Period Story Podcast, Episode 54: Kerrie-Anne Bradley, Try To Match The Amount of Movement You Do With Where You’re At In Your Menstrual Cycle

On today’s episode of Period Story, I’m so pleased to share my conversation with Kerrie-Anne Bradley, a  Pilates teacher, founder of Pilates At Your Desk, and author of Move More At Your Desk. A self-confessed ex-sloucher, her mission is to get us all moving more during the working day, in simple ways, so that we feel better in our bodies and minds. She’s so passionate about movement and splits her time working with individuals, groups and businesses globally. 

Kerrie-Anne and I had a great conversation about exercise and movement around the menstrual cycle, the process of writing a book and of course, the story of her very first period!

Thank you, Kerrie-Anne!

P.S. Kerrie-Anne has kindly offered listeners the first month of Move At Your Desk free with the code MAYDHAPPY! 

Get in touch with Kerrie-Anne:

Website

Move at Your Desk membership

The Move More at Your Desk book

Instagram

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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Le’Nise Tell me the story of your very first period.

Kerrie-Anne It took me a while to to try to remember. Actually, it’s funny, it’s something I wasn’t at the forefront of my mind, so I was working on a fruit and veg stall as a Saturday girl. And I was 14 and I’d been to sleep at my friend’s house the night before. So it started on Saturday morning because I’d gone into work and actually I didn’t know what it was or what was happening to me. And and I remember just being a bit freaked out all day, working at the fruit and veg stall and really worried about it. And it wasn’t until I got home and I said to my mum, Oh, this is happened. And then she said, Oh my goodness, you got your period. And then I just went from being like, you know, utterly worried to utterly freaked out and embarrassed. And like mum stop it, stop embarrassing me. Stop. And then, yeah, so that’s how it came about. 

Le’Nise So we just go back to what you said about you, you weren’t sure what was happening. So you were 14 and had you had any any menstrual health education at that point or any had any of your friends already got their periods? 

Kerrie-Anne So in terms of education and teaching, I think at school, I went to an all girls school actually, and we did have a few sessions in. I think we called it PSE at the time, but I used to think that I was like to think of myself as a bit of a rebel back then, you know, I wasn’t really. So, so I skipped the sessions on the sex education and periods. It’s just a really rebellious thing to do. So, no, I didn’t. I didn’t make those sessions. 

So so I understood the science of it because we talked about the facts in science, but that’s fairly abstract and removed from the emotional and emotive stuff. Abstract, maybe not so much the right word, but you know, it’s a bit cold and clinical clinical and had some of my friends started their period. I think so. Probably. I mean, I was fairly, I think from memory I was fairly late compared to some of my other friends, so I would have been towards the end of 14. I think it actually was. It was sunny and my birthday’s in January. So it was a sunny day. So it must have been going on towards the end of 14 or the middle of 14. So I think probably my friends had but it wasn’t really something that we talked about. It was something that you would use as a badge of honour, I think, to to show that you are a woman now. But aside from that, I don’t think we we really talked about it other than being in that way. 

Le’Nise And when you when you went home and you, your mum was like, Oh my gosh, did she then kind of explain everything that was going on? And what was that conversation like? 

Kerrie-Anne Not really what I remember. I think I think it was perhaps as awkward for my mum as it was for me. We didn’t really have that much of a relationship in terms of explaining stuff like that. So she did the practical stuff like went out and got all the necessary bits, but too many things and I was like, Oh my goodness, again, I’ve got all this stuff. I don’t really know what these things are. And then because of my reaction to her, I guess she would have liked to have more of a conversation about it because but because I reacted, I guess, in an embarrassed way and leave me alone, maybe that didn’t happen because I put the barriers up. 

Le’Nise How did you then continue to educate yourself about what was happening to your body? 

Kerrie-Anne Well, it’s funny, actually, because I didn’t really do very much of that. I just loved the practical stuff and then went about my, well, you know, my merry way. I was not always, do you know what? I even from a young age, I got very bad period pains and mood ups and ups and downs and up and down emotions. And so, I mean, I didn’t even know I didn’t even document my cycle full until about three, three or four years ago, actually. So it was kind of I knew I was going to be getting my period because I’d get really bad pains the day before. But it was more that I was just sort of, yeah, just I was just going through it, but I wasn’t understanding it. And I wasn’t. I wasn’t really well informed, I’d say. 

Le’Nise So when you say you were just going through through it, was it, you get these pains and these mood changes? And was it a case of just dealing, dealing with it whenever they came up? 

Kerrie-Anne  Yeah, exactly, exactly. So I always try to make sure that I had stuff in the house and then dealing with it when it came up in a really angry way. Oh, this is an inconvenience. Oh, I’ve got it now. I’ve got to wear jeans and I’ve got to make sure I’ve got all this stuff. And quite often I wouldn’t remember all this stuff, you know? So yeah, it was dealing with it, as you say. Yeah. 

Le’Nise And and so now what would you say your relationship with your period is like, are your periods still painful, do you still experience the mood changes?

Kerrie-Anne So I definitely experience the mood changes, but I diarise my cycle now. So I think it helps me to understand when different parts of the cycle are happening and also to eat a bit better as well. So, my friend, she’s telling me you’ve to eat some sweet potato, so and I do that . So I do that helps the pain. .And also, it depends how busy I am as well. So I’ve noticed that when I’m more relaxed going into just before, when my periods comes then, I’m less likely to have such intense pains, which I don’t know if there’s scientific stuff behind that. However, I’ve noticed that that’s the way it goes. So I try to be a bit more, a bit kinder to myself and also to appreciate that because I have, you know, I have my tendency is to go, go, go, go, go, go, go. So even just taking a bit more responsibility for that. So not going all the time has made a difference to that and also I talk quite openly with my daughter about these things. She’s 10. So we were already having that conversation, and she’s understanding as well that we can experience different needs and emotions during our cycle. And she says stuff to me like, is your period coming, Mummy? Stuff like that. So. So that’s where I’ve got to. But that’s only so for the last two years of learning about that. So I’ve still got a long way to go and I’m going to read your book. Yeah, that’s that’s where I’m at.

Le’Nise So what happened two years ago that made you start to look a little bit more deeper into what was going on with your menstrual cycle? 

Kerrie-Anne So I’m actually I went to a retreat called the Self-love retreat, run by two ladies called Deanne and Kerry. Do you know them? So they have this lovely retreat in in Ibiza, and I went along to it. My friend Summer invited me along and I had no idea what I was, what I was going in for. I just thought, Oh, do you know whart? My gut told me this was the right thing to do and and it was amazing. It was all about understanding your cycle and the different phases of it, and also how that relates to seasons and two different female archetypes and stuff like that. And I just learned so much from that. And then I tried to put some of that stuff into practice. And I still like to follow, Kerry’s become good friend of mine, and I got to follow along to them because they just sharing information stuff on Instagram. Not necessarily about periods,just about life in general 

Le’Nise How it feels to learn more about your menstrual cycle in that sort of environment. 

Kerrie-Anne Oh, it’s really good because I felt well previously I would have felt really embarrassed, I suppose saying it was a big group because women about how many, maybe I can’t remember now, 15. I think something like that. And we were sharing all this stuff and talking very openly about all manner of things to do with our lives. And I’d never I’d talk openly with friends and so on, but I never had that kind of conversation with people I didn’t know. So it was a really amazing way of normalizing talking about things that that happened to you, that previously I would have thought, Oh gosh, it’s not okay. 

