I had a fantastic conversation with Natasha Richardson, the medical herbalist and women’s health expert on today’s show.
After having struggled with debilitating period pain for years, Natasha discovered how natural remedies could help but was disappointed by how difficult they were to acquire. As a result, she launched her own line of products called Forage Botanicals.
Natasha is an advocate for embodiment and normalising menstruation, birth and menopause. Inspired by her feminist proclivities she has researched the history of how products surrounding women’s health have affected how we relate to our bodies and the inner sexist beliefs we hold against ourselves and each other.
Natasha and I talked about PMS and how a perfectly natural phase of our menstrual cycle has been hypermedicalised, PMDD, how to manage and reduce period pain and of course, the story of her first period.
Thank you, Natasha!
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Le’Nise: Thank you so much for coming onto the show, Natasha. Let’s get into the first question that I always ask my guests, which is tell me the story of your very first period.
Natasha: So I have a really like no memory of it at all. And I I think that this must be hopefully telling that it wasn’t problematic. But I do remember I do have like a light bulb memory. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that term. It means that you can remember exactly where you were. In space and time, when something happens. I remember myself standing in the playground, in primary school and somebody had just told me from, you know, those like girls magazines that have light period like information and because kids like send messages and be like, something’s happening, is this normal?
They had like they had one of those, which was obviously for teenagers. So I’m guessing somebody some older sibling had had it in the house and it being brought into primary school, which is like four and the 10 year olds and somebody said, Oh, my God, it says here that you’re going to bleed between your legs, and I was like, what? I was like, how could that be? Like, I just remember standing in the playground, looking down at my crotch and thinking, Where is it going to come from? And can it be true?
Le’Nise How old were you when all of this was happening?
Natasha So I would have been like potentially just as young as six or seven.
Le’Nise So like six or seven, you kind of have I’m just thinking about my son. He kind of has a basic understanding of of these things and you know, when you want to ask he what he he’ll ask things like what sex? And then I don’t obviously don’t give him like a detailed explanation, but he just he when he’s had enough, he’ll just turn to a different topic. What was that kind of like? You know, you go questioning it and then did you you got this information from a friend? And then did you go and speak to your parents or a sibling about what you heard in school?
Natasha Yeah. So I think I kept that to myself because I remember kind of trying to really process this concept in the playground that day. But then I do remember that my mum gave me a period education book, and I think she I’m pretty sure she gave us that before they did anything before we had our talk in school because I remember us kind of like as girls all crowding around it in the playground and being like, Oh my God, we’re going to get boobs. We’re going to like, what? What is all happening? And you know, this kind of like secretive, gossipy kind of thing. And we were getting our education through this book that my mum had provided for us. And so I must have talked to her about it. In order for that to have happen. And then I remember us getting like the talk, which I think was more. It was definitely about sex, but then we split up into male and female in order to learn about the menstruation portion, I believe. And I always, like have envisaged that like, like, what were the boys being taught? I mean, somebody then later told me, Oh, that’s when they learnt investment banking, and I was like, Oh yeah, it all makes sense now.
Le’Nise And how old were you when you were getting getting this kind of sex ed chat at school?
Natasha Then we would have been like probably nine, I think. And they were aware that some people probably would have already started their periods and they they because they literally would know who had started because. Those poor souls who started really early, they had like this kind of back up plan for those people where they could come to the staff room and say that they need some sanitary pads or whatever and get some. And so I don’t know that, but what I experienced must have been like for those people who started earlier than everybody else.
Le’Nise Oh my gosh. Like, imagine being eight or nine years old and having to go to the staff room just like, oh, and like knocking on the door and the staff and
Natasha Everyone looking around. And then you like telling a whisper to a teacher, hopefully not a man. Yeah.
Le’Nise Oh gosh. Oh, that’s like a horrible, horrible.
Natasha Yeah, it sounds like traumatisingly bad.
Le’Nise And so you don’t remember your your first period. But if you think back to the early years of having a period, what was that experience like for you?
