Tania Elfersy is a transformative coach, speaker and award-winning author, specializing in midlife women’s health. She’s spent years researching what causes and what can relieve symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause and became free of her own physical and emotional symptoms naturally and simply. Rachel quoted her extensively in her own book. Tania set up The Wiser Woman project in 2015 to help women transform their experience of midlife change. She’s the author of a brilliant new book, The Wiser Woman’s Guide To Perimenopause and Menopause. You can listen to Tania on the Magnificent Midlife podcast.
About 10 years ago, I started having symptoms I didn’t know at the time were associated with perimenopause. Like so many women in my 40s, my mind wasn’t there on the change. I thought it happened at 51, on average. For some reason, I thought it would happen really quickly.
I was really struggling at the time with a business, with my little kids, trying to bring it all together and feeling like I was falling apart. Then I discovered perimenopause and it was interesting. How did I not know about that? I asked all my 40 something friends and none of them knew.
And that sent me off on a journey to research more and to try and work out how is it that I didn’t know and what is actually going on. As I researched more and more, the only story that I heard was, it’s your hormones malfunctioning and you need to replace them.
I thought that didn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense in terms of what I had experienced in my own body, having three children and three natural births and having an appreciation for the miraculous in my body. I was trying to work out what could create the symptoms. It doesn’t make sense to me that my body just goes stupid come midlife and every woman’s body does, then what could be at the root of the symptoms.
The body doesn’t malfunction suddenly in midlife
In 2015, I came across an understanding of innate health called the three principles and it all fit into place. Very soon, I had an insight about how I was innocently creating stress in my life through taking my thinking seriously. Within days, all my symptoms cleared up, night sweats, frequent migraines, eczema, some hair loss, and other symptoms. It all just cleared up.
At the time, I thought, well, that’s interesting. How did that happen? I didn’t really put the pieces together but then as it continued, and I remained symptom free, I realized how incredible that was. I started sharing, timidly at first, because I knew that would sound really weird, that from an insight, you can clear up all those symptoms but that was in 2015 and since then, I have been supporting women, helping them heal themselves of their symptoms, no matter what collection they’ve got.
We can bring ourselves back into balance and heal our own symptoms. It’s really about working with the innate intelligence of the body. It turns out, women’s bodies aren’t stupid. We don’t reach a certain age and become stupid. The body knows but it’s trying to wake us up. Something transformative happens at midlife and it’s really worthwhile that we listen in and learn where good health lies because that’s going to protect us as we grow old.
The innate brilliance of the body and what that means for menopause symptoms
It turns out that our body is always trying to bring us onto the path of health. There are many ways that we can come off a natural path of health. The most obvious one would be if a woman spends all her days lying on the couch, eating crisps. The body will probably have something to say to her to try and get her off the couch and maybe clean up her diet.
If we never get any sun or fresh air, then the body will have something to say to us and the body can only talk to us through feelings and symptoms. No matter what the imbalance is, the body is going to try and either overcome the imbalance and we’ll experience that on the physical level through symptoms, or it will try and talk to us through symptoms.
The most overlooked part of health, even though the American Medical Association, for example, believes that at least 80% of doctor’s visits are related to stress, but it’s so overlooked – our mental health plays into our overall physical health as well.
We go through life thinking, I’m stressed or I’m busy, or I have this trauma that I just can’t get over and this relationship that maybe is not so great, all the work that I hate, but I’ll just keep on going because it doesn’t matter if it’s long hours, etc. We don’t realize the effect that this has, building up within us, on our health because it all creates stress and the body, because of that stress, needs to work differently to overcome the stress.
The body creates symptoms to overcome the conditions that we inadvertently create, or to wake us up. All our emotional symptoms are related to a misunderstanding of the nature of the human experience. To simplify this, what was going on in my life at the time, was that I felt not enough. This is something that many women feel. They come to midlife and for whatever reason, maybe they used to be in a big role in corporate and now they’re not anymore or maybe they are in a big role in corporate and they want to be doing something else or maybe they thought they’d be living in a different place or in a different kind of relationship or whatever’s going on in their life, they can have this feeling of not enough, and I had it.
