We recently had the opportunity to sit down with the Period Revolutionary herself - a leading figure in the women's health field, naturopathic doctor, and advocate for all things periods and hormones, Dr. Lara Briden. Dr. Briden is the author of the Period Repair Manual and focuses on implementing diet and lifestyle changes along with natural treatments for women's health issues such as PCOS, endometriosis, amenorrhea, and anovulation among other things. Her groundbreaking work has allowed women to view their menstrual cycles in a healthier, more accepting way, improving the overall relationship with their bodies.
Throughout our conversation, the number one takeaway is the importance of regular ovulation and how it affects women's hormones.
“I don’t really use the term hormonal imbalance. For women of reproductive age, the main event for having healthy hormones is regular ovulation and making progesterone every month.”
Progesterone is the hormone women make after ovulation has taken place and is vital for a variety of reasons.
"Not ovulating regularly causes what many call hormonal imbalance, and in the long term can put a woman at risk for metabolic issues, stroke, osteoporosis, heart disease, dementia, and breast cancer. Dr. Jerilynn Prior has stated that women benefit from 35-40 years of ovulatory menstrual cycles, it’s not just about fertility but also to help prevent [the diseases mentioned]."
Floka: These are all serious consequences and health conditions to endure due to anovulation. What exactly causes a woman not to ovulate?
LB: “It totally depends on what’s going on with her and the specific reasons why she isn’t ovulating. But in general, it could be high levels of stress and inability to cope with stress which makes it harder for her to ovulate. It's also highly affected by our diet, so if you're under-eating it could impact ovulation. The main obstacle for ovulation is hormonal birth control which shuts down ovulation altogether.
F: Recently, there has been a lot of dialogue and misinformation around the idea that women do not need periods - can you talk about the importance and benefits of a regular period?
LB: That phrase 'women don't need periods' - what they're talking about when they say that is how women don't need monthly pill bleeds and that is 100% true. But if we're talking about real menstrual cycles, then yes, its beneficial to have a menstrual cycle approximately monthly but not because of the bleed but because of ovulation. Ovulation is the main event of the menstrual cycle, and as mentioned before regular monthly ovulation builds and maintains long term health.
F: More and more women are being diagnosed with PCOS, can you talk about this condition?
LB: We need to redefine what PCOS is. Most of the discussion on PCOS out there in the mainstream media needs a complete reworking of that conversation because there are so many women that have been told they have something they don't. Fundamentally, PCOS is an issue of not ovulating regularly and having insulin resistance. The best way to look at it is a condition of excess androgens and figuring out what is driving the excess androgens in that woman. In many cases, the underlying cause is something like insulin resistance which can be reversed by diet.
F: How would you recommend that a woman advocate for her own health at the doctor's office?
LB: It's really about having the right questions and speaking in the language that doctors understand. There's a section about this in my book Period Repair Manual. The first step is understanding yourself by knowing your symptoms. For example, excess androgens - be aware of whether you have symptoms of that or not. Ask questions about your particular situation and don't be afraid to ask for additional testing.
Follow Dr. Briden's awesome work on Instagram @larabriden, and get a copy of her book Period Repair Manual!