Natasha Well, I remember being eager for it to happen. I remember my other friends got them before I did, and I was very like, excited to get it. I did kind of see it as a marker of becoming a woman, and I’m not sure if I had started to really get geeky about being knowledgeable about paganism and Wicca at that time. That was definitely a big influence for me during my teen years, and I was like so aware of this concept of there being three distinct phases of womanhood. And I was a maiden and I was about to enter into being a menstruating person. Yeah, and I was super excited about it, actually. And as a marker of of me growing up, I guess.
Le’Nise When you say, for listeners who aren’t aware, so three phases of womanhood in the kind of pagan world, can you describe those?
Natasha Yes, we have maiden, mother and crone in the pagan world and it kind of denotes like maiden can be anybody who hasn’t had a has had a child, biologically speaking, but a mother could be, somebody who just is motherly and that, you know, those aunties that you might have that are, like, very motherly, but they don’t actually have children of their own, like those kind of people in your life that could be the mother face for somebody as well. You don’t necessarily have to have a child, and then a crone would be somebody who had gone, presumably by going through menopause. But it’s also like it’s more like metaphorical as well for that becoming more wise, which I think is hilarious now that now that I’m older and I look at the older generation in my life, I feel like you actually reach a point of like maximum maturity and then you just regress through like teen aged and then into like being an absolute child again.
Le’Nise Oh, that’s that’s interesting. I I feel like, well, if I think about all the way…
Natasha My mom is
Le’Nise [here. Go ahead. Your mom is…
Natasha My mum is going through a kind of teen rebellion again right now, and her mum is It’s like, like it’s like amazing and everything’s grey, and it’s like, Oh, this breakfast is amazing, she’s got terrible dementia. She can’t remember really why she’s there or she can’t remember anything bad in her life. She just like lives from the moment and is just loving it.
Le’Nise Go back to what you were saying about how paganism influenced your experience of having a period during your teenage years.
Natasha Yeah, so I think that it gave me a concept of divine, feminine and masculine, and everybody’s a mix of both. And because it has this whole like goddess worship as part of its main functionality or doctrination, maybe that’s the right word, it it’s um, I’m assuming they gave me the basis of what would then become my feminist politics. Because it’s sort of femininity in a positive light, and I don’t know, I guess I’d seen a bit of that elsewhere, but with girl power and stuff like that, that was in the 90s, isn’t it? And I remember getting really into 1960s history. I don’t know why, but I read like late about Haight-Ashbury. I, I think it was must have been the music that my mom was listening to. And then I. So segwayed into that from there, so it’s kind of like living this bizarre like fantasy world where I was a witch pagan in the 1960s and that was my make-believe world that I lived in a teenager.
Le’Nise I mean, the 60s, definitely like in San Francisco, Haight-Ashbury very exciting time. So to be a pagan feminist, which then would have been quite incredible.
Natasha Yeah, really.
Le’Nise And then so this is the kind of know the kind of more theory around what having a period meant to you. And what about in practise? Like how would how what was the practical experience of having a period like during your teenage years?
Natasha It was like a secret club of lgrowing up. The girls were part of and the boys weren’t and it was like, you didn’t really talk about it much, but people knew. And then. I don’t remember thinking at the time, like, I’m being secretive because it’s shameful. I was like just thinking, yeah, like it was part of being a secret club that I thought was cool.
Le’Nise You’re definitely not like the first the first person I’ve heard this from, like having a bit of a secret and like the kind of thrill of having that secret. And then was it something with your like girlfriends you would whisper about? How did that secret look like in practise?
Natasha Yeah. So I think that we would it would. It would be something that we could talk about in female circles comfortably, but that we didn’t talk about in front of other people. So, yeah, it ends up becoming like a bonding experience for a particular gender. And I liked that and I like like we had a we had a period talk in secondary school, which was much more oriented towards like understanding the variety of products that were available to us, and it still wasn’t sustainable at all. It was very much like there are lots of different sizes of tampons and lots of different sizes and shapes of pads. That was kind of it. Somehow managed to fill an hour just talking about that at all. And then at the end, we got a bag, it was like, I think I was like pink metallic jiffy bag, style envelope kind of thing with pads and tampons and stuff in. And the boys didn’t know what we had been taught about at all and we all emerged with like these secretive yet snazzy bags of stuff, which they were this like hypnotised by, you know, they desperately wanted to know what was in and what. And everyone has a collective just, you know what? I’m going to tell you, I’m not going to tell you what’s in here, it’s our stuff.