When it came through my mind, I believed it. It was a thought that came through my mind. No one else was telling me. My husband wasn’t telling me it, my kids, my family, no one else but I had that thought coming in my head. And because it came into my head, I thought it’s real. And when I thought that it was real, it made me feel really bad. And then I thought there must be something that I need to do about it because I feel not enough so maybe I need to meditate and write in a journal and maybe I need to say affirmations.
Maybe if I only did this course and then if I implemented that course, maybe everything would change. The simplest thing is that you can just have a different relationship with the thoughts in your head and that’s about your level of consciousness. If you realize a thought can come into my head, but it doesn’t mean it’s true, even if it makes me feel really bad. You can have a different experience of whatever is going on, whatever circumstance created these thoughts in your head and you can have a lighter experience of it.
Once you start not taking your thoughts so seriously, it sounds ridiculously simple but it is as simple as that, your body just starts to relax because you’re automatically reducing the amount of stress going on through your body. It’s about changing the relationship with your thoughts. It’s about what I’ve mentioned as mind in the book, an innate intelligence in your body, relying on that, relying on the guidance of that, to get you through any circumstance you can encounter.
It’s about the thoughts coming in your head; you can greet those thoughts, you don’t have to serve them tea. You can just let them pass through and you will have a different experience of whatever you’re facing. I had this insight. You don’t have to take your thoughts so seriously and life would probably be easier if you don’t.
For me, it landed very deeply. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have the thoughts that I’m not enough anymore. I do. But when they come, I realise that they’re just thoughts and so I don’t entertain them. I don’t have a serious relationship with them. And then that thought doesn’t have an impact on me and the stress isn’t created. My body can just get on doing what it knows how to do, getting me through midlife, without symptoms, as I’m designed and every woman is designed to do.
I think that it all comes bubbling to the surface for a reason because if we’re in a job that we absolutely hate, or a relationship that doesn’t nourish us, or whatever it is, or we have a trauma that we keep on replaying in our head, and we don’t come to terms of what’s going on or make a shift, the body is going to in discomfort from all that stress and that discomfort can progress to disease and so it’s in the body’s interest to bring this stuff to the surface.
It can feel uncomfortable because we don’t want to deal with that. I don’t want to have to go there, etc. It’s not even that we have to, if there’s a trauma from the past, or if there’s a job situation that we need to work out. It doesn’t have to be complicated. We don’t have to analyze it. We can just have a calmer relationship with whatever thoughts we have going on in our head and that changes everything.
It just brings down the stress and from that we learn where health lies. The side of our psychological or even spiritual health is so often overlooked but the body knows that that’s important and so the body brings it to the surface. We have something to learn and for good reason because we learn that we’re going to be protected as we age.
The difference between how we respond to issues in pregnancy and menopause
I see that there are sensitive times in a woman’s life – teenage years, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause. These times are sensitive for good reason. In adolescence, it’s about becoming a sovereign being. In pregnancy, it’s about taking care of the mother and the child. If a woman works really hard, feels really stressed, doesn’t eat well, she’s gonna have symptoms very quickly during pregnancy because the body feels we’re on the wrong path.
I’m (your body) supposed to be looking after you and the baby and you need to wake up right now and do something. I was working corporate when I was pregnant with my first child and I had tons of symptoms because I was so stressed and so overworked and it was just my body going, wake up, this isn’t conducive to bringing a baby into the world.
When this happens, we don’t say to the woman, that’s your hormones. The woman may go to the doctor and the doctor will say, how are you working? How are you eating? How are you sleeping? Are you resting? Are you taking care of yourself? Here, take a few weeks off for work and that’s all. We see that as normal because pregnancies are a sensitive time.
It’s a sensitive time because a woman’s hormones and whatever else is going on energetically, is creating that time for good reason. The same thing happens in postpartum. In postpartum, as I talked about in the book, we don’t really have such an understanding about it. And then we’re like, it’s your hormones, rather than, does the woman have the support she needs? Is she receiving the love that she needs? Is she getting enough sleep?
