Rebekah Brown was surprised by the suddenness with which perimenopause turned her life upside down. It was the spark that led to her creating MPowder. Find out how Rebekah set about empowering menopause for other women.
What is your menopause story?
My menopause story was the spark that launched MPowder – so I look at it with thanks, as well as a little residual rage! Like many women in our community I hit perimenopause without knowing what it was. Over the space of around 8 months I went from being very happy in my career, juggling life with running an agency…to experiencing crippling anxiety about the most standard tasks. Meetings I used to approach with ease became incredibly stressful. I lost confidence in my thoughts, my opinions. My body was bloated. I lost the words to contribute and I felt I had nothing of value to say. I couldn’t sleep. My whole body ached. Oh, and I had a glorious outbreak of hormonal acne that felt particularly unfair! – surely, the universe could have given me a pass on that symptom having had teenage acne for years?!
I genuinely thought I had a serious illness. Like 75% of women I went to the doctor. And, like 75% of those, I was told I was too young to be menopausal. In fact, it was only as a result of a little wiki-googling and a conversation with a friend that I started to explore perimenopause. So many of the symptoms (And there are A LOT!) fitted with how I felt. I felt a huge amount of relief at knowing that my symptoms had a name and that it was a natural life-stage that every woman will go through.
What blew my mind was that I was so uneducated and that my doctor didn’t connect the dots for me. I had thought the menopause was a date that occurred at around 52. That it would be preceded by hot flashes and a change in my monthly cycle. I did not expect an 8-10 year journey. I didn’t anticipate the grief but also the energy and sense of purpose. And I did not want to accept the societal assumption that this life stage would be a stepping down, a ‘retiring’ of ambition and vitality…Standing in my health food store looking at the menopause section was a truly distressing experience. I felt like I had aged 30 years in an afternoon. The women depicted on pack were distressed, frail, elderly. The colour palettes and imagery felt stuck in the 1980s. And the supplement themselves felt like blunt instruments at best.
So I began looking to what I could do to nourish my body and mind independently. As a researcher, I naturally began with my head in the research that exists. I looked at the menopause experience of women across geographies and cultures. I looked at the clinical research into food, herbs, vitamins and minerals and at the efficacy of holistic practices and began collecting narratives from hundreds of women at different stages in their own journey. I brought a dehydration machine and a blender and finally quit my job and focused on getting well, using myself as a guinea pig on everything from cold water therapy to moringa leaf blended with maca.
As I started to get better, I had buckets of knowledge and no one to share it with. So, I treated the ‘problem’ like a client brief. I shaped it, I listened a lot more to women in menopause and I wrote the specification for what they were looking for. I found medical experts, naturopaths, herbalists and holistic practitioners to guide me. And I let the business shape itself through collaboration. Nearly a year on from our first community trial of 50 women, MPowder is a powdered supplement range, but it is also a community – powered by the women we support and the brilliant experts that support them in all facets of midlife.
What inspired you to create a ‘powder’ rather than any other kind of supplement?
Three core beliefs:
1. Integrating a new practice into our lives is hard – but hitching a habit to an existing practice makes it easier. I have a cupboard full of half consumed supplements. But I get bored of popping pills. And I can forget to take them. Powders don’t ask anything new from you – but, critically, they are able to flex. Chuck them in your smoothie, add to your morning yoghurt with granola. Or, if you want to play, make protein balls. Our powders are designed to be easy to incorporate into pretty much any routine with ease.
2. Whole food is best. Our bodies absorb complete food much better. So, we work with whole food wherever we can. And that takes up space!
3. A whole solution is even better. I didn’t want women to have to take other supplements alongside our offer. We’ve over 24+ ingredients in every blend – always at the dosage level recommended by our expert team and, where appropriate, at the dosage levels that saw potential in clinical trials.
Why do you think it is important to use stage and age specific supplements especially in menopause?
I find it shocking that we don’t approach menopause with the same level of biological sophistication as the trimesters of pregnancy. Our bodies have very different nutritional needs as they enter perimenopause compared with our needs as we adjust to life without a cycle. Our blends look to support the body naturally, targeting the most common symptoms that are seen at each stage – but also addressing nutritional deficiencies that can increase the risk of more serious health conditions. Critically, our philosophy centres on the belief that menopause is the beginning of part 2.
We need to be thinking more broadly about how we want to thrive as we age. We also need to think beyond supplementation. Our powders are not a silver bullet. This is about nourishing our bodies and mind. It is about how we manage stress as much as how we manage weight. It is about addressing the barriers that hold us back mentally – in work, in life, as well as addressing bone density. Our goal is to act as the foundation layer. Both with our recipes, and our community programmes. Because, we know that, with the right support, women at this life stage are capable of EVERYTHING.
How do you think women can find health and happiness in menopause?
I think the most valuable thing you can commit to is a curious mind. Commit to try things without prejudgement. Work out what works for you. Every woman’s menopause journey is different. But every journey does require a new toolkit. What served you until now, may not serve you going forward. I’d also encourage women to find the communities that celebrate the liberation, wisdom and beauty that come through ageing. Media depictions are horribly outmoded. And inaccurate. Women at this lifestage are more likely to find their purpose, start new businesses and succeed…offer greater empathy and value in the workplace..than at any other point in our lives. Find the people that will cheer you on.
Aside from good nutrition, do you have any tips to support women to get through the menopause?
I used to think that this was a competitive sport! That I had to ‘get good’ at meditating, ‘win’ at meditating. That my mind should be empty. That I should emerge from a 10 minute date with Headspace, enlightened and zen-like. When I learned to pay more attention to the word ‘practice’, my experience was transformed! I practice every day. 10 minutes. I’m not zen like. But I am more self-aware and better able to deal with each day as it comes.
Cold Water therapy has garnered much attention in recent months. But long before wild swimming became cool, women were drawn to the water. It brings with it mental calmness, physical robustness and, for many women in menopause, a method to regulate their body temperature. I’d recommend booking time with a Wim Hof Practitioner – a daily practice doesn’t have to mean a swim in the ocean, you can gain all the benefits in the shower- but it is worth learning about the breathwork, the movement and the philosophy before jumping (figuratively!) in.
What sort of movement helps you to feel better and to relax? Did your ‘movement practice’ change as you hit perimenopause?
I swim, practice Mysore and walk for miles. The biggest change for me is a shift away from depleting forms of exercise that I used to push myself through, to a greater appreciation for resistance work, strength building and finding joy in the movement itself rather than in the post workout high.
Read more about how Yoga can support you through Menopause
Get 20% off a single purchase of MPowder‘s Peri or Meno boost pouches using the code MFMLFRIENDS
I used to enjoy yoga but today it has become to hard for the nerves. In my perimenopause years, I am enjoying more the gentle style or tai chi. I am definitely even more careful about diet and supplements. I appreciate you took the time to do all the research on this to come up with your product. Someone supporting women
Hi Jane, thank you so much for your comment. We’re so glad the article has been of help to you. If you’re enjoying more gentle styles of movement, we have a lovely selection of classes you may wish to try. Qi Gong is very similar to Tai Chi and is very gentle on the body, our Gentle Yoga classes are really accessible and yin yoga and restorative yoga are fantastic for relaxation.