Le’Nise What’s interesting about having the having this experience of having a period feel like being a part of a secret club is that that there’s almost two ways that this can go. It could be a secret that feels cool and interesting and exciting. And then it could also be a secret that there’s some shame to it and you feel like that shame is also that shame stops you from talking about it and learning more. What that your experience of it at all? Or was it more like the cool side?
Natasha It felt cool at the time. In hindsight, I’ve looked back on it and been like, Oh my goodness, yeah, we were doing all of that because of this, like hundreds of years shame that’s been like smashed into our heads. But I think that gets diluted, but and not necessarily transformed, but changed as the different generation goes through that experience of keeping something secret. And and I don’t I’d like to know like what it was like for maybe my mom’s generation are being taught about it. My understanding is there was no secret club. It was just like, Get on with it and you learn the bare minimum and just get by kind of thing. And so I felt like maybe our generation made it cool because we’ve been told to feel positively about being girls in the first place and where you know, we’re in, I think of everything now in terms of like what my research is as a historian is like, taught me to maybe like contextually living in a time where there wasn’t we’re being told women girls can do anything. They can take over the world, they can do whatever they want. It can be a Spice Girl if they really want to. So maybe that’s why we tend to that kind of secretive stuff and made it into a cool club.
Le’Nise Yeah, yeah. I yeah, I think that I mean, it’s better than it being being like shamed and you just feel like something’s wrong with you for having a period. Yeah.
Natasha And it came as such a big surprise to me to discover that people my my age group had had that experience.
Le’Nise Yeah. And then talking about just thinking about the practical experience of having a period, something that you have said is that you struggled with debilitating period pain. When when did your periods start to become painful?
Natasha So it wasn’t until I went to university that that started to happen. And so it was quite surprising because it just seemed like come out of nowhere and it took me ages to like, really take on board that was even what was happening. Because it would be once a month, and I think that, I don’t know why, but I just, like ignored it for the longest time, probably as much as like a year and then because I was learning herbal medicine at the time, someone was like, That’s not normal though, Natasha. And I was like, I guess, like, it wasn’t even normal for me, and I’m still not picking up on it is something that’s worth doing anything about. And then I have. But then it did get really bad, like I think it was just ignorable for quite some time and I was like, Yeah, that’s fine. But I remember being I worked part time in a in a shop at the time in St Pancras Station and St Pancras station, all the shops have glass fronts on them, so it’s like it’s like you don’t have a wall to the front of your shop in a way and everybody can see, and you’re very much like a goldfish in a bowl. And I remember getting really bad period pain. Painkillers wasn’t helping, and my boss looked over at me and she’s like, Are you OK? And I was like, Yeah, I’m fine. She was like, Because you look pretty green. I was like, what? And I looked in the mirror and I had like, Yeah,I looked kind of grey green. I was like, really just holding it together. And as soon as she said that, I was like, Well, now you mentioned it. I actually have really bad period pain today and and I’m struggling. And it turns out that she had period problems herself of a different ilk. And so I felt like very like I could be open. It was nice working there because it was a beauty store, almost everybody was girls so it was very easy to talk about those kind of things, and I just had to crouch down behind the till points and no one could see me. And just like I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t keep a conversation. I couldn’t serve anybody. I was completely debilitated and my boss was lik, I think you better go home, you know? You’re not any use to me here here and I was like, Yeah, probably not. But now, I don’t know if I’m going to make it, I like, remember just really slowly and in a very heavy haze, getting on the train and like sleeping to my train stop. And when I got there, I got off the train and found nearly completely fine again, and I was like, Damn it, I shouldn’t have left work. I should have just stayed at work. And that was the nature of my pain. It was like very extreme, but really short lived. And it was in a way the shortness of it made it more awkward than the actual pain did.
Le’Nise So when you say short or are we talking like a day, are we talking a few hours?