Le’Nise And were or people quite openly sharing their own stories. The other women on the retreat? 

Kerrie-Anne Mm hmm. Yeah, mostly. And also about things that were going on in their lives. But what was remarkable, actually I’ve just remembered, is that so I was actually not far into my cycle, which I did notice. I mean, I’d know that I had a period like the week before or whatever, but quite a few people within that women’s circle got their periods there. Oh, wow. When it wasn’t time to. So we all sort of what’s what’s the word? 

Le’Nise Sync?

Kerrie-Anne What is that what I’m thinking harmonize. But that isn’t quite the right word. Yes. And it was amazing. So then so then it was just talk about in ancient times about how women would go to a tent together when they were going to have their bleeds. And then and this is where the magic happened because they were very insightful and intuitive at that time. And so that was quite nice because that was a real life demonstration of a, current life demonstration of that story, that story that may well have happened. 

Le’Nise Yeah, yeah, yeah, and it’s interesting when talking about synching because you when you read in the mainstream papers about this phenomenon, it tends to be, get dismissed. When you talk to women anecdotally about it, they will say, Yeah, I was living with this house full of girls or women, and then we all we all synched, your experience that you’ve just shared. So I do think is something something in it, even though it gets dismissed, like scientifically because so many women, they share that they’ve had this experience of synching along with whoever they’re on, maybe they’re on a long holiday or retreat or living or in close contact with other women. And I think there’s something really interesting and quite powerful about that. 

Kerrie-Anne Yeah, I think that certainly I can recall that wasn’t the first time that it happened to me because I can remember friends that we would talk about it and stuff. I mean, I grew up in a household with my sister and mom and dad, but I don’t remember also sharing it. But I think it’s because we didn’t talk about it. We didn’t. We didn’t talk to each other about it. 

Le’Nise That is so interesting because I was thinking about like, if, has that ever happened to me? And then I just don’t know. I can’t recall because we never talked about it. So like when I’m thinking about living in the university, when I I like all of a couple of years, I had another female roommate or first year where I lived in a dorm with, you know, loads of other people I just don’t remember. We just we just didn’t talk about it back then. But going back to what you were saying about how openly you talk about your period and where you’re at with your daughter. What prompted you to be so open with her? 

Kerrie-Anne I’m not too sure if that actually I think it was just it just happened without me thinking that this is what I’m going to do. So does that make sense? You know, it was something that I’m fairly open with my daughter about most things. So I think maybe it was just a natural and natural conversation that we had. And see I’m quite vocal about those things. I know probably too much sometimes. So maybe, maybe that’s just past that. Yeah, I didn’t want her to have the same shame and embarrassment and stuff that I had when I was growing up. So about the whole manners of things. So I think to try to change that, that’s that’s me also where this comes from. Yeah. 

Le’Nise Do you feel any shame about your period now? 

Kerrie-Anne Not really, no. I have to say I said I at the retreat that I mentioned before, the Self-love retreat, Dee and Kerry, they were encouraging us to like, love our periods and embrace it. And so I’m not there yet. Definitely not, and I’m not sure I ever will be. But, you know, I’ve accepted that it’s it’s what it is. And actually, I’m I don’t feel embarrassed about it or anything. I just think…

Le’Nise I think that kind of there’s a spectrum when it comes to our relationships with our period. And I’m our cycle where some people, they really they love it and like, they’re really in that really period positive space and something I talk about a lot is this idea of even just being a bit more neutral about your your period and your menstrual cycle and coming away from this place of hate or discuss or shame because there’s a lot of information that we can get from wherever we are. And it can be quite powerful. So it’s interesting that you, you know, you got to that place and that’s a great place to be. 

Kerrie-Anne Yeah, definitely, and I think, as you say, if you are open to being less well to apply less negative connotations to it, then you can learn so much more and it can make you feel a whole lot better. So. So I think that’s good enough to hold, isn’t it? 

Le’Nise Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And so you are a Pilates teacher and you’ve just released a wonderful new book, which I want to talk about in a minute. But tell us a little bit more about Pilates and maybe how you incorporate your knowledge of your menstrual cycle into your own practice. 

Kerrie-Anne And yeah, sure, I mean, I teach all sorts of different types of Pilates, not so much on machines at the moment because I’ve got a few bits and bobs here, but I’m mostly teaching online, but I can teach reformer and everything like that. Piilates. For me, it’s just this wonderful framework of movement for creating balance within your within your body. So making all of the different body parts work in an even in a way, is possible. And so, so. And it’s centered around the core, the middle. But that’s because it’s trying to create balance. And so if you start in the middle, then you’re more likely to have a closer version of symmetry within an asymmetrical structure. So, so, so, so. So I think I can. That’s it. Joseph Pilates is the guy. He started it. He created a repertoire, a sequence of movements where the movements knew. Now, because, you know, these different movements show up in many different movement modalities. And they’re so, you know, there are so many and only so many ways we can move, although I’m not sure what I remember is going and and. But however, he applied his knowledge and created a sequence of movements and then adapted it for different machines to enhance how people would move. And so so that’s how I see Pilates and I teach mat classes. 

And then I’ve got business called Pilates At Your Desk where I mostly teach people in a corporate setting or a platform for individuals to join as well where I’m doing movement that they can do throughout the day because it’s all very well doing an exercise class for an hour in the day. But then if you’re not moving for the rest of the day then your body is not going to be very happy about it and it’s not moving in the sense that it’s for the next time you had or running a marathon or whatever that takes up quite a lot of your day, and it’s just simple stuff. So, you know, moving your arms, shaking, waving your spine, moving your legs and trying to trying to get a little, there’s a term used by someone in America. Katie Bowman, I think, is the person who created it called movement snacks. So just slotting in, I call the movement breaks actually in my book, but slotting in opportunities for movement. 

How do I then take into consideration my cycle while doing this? Well, you know what? It can be tricky because so part of the time, every every week I teach a set number of mat classes, for example. And and because it’s online, I do it with the with the class while teaching them as well. And so when it’s when I’m in the my, it’s when I get my period or just before, when I want to chill out a bit more. It can be tricky because I’m still teaching and I and so I show up for that bit, but then I’ll be much gentler with myself in general. So just gentle stretches a bit more yoga based, which I know you’re more familiar. Anyway, it’s taking much more time to rest. So I lie down a lot in those in these time, when I can in the day, I teach a lot of one to one, 20 or so week and and I don’t move with them. So say that’s yeah. I think it’s quite a few with my clients. I sort of do a lot of rehab work, actually, so quite a few of my clients come with a medical condition. So, so I’m very much eyes on the person that so. So when I’m in my, you know, my more energetic phase of my cycle, they’re not really going for it. And I’m doing all sorts of like running around the garden. I never make it outside of just about one minute go to my Peloton classes doing it all sorts. And yeah, so so I try do. Try to match the amount of movement I do with where I’m at. Yeah. I hope some of that is unavoidable. Yeah, within teaching. Yeah. But if a client comes in, they say, Oh, I’ve got my period today and I feel pretty rough and I’m not going to make them, do you know, loads of like hundreds and the rest just wouldn’t do fast? Yeah, yeah. 

