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Meet the startup founder on a mission to counter menopause misinformation

Article-Meet the startup founder on a mission to counter menopause misinformation

© Menopause Vitamin Company Menopause vitamin Co_0369.png
A startup founder who took business inspiration from her own menopause experience is on a mission to counter misinformation to stop other women suffering like she did.

Melissa Neisler Dickinson, founder of the Menopause Vitamin Company, was a business development manager for hotels, working for a subsidiary of Essex University, when she started to experience migraines, anxiety, and a loss of confidence. She was 49 at the time and did not consider that these symptoms could be related to the menopause.

“I can remember being on a call with about 12 board directors and my mind just went totally blank and I couldn't remember what I was saying,” she told Vitafoods Insights. “I just thought, to be honest, I was having a bit of a mental health crisis.”

She went to see her doctor and was told to come off the contraceptive pill because this could be the cause of her headaches – but the symptoms continued to get worse.

It was only upon experiencing a hot flush that she “put all of the dots together” and realised she was going through perimenopause – the transitional phase leading up to menopause when oestrogen levels begin to decline but periods have not yet stopped.

Building a ‘one-stop shop’ for menopause nutrition and support

At the time, Neisler Dickinson wasn’t keen to start hormone replacement therapy (HRT), so she started researching “vitamins, minerals, botanicals – everything that could help me”.

She eventually found a combination of ingredients that worked – including biotin for nail and hair health, and ashwagandha for anxiety symptoms – but this amounted to “about 15 different bottles of vitamins and minerals in my dresser, costing me over 100-something pounds a month”.

She approached a nutritionist with the list of things she was taking and asked if it would be possible to fit all these ingredients into two daily capsules. After getting a positive response, she reached out to a manufacturer – and a year later, The Vibrancy Blend was born.

“There was nothing like it on the market at the time at all,” she said.

Now she has had so many repeat customers that she started a subscription service. She has been training as a menopause practitioner and hopes to eventually take on other coaches and for her website to become “a one-stop shop for nutrition and support”.

Managing menopause requires ‘a multi-pronged approach’

Since Neisler Dickinson started the business two years ago, a plethora of menopause supplements have flooded the market – so what makes her product different?

She claims that The Vibrancy Blend – described on the company website as an “all-in-one menopause supplement with a blend of 26 pure vitamins, minerals, adaptogens, and botanicals” – is unique thanks to its strong grounding in science.

Its ingredients include magnesium citrate; alpha lipoic acid; ashwagandha and turmeric root extracts; bamboo stem extract; hyaluronic acid; l-lysine; zinc citrate; coenzyme q10; selenium; myo-inositol; copper citrate; potassium iodide; B vitamins; and vitamins A, C, D3, E, and K2.

The company has pledged to use no fillers or binders, while the product is manufactured in the UK with high-quality ingredients. However, Neisler Dickinson is also keen to stress that it “does not cure hormonal issues as such, like hot flushes”.

She explained:[Taking] vitamins and minerals can help balance hormones but it's never going to replace them... It can minimise [menopause symptoms], but not totally cure them. But a lot of companies out there will tell you, ‘Take my wonder pill and all your troubles will be over.’”

Instead, a “multi-pronged approach” is needed to deal with menopause effectively, she argued.

Menopause myths and misinformation present major challenges

Misinformation has been Neisler Dickinson’s biggest challenge, and education is now a major part of her mission. She highlighted the fact that many people – including doctors – subscribe to the view that people experiencing menopause “should just get on with it”.

She added: “What people don't realise is, back in the day, women who had menopause often didn't work in full-time or high-powered jobs, and they didn't necessarily live as long.

“So, they didn't live with perimenopause, or they might have lived with it for 10 or 12 years. Now we have to live maybe 30 or 50 years with menopause symptoms.”

Meanwhile, enduring myths around menopause and the dangers of HRT – “the first thing [potential customers] say is, ‘I'm not taking HRT. It gives you breast cancer’” – have spurred a phenomenon known as “menowashing”.

This exploitative marketing practice positions everyday products as providing relief from menopause symptoms – and charges a premium for the privilege.

“[Y]ou've got this shampoo that was always this brand, and now it's called menopause shampoo. And that infuriates me,” said Neisler Dickinson.

Such cynical marketing ploys spread mistrust among consumers, with a knock-on effect that harms scrupulous players, too, she argued.

“People buy [these products], they don't work, and then they just feel let down yet again,” she said. “And that's why I'm really honest [about the fact that my product is] a nutritional supplement and what it can do and what it can't do.”

She remains hopeful, however, that the shift in discourse around this once-taboo subject heralds a brighter future for other women.

“You’re going to have all this knowledge before you get to that point. And it's not going to impact you the same [way],” she added.