Natasha Like hours. So when I went to the doctors about it eventually I was like, I get really bad pain, but only lasts few hours and then it could be completely gone, and they were like, Huh, well, I guess it doesn’t sound bad enough for us to look into it seriously, and they were like, you know, just keep an eye on it and see if it gets worse, then come back to us. Maybe we’ll do some tests and stuff and they offered me some painkillers, which I didn’t think I wanted or it didn’t work. They offered me the contraceptive pill, which I didn’t want to take. And yeah, but the shortness of it meant that I felt so awkward about explaining to people like I can’t do something that day because I may or may not have debilitating pain at some point during the event.
And it was really just awkward to to explain that it could be that bad for such a short frame of time. And often as a side effect of me being in pain, I would need to rush to the loo at some point, which made me feel really self-conscious about where I was going to be whilst experiencing the pain. Am I going to be near a toilet? Is it going to be a toilet I’d be happy to use. Is it going to be, you know? Oh yeah. It was just like horrible. And then that became a problem in itself that I would start to forebode my period. And I was like, looking forward forwards in time thinking, when is it going to be? What shall I block out of my diary? How much should I block out of my diary. I started blocking out a three day like time frame. Or I don’t book anything on these days, and it’s likely that that’s going to be your period. And it was just like living like that for ages like and I I think like by that point, other people knew and I was moving in herbal circles and everyone was like, You should definitely treat this. Oh, OK. I have to.
Le’Nise That is so interesting that like, you’re studying herbal medicine and like, OK, I’m thinking about my experience studying nutrition. And no, I do think that’s nutritionists. You know you you go into study nutrition. You get so like almost like you can. Some people can get really like almost obsessed with what they’re putting in their body and the symptoms that they’re experiencing. Not everyone, but I do know that that is, can be a common experience. But it’s interesting that you had this, you know, this pain and you were kind of like, you know, not acknowledging in that in that you have to acknowledge it when it happened. But it took someone to say in your course, to say to you, like, you know, you need to deal with it. Where where do you think that came from? Why do you think that it took you so long to actually do something about it?
Natasha Like in hindsight, I can see, like exactly why. And it was just the I thought it was kind of normal. And then that’s what everyone was going through and everyone gets period pain. So this is probably just that period pain that people have been talking about all this time that I just haven’t had, you know, I’ve just been one of the lucky ones that didn’t have it. And now I have it, and this is what everyone’s going through. And yeah, I just didn’t think anything of it for ages. And we weren’t taught menstruation as part of our herbal or course when we were doing anatomy and physiology because our anatomy and physiology was being taught by the same department who were teaching the nurses and nurses, at least at Lincoln University, didn’t learn anything about gynaecology because it seemed to be a specialist subject.
Le’Nise Oh my gosh.
Natasha So we didn’t learn about it till later that year in our first year because they had to add it on as additional subject at the end so that we didn’t miss out on that information altogether. And I just remember being like. Where when are we going to learn about gynaecology, when are we going to know about menstrual cycles because I was, like, really interested in them by then and there? And just during anatomy and physiology, nurses just being like, Oh no, we don’t know about that, that’s for specialists, that’s for gynaecologists. We can’t learn about that. Like what? I was livid. I mean, I was like full blown early 20s feminist, righteous white woman, just like we can’t not learn about periods?
Le’Nise Did it change anything at all on the course or did they add it in earlier, eventually and not as a separate specialist subject?
Natasha So I think I’m not entirely sure that I imagine that they definitely would have had it, that they knew we were going to have to learn as a specialist thing right from the get go because they’ve been running the course for a few years that way already. At least, I think so. It’s hard to remember. But anyhoo, because it’s a holistic practise that was definitely always going to be a part of what we were going to learn. It just I think that it had to happen right at the end of the course because it is the only time that we have available, I think.
So it did feel a bit like, Oh, and now we’re going to do a little bit extra about some stuff that you didn’t learn and it was sort of like it felt a bit like optional add ons by that point, because it wasn’t part of the core like modules, but obviously like everybody was just like, this is so crucial and the herbalists teaching it, we’re like, Yeah, of course it is. Yeah, that’s why we learnt we did one on breastfeeding, one on menopause and one on menstruation. I was like, we could have done a whole module on this, though, like, yeah, we know. And then I think we did a lot more from second year and third year. From that point, yeah, became a big thing for us.