Le’Nise That’s really interesting how you say that. Like, there are classes where you won’t demonstrate each, all of the poses. And I had my period last week and I I had to remind myself, you don’t have to kind of demonstrate every single pose. It’s fine. You can do verbal instructions, verbal demonstrations, and it’s absolutely fine. Even though I’ve been teaching for a while, I still have to remind myself of that because the tendency is to kind of want to jump in and show them. But it’s actually can be more powerful when you’re just, you know, just talking, talking more and doing less. So it’s interesting that you, you say that. So tell tell us a little bit more about your your business. So Pilates At Your Desk. That is so. And what you said about movements snacks or what you said movement breaks. That’s so interesting because, you know, certainly in the last couple of years, we’ve spent a lot more time at our desks and you see this where people, they’re just kind of they’ve been more sedentary and they’re starting to get back into fitness, but they’re finding it a little bit more challenging. So talk about the concept of pilates at your desk, how you came up with that and what kind of what you what you do with that in practice. 

Kerrie-Anne And so I came up with that, before I taught Pilates, I worked at desk for about 10 years and I had a whole list of aches and pains. I had sciatica, so these sort of constant neck pains, shoulder aches all the rest of it, and I was pretty young to have all those things. So I started going to Pilates classes. I started when my daughter was born, a lovely lady called Grace. It talks about periods a lot, actually. She’s a postnatal and prenatal specialist, so she works with women all the time and she. So I started lessons with her post-natally and then I went back to work and I went to a studio near there, . I mean, my work’s had all these different places and then the lady convinces me to quit my job. So I did. 

And then I was teaching Pilates for a few years, and then I was sort of having clients come to lessons. I was teaching mostly one to one step in and a few reformer classes, and people would come and they’d have things going on in their bodies. And I would fix them or help them to fix themselves in that state in that hour. And then they come back the next week, the same things. So my brain’s thinking. How are we going to fix this? What are we going to be able to do that’s going to change this relationship? Because this is this is only this is only a short term solution here. So so what I did was I put together a programme like a bit like Joseph Pilates, but I’m not calling myself him, just like a program of exercises that people could do during the week. And they were all seated and standing things. And those who did it started to feel better, and those who didn’t tier journey was continuing on the same path. Although, you know, they were making improvements, just taking longer. 

So, so I decided to roll this out because I figured I’ve got all this information and I want to share this information with people because actually, a lot of how we feel in our bodies when we’re walking can be easily fixed by doing, making a few more changes, being a bit more aware about where your body is in space, changing how you position yourself over your feet when you’re standing, if you stand for work or how you sit. And so various things like that. And so then I connected with a few businesses through friends and so on, and I just went in and I trialled the workshop with them. I worked with them, the newspaper, a Japanese newspaper, a PR agency and a finance company. My first clients. And the rest is history really. So now I’ve worked with hundreds of companies, been online for the last two years before I used to run around London. I did some sessions in Jersey, I’m from Jersey, so that’s that connection that. And now I’m doing it globally. And yeah, I’ve been lucky. I’ve worked with loads of the big companies now Facebook, PayPal, Google, those guys and lots of the big law firms and accountancy, ASOS. And I did a great thing with Camden Town Brewery actually where I went in and I spent a few days with them figuring out how the different cohorts of people what so some of them who do a lot of standing, just doing distribution or packaging or the brewing bit. And then I held a little one to one with them and I could give them some bespoke exercises and then do some workshops, and that was a pretty cool thing that was just before the pandemic. Yeah. So that’s it really. So now I’m sort of going back into in person. 

I’ve got a couple of workshops happening in New York this month which a great teacher in New York is going to be running for me, and I’m just trying to build it. And then and then I’ve got a platform as well, which is called Move At Your Desk, and it’s just loads of on demand videos that anybody can join. And and and that’s on. Each month I hold a workshop which is live and it’s a postural clinic, I call it. I’m not sure that’s the best name, but it’s one that people understand. On Sunday, I did a walking and running workshop. How to how to do it was very much focused on feet with a friend of mine, Verity. She’s a gait expert. And then and then we did the clinic. So this all these I’ve done one on hips, back, shoulders. That’s a very long explanation, isn’t it? 

Le’Nise No, that’s great. It’s always really interesting to hear. Well, people who have their own businesses to hear the journey of what what prompted you to give up your corporate, your job in the corporate world and then build your own business and you’re doing something really interesting where you have so ostensibly you’re a Pilates teacher, but then you’ve got all your fingers in lots of different pies where you’ve got, you know, you’ve got your book, which we’ll talk about in a minute. You’ve got your online platform. You do workshops. You do lots of different things. So for anyone who’s listening, who wants to do something similar, you’ve got a great role model here in Kerrie-Anne. And so, yeah, it’s really it’s really amazing. And you created this online platform where you’ve got lots of videos and workshops. So for anyone who wants to join that, can you give us the details? 

Kerrie-Anne Yeah, sure. So you can find it on my website, pilatesatyourdesk.com, and it’s £18 per month and that’s an access to anything or one hundred and eighty pounds for the year. And I also have corporate membership options available to me, and since we’re here, I’m very happy to give anyone listening to this a month’s free. So so I’ll get I’ll send you the details that he can remember if you’re listening and you could do it while you’re listening MAYDHAPPY in the discount box. When you’re signing up, then you get the first month for free. 

Le’Nise OK, OK, great. That’s very generous of you. Thanks. And now talk talk about your book. So are both of our books came out on the same day? So this is three weeks ago now. And what what someone some wise person once told me is that the book publication day is just the start. So talk about firstly, tell talk about how you got a book deal and what it was like writing and in your case, shooting the photos. Tell us a little bit more about that. 

Kerrie-Anne So actually, that happened a bit retrospectively because I already had photos. So so we we matched them by taking the photos. I did have to take some more, actually, but in hindsight, I wish I’d done that to after I’d written it. But that’s not the end of it. Back to how it began. I would say Anya, probably if you’ve met that, yeah, I knew you did work for Watkins. Publishing is someone who I’ve been known on Instagram for a long time. And before I taught Pilates actually as well. And so she has always been saying, I’ll be great, you should write a book. It will be great. It would be good to get that. And then she actually, I think another friend of mine had also just written a book and said, You need to write about this. You want me to put you in touch with my agent was like, No, no, I can’t be bothered with that. I’ve already got a lot of stuff going on. And then I’m you said, Come on, not do it. You can do it. 

And I said to my friend Eloise, Oh, I’ve got this offer, but I don’t think I’m going to do it. And I don’t mean to sound like, you know, like it’s I’m grateful because I’m not ungrateful. I just was thinking, I’m so busy. I’m so busy in lockdown with the workshops and everything, and I just thought, I can’t do this is too much. And my friend Eloise said, Look, you’ve been offered to write, to write a book. People don’t get those opportunities. You have to write the book. OK, fine. Put together the proposal and Anya helped me. And then and then it came about. But I had written quite a bit already because I used quite a lot of information in my workshops. So and all of the movements, of course, I had the pictures and everything so that the actual writing part and I don’t know how you felt about this process, but I actually found it completely exhausting. And I was writing, working sometimes 10 hours a day and writing between lessons and night time and then trying to run the house as well and be a mom and a wife and a dog mom and everything. So. And I just found it. I found it. So I didn’t appreciate just how much it had taken out of me. It’s funny until until I look back now and I think, wow, I was tired, you know, and I thought it was great. And it was really because it was so. It is quite fast, actually, it was a fast. I think I signed a contract in January last year. I think it was January and then I handed to it for the last time before that, the editing rounds say for the first time in June. So it was, I think that’s quite is that quite fast. 

