Ahead of a special CycleDork Galentine’s giveaway (stay tuned!) we’re excited to be sharing an excerpt from Lara Briden’s Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods—the revised and updated 2nd Edition. This book has literally been life changing for so many and we’ve recommended it to countless menstruators looking for help with cycle-related issues from endometriosis to balancing hormones to just wanting to have better, happier periods. If you need a cycle revamp (and SO many of us do), this is your guide. Read on for an excerpt from Chapter 1—giveaway soon to follow!
Something big is happening in period health. If you’ve picked up this book, then you’re part of the movement.
Periods are coming out into the open. They are no longer something to be endured, concealed, or regulated with hormonal birth control. As we’ll see in the coming chapters, the pill has outlived its usefulness. There are better options for birth control. There are far better solutions for period problems.
More and more women are saying No to the pill, and Yes to their own natural monthly cycles.
Period apps are part of the change. Most of my patients use them. I use one myself. When I asked my teenage stepdaughter if she uses a period app, she said, ‘Of course,’ as if I’d asked a silly question.
Period apps are smartphone applications that allow you to track data about your monthly cycle. You can track your period start date. You can track signs and symptoms such as spotting, breast tenderness and mood. You can even receive an alert when your period is likely to start! Of course, you could do the same thing with old-fashioned pen and paper, but a period app is easier and friendlier somehow. Your phone is right there in your bag or pocket. It’s often in your hand.
By inviting our periods into our day-to-day lives, these apps make periods seem less threatening. They make periods seem normal, which of course they are, and always have been. What’s happening with your period? Does it come every month? Does it come at all? Is it heavy or painful or difficult in some way? Maybe you’ve just come off the pill, or are thinking about coming off the pill?
No matter your age or your situation, get to know your period. There is no better time to do so.
Your Period Is Trying to Tell You Something
Your period is not just your period. It is an expression of your underlying health. When you are healthy, your menstrual cycle will arrive smoothly, regularly, and without symptoms. When you are unhealthy in some way, your cycle will tell the story.
I invite you to think of your period as your monthly report card. Every month, it can offer a helpful account of what is happening with your health in general. That information is incredibly valuable. How better to know what you need to do – and what you need to change?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) agrees. In December 2015, together with the American Academy of Pediatrics, they quietly issued a groundbreaking statement called ‘Menstruation in Girls and Adolescents: Using the Menstrual Cycle as a Vital Sign’.
In it, they state:
“Identification of abnormal menstrual patterns in adolescence may improve early identification of potential health concerns for adulthood. It is important for clinicians to have an understanding of the menstrual patterns of adolescent girls, the ability to differentiate between normal and abnormal menstruation, and the skill to know how to evaluate the adolescent girl patient. By including an evaluation of the menstrual cycle as an additional vital sign, clinicians reinforce its importance in assessing overall health status for patients and caretakers.”
The ACOG says doctors should always ask patients about menstruation and should advise girls to chart their cycles. By doing so, doctors will demonstrate to patients that menstruation is an important reflection of their overall health.
I nearly cried when I read that statement. Finally!
The ACOG is correct, of course. Menstruation is a reflection of overall health, or what they are calling a vital sign.
Throughout my twenty years of working with patients, I have relied on information about menstruation to help me assess health and determine the correct treatment plan. That’s why I always ask my patients about their periods – even if they have come to me for something else.
Consider my patient Meagan.
Meagan: How is your period?
Meagan was 26 when she came for help with psoriasis, an immune disorder which causes dry, scaly skin patches. Her psoriasis affected her scalp and elbows and seemed to get worse with stress. Meagan said she’d inherited it from her father.
I asked Meagan a few questions. When had her skin condition started? (When she was 13.) Did she have any allergies? (No.) Did she have any digestive problems? (No.)
Then I asked, ‘How is your period?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Does it come every month? Do you have any pain or spotting between periods?’
Meagan said her period was regular because she took the pill.
‘That’s not a period,’ I said. ‘I mean, what was your period like back when you weren’t on the pill?’
Meagan’s period had not started until she was 16 and then it was light and irregular. Her doctor had done some blood tests and said that everything was normal. She’d recommended Meagan take the pill.
‘There had to be a reason for your irregular periods,’ I explained. ‘And it could be the same underlying issue that’s contributing to your psoriasis.’
I ordered some extra blood tests, and all was normal except for a borderline iron deficiency, which had also come up in some of Meagan’s previous tests.
A picture was starting to emerge. Meagan had a group of symptoms which suggested to me a possible sensitivity to wheat: 1) psoriasis, 2) iron deficiency, and 3) irregular periods. I explained to Meagan that the inflammation she was experiencing could be a reaction to wheat or gluten. And that the same inflammation could be contributing to both her psoriasis and her light and irregular periods.
Fortunately, Meagan tested negative for the most severe clinical form of gluten sensitivity: celiac disease. But I perceived that she likely had a milder form of gluten sensitivity – one that was affecting her skin and her periods. I asked her to avoid gluten for six months.
A month into treatment, Meagan stopped taking the pill to see if her new diet would give her regular periods—without the pill. I warned her that it could take some time.
For the first two months, not much happened. Meagan’s psoriasis stayed about the same, and she did not get a period.
‘Recovering from gluten can take several months,’ I said.
Finally, after three months, her skin started to improve. After six months, she got her first period and went on to have regular periods without the help of the pill.
The right treatment for Meagan’s general health was also the right treatment for her periods. It is always like this. Fix your health, and you will fix your period.
Excerpt from Period Repair Manual published with the permission of Lara Briden.
Dr. Lara Briden is a naturopathic doctor and the period revolutionary—leading the change to better periods. Informed by a strong science background and more than 20 years experience with patients, Lara is a passionate communicator about women’s health and alternatives to hormonal birth control. Her book Period Repair Manual is a manifesto of natural treatment for better hormones and better periods and provides practical solutions using nutrition, supplements, and natural hormones. Now in its second edition, the book has been an underground sensation and has worked to quietly change the lives of tens of thousands of women.