In this article /
Dr. Lara Briden, ND, author of the popular book, Period Repair Manual talked with Diva about her knowledge and expertise when it comes to all things period.
This engaging book provides women with details, advice and tips about everything you need to know, do and follow when it comes to your period.
Diva: Based on the information regarding the pill and its side effects, what is the best/most informative way to educate women on alternative contraceptive methods?
Dr. Lara Briden: Non-hormonal birth control is a viable option for women of any age. As I explain in my book, the advantage of a non-hormonal method is that it permits healthy ovulatory cycles and therefore production of the estrogen and progesterone we need for bones, metabolism, and mood.
The best method of non-hormonal birth control is a combination of condoms and Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). Through FAM, women will learn to recognize their peak fertile days (charted according to fertility awareness-based methods), and then abstain on those few days per month. Strategic short-term abstinence greatly reduces the risk of pregnancy in the unlikely event of a broken condom.
A second non-hormonal method is the copper intrauterine device (IUD). It prevents pregnancy by impairing sperm motility and implantation, and is highly effective with a failure rate of just 0.6 percent (lower than the Pill).
D: Can you expand on the importance of hormonal receptors and the “river system?”
LB: Our bodies get used to a certain level of hormones. In the book, I used an analogy of hormonal rivers carving out gullies, and the gullies are the memory of the hormone receptors.
For example, when estrogen receptors become accustomed to the torrent of strong synthetic estrogen in the birth control pill, it can be difficult to adapt to the trickling stream of normal estrogen. This adaptation or—dare we day, addiction—to synthetic estrogen is the cause of post-pill symptoms such as acne and hair loss.
D: What effect does a woman’s diet have on her menstrual cycle? Do you feel women need to be more conscience about their diet during menstruation?
LB: Diet has a profound effect on menstrual health. First of all, a period-friendly diet provides all the nutrients required by the ovaries and hormonal system. Those include zinc, iodine, magnesium, and iron—to name just a few. Many women don’t obtain enough of those key nutrients, which is why they suffer symptoms such as period pain and PMS.
A period-friendly diet is also an anti-inflammatory diet, which means that it contains little or no inflammatory foods such as sugar and alcohol. Inflammatory foods cause period problems because they interfere with hormonal signalling.
To be effective, a period-friendly diet must be followed all the days of the cycle—not just during menstruation.
D: What are the best ways for women to be more educated about their period?
LB: I’m a big fan of period apps, which are smartphone applications that allow women to track data about their monthly cycles. Apps can track cycle length, as well as symptoms such as spotting, breast tenderness, and mood.
Many apps also track cervical fluid and basal body temperature so that women can detect the mid-cycle temperature rise that signals ovulation. Ovulation is the most important event in the menstrual cycle because it’s how we make progesterone. A menstrual cycle without ovulation is not a healthy cycle.
D: What are some symptoms of menstrual disorders that girls and women can look out for?
LB: A menstrual cycle should be regular (21-35 days). It should arrive without premenstrual symptoms, and without pain. It should not be heavier than 80 mL (the DivaCup holds 30 ml) over all the days of the bleed.
Common period symptoms include irregular periods, spotting between periods, painful periods, and heavy periods. Those are all clues that I discuss in Chapter 5 of my book: “What Can Go Wrong With Your Period?”. I call them clues because period symptoms are almost always an expression of underlying general health.
For example, irregular periods can mean a problem with the hormone insulin. Painful periods can mean zinc deficiency. The best way to fix periods is to fix the underlying issue.
D: You provide many tips in the book, but which three tips do you think are most important?
Learn to detect ovulation. Ovulation is the key to a healthy menstrual cycle because it’s how we make progesterone. Progesterone deficiency causes many period problems including PMS, PCOS, and heavy periods.
Reduce inflammatory foods such sugar, alcohol, vegetable oils, and for some women: wheat and dairy products.
- Take magnesium. I call magnesium the Miracle Mineral for Periods because it’s my front-line treatment for almost every period problem including PMS, PCOS, and period pain. Magnesium helps periods because it helps the body to cope with stress. It also improves the function of insulin and thyroid hormones, and is essential for the manufacture of both estrogen and progesterone.
Learn more by picking up a copy of Period Repair Manual.