Le’Nise And then when you learnt about the kind of anatomy and physiology of menstruation, did it change your perspective on your period pain?
Natasha It might have done, but I honestly don’t recall it. These years like a bit of a funny blur to me. It just feels like you were a different person, doesn’t it? Like sometimes like you’ve never lived three or four different lives by the time you have 30? It’s weird.
Le’Nise Yeah, no. I definitely relate to that. And so what what how is your relationship with your period now?
Natasha So now it’s like positive, but it is far different from before I had kids, like before I had, I had my son, I was like. It was like a religious practise, almost like, this week, I shall not be doing any social things because I am in my premenstrual phase. But I think that was the kind of dialogue, at least, that I had in my head. I don’t think, I was that expository about it. And now my periods are like, so unproblematic they like barely hurt, I hardly get any PMS. There was a point where I was getting that really bad pain that also the week before I would get really tired, like tied to the point where I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t go out and stuff. And that that time frame, I also started to get social anxiety. I couldn’t go out and I could go out, but not without anxiety. So it became, you know, that period pain was wrapped up in a whole, really dysfunctional part of my overall well-being. And then as that all got better, you know, it all gets better together as what I’m trying to say. Then I tried to get pregnant and got pregnant. And after that? It just has gone, forgotten.
Le’Nise So right after you gave birth, your periods just kind of stopped being painful, then the anxiety, the premenstrual anxiety just kind of went away.
Natasha Yeah, because I knew one of the key things that actually I was given quite late on and all of that I found that the herbs and stuff could get rid of it nearly completely. And I was really vigilant about taking them for a long time. Then I stopped and it started to creep back in and I went to a doctor who said, Why don’t you try mefenamic acid? Nobody had offered me that before. And I was like, Well, I guess, yeah, I think I’m at this point where I’d rather trying to take painkillers for the day then change everything about the way that I live and eat. And so I think I tried it and I took one and I was like, Holy crap, this completely got rid of my period pain. And as a by-product of that, knowing that I could take this, a single pill and it could get rid of all my pain. For that moment, I was like, Oh, I this is good, and I didn’t ever get period pain as bad ever again. And it wasn’t because I carried on taking the pills because I knew that I had a pill if I needed to relieve the pain.
Le’Nise Wow. So and that the MMA mefenamic acid was different kind of mentally to in your experience to taking like ibuprofen or paracetamol.
Natasha Yeah. It was different, and I think it just had this amazing, wonderful placebo effect for me where it just relieved that. And I was taught this primary and secondary pain and primary pain is the pain you feel in secondary pain is the pain that you create by feeling anxious about the real pain. And I think that you just like, totally got rid of the secondary pain for me because I knew that I could do something about the primary if I really needed to. And I never, yeah, I never got period pain as bad ever again.
Le’Nise You know, that’s really interesting that you bring up this, you know, primary and secondary pain because I see this a lot in my clinic, which there’s the pain. But then there’s also the anxiety around the pain and the kind of anxiety that the anticipation of getting your period creates. And I see this where you, we address, we address the pain and then but then the work needs to be done around addressing that anxiety about the pain potentially coming back. So it’s interesting that you know that one pill completely changed your whole experience.
Natasha Yeah, it really did. And that’s not to like pooh pooh like the incredible light healing that I’d experienced through herbs and stuff. It was just that at that point in time, I was just like beyond. It was beyond comprehension to me to do the kind of like legwork that have been involved in me getting the same results a year before that and more in a more holistic fashion.
I think, you know, to an extent. Again, with hindsight, I look at it and I think, you know, it was to an extent it was a very privileged position for me to be in a position where I could be that flexible with my time. I could take time off when I needed it and work when I thought was best, and it was really privileged to me to be able to change my food to something more healthy. Not everybody can do that. Um, so yeah, all of those kind of things is what led me down the route of wanting to launch my own products to help with these things so that people didn’t have to spend literally years of changing their lifestyle on a diet. And that because I just I didn’t think really that all of that was entirely necessary for some of the symptoms I was experiencing. I do you think it was necessary for that deep, deep healing to occur, though? I think I’m a much better person for having done it. Definitely.
