Saeng-Fah Graham leads De Lune's community education initiatives. She is a Menstrual Doula with a passion for empowering humans through knowledge of their menstrual cycles.
Lara Briden is a Naturopathic Doctor and Period Revolutionary. She practices at Sensible-Alternative Hormone Clinic in Sydney and is the author of the Period Repair Manual.
SF: Lara, you have a practice in Sydney, Australia. Could you share with us a little bit about what a naturopath uses for healing?
LB: I prescribe diet changes together with nutritional supplements and herbal medicine.
SF: What’s is your favorite herb and nutritional supplement you prescribe?
LB: My favorite nutritional prescription is magnesium because it reduces inflammation and works for many period problems including period pain and PCOS. My favorite herbal medicine is probably turmeric because it also reduces inflammation and can even lighten periods!
SF: Painful periods are not ‘normal’ and don’t have to happen, in your opinion why are they so prevalent?
LB: Period pain is not "normal," but of course, it is common. The milder, common variety of period pain is caused by excess prostaglandins, which is a kind of inflammation. Mild period pain can usually be improved or eliminated by simple treatments such as dairy-free diet, zinc, and magnesium. More severe pain can be a sign of an underlying condition such as endometriosis, which affects one in ten women.
SF: Could you please debunk a common misconception about how hormonal contraception affects the body’s hormonal systems?
LB: The misconception is that hormonal birth control "regulates" hormones. In actual fact, hormonal birth control shuts down hormones, inducing a hormone deficient state that is best characterized as a temporary drug-induced menopause. The drugs in birth control are not real hormones, and the bleeds that occur on birth control are not real periods.
SF: What does a ‘healthy’ period look like?
LB: A healthy menstrual cycle is one in which ovulation occurred, because ovulation is the main event of the cycle--not the period! An ovulatory cycle is normally 21 to 45 days counting from day 1 of the bleed to day 1 of the next bleed. The bleed itself should last two to seven days with no more than 80 mL of menstrual fluid. Finally, a healthy period should arrive smoothly and without symptoms.
SF: You’ve recently released a revised edition of your book, ‘Period Repair Manual’. What’s something you’ve added that is particularly interesting?
LB: The second edition of Period Repair Manual includes new insights into the role of histamine intolerance in period pain and premenstrual mood symptoms. Histamine is an inflammatory part of the immune system, but it's also a key part of estrogen signaling and it's a neurotransmitter. The great thing about identifying a possible underlying issue with histamine intolerance is that it can be improved by avoiding high-histamine foods!
SF: What advice can you offer to our youth who are just starting to navigate the world of menstruation?
LB: My key message is that "ovulatory" cycles (natural cycles) are a good thing because they're how we make the estrogen and progesterone we need to be strong and healthy. Women need estrogen and progesterone for general health just like men need testosterone for general health, and young women starting their periods can celebrate the estrogen that will improve both bone and muscle health.
SF: What are your thoughts on the #periodpositive movement happening right now, and what does period positivity really mean to you?
LB: I love that periods have come into the open and are finally starting to lose some of their stigma. For me, period positivity means acknowledging that the female body is a normal, standard version of a human body. The means that periods are normal, of course, but also that female hormones are normal and even beneficial. Female hormones are an asset, not a liability!
SF: What is one way that those who don’t menstruate can support those who do?
LB: Be willing to discuss menstruation and periods as a normal, healthy part of being human. And also to understand that ovulatory natural cycles are how women make hormones and are therefore beneficial for general health.