Le’Nise I was that was about the same timeframe as me and everyone I’ve spoken to who has said that’s really fast. 

Kerrie-Anne OK. That’s I mean, I don’t really know very many people who’ve written books if I’m honest, but I think it must be quite hard. And then there were a few iterations, quite a few iterations of of editing and so on. And and then suddenly, you know, there it is published three weeks ago and I find I remember I sent you a message and I was kind of like, you know, I feel like I haven’t done all the things that I should be doing. I don’t really know what to do. And you said to me that about point about the lovely wise words that someone had shared with you about it being start of the process. And and so that was that was really great. Thank you, I’m a lot less worried about it. But now that being, I think it’s scarier having something out there where you’ve got no control over what people say about it. And that’s the biggest thing. I think that’s hard because, you know, that is I mean, I I think I know that not everybody is going to like my book because why would they say it’s, you know, it’s it’s not for everybody. But when you read stuff about what people think about it, I mean, it’s quite mean, you know, it’s it’s hard. It’s really hard. So I’m trying not to look at the book, there’s loads of nice things, reviews, but the bad ones you focus. I’ve been focusing on the bad one, so I need to look. 

Le’Nise Yeah, there is a thing where people, you could have someone like one hundred, ninety nine people saying amazing things, but then one person says something a bit negative, and that’s the thing that sticks in your mind. 

Kerrie-Anne Yeah, exactly. And yeah, but that’s that’s part of the learning. I think it’s a brave thing to do putting putting your work out there. And, you know, I don’t know how you feel about this, but you know, if if I wrote the book again today, it would be different from how it was last January. So I feel that I think that, you know, you learn so much in our in our profession as time goes on. So you could write it differently could present it differently. It’s difficult to present exercise in a book because in my mind, people do exercise by doing it rather than reading it and then doing it. So I didn’t want to make it all exercises in the book because I think there’s limited value in that. But for some people, that is what they want. So, of course, that this book, which is not about information about why we need to move more, thinking about how you stand, thinking about how you sit, then the exercises and then tips on how to integrate movement. This book just is not going to be the one for those people that want to read and do exercises or have, you know, big pictures with instructions underneath because this isn’t what this is. Yeah. So yeah. 

Le’Nise It’s really it’s really easy for people to criticize, but it’s much harder for someone to actually write a book. So I think whenever you get negative reviews or reviews that you just don’t feel that happy about you have to remember that like it’s easy to be a critic and it’s easy to criticize what other people are doing. 

But what’s far harder is the graft that it takes to kind of not only write something and write something so comprehensive, but to put yourself out there. You know what both of us do. We’re both putting ourselves out there. And there’s, you know, there’s a lot there’s something really great about that, having the confidence to be able to say, Well, these are the videos that I’ve created. This is the book that I’ve written. You can take it or leave it. If it’s not for you, then I’m sure there’s something else out there that is for you. 

Kerrie-Anne Exactly, exactly. I like the way you’re thinking. 

Le’Nise When I wrote my book, I was really clear that, you know, my book was very much about the menstrual cycle. Different conditions, but also how food can help. And there’s not a lot out there about that. About like specifically like the detail of how food can help. And I’ve always been clear, if you want something that’s a bit more of a polemic, you know, that’s more about like feminism and the patriarchy and the effect of the menstrual cycle. There are books out there that cover that, but that’s not my book. So you know, you get what you get. If you don’t, if you don’t like it, then there’s something else for you. I’m being I found to be quite quite pragmatic in my viewpoint around this. 

Kerrie-Anne I think that’s really, actually really great because you’ve created boundary there. And I think actually even just saying to you now I’ve said about this is not a book that site written, detailed as well. There are lots of exercises in it, but it’s not one that you intended to go. But, you know, like a routine, there are routines in that, but they’re a very small section of it. It’s made me then say, well, the what the boundaries are really like. This is a book that will help you if you’re experiencing pain, if you’re not moving enough, if you want to know a bit more about how to, when to move forward or why you should do it and then how to do it, then this is for you. Yeah. And then you can find my videos, if you want to follow along. In my mind, that’s how you do it. Yeah. 

Le’Nise And where can where can people get the book?

Kerrie-Anne It’s on Amazon and it’s called Move More At Your Desk. I hope I haven’t put you off, you know? It’s a really nice book on Amazon and that it’s you buy on Waterstones,  Watkins through Watkins publishing. Mostly, . I’ve just been saying Amazon. How about you? 

Le’Nise Yeah, I’ve been saying Amazon or anywhere, anywhere. You buy books. 

Kerrie-Anne Yeah, I’ve got a few copies at home. I’m so happy to hear you. 

Le’Nise So you’ve got your book. And we, as we said, it’s a first. You know, it’s the start of the journey. But from a book perspective, what’s next? Have you thought about the next book you’re going to write? Is there going to be a next book? What have you started even thinking about that yet? 

Kerrie-Anne No, the answer is no. I haven’t thought about that, but I know. Have you? 

Are you going to write another book? 

Le’Nise Yes, I want to. Yeah. Yeah. I want to.  

Kerrie-Anne If I’m honest. But you know, that could change. Maybe I, as I’ve been talking to you and I’ve said to you, if I rewrote it now, I’d do it differently and I’d have extra things to say and so on. Then that’s perhaps planted a seed for something new. But actually, I think I’m a much better verbal communicator. And it probably would be the right. Yeah, right. Yeah. So so I really like doing these kinds of things and teaching workshops and being on panels and presenting and jumping around the stage and stuff like that. So, so, so so I really like to channel my efforts into to that. Yeah, yeah. For the next for the next 10 years. 

Le’Nise Well, it’s it’s amazing. An amazing thing to have written a book. So yeah, no, this isn’t. I’m just like, This is my natural like me, the way I am thinking, always thinking about the next thing. But you know, there is something about it. Just also just enjoying the fact that you’ve written a book. That’s no mean feat. You know, there are a lot of people who would love to write a book. So, yeah, you know, it’s amazing. 

Kerrie-Anne It’s a difficult one because I think I’m also latching on onto the next saying the next thing. And my head is like thinking of all these different things. But one thing that is tricky is to list the thing that you said about enjoying that. You’ve written a book. I don’t think I’m quite there yet. I have like moments of it when I’m like, Wow, I did this, but it’s quite hard. I think if you are someone who’s always on to the next thing. Yeah, to be with. But actually, I put it right next to me everywhere I go. So I can remember you wrote a book 

Le’Nise And you’re on the cover of the book as well. 

Kerrie-Anne You’re on the cover of the book. .I’m on the cover of the book. Yeah, I know. I mean, to be honest, I’ve not even taken it back in, but I’m actually on. Yeah. It’s funny. Isn’t it funny? 

Le’Nise Yeah, it’s it’s something that, you know, you really kind of just enjoy, enjoy the moment. 

Period Story Podcast, Episode 53: Rachel Burgess, You’ve Got To Create The Life You Want To Live

On today’s episode of Period Story, I’m so pleased to share my conversation with Rachel Burgess, the owner of the Rachel Burgess Bridal Boutique, which she opened 10 years ago to celebrate handmade Welsh bridal wear and accessories.