In other cultures, they’re all around the woman for the first six weeks, giving her everything that she needs, massaging her feet and everything but no, not in the West. You can be stuck at home with your baby by yourself and no one will care. Then if you have some kind of sense of depression, that’s your hormones? No, it’s not. It’s a sign that the woman isn’t getting what she needs.
So come menopause, for some reason, we’ve got this fixation on hormones and we say, oh, it’s because your hormones are going crazy. Oh, it’s because you need to replace your hormones that for some reason your body may have been intelligent until you were 40 something, but then it got really stupid.
Now you need to replace your hormones because your body doesn’t know what it needs for the next half of your life. It doesn’t make any sense but it’s just become this narrative of this hormone deficiency, when actually I view menopause these days as a rite of passage, as a graduation to an elder. You’re gonna go through some rough times maybe.
For some women, it’s completely smooth but if there are things that aren’t in balance in your life, it may be rough and it may feel uncomfortable, but it’s a rite of passage and you’re gonna come through it, much wiser than you started. And that is exactly what the body wanted. It’s exactly what humanity needs. Humanity doesn’t need women who don’t change. Humanity needs women who graduate into elders. And this is the right of passage that we’re going through. And it’s not a mechanical hormonal thing that needs to be fixed on any level whatsoever.
Many women have always lived beyond menopause
When a doctor or a celebrity tells you on TV that we all used to die shortly after menopause, you should know that’s not true, because women have always lived beyond menopause and I referenced the Bible in my book, from the second century.
When those menopausal women were mentioned, they weren’t mentioned as freaks of nature by any means. They were mentioned as menopausal women because menopausal women have always lived on this earth, but the average life expectancy used to be really low, because child mortality used to be very high.
If you have something like 1/3 of children who didn’t make it beyond the age of six, then your child mortality rates are going to be very, very high and that brings down the average life expectancy. But as soon as a girl made it into womanhood, she had a very good chance of living way beyond menopause and that’s always been the case.
If someone doesn’t have any other reason why you need hormone replacement, because that is the only reason they can ever pull out the air, it’s because we’re in new territory, because women never used to live beyond menopause, it’s not true. I encourage women to then question, if they can’t get that basic fact down, then what else may be wrong with the narrative? Women have always lived beyond menopause because it doesn’t make any sense that our bodies have a bug in the design. For me, it doesn’t.
Tania’s thoughts on the Davina McCall documentary Sex, Mind and the Menopause
I was shocked by that program on a number of levels. First of all, that was all based on science that was very, very weak in terms of dementia and Alzheimer. That was supposed to be the big news story that if women take HRT for a long time, over 10 years, then they could reduce their risk of dementia and Alzheimer and other diseases by 80%.
Since when are women allowed to take HRT for over 10 years? But I see that is now being pushed in the UK as well, that women now need to go back to taking HRT forever, even though there’s no research that supports that whatsoever. And then the research itself was only carried out over about five years so that was bizarre. How can you make an issue over women taking HRT at midlife and then make a conclusion about what happens decades down the line when dementia may or may not set in.
That was the main push, it was totally weak but then there were all these product promotions that kept popping up which I was just shocked by because I thought there were strong advertising laws that were supposed to exist in the UK that would prevent such a thing. When you have a testosterone product, which isn’t even licensed for menopause symptoms in the UK, being given air time and shown for a number of seconds to make sure that everyone goes to their doctor to demand it off label, that is just peculiar.
Then you have Davina McCall herself, she’s showing you how to use a pharmaceutical product and I just couldn’t recognize this kind of TV that’s coming out of the UK with the history of advertising laws that are supposed to be in place.
The program was on Channel Four, but you had all these other media outlets pointing people to this channel for a program, which I also thought was peculiar. Since when did this happen that people would advertise another channel’s program ahead of time?
Then you had all the reaction that happened afterwards, which also got into the press, got into the social media, had people going on YouTube and giving lives etc. This whole fear that it created around women who were suddenly distraught because they hadn’t been on HRT, and now they thought that they were going to get dementia.
