everyone you know.
In this post, we are going to talk about…
Perimenopause, how most of the medical community and women, in general, are uneducated about the signs.
Symptoms of Perimenopause and how diet and lifestyle impact them.
How gut health can impact your overall health and event stabilize your estrogen levels.
How important it is to share our experiences of perimenopause with those around us and ask for grace.
The amazing MenoLife App that you can use to track your symptoms and have real conversations with your doctor
We’re talking about Perimenopause today. Perimenopause is the transition time before menopause. This can start in your 30s. A lot of women are experiencing it and they’re not realizing what it is. They’re being misdiagnosed by their physicians. We just need to get a greater awareness of Perimenopause and how it’s affecting us.
I want to share my journey because this was really eye-opening for me as a gynecologist. I was delivering babies, up all night, sleep-deprived, working my butt off, trying to take care of my young children, be a busy professional, and do all the things.
I was experiencing heavy periods. I went through your basic conventional gynecology process. I tried birth control pills. They gave me migraines. I didn’t know what to do because birth control pills were off the table. I had one of my colleagues put in an IUD.
I put them in all the time. I know they’re a little uncomfortable. I was a little bit hesitant, but I went through the process. It was a hormonally based IUD to help lighten up my periods. Within two weeks, I was very depressed. I even had suicidal thoughts. I wanted to jump out of a window because I couldn’t handle myself in my own body.
I said to the other doctors in my practice “this is crazy. I feel super depressed. I hope other patients aren’t experiencing this with IUDs”. I started to think about the patients that had said things to me in the past. I was trained to let that go. We are told that those hormones stay locally in the uterus. They just thin out the lining and prevent heavy periods but in fact, they do interrupt your hormone production. Especially progesterone, you’re getting the synthetic progestin in your IUD, and the progesterone is no longer being produced on a regular basis. That can feel like depression and worsen anxiety.
I got the IUD switched out for a lower dose, progestin IUD, I thought okay, maybe it’s just the dose. I just need a lower dose to keep my period under control and not make me depressed. I kept that new IUD for maybe six weeks, I just couldn’t take it any longer. I actually removed that IUD myself (which I don’t recommend) because it was that bad. I didn’t like what it was doing to my body.
I got another gynecologist and she recommended an ablation. I had had two c sections in the past so she ordered an ultrasound. She measured the scar on my uterus. Sometimes that area doesn’t heal very thickly. If you do an ablation, which is using heat to destroy tissue, you can burn through that thin area and cause a bowel injury or a bladder injury.
She did the ultrasound and that area was too thin. I went back to my doctor’s appointment, and she said, we can attempt the ablation, but I want to put a camera in your abdomen at the same time to make sure that I’m not burning through and it’s safe. Worst case scenario I can stop the ablation and you can have a hysterectomy. That felt like a slap in the face.
The worst part about it is that I used to have those conversations with my patients all the time because that’s how I was trained. You do the pill, then the IUD, then the ablation, and then you have the hysterectomy, those are your options. That is the order we offer them in.
To me, that seemed like an outrageous, crazy idea to fix my heavy-period issue. It was a real wake-up call for me. This is how my patients feel. This is really scary. Why aren’t we looking for other options that aren’t majorly invasive? A hysterectomy is major invasive pelvic surgery. It’s a six-week recovery with the possibility of injury to the bowel and bladders, a blood clot, or infection.
I had started on my functional medicine path for my low back issues, herniated discs, and my Hashimotos Thyroiditis. I hadn’t studied women’s health and hormones yet. So I dove in and I said, I gotta figure this out, there’s got to be a more functional approach to handling these crazy periods and hormone imbalances. I discovered that there were so many options.
Once you figure out what’s causing the heavy periods and Perimenopausal symptoms, you can tackle the root cause of the issue and fix it from there. You don’t need all of these interventions that conventional gynecology is using. It was really empowering to learn all of that, but it was also very disheartening to think about how I had practiced for almost a decade. I felt like I could have helped those women so much better if I had known better.