Rachel is truly inspiring and I’m so grateful that she opened up and shared her story. After a routine scan to follow up from a hip operation when she was 22, the results found that there was a cyst making a home on Rachel’s right ovary, which was surgically removed. In 2018, after another routine check up on the remaining left ovary it was clear that another cyst was forming so that too was removed, leaving Rachel with 30% of a working ovary. Rachel just had her first period in five years and we talk about this and her view of womanhood, post-surgery. And of course, Rachel shared the story of her first period.

Thank you, Rachel!

Get in touch with Rachel:

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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Le’Nise So I start each podcast with with one question, which is, tell me the story of your very first period. 

Rachel I can remember, it’s oh, my goodness, so clearly in my mind, I remember going to the bathroom first thing and I was about 14 years old and I was wearing bright pink knickers and I was like, Whoa, what is it? What are what is going on here, team? And I remember having a little bit of a moment and thinking, What is this? Is this what people have been talking about? A period? I think this is happening. So I remember running out of the bathroom, running along the hallway, and I’m kind of like calling my mother out of her room being like, I think something’s happening. And she was like, Oh, you know, those things are left in your bed a couple of months ago. You’ll need those now. And I was like, OK, and this is it. 

And literally that was my introduction to the world of having a period of, OK, I’ll go find those weird pad things that you left on my bed and didn’t say much about other than you’ll need them at some point. And so I I remember thinking, OK, so how do these work? You know, like reading the back of it, reading the back of the label and kind of going, what are these little like wing flap things that kind of go, Well, how does that work? So I remember thinking, I’m being really paranoid when I when I. When I kind of put everything back on of like, can people see this through my school uniform, I was really conscious of it. And can people see that I’m wearing a sanitary towel and myself and my girlfriends, we didn’t really. We didn’t talk about it, really. But I kind of I remember feeling slightly self-conscious to begin with. And then as that kind of week or couple of days went on, I kind of felt a bit like I’m a woman now, like, I am no longer a girl, I am a woman, and I can remember that kind of feeling then. I don’t know it felt like a really. It felt like a an awakening in that in that sense that I’ve definitely come into a new chapter of my life. 

Le’Nise Say more about this feeling of being a woman or becoming a woman and awakening what made you feel like that? 

Rachel So I guess I’ve always been. I’m the youngest of all of my siblings. I was the youngest in like kind of a school year, so I’ve always felt a little bit like the little one, you know? And I kind of just had this feeling of, Oh, I belong here now. Like, I’m I can do my GCSEs now because I’m a woman. You know, it was those kind of moments and. Even though my period is from that day was never regular, it will. I was very lucky that it was never painful, but it was heavy and she made herself known when she did make an appearance. I was like, OK, we’re in this, and we were in this about 10 days. It was never a short thing and where I grew up. So my parents are farmers in mid-Wales. And so there was a little store, like a little corner shop. I will say it wasn’t on the corner, it was in the middle of just the little houses, but I had to run across two fields to get to. 

And I remember thinking one day, Oh my goodness, my period started because it was never like I said it was never. Regular, you never had the same time every month if it did happen every month. And I remember thinking, OK, at the back of my wardrobe, I’ve got these things, so I’ll put them in my pants and I’ll be fine. And then I remember it started. And I was like, Oh my God, I don’t have any of these left. So the next thing I know my mother is, like I said to her, I don’t have anything and I’ve got to go to school. She’s like, I’ll be back. And she runs across these two fields to the local shop. And they had them right high up like above on the top shelf of anything and so much so that the guy had to get his ladder out to go and get the pack with sanitary towels down. And then she she kind of ran back and even that she was so brilliant with that type of thing, she never really spoke about it. She’s like, There you are. Like, That’s that’s what you need. And the sanitary towels, like the ones in the corner shop. I remember they were awful, like I was so thick and was was so uncomfortable. I’m just I was so paranoid all day that they were just going to slip out or anything like that. And so always then made a point of kind of going whenever I’m in town on my own, I will go and get the good, Always sanitary towels. And that was what I will then use. But yes, I did get a little bit caught up with that type of thing every now and again. 

Le’Nise Talk a little bit about how you learnt more about your period and what was happening with your body because you say you grew up in rural Wales. And your mum gave you a pack of pads but didn’t really talk to you about what was going on. So how did you educate yourself about what was going on with your body? 

Rachel So I. Oh, do you know what I think I just learnt as I went along? And because like I said, we didn’t talk about it, even though us girlfriends were really close. We didn’t chat about. What oh, I’ve got my period this month. You might hear it in the in PE  changing rooms. Somebody might go, Oh, I’m in so much pain. I can’t do this this this week, and I’m like, Oh, why? And then I was thinking, should my be painful or? And then you hear people I really need to have chocolate like now because of my period, and I’m like, Oh, OK. Is that something then that I will just have like, like when I’m on my period to do that, I will have chocolate. You know, it’s just I don’t know why we didn’t talk about it. 

I think it’s a generational thing from my for my parents, they didn’t really charge, and so therefore like they like, well, we don’t know. Whereas now I’m a woman in my mid-thirties, I’m like, I love talking about this stuff because it’s so empowering because knowledge is power, right? And I really could have done with more of that, I think, at that age. So I I wasn’t academic in school. I was definitely there for the social side of things. So I was in the bottom set for science. So the moment you mentioned periods, oh my God, like it was hysteria in the classroom, nobody you like and the teachers, they were trying to keep us focussed. They were trying. But oh my god, if you mentioned ovaries, uterus, womb, anything, I mean, the guys were just in floods of hysteria on the floor because they didn’t know how to cope with the situation. So then I’m like trying to be cool and trying to be cool, but then secretly going, I really want to learn about all this. Like, what? What does this mean? But then we were really taught about the biology side of it rather than the emotional side of it. And that is definitely something in the last couple of years, I’ve kind of really delved into and I’m noticing how my body is feeling, but that’s because I’ve made a huge amount of changes within my life personally to really focus on that and become in tune with what my what my body is telling me. 

Le’Nise So say a little bit more about what you did to to educate yourself about what was happening and also about the changes that you’ve made to be more in tune with yourself and what your body is telling you. 

Rachel So. So basically at the age of I think it was 16, I went on the combined pill and I kind of. Again, that was a moment of like, oh, this is another level of of me owning my body and taking that kind of empowerment side of things. And I think the pill gave me the opportunity to have a regular period or a bleed in that sense. And I loved being able to have the control of I did lots of horse riding and gymnastics and stuff like that and kind of being like, I don’t want to be on my period now. So I was petrified of like in PE for either GCSE PE and we were I think about six of us females on those were 14 males and we had to wear leotards and the guys didn’t. And so I was absolutely then thinking, Oh my God, is this the day that I’m going to come on my period? Is this the day I’m going to come on my period? Then I really appreciated actually having the pill because it meant I could take some control going OK, even though I know I want a period, I don’t want it now. And I stayed on that for a very, very long time until my early 30s. 