There is no way that the people who produced that program did not know that was going to be the effect, because it was so calculated, the whole narrative, the whole way that it was put together, even though there were slight mentions of eating a Mediterranean diet, and a little bit of exercise. Maybe that could help, but there’s a pharmaceutical product that does it better and so no matter what topic they covered, there was this sense of, oh yeah, maybe there is a natural route and Davina McCall herself says she’s into natural remedies for certain things, but not for menopause.
For menopause, there’s only HRT if you really want to treat symptoms. And for me, looking at what that meant in terms of the narrative that became acceptable in the UK, I couldn’t actually believe what I was seeing. Especially because, and I talk about this also in the book and on my blog, since 2017 there has been quite a shift in the medical world with regards to saying that HRT can be used for disease prevention.
Before that, there were doctors in the US and in the UK, who came out and said, oh, yes, we can use HRT for all these symptoms and also disease prevention. In 2017 there was a large research report published in the journal of the American Medical Association. It was run over 18 years and it looked at the mortality rates among menopausal women who had taken HRT for between six to seven years and menopausal women who hadn’t.
At first the medical establishment jumped on the research and they said there was no difference in mortality rates between the two groups of women, so HRT is safe. But what it also meant was that this whole idea that HRT could prevent disease and then mortality was not true. Although on the face of it, the medical establishment was just showing the safety of HRT, it created an earthquake in the way that people, doctors in the states would talk about HRT.
You had doctors who used to get on stage or on webinars and I’ve got screenshots of that and say, if you’ve left menopause untreated, then you’re opening yourself up to all these diseases and heart disease, and they used to talk about cancer and dementia, and etc. But if you take HRT, you’re going to prevent it and those doctors overnight had to stop with that message.
I remember, in particular, one doctor that I used to follow, who went from talking about taking HRT for all of these things, to doing yoga and meditation and that was all he could then talk about. He was so scared. Where malpractice claims are bigger over in the States, the doctors have completely changed their tune. It forced the North American Menopause Society to completely change their policy statement on HRT. Over there, they call it hormone therapy.
They only talk about hormone therapy for very few categories of symptoms. I remember the time when I saw the North American Menopause Society new policy statement that came out in 2017 because of this research, that all these menopause societies from around the world have had endorsed this new policy, except for the British Menopause Society, which for some reason, decided to go out on its own.
They said they supported it but they didn’t endorse it and what we’ve seen since 2017 is really this breakaway movement in the UK where doctors are sort of given a free stage to talk about HRT in any way they want. Picking up all kinds of ideas that we’ve seen in the past have been disproven, and now saying, oh, HRT can treat this. The Davina McCall program was just this huge example of how different menopause and HRT is now being considered in the UK, compared to in the US and the rest of the world.
We both have this book that really started off the hormone revolution, Feminine Forever. This is a book that I talk about on my blog and in my book, and it was written by a New York gynecologist called Robert A. Wilson. In it he promised women the world back then with estrogen therapy, and any disease that you could think of would be cured. All these symptoms, 30 symptoms and most importantly, women would still be able to look nice in their tennis dress, etc.
We are now in a situation where in the UK, there are doctors talking like Robert Wilson, whereas certainly in the US and Canada, they’re talking completely differently. It seems to me that what’s happening in the UK is that we’re going back to the 1960s, making women these promises. These doctors make these promises about how hormone therapy is going to cure everything for them when there is no science backing it up. And that is exactly what happened back in the 60s in the US.
Of course, when women hear these messages, oh, you can cure all these symptoms, and it means that I’m not going to get dementia. I even heard a famous UK menopause doctor talking about, if you’re not exercising and you’re not eating right, don’t worry, it’s just your hormones. Don’t worry, you just sort out your hormones and then maybe it will come.
It’s this complete lack of personal responsibility for our menopause, and in comes the medical establishment in the UK saying, we can be your saviour. Just take this medicine for the rest of your life. The fact that they’re actually saying the rest of your life is shocking because this was the big earthquake that happened in 2002 from the Women’s Health Initiative when that research had to be halted because they saw that combined estrogen and progestin therapy led to a huge increase in all kinds of chronic conditions.