Ever since then, I’ve really been on a mission to help women have a voice and another choice in their health because I feel like conventional gynecology is failing all of us. I no longer want to be part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution. I think it’s really important for you guys to understand that if you go to the gynecologist and they say here is your option, or here are your two options and you need to pick, that’s not true. You can search and find other answers. You don’t have to be stuck in that broken system of drugs and surgery, there are so many other options to optimize your physiology and health.
My Journey is Not Unique
My guest today had a similar journey to me and she thought there has to be a better way. She went on to create a million-dollar business during COVID, which is pretty awesome. She’s trying to help herself, her friends and all of you take back control of this perimenopausal time in your life. Figure out why are you having these symptoms. Inform you that you don’t have to use the conventional treatments which are essentially band-aids that are being offered to you.
I love this conversation that I had with Vanessa. We need to keep talking about this. We need to make this commonplace. Before we get into this interview, I want to make sure that you know what the symptoms of Perimenopause Are.
The Symptoms of Perimenopause
Hot flashes and sleep problems
Vaginal and bladder problems
Changes in sexual function
Loss of bone
Changing cholesterol levels
Who is Vanessa Ford?
Vanessa Ford is the co-founder of MenoLabs. It’s a company fundamentally changing the conversation of treatment and research surrounding the menopausal transition. Vanessa was prompted to take action after experiencing severe symptoms and finding there was little in the way of help for her and for the millions of women just like her.
She refused to accept the situation as inevitable. She found the research, the team, and the capital to do something about it. Together they built a $30 million company during the Covid19 Pandemic. There are 25 million women in the United States who are in this perimenopausal transition. That’s a lot of us. If we can band together and ask for different solutions, we’re going to get them, right. 6000 women transition into perimenopause every single day. We have to be trailblazers for the women coming behind us to help our younger sisters and daughters have better options.
MenoLabs is amazing! They have probiotic formulations and their best-selling products Mental Fit and Mental Glow. They have an amazing App called MenoLife. It’s an app for you to figure out your symptom trends, figure out what’s causing them and get data to enable you to have conversations with your doctors.
Please share this episode with everybody you know. This is so important. If you’re not in throes of perimenopause, I guarantee your mom is or your older sister or your cousin or your girlfriend is. Please share this episode with everyone you know.
Thanks for having me. Dr. Tabitha, I’m really excited to be here.
Dr. Tabatha: I am glad you’re here as well because women need to hear from you.
Women want to hear from real women who have gone through experiences similar to theirs, and figured out that there is another way right?
I think so. Absolutely. And I think it’s important that women just hear from other women on a daily basis to know that, you know, you’re not alone. You’re not going crazy. These things are real, they’re happening in your body, and they are happening to you. I think there’s a tendency in the medical community to dismiss us and our concerns after 40.
Unfortunately, I think you are very correct. I would like to think I wasn’t a physician like that when I was in the conventional world, but I was under the pressure of seeing more patients, doing more surgeries and cranking people through the system. As much as I cared, my hands were tied.
I would love for you to share your story with us.
I was 44 and I had a period that lasted for three weeks. It was really intense and very unusual for me. It was a full-on soaked super ultra-absorbent tampon that I had to change four or five times a day for 21 solid days. There’s a history of cancer in my family. Genetically, I am predisposed on both my maternal and paternal sides. I was googling my symptoms and I was sure I had cancer.
It was already a concern of mine and I knew that that was something I really had to pay attention to. think I might have come across the word perimenopause when I was doing my Google searching, but I didn’t associate it with myself. I thought I was way too young. I didn’t even make the connection that perimenopause was a transition into menopause because I was so freaked out. I finally called my doctor about two and a half weeks into this whole thing and she said, “Okay, come in, we’re gonna run the test, but I think you’re gonna be fine?” I have a really great doctor who will spend 30 minutes with me really diving into things. I intentionally found a doctor who would work with me and not, just check the box. Most doctors just have 15 minutes per patient and they just push you through.