So I that was my education in a way of kind of think, OK, I’ll take control. I have this pack. I followed Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then I have a week off so that I can have a bleed and then I’ll start again. But I went for a routine scan. I had a hip operation. So they’re just doing a little routine scan on that. And it brought up that there were actually some dermoid cysts making a little home on my right ovary. And I was like, Right, then what does that mean? And it meant having my ovary surgically removed. So I think has about twenty five, maybe at that time when that got removed. And that was quite a big kind of conversation. They they said they would like to have a chat to myself, my partner at the same time that if we were thinking about having a family, then these are things that we need to consider. 

All of a sudden that you’re sitting down and like having a glass of wine thinking, Well, we need to talk about, are we going to do that? I don’t. I don’t. I don’t want that. But then when somebody saying that decision might be taken away? Well, hang on a minute. I want to be in control of that. But luckily, we both very much on the same page with that. But that isn’t in our life plan that we’ve that we’ve got mapped out, I say, mapped out. We’ll see, you know, had to go with the flow with all of that. And yeah, so I had the operation, I had the ovary removed. And then after that I was like, Why am I putting this pill in my body? Like, I need to give my left over a chance here to kind of stop seeing if she can create this period for me naturally? So I then. Came off the pill and. I looked at how I was living my life, and it was very, very unhealthy. I ate convenience food. I was a theatre stage manager for a very long time, so I was away on tour a lot, which meant you would have your evening meal after you do your your evening show. So you’d go out for a curry about 11 o’clock at night and then you have quite a few drinks and then you’d stay in bed until midday the next day. Then you’ll get to the theatre and you’ll do a matinee show. So it was very much like. And then you would eat a bag of Haribo throughout the show to keep you going because you need the energy levels. And then there’s always snacks there. A lot of drink was involved, and I thought some things here need to change. 

So at the age of 30. Yeah. 30. I became completely plant based and a completely plant based diet. I haven’t drank now for two years, and that has completely from that, from taking all of those almost allergens away from my body. I’ve become more in tune than ever, and my body speaks to me, what it needs. And I listen to it because it’s not constantly in a fight or flight kind of situation. I find I’m so yeah, and I started moving. I never moved before. I’ve got myself a pair of trainers and I just every day just just get out because I have a body that can move. So and I just want to. I want to see what it can do. I want to listen to it, but I want to fuel it with that. With fuel, it would be with the Like, I want to give it that opportunity to thrive. 

Le’Nise Yeah, yeah. So you’ve been on quite a journey and quite transformative one. What did you use to educate yourself about what was going on? So, you know, having an ovary removed is quite a it’s quite a big deal, and it sounds like you did get some aftercare from from the NHS or wherever you have done. Yeah, but then what happened after that? Where did you find out more about what was going on and how did you educate yourself? 

Rachel So podcasts have been really, really useful. I also did quite a bit of reading up because a lot of people were kind of, I actually kept it very private. To be honest, I didn’t talk to a lot of people about it because I thought, basically, I named them both. So I named them Olwen and Olive, because it was much easier to talk to my father about the fact I have ovaries. And if I was like, I have an Olwen and I have an Olive and olive is completely going and we’re going to keep Olwen and he’s like, right, cool. That’s all I need to know tidy. Great. Thank you. So I didn’t really speak to many people about it. I told my girlfriends after the operation, just, you know, I’ve been in. I’ve had this removed and that was my own way of controlling things. And that was my own way of I didn’t want people to worry because as soon as you start to say to people, I have some cysts in my ovaries, you can see their reaction was more than I was becoming. Try to protect them. I’m it’s OK. This is all right. This is in control. We’re going to be alright with this and I just didn’t want any of that. So I kind of just wanted to park that go in and have the surgery be in recovery and heal as fast as I can and then explain. So I’ve just been through this situation. 

What I after afterwards, though it was it was pretty tough like I remember, so I had. But they were hoping to go in through my belly button. Unfortunately, the cyst was 11 centimetres, so they actually ended up going in. I have a C-section scar at the top of my bikini line. And so they went in that way and I ended up with about twenty one staples across my bikini line after afters. And that was quite that was that was painful. Would like even just trying to sit up and sneeze or anything like that. And anybody that has given birth I applaud you that has had a C-section because I do not know how you hold a baby when you have that because I couldn’t even lift up a cup of tea like you want. And yeah, so I the aftercare of that was great, but I had to go to the doctors to have my these staples removed. And unfortunately, I think whoever was removing them. Hadn’t looked at my notes correctly because part of the procedure meant basically inflating my stomach so they could do what they need to to do. And so I was incredibly bloated and I was wearing very loose fitting clothes. And she saw that I had this C-section scar and said, Congratulations. What did you have? And I was like, Oh no, babe, you want to read your notes? Because I didn’t. I’ve actually had an ovary removed and to me, that that’s OK because I’m not planning a family of my own. But to somebody who is 50 percent of that chance has been taken away from them, that’s an incredibly emotional process for them to have to deal with. 

So I was like, Oh no, you want to read your notes on that because that isn’t actually what’s happened. But healing wise, it took me quite a bit of time physically after that. But I also, like I said, my diet wasn’t in the best place then, and I definitely think I was fueling it with the wrong things. So much so that two years ago, when I went back for another little, which kind of just making sure Olwen’s OK. They noticed that dermoids were starting to grow on her now, basically. And I was like, Oh no, here we go again. So I went in and did what was on one of the boutique’s birthdays, actually. So I was like, OK, what a way to celebrate the boutique turning 8 years old, me going back into surgery. But I went in and they they were hoping to say half of it. We managed to save 30 percent. So I now have 30 percent of Olwen left, but I have to say my recovery from that. I was out on the same day and I was back running 10 days later and I had the same procedure. They went along the same scarline again. But I have to say, like, I can’t emphasise enough the person who I was when I had that first operation and the way I ate and the way I treated my body to the person who I am now, I can only put that down to the lifestyle that I lead now, being so quick in comparison to before I was in hospital for 10 days. I was out in the same day this time, but that was awesome. My partner was brilliant. The hospital food wasn’t, wasn’t they? They had a little bit of a freak out moment when I said I’m plant based and they didn’t have anything that they could kind of get me. But that was OK. My other half came in and he just brought in all this fruit and all this veg and just I just sat there and I just to feel that I can literally feel my body just saying, Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is nutrients that can help heal me here. We don’t just heal the internal operations side that’s been going on, but also heal me with hormones, you know, just help help that, really. 

Le’Nise So you’ve been on quite quite a journey with regards to your reproductive health. Did you have you talked about healing, physical healing and emotional healing? Was there ever a moment where you felt like you needed to mourn what what could have been or what? You know, even though you have said that having children wasn’t in your plan? Did you ever feel like you just needed to have a moment of mourning? 

Rachel Most definitely. Yes, especially after the first operation for a good few months, I would say actually, that I was I felt I felt quite angry. But why is this decision been taken away from me, even though I knew I didn’t want that? I wanted to have control of that decision. And of course, then everywhere you look, it just felt like everybody had children or everybody was having children around me. And it was at a time where, you know, I remember saying, I don’t think I’m going to go down that route of having my own children. People would say, Oh, you’ll change your mind, you’ll change your mind. You know, it was definitely in that category. And I was like, Well, even if it did change my mind, I’m actually not sure what the chances are here anyway. You know, so, but I definitely went through that mourning phase and I was a bit like my womanhood. Like I said, these organs make me a woman I love, you know, identifying and being a woman, and I love my body and what it can do. 