Since then, it’s been sort of a standard knowledge that women shouldn’t take hormone therapy for more than seven to ten years. But suddenly, in Britain, that research is out the window and we can just now take HRT for life, according to some doctors who aren’t backing it up by any science whatsoever.
Tania’s concerns about the narrative in the UK
The history around hormone therapy is so significant in order to understand what’s going on in particular in the UK today, because when you and I with this knowledge of the history look at it, we can see the patterns that happened before. But many women don’t have that knowledge and don’t have the time to do all the research.
But we’re here to tell those women that this happened before. These promises were made before. I watched this interview with one of these famous UK doctors who was offering women the world and it’s so seductive, just as it was for women in the 1960s, because you say, oh, really? A pill, a patch, a cream, it can solve all my problems. Of course, who wouldn’t want that if that was true? But the thing is, we know that it’s not true.
The trend over time with hormone therapies is that big promises were made, without any science backing it up. The science is done in terms of large randomized control trials and those big promises are proven to be false. The only difference that we have between today and the 1960s is that today there are some doctors who will say, oh, well, we’re not using that estrogen from horse urine anymore, we’re using a more bioidentical kind, etc. I would encourage women to ask, where’s the research? Where’s the research on that product?
There are ways that you can do that if it’s a product that has been approved by the FDA, or I don’t know what way that maybe some products are being approved these days in the UK. You look at the product insert, or you go online, and you look at what studies were undertaken to show the safety of that product and also the efficacy, by the way, because hormone therapy is not a simple drug to take.
Many women take it and have to come off it and have to try something else. It’s not simple at all. Look up the research and see, is there science to back these claims? In particular, I know now in the UK since the Davina McCall program, there’s been this really big push around dementia and Alzheimer’s and all the time these studies are appearing in the media.
If you’re inspired, go to the study. Look it up. Was it a large study or was it just this study that came out in Nature journal, a study involving 40 women. A study involving 40 women is not science. It’s some observation. It could be called hearsay but it’s not science.
If you’re looking at a study that was carried out over a few years and you’re making conclusions about dementia and Alzheimer’s, that’s not science either. There was a reason that even the British Menopause Society by the way, after the Davina McCall program was forced to come up with a statement saying there is no evidence that we know that HRT can prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s. But that didn’t get much press because everyone was already, oh, my God, I need HRT to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Look at what’s going on behind what you hear. Remember the history. We’ve been there before. It was more in the States than it was in the UK back in the 1960s but it’s the same thing happening. These promises are made. There’s no science to back it up.
Products are being sold without any long term trials and how do we know what the consequences are going to be for women? There’s all this going on but the good news is, there’s something that doesn’t change, and that’s our brilliant body. Our body does not stop being brilliant. Our body does not forget how to age in good health with joy, with well being. The body knows that.
And all it’s ever doing, even when we feel overwhelmed by symptoms, and I’ve been there, all it’s ever doing is trying to wake us up, to bring us back to a path of good health. That’s all it’s ever doing. It’s not being deficient. It’s not being stupid. It’s not malfunctioning. It knows how to help us live good lives to an old age.
I think a game changer is creating a new relationship with our body if we don’t have one already that exists and that is one of love, and of trust, and really appreciating that the body also loves us and also wants what’s best for us. And that’s the only way that it can operate.
When we can relax into that, we don’t need to outsource our menopause to some big pharmaceutical company. We have everything that we need within. We’ve always had that and it’s such an empowering way to journey through this change. I think that this is the way that it was supposed to be. This is the rite of passage.
This is the transformation because we learn to love our body, to trust it and through that we create health. It is going to protect us as we age, that’s going to keep us in good health. That’s going to preserve our well being. It’s simpler than we think to reach that point of love and trust in the body.
You can find out more about Tania:
Tania’s website: thewiserwoman.com
Tania’s book: The Wiser Woman’s Guide To Perimenopause and Menopause
Listen to Tania on the Magnificent Midlife podcast
You may also like: Getting The Facts About Menopause Straight and Flaxseed For Menopause – Why It’s Great
Last Updated on March 16, 2023 by Editorial Staff