It’s Probably “Just Perimenopause”
I went in, and she said, we’re going to run the test, but you’re 44. This is probably “just perimenopause.” I put quotations there, because there’s nothing just about it. When you’re in it, and it’s not treating you well, you feel it, and you know it. She sent me home with a lot of research. She said here’s where you can go to find credible sources and get some answers. There weren’t a lot of them out there, quite frankly. We’re gonna need to find a different solution for you because you can’t do HRT.
I went out to find solutions. There were a lot of supplements listed like black cohosh and red clover to name a few. I started taking supplements. I was taking up to 32 different things. It was nuts. I said, there has got to be a better solution, but there wasn’t. I talked to my friend Danielle Jacobs, who was the co-founder of my company. We decided that we could actually make a difference. We could create something that was all-natural. She is a certified nutritionist and a brilliant businesswoman. We put our heads together with our research partner, Dr. John Konhilas out of the University of Arizona. We came up with some really great things. We decided to create MenoLabs. Our mission is to give women natural support for their symptoms, to drastically change the way research is done, and to make sure that their research is funded.
I love when women take their pain and create their purpose out of it. It changes the lives of other women. I believe that’s why we’re here on this earth.
That is a brilliant statement, making a solution out of your pain. Using your pain to drive that solution. You don’t have to go out and start a company or start a podcast or whatever, but using your pain to find a solution means that you can spread that information to help other women.
It’s Hard to Keep Looking for Answers When You Don’t Feel Heard
Let’s talk about that a little bit. I know how I used to practice medicine and how different it is from the way I practice it now. I saw the struggles that you are describing in my patients. Feeling like you’re not being listened to, that those solutions don’t work for you, or you don’t understand why any of this is happening. You feel like giving up and trying another doctor. Talk about that a little bit.
What Was Your Biggest Aha Moment?
What was your biggest Aha moment? Was it when your doctor said you can’t have hormones? Were there other options? Were they all surgical?
Surgery was one of them. I could go into surgically induced menopause by having my inner workings taken out so it wasn’t an issue anymore. I wasn’t down for that at 44. I wasn’t thinking I would have more children. I have a daughter, she’s going to be 25 next year so that wasn’t really on my radar. It just felt like a really drastic solution to what shouldn’t be such a terrible problem.
I started to realize that it’s hormone fluctuations and the decrease in sex hormones that we have over time. It felt like it ought to be a much more natural progression and it shouldn’t be so disruptive. I was doing research. I read that women in Eastern cultures do not have the same experience that women in Western cultures do. I think that was my aha moment. What is so different between these two cultures? Is it just the way we think about it? Is it the way we are educated around it? Is it diet? What is it? I think it’s a combination of all of those things.
Western Culture and Diet is So Much Different Than Eastern Culture and Diet
We are busy from dusk until dawn, every day. Our body is pumping out cortisol to handle all of our stressors all day long. That just jacks up our hormones. Perimenopause is a very natural thing. God didn’t create your body to be in misery for 10 to 15 years. It should be a smooth, (pretty much smooth) transition. We make it uncomfortable and miserable by the choices of our lifestyle, diet, our emotional stressors, and overdoing physical stressors. We’re all running ourselves into the ground. As society progresses and advances, I see us living longer and wanting to be more productive in our later years. At 45, you’re at your prime, you’re just getting started so you’re not ready to retire. Our physiology hasn’t caught up. It can’t handle all of that. We need to take control. Our app is a great place to start.
Take Back Control
Dr. Tabatha: I hear from women all the time that they feel like they’re out of control. Thinking back to my own experience, I realized once I started doing this research when I was about 40. I started to have this thing that I now call menopause rage. I would just blow up. Usually at my husband over the smallest things that would never have bothered me in the past. When I realized that I could probably smooth out my hormones by taking the correct supplements, then my relationship could be better and my working relationships could be better. The brain fog that I realized was part of all of this could get better.