But having, yeah, that taken away from me definitely felt like, does it make me less of a woman? Am I less of a woman in that sense? So I had to work through that, and I even know that there were times like. With when people talk about their cycles. Oh, I get this because I can’t identify with that because I don’t have that. And since my last operation, so that was not possible in twenty two now. Yes. So it’s about four years ago, about two years ago. Sorry. And. There’s been a I’ve been not I didn’t go back on the pill after my operation so that I could let see what Olwen the last 30% of her can do like do we have a period naturally here. And no, not at all. So apart from, well, I get so excited about this because I just had my first ever period in four years ago this week, so I’m celebrating. So those really exciting. I was like, Oh my God, what do I do again? I need to remember. But sorry, I completely digress. So if I go back and just explain the lead up to the last operation, I came off the pill so that they were no synthetic hormones in me as such. And then I never had one afterwards. So we’ve been working that way to kind of work out why I wasn’t then having a period. And I found it really. So I found like I maybe couldn’t get involved in some conversations that were happening online or within friendship circles about, Oh, I’m at this stage of my period because I couldn’t identify with that because I don’t know, because I wasn’t having one and I was like, Oh, but I want to know what my spring, summer, winter stages are. I want to be able to to understand that. But I could feel emotionally when I was getting tired, when I was getting exhausted and I thought, Well, maybe that’s something to do with my cycle, but I’m just not having to bleed until last week.

Le’Nise That’s so interesting that you you really wanted to participate in those conversations and also what you mentioned earlier about what you felt as though you may have been less of a woman and this. I just find it so fascinating this strong identification that many of us feel and experience when we have a period, the sense of womanhood. And then when it gets taken away and you know, we most typically that will happen when we are going through menopause, that how that can shake the foundations of how we identify ourselves. Because you hear people say, well, just because you have a you’re having a period doesn’t make you a woman. You know, people will say that, but that’s not how many of us feel, you know? And you’ve articulated your feelings around that so brilliantly. So talk a little bit now about how, if, if this has changed the way you feel about yourself with regards to your womanhood or how you reconciled these changes in terms of how you how you feel identity wise? 

Rachel Sure. So I I’ve come to terms with, Oh, I love my body now more than I ever have done. So I’ve come to terms with, yes, I don’t have these organs as such. These reproductive systems. But what I do have? Oh my God, she’s amazing. You know what? She allows me to do and I love, I love. The way the you know, I can just turn I can do a Pilates class and I might might not be able to do what a lot of the people are doing it for my own physical, like I need to stretch out more. My hamstrings are really, really tight, but I have the privilege to turn up on a yoga mat, a pilates mat and move my body. And so I’ve started loving her, so I’ve changed my outlook around from what she can’t give me in that sense to what she bloody well can give me. And that’s just that is so it feels so peaceful and so empowering a lot along the same lines, like keeping just this morning going for a run. It’s never it’s never easy going for a run. But afterwards I’m like, Oh my God, my body just did that. You know, this is incredible. And I’m surrounded by phenomenal women in the boutique, you know, and I just think it’s so. Every every person is different, every person holds themselves differently, but we if we start celebrating who we are as women then and stop stop thinking about the things that we would change or feel sad about that or I wish I could do that or know why. Look at what we can do. That’s what we’ve got to change. That’s the way that help my mind set. Instead of what we can’t do or what my body can’t do. Let me show you what I bloody well can do, though. You know, 

Le’Nise I love that so, so much is rather so rather than focus on what you don’t have. Focus on what you have, focus on what you can do. I I love that. That is so empowering. I just want to transition a little bit and talk a little bit more about your business and your transition from theatre manager to now bridal boutique owner. Talk about that. 

Rachel So I always knew I wanted to have my own boutique, but I thought it might be something that I would do in my kind of forties. Not when I was twenty four when this happened and I was like, OK. But you just got to go with it. Otherwise you will never know the, myself, my partner. We moved here to Penarth, which is a lovely seaside town in South Wales, about ten minutes outside of Cardiff. And I’m. We went around to our next door neighbours one evening and had this is when I was drinking quite a bit and had a couple of glasses of wine a bit too much. And I said, You know what? There is a shop in Penarth I walk past every day and if it ever comes up for rent, I’m going for it. I’m going to open my own bridal boutique that champions handmade in Wales. And I’m going to do it anyway. I got back home and my other half was like, Wow, Rach? You’ve never said that to anyone before. And I was like, Oh God, did I say to you? Much like, Oh, well, nothing will ever come of it. It was a gift wrapping service beforehand, and the people of Penarth love to have their gifts wrapped beautifully. Well, I ain’t going to go anywhere. I then went back out on tour with Hairspray, and my next door neighbour sent me a text and said This is about two weeks later, sent me a text and just said, Oh, Rach I hope all’s going well. Just to let you know. I’ve walked past that shop in Penarth and there’s a sign on the door that says it’s up for rent. So knocked on the door. And here’s the landlady’s number. And she would say she’d like to meet you when you’re back in a couple of weeks time, right? 

Oh, OK. This is not what I was expecting because I had other contracts lined up beforehand to take on afterwards after her speech finished and I was like, Right, OK, well, we’re just going to go with the flow here team and just see what happens. And I remember it was the 12th of May 2012. It was London Olympics year, awesome. And I was walking up and I was on the phone to my father and I was like, What do I do? And he’s like, Just trust your instincts. See how you feel. There’s no drama. Like, just go, just just meet your landlord. The landlady. Then see what happens. I walked in. It was at two o’clock and yeah, I left at 2:30 with the keys. 

And then I launched in October of that year and I didn’t have any designs. I had never had any retail experience, business degrees, nothing like that. But I just knew that if I hadn’t given, if I don’t give this a go, then I’ll never know. And I think that was probably a little bit how I feel about my body. I’m like, Well, can I go and run an ultra? I don’t know. Let’s give it a go. Or can I become plant based when I grew up on a farm? I don’t know. Let’s give it a go. You know, it’s that kind of thing. So I that evening, I went back to the show and I just said to a friend of mine, JJ, who’s on the wardrobe department, and I was like, I do. I’ve just got this keys for a place to open up a bridal boutique that champions have made. And I really want to champion handmade in Wales because I don’t because I’ve been a bridesmaid 10 times and I’ve been to my fair share of bridal stores. And I kind of just found that when my girlfriends didn’t know what they wanted, they got pigeonholed into categories of kind of saying This is what a bride should be. Yet on a day to day basis, we dress with to represent who we are. What this is, who I am, or I have tattoos or have a piercings or dye. My hair was in colour because this is me. Whereas then when it came to the world of bridal, it was almost like, We’ve got to conform your bride. Therefore, you must wear this on and you must pay thousands, thousands of pounds for an item of clothing that has been mass-produced abroad. They have no idea where that’s come from and where, and I’m a big believer in voting with your money. And that’s the one thing that we kind of have power on and. 