Le’Nise So some people will be listening to this thinking, well, what we know, what can I do, what herbs can I take? How can I? What can I do to address my period pain? What would you say to them?
Natasha Well, I think the first thing that anybody should do before they even start trying to take stuff is just have a clear record of what the last few periods have been like because otherwise, when you start taking something, you might not really remember what it was like and be able to pinpoint if it was if it’s helping or not. And because one of the trickiest things about a period is it is once a month, it’s hard to remember sometimes what happened last month.
So, yeah, just like make sure that you keep a record first and foremost and then introduce something. And and if you’re going to introduce five things at once, then you got bear in mind that you won’t know which one of those five things was the one that’s doing the good, good stuff. If you if it not working, so you’ll feel like you have to keep trying all five to keep it up. So I try to recommend people just layer in one thing at a time. Literally one month at a time, but I know when people are in like severe pain, it’s not what you want to do. You don’t spend a month to figure out something doesn’t work. You want to do what I like to call the kitchen sink technique. Yeah, I’m fine either way, but just keep.
My key thing is keep a record of what the experience was like before and after. So, you know, and you can start taking things like you can start working with like a product that we make in our range. They’re really there to help with period discomfort like things that are not being caused by an illness, but that are a sign that maybe your wellbeing is. There are improvements to be made right because it’s really like a sliding scale from health to illness, and there’s a lot that happens in between and then and that’s really. There’s only like a very finite area at the end of illness where doctors want to get involved? And there’s a lot before that where you could be making improvements and that’s really where our product range sits. But having said that, if you have been diagnosed with something like endometriosis or PCOS or whatever, our, the things that we have in our range will at least alleviate some of the symptoms, and some of them will like the Rested Resilience. Oh my God, everybody could take that because it helps are really deep level with long term stress and healing from like PTSD and trauma and the long term stress that everyone’s going through with the pandemic. So, yeah, anybody can take that and properly benefit and you can look up things online. But it’s really a dodgy world out there, which I usually tell people to get a book called Bartrum’s Encyclopaedia of Herbal Medicine for a book that will tell you what’s top take for literally like everything you can think. It’s incredible. I use it still like 12 years into my practise, and I wrote a book called Your Period Handbook, which will take you through specific like herbs for periods and period problems.
Le’Nise So lots of different resources there for people to dig into. And then if they want to check out your products, they I’ll put all the links in the show notes. But can you just mentioned the name of the company again?
Natasha Yeah, it’s Forage Botanicals, as in foraging for botanicals.
Le’Nise Great. So what a lovely name. You’ve sent me a few products which I’m going to check out. I’m about to get my period, so I’m going to use you some of the period focused product and see how they they work from me. But I want to just go, go ask you about some of the research that you do, your research around the invention of PMS. And I find that really interesting because we are speaking to women in my practise and in the work that I do. It’s like they talk about, Oh, I’m PMSing. And when I talk to them about, how will you know, PMS is just a collection, a collection of different symptoms, and it’s not inevitable. You’re not automatically going to feel like this right before your period. It’s kind of like, you know, it’s a mind blowing for some women because there’s this kind of cultural programming that we get that we’re supposed to feel like this. And you know what? I really am interested to hear your take on this.
Natasha So my my concept of PMS is that it is a hypermedicalisation of a perfectly natural phase of someone’s menstrual cycle, and it can be problematic, and that’s when we tend to refer to it as PMS. But it might not be problematic and. The word premenstrual syndrome in it is a bit of a giveaway, right? Whenever you hear the word syndrome, it just means a collection of symptoms. It doesn’t mean they know why it happens,it doesn’t mean they know that there’s a particular hormone at the bottom of all of that. They don’t know what’s happening with it. It’s just a collection of symptoms. So you could call the way that you feel after a big meal, big, post big meal syndrome like you can just create syndromes left, right and centre if you want to. They did not.