Vanessa: That’s exactly right. When women are in their 40s. They’re on their peak career trajectory. Perimenopause can absolutely derail that. Because you’re suddenly forgetting words, you prepped this presentation the night before, and you can’t remember what’s on the next slide. It makes you feel like you’re just not in control. You’re not in control of your relationships, you’re not in control of your emotional states, you’re not in control of your stress levels, or your anxiety, or your work life. It can really, really mess with women. That’s not to say that it messes with every woman in the American culture, but I think there’s a significant portion of us that feels this impact deeply.
I see women all of the time, who suddenly have new-onset anxiety. They go to their doctor. They get an anti-anxiety med or an antidepressant at 40-45 years old. It’s really because their hormones are fluctuating. It is not that they have true generalized anxiety or depression, though that’s how it’s manifesting. I just want women to realize that you don’t have to take your doctor’s word at face value, you can question, you can get a second opinion, you can do what you know Vanessa did and go start reading and researching and realize there’s a whole nother world beyond the conventional system of medicine that actually figures out the root cause and works on that as opposed to cutting your uterus out which is drastic, you’re totally correct. I don’t think God created our bodies to have our organs removed on a regular basis.
You’re right! I hear from women all the time who say, well, my doctor put me on antidepressants. Those drugs can really trigger a bunch of other symptoms that you wouldn’t have to deal with if you could just get your hormones under control. It comes down to smoothing the hormone spikes from roller coasters into happy little beach waves. You’re still gonna have them, but the fluctuations shouldn’t be so high and so low.
How Can You Smooth Your Hormones Out Naturally?
We found that phytoestrogens absolutely help with that. They’re plant compounds that act like estrogen in your body. Also, probiotics can help because your gut health affects about 1/3 of your overall health. That is really critical. We’re just starting to really understand how the microbiome and the gut microbiome specifically play a part in our health.
All these little organisms that live in us and on us are important. We ought to pay attention to them because they affect what can happen in our bodies. For example, certain probiotic strains can help recycle your own estrogen instead of excreting it as waste. That helps to smooth out those roller coaster spikes and dips of estrogen.
Watch the full video interview here
Have you seen that alcohol affects women’s hormones?
Dr. Tabatha: I think it’s common for women to use alcohol as a de-stressor in the evening, especially since COVID. If one glass is fine, why not three. Once your liver starts getting backed up and sluggish from trying to manage all that alcohol, I see bad estrogen increase and along with it the risk of breast and uterine cancer. I would love for you to talk about what you are seeing in that area.
It turns out that, yes, alcohol is absolutely a trigger for a lot of different symptoms, because it messes with your entire system. It can trigger hot flashes, anxiety, and mood swings. There’s a whole lot of stuff going on in your body. If you’re not paying attention to what is triggering those perimenopause and menopause symptoms for you, you’re behind the eight ball.
We’ve Identified 40 Symptoms That Come With the Perimenopausal Transition
We’ve identified about 40 symptoms that come with the perimenopausal transition. We’ve also identified things that we know (from research) that can trigger them. For example, alcohol and tight clothing can trigger hot flashes. If you are drinking at night, alcohol can trigger night sweats. If you track these things and start to see patterns between the triggers and the symptoms you experience, you can then take back control by not engaging in those triggers. Triggers can be environmental. They can be things that you consume, they can be a number of things. In our app, we have the ability for women to just go in and quickly click the symptom they’re experiencing, identify any of the triggers that they may have engaged in, been subjected to, etc. You’ll be able to go in and see your trends over time. You can suss out those patterns and really take control of what’s going on in your body.
I think that’s exactly what we need to do. We’re just now doing that for our menstrual periods, but that took forever. Our culture seems to think, ignore it, and it’ll go away. In reality, it’s usually worse and more miserable. I don’t think women are educated about what actually happens in their menstrual cycle or about what to look for and what are the alarming signs. The same thing with perimenopause.
I think the work you’re doing is super important because when you track things, you’re going to start to see mood disorders, joint pain, changes in your skin, loss of lean muscle mass, brain fog, etc. So many things that other conventional doctors might not even realize are associated with Perimenopause. Not only does the general public not know, but I promise you, most practicing physicians don’t know because what we were taught in med school was already antiquated.
Doctors Don’t Have the Time to Research, They are in Survival Mode Too
We haven’t learned from there. You come out of medical school and 20 years later, you are still practicing the same way. Doctors are in survival mode just as much as the rest of the world. We’re just trying to wake up every day and do our best. We don’t have time to research and learn and continue our education. It’s so important for women to take back control. Realize that you don’t have to be miserable and uncomfortable. That’s not normal. That’s not how you have to live.
It’s really cool that women can see their own trends because everybody’s unique. Some things trigger women more than others. If you can get a handle on that, that’s awesome.
We all have different childbirth experiences and pregnancy experiences. You’re going to have different perimenopause and menopause experiences. We’re all so unique, and special. Because of that, researchers often say that women are too variable to study. I don’t buy that. I don’t think that that is an excuse anymore. We can use technology to help us figure out the patterns. When we’re doing research, we look for clusters. Every woman may be different, but they’re all sort of clustering around one unique point on the graph. That helps us say,75% of women will fall in this branch of clusters.
Dr. Tabatha: Tell my listeners about a few of your other products that are really making an impact.
Our best-selling probiotic is actually a symbiotic. That means it’s a probiotic plus some other things. We partnered with Dr. Konhilas, he’s been studying menopause for about 30 years now he is fantastic. He is probably the biggest champion of women’s health issues that I’ve ever met. He said, let’s look at these phytoestrogens, but let’s look at probiotics, too, and see how can we combine them to really get the best impacts of Phyto, estrogens, and probiotics. We’ve created this product called MenoFit. It has four different strains of probiotics that help your gut metabolize estrogen better. It has prebiotics to help feed the probiotics so they populate in your gut faster, and they’re healthier. If you’ve been eating an American Western diet full of sugar, alcohol, and fatty foods. If you’ve been eating a diet like that, for the last 40 plus years of your life, there’s a lot going on in your microbiome. That needs to be reversed. You probably don’t have as diverse a microbiome as you need to have. As we age, our microbiome diversity goes down, especially for women because our microbiome is dependent on estrogen. If you add some strains back in that help do things like reuse estrogen, you will see positive impacts over time. It will reduce mood swings, reduce anxiety, manage weight better. That is probably the product that I would say 90% of our customers wind up ordering over and over. We have a 76% customer satisfaction rate. That’s pretty fantastic. We do offer a 90-day money-back guarantee as well. We only have 3% of our customers take advantage of that, because they’re seeing fantastic results. That is the best product by far that we have ever created.
Dr. Tabatha: That sounds wonderful. And that’s on your website, right?
Vanessa: It is on the website which is MenoLabs.com. You can get access to our app there and read our blog, which has lots of really great articles about what’s going on in your body, how you can mitigate those things. How to keep your relationship strong and intact during this. How to survive at work with hot flashes. All of those things. We have tons of products. We’ve developed six different products in the last year.
Dr. Tabatha: That’s wonderful.
Does your app also track periods? Even though they aren’t every 28 days?
It sure does. Your period can really become irregular in Perimenopause. The program learns in the background to try to predict when your next unpredictable period is going to be. That can be really helpful. A lot of the period tracking apps are based on that 28-day cycle that you have when you’re in your peak reproductive years. That doesn’t work.
Dr. Tabatha: I think it’s really important for women, to track their periods. You know, you mentioned this three-week period you had and how it was scary. You were concerned. As physicians, it’s really helpful to know when your last period was before that? Were they regular? I have so many patients who have no idea when their last period was because they really don’t track it.