And I think is kind of always place people want that. Generally speaking, like the medical terms that we have for illnesses are just a description of the symptoms that you’re experienced and not much more. And when it comes to syndrome, it’s like anybody who’s got IBS, they’ll also know a syndrome is really something where they don’t really understand what’s called the the pathophysiology of it, like the path of illness that it takes in the body. And you got to wonder, how could we not possibly know for something that apparently women have had since the dawn of time? And we start to if you start to go back through history like, OK, when did we start calling it PMS? It’s kind of like in the early 20th century, twenty first century, and it’s around about time that we start to drop the word hysteria. And if you look at the two. They kind of they look a lot similar. They have a lot of similarities. This momentary madness and it’s specific to women, and even now, like culturally, we deem it as like a time where we go a little bit crazy and a lot of jokes have been made to that ilk. And so. And and so knowing that historically that seems to be a path that we take with women’s health to hyper medicalise, I am very cautious around PMDD as well. Which I know is so like such a problematic thing for a lot of people to hear, but I’m very cautious around it, so it’s not to say that like I think that it might not exist altogether, I think definitely exists, but I think that the way that we’re framing it as something that should be treated hormonally is probably not. Well, we frame it like it should be treated hormonally. They actually give anti-depressants for it. So I think even the way that we’re talking about it is confusing. And yeah, I think we have a lot of work to do with this. It’s just. Sorry, you go ahead.
Le’Nise I was going to say so for our listeners who aren’t aware of PMDD is premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and it’s different to quote unquote PMS because it typically starts right after ovulation where the people experiencing it, they they kind of they have trouble dealing with the rise of progesterone and the second smaller peak of oestrogen. And it’s interesting that you say that it’s it’s people are treating it hormonally and it shouldn’t be treated hormonally. I completely agree because, you know, if you look at the research behind PMDD and some of the kind of mechanics of the condition, there’s a lot around serotonin and the the link between serotonin and oestrogen, but also sorry, progesterone and GABA and the effect that those have on the mood and the energy. And then if you think about the the different symptoms of PMDD, you even wonder, well, you know, you can see why people are saying, well take an antidepressant. I’ve been told by some clients that their doctors have told them that they should only take their antidepressant in the second half of their cycle. Well, doesn’t make sense to me.
Natasha And so my experience with people who have PMDD has been I haven’t met a single person who asked him who’s had a happy life. So. No, not a single one. Everybody I’ve spoken to has been like, oh, by the way, I was like traumatised as a child or my my mother died five years ago, and I blame myself for, like everybody has some sort of ridiculously massive, traumatising, horrible experience that they’ve been living with for years. And they’re like, Well, I don’t think my PMDD is related to that. And I’m like, Come on.
Le’Nise I think with PMDD, though, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees because you know that shift after ovulation, where we expect because of progesterone to feel quite calm and balanced. And you get told that you’re supposed to feel like that and then you don’t and then you’re trying to kind of you’re like, you know, grabbing onto a buoy in the middle of a like stormy ocean trying to figure out what’s going on. And then you get your period and then all of a sudden you feel better. You feel better again.
Natasha That light, sudden switching on and off. That kind of seems to be the experience of today. I feel like PMDD is what PMS should have been all along in a way like. So the strength of PMDD is that it’s much more specific. We have a much more finite range of symptoms that are associated with it, which means that only a very small proportion of the population experience that, whereas with PMS, but the list of symptoms is horrendously long, like hundreds, it’s ridiculous. And it becomes so generalised that it’s like literally every person whose had a period will have had that at some point. So, yeah, I think we really totally missed the point with PMS. And so now I just try and reframe it that don’t think it’s PMS. Think of it as it’s just premenstrual phase and we all go through and it’s a time where you naturally anything that happens is going to be magnified. So if you’re already stressed, is going to be more. If you’re already anxious and more if it’s already in your depressed, it’s going to be more. And with PMDD, it’s like that times a million and it seems to go from zero to a million overnight. And I can totally see why if that’s what you’re experiencing that you’d be like, it’s gotten to be my hormones.