That kind of information is really important. If you go 12 months without a period, then you’re technically menopausal at that point. If you have another period after that, then we should make sure that you don’t have something else going on. I think it is helpful for women to have a general idea of how their cycles are changing so this is a great app to use.
I found out personally that my 21 day period, comes every 11 months. So there’s a pattern even to my irregularity. I’ve been tracking it for six or seven years now, so I understand what happens to my body. I still have some irregular periods in between that as well, but that three-week period comes every 11 months.
Dr. Tabatha: I have a lot of teachers as patients. Their period definitely changes with the school year. In the summer, they’re chill and they’re not taking care of students. They’re relaxed, and they have normal periods. As soon as September comes, all hell breaks loose. If you’re not paying attention, it’s scary and you’re freaking out. If you realize you’re stressed to the max, not doing self-care, eating garbage again. Your period is gonna shift. I see a lot of that with health care workers, teachers, that kind of thing.
Environment plays such a big part. If you have a high-stress job, then you don’t have a high-stress job for three months, then you go right back into that high stress, you’re definitely going to see your symptoms on the rise. Stress is, such a big driver of so many things in our bodies. If you can take control of your stress even just a little bit, by self-care, meditation, eating right because cortisol can be driven by eating the wrong foods, too much sugar, too much alcohol, whatever it might be. Put your well-being first even when you’re in a high-stress situation. It’ll help a lot.
Dr. Tabatha: Thank you so much for sharing your story and for creating such an amazing app and company to just help other women.
Vanessa: I certainly don’t do it alone, I have a fantastic team behind me and two great co-founders. Who are helping drive this every single day. I think it’s really important.
Be Trailblazers for Women Who Will Come After You
Even if women,can’t go out and do something as big as starting a company, you can share your experience, talk to your children, let them know what’s going on with you. This way they don’t think that mom’s sudden flare-up of rage is because she doesn’t love them. Tell your husband what’s going on with you, your partner, if you can be honest with your boss, or your HR department, or whatever it is. The more we can educate society as a whole, the more we can help educate the people in our lives, the more that education will spread. The better off we will all be.
I like to think of our generation of women as trailblazers for the women who are coming up behind us who are going to go through this too. If we don’t lay a great foundation for them now they’re going to suffer too. certainly don’t want my daughter to suffer through this. I want her to go into this, knowing what she might experience and knowing how to handle it.
Those are such great points. I remember being afraid of my mom because she would just snap and rip our heads off. I don’t think she knew why it was happening. Looking back, I understand now, but at the time I didn’t. If you can say, Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. Something’s going on in my body. It’s changing. I’m having reverse puberty like you’re going through right? Let’s give each other some grace.
I see all the time, your libido goes into the crapper, and your husbands take it personally. They think you don’t desire them anymore. If you can explain to them babe, you don’t get it. The hormones just aren’t there. It’s not you. It’s my hormones. They don’t want to hear that, but I think if we can educate them, it can really help.
Honest communication about what’s going on in your body is just like honest communication about what’s going on at work, or anything else right? The more we can communicate honestly, with our partner, the better our relationship will be.
Thank you, Vanessa. I want everybody to check out MenoLabs and try out the app because it’s going to help women feel better and have a smoother transition.
To Wrap it Up:
I hope you got some golden nuggets that you can take and start incorporating. If you’ve never had depression or anxiety and you hit 45 and you go to your doctor because you don’t feel like yourself they should test you for Perimenopause. If you don’t have any libido and you’ve gained another 10 pounds you don’t really feel alive. It’s real. I want you to understand that medication is not your answer. It’s not the fix that you need, and it might give you more side effects. Keep asking questions. Don’t give up. Find another doctor if you’re feeling frustrated and you’re not feeling any better. I’m here for you guys I’m licensed in over half the country. I will see you in any capacity. Don’t hesitate to reach out because sometimes you can’t see the picture when you’re in the frame. Sometimes you don’t realize what’s going on because you might be focused on one thing that you were told and that might not be the right thing. Seek alternative help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.