Le’Nise Yeah, it’s what you’re saying is so, so interesting, and it’s I think we need to have more and a really clear conversations about the distinction between the two, you know, really breaking down this myth of PMS. Yeah, but also being really clear that PMDD is something different and there is a trauma element to it that isn’t necessarily spoken, spoken about as much because I’ve seen this as well, that my clients with PMDD. There is a lot of trauma there and they do. My clients typically do acknowledge, acknowledge it. But again, it’s that hard. It’s hard to see the wood for the trees when you know, just trying to deal with all of these different things and also just trying to live your life.
Natasha Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, I always say, like, you know, I can work with somebody with PMDD herbally in terms of trying to help take the the edge of that experience. Like maybe they are also quite sensitive to the normal changes of hormones, like if they get a hormone test and they come back and it’s normal, there’s always the possibility that you’re hypersensitive to the hormones that are at a normal level so you can work with people for that. But I always say, like more than likely, you’re going to also need some sort of like talking therapy to run alongside this to help with any kind of underlying trauma that needs support, ongoing support, you know? Yeah.
Le’Nise Yeah, there’s a lot of value in just being able to let let have someone really objective to talk to who won’t judge you, who will just listen. And because I think with a lot of people with trauma, especially long term trauma, they’re just holding so much in and also trying. They they there’s just a lot of that just hasn’t been dealt with and they don’t know where to start. And even starting,acknowledging that there’s that you need to start is a really big step.
Natasha Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, and so PMS is like a whole different thing. I just think we should just bin it basically and talk about it. Talk about a completely different thing. So I’ve had a really bad premenstrual phase. Yeah. This month.
Le’Nise Completely completely agree. So you there’s a lot of really interesting insights there for people listening who say who to think about PMS differently, it might countercultural for you, it might be kind of like something you’ve never heard before, but I will encourage you to take it on. And when you do come to that time right before your period with the week, the seven to 10 days have really have a really good look at what you’re experiencing and see if it really is an exacerbation of something you’re already experiencing where it’s you’re even feeling even more stress, as Natasha says. if someone is listening to this and thinking, I really want to get in touch with Natasha, I really want to work with her. How can they how can they contact you? What do you have coming up?
Natasha So I have been working on a six month programme with people, a small group of just six people for the last six months, and that’s coming to an end. And because I’m about to finish my masters, I’m probably not up and running again until January. But that’s something you could be joining the mailing list for updates on when that comes about. But I have a team of two herbalists, one of which is about to go on maternity leave. So one herbalist and she’s free, but until September. But you can by all means book a free chat with her in September. If you have something that you think you actually need bit extra support with. They do want one treatment plans for people, whereas I you can always come in like just I asked me a question. I am actually the person running the Instagram account, so you can just send a DM on @foragebotanicals. And I’ll answer, and you can also send me emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. And I’ll answer questions there, too. So although I don’t have any one to one tutorial type things coming up from myself as always Jo, who’s there to take patients as well.
Le’Nise Okay, brilliant. So if listeners will leave this conversation with one thing, what would you want them to take away?
Natasha To start recording their symptoms like start writing down when you last period was start writing down, how long your period is and then put a note down every day how your mood, your stress and sleep is as an absolute bare minimum and start charting up based on the first day of your period being day one of your cycle and moving along till the next period starting another chart, then that would be like my number one thing is just just absolute basic. Charting is such a necessity, and the research has shown that just charting will get rid of will alleviate some of the symptoms because you can see that it’s monthly and that brings you relief.
Le’Nise [Oh, wow, that’s really interesting. I hadn’t heard that.. So there’s a kind of psychosomatic element of knowing that, oh, actually, it’s not all in my head that this is actually happening to me.
Natasha Yeah. And like, it makes you feel like, you know, aware that it is definitely happening, but also that knowing that it’s monthly brings people relief that it’s not like part of some sort of hideous disease that is lurking.
Le’Nise Whoa. OK. Amazing. So at the very minimum start charting, tracking your cycles, understanding what’s happening to you, spotting patterns and that in of itself might be helpful. Thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s been wonderful speaking to you. I’ve learnt a lot. I hope the listeners have learnt a lot too. All the links to contact you will be in the show. Show notes.
Natasha Great. And I can’t wait to hear how you get on with the products.
Le’Nise Yes, I’ll let you know.
Natasha Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure to be on your show today.
Le’Nise Thank you.