Yes, so she said, Oh, you need to meet my friend who’s a designer. And I emailed that friend. I look to her website is like, Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. But I sent her an email and I had like a bounce back saying, I’m away travelling. And I was like, Oh, I bet she’s just gone travelling. Like, I’m going to, you know, she’s not coming back for a year anyway, Helen emailed back, and she’s like, I’ve just got back from my travels, so we have a meeting and the rest is history. So when I first launched, I had two designers, I had Helen, and I had Claire Hill, who is an accessory designer. Now we have 10. We have ten designers now and the boutique is going to be 10 years old itself in October of this year. And oh my god, it’s the best thing in the world. I absolutely love it. I love how I get to meet every day, and it’s just such it’s just incredible to see how many people want to just do bridal their own way. Champion handmade vote with their money, but also find an outfit that absolutely empowers them like, damn right, this is me. I cannot wait for the world to see me. I cannot wait to exchange my boat. I was wearing this. No. Oh, it’s a joy. 

Le’Nise Wow, you have such an amazing story. And you? You tell it the way you tell it, it just you make it seem like, you know it, it just feels like everything was in the right place for you. 

Rachel I hear you. I know it’s bonkers, right? Like I. I. You’ve got to create the life you want to live. That’s all I can say. And I think there are a lot of people who are unhappy with things will then take control and change it. I know that it’s really easy for me to say that, but I’ve been I’ve been to those hard times. I’ve been through those challenges. I’ve been through those surgeries. I’ve I, I appreciate it. It’s easier to say than do. But my God, there’s no point in looking back thinking, what if? What if I could do that? What if I did do that? What if I did? This job is making me so unhappy, then leave it something better is out there. Make it happen. 

Le’Nise What would you just say to someone who’s listening to this? And it was like, Yeah, I hear you. You know, something better is out there. You’ve got to create the life that you want to live. But they’re really scared. You know, they’re really, really scared of taking that next step. What would you say to them? 

Rachel I think good things happen when you’re scared. I think being safe is dangerous in that sense and I think. I can only speak from my own experience, but if you never know, you will always think, what if I think that is the danger zone? 

Le’Nise Wow, wow. Amazing, like just the bravery in your story and the bravery of what you’ve done, what you’ve done on so many different levels is quite is quite inspiring. So I know that listeners will they’ll hear your story and they will feel really inspired and they might make changes in their own life, however big or small they might be. If listeners want to get in touch with you, find out more about your business, maybe find out if they’re a bride or an upcoming bride. Find out how they can use your services. How can they get in touch with you? 

Rachel So, firstly, thank you so much for your lovely words. That’s really, really thoughtful. I do not see myself like that at all. Just, you know, I just see myself as a very I have a little simple every day on Instagram. I post like a little what I do each day, and it always starts with movement. And then the breakfasts, like they’re the best meals of the day, right? Like amazing. And I will never miss a breakfast and that is a morning ritual and a routine for me. And then I’ll be, you know, come to the boutique and then I’m, you know, I’m in bed by nine o’clock in the evening, team, like, you know, I’m I’m definitely not rock and roll or anything like that. I just enjoy that pace of life, really, shall I say. But sorry, if people want to get in touch. Oh yeah, always email. That’s lovely. So all the information is on the website, which is Rachel Burgess bridal boutique dot com. I’m on Instagram @rachelburgessbridalboutique so you can find me on there as well. 

Le’Nise Great. Thank you so much for coming on here and sharing your story. I know that the episodes where where you have someone sharing a really personal story of the changes in their menstrual health or are always the one that do really well and I get really great feedback on them. So yeah, thank you so much. 

Rachel Thanks for creating a space that I’ve never really spoken about this. But when I came across your podcast, it felt like a space where I can. I can talk about this and I just want people to know that, you know, women of the age of, you know, between for my first operations to now, we do go through this, but we get we, you know, it’s OK. It doesn’t make it any less of a woman now team. 

Le’Nise Exactly. Thank you so much. 

Rachel Thank you. 

Let’s Talk About Endometriosis!

March is Endometriosis awareness month here in the UK, so let’s talk about this condition that affects 1 in 10 women. 

Something I continue to find shocking is how long it can take to receive a formal endometriosis diagnosis. The average is between 7 – 10 years! 

The only way at the present to receive a formal diagnosis is through an excision surgery, which is the gold standard for a diagnosis. This is a laparoscopic keyhole surgery done by an endometriosis specialist that provides confirmation of endometrial lesions and adhesions. For some, a laparoscopy can be a ‘fresh start’ that allows many adhesions and lesions to be removed. This can then give them the opportunity to address the gut and inflammation issues that can exacerbate many of the symptoms of endometriosis. 

What’s really interesting is that some choose not to have a laparoscopy because they feel that they do not need to have a formal diagnosis to address their endometriosis and its symptoms. They have a clear view on what’s going on for them and have agreed, along with their doctor or consultant, that the issues are likely to be caused by endometriosis, rather than another similar condition such as IBS, adenomyosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, interstitial cystitis or benign ovarian cysts. 

If you’re not sure what endometriosis is, let’s back up a minute and get into that!

In endometriosis, cells similar to those that normally stay in the lining of the womb are also found in different parts of the body, such as the abdomen, bowels, bladder, legs and sometimes even the nose and lungs. These cells form endometrial tissue which become problematic because they inflame and shed every menstrual cycle along with the lining of the uterus. When it is outside of the uterus, this tissue has nowhere to go, which can result in pain, additional inflammation and eventually scarring.

Some of the symptoms of endometriosis include painful periods, abdominal bloating (endo belly), painful urination and / or bowel movements, brain fog, diarrhoea, heavy periods, pelvic pain, painful sex, constipation, diarrhoea and depression. 

Some of you may have heard from your GPs that “you should get pregnant because that will cure endometriosis”. Aside from the pure absurdity of using pregnancy as a treatment for a serious medical condition, the reality is that pregnancy can only provide a temporary relief from pain and other endometriosis symptoms until periods return post-partum. 

Others may have been told that a hysterectomy, a full or partial removal of the uterus, ovaries and Fallopian tubes, will cure endometriosis. Unfortunately, this is not true because as I described above, the cells similar to those that grow in the uterus can also grow in different parts of the body. 

In my next post, I’ll talk through different ways nutrition, supplements and lifestyle can support and reduce the symptoms of endometriosis. 

Photo by Danie Franco on Unsplash


Le’Nise Brothers is a yoga teacher and registered nutritionist, mBANT, mCNHC, specialising in women’s health, hormones and the menstrual cycle. She is also the host of the Period Story Podcast, which aims to break taboos around menstrual health and hormones. 

Le’Nise has helped hundreds of women improve their menstrual and hormone health through her private practice and group programmes, talks and workshops for the likes of Stylist, Channel 4, Boden, Ebay and TikTok and her Instagram page. Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

Her first book You Can Have A Better Period was released in March 2022. 

Period Story Podcast, Episode 52: Julie McClure, We Need To Open Up A Dialogue About Hormone Health

On today’s episode of Period Story, I’m so pleased to share my conversation with Julie McClure, a clean and clear living expert and the founder and CEO of Hello Me, a wellness & beauty brand empowering women to take back control of their hormones and return to being the best version of themselves.

Julie and I had a great conversation about what inspired her to start her company, her healing journey through breast cancer and medical menopause and of course, the story of her very first period!

Thank you, Julie!

P.S. Julie has kindly offered listeners 20% of Hello Me products with the code PERIODSTORY20! 

Get in touch with Julie:

Website

Instagram

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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Le’Nise So tell me the story of your very first period. 

Julie So my very first period, I mean, it’s I don’t remember the exact age, but I do remember I was later than the rest of my friends because it was one of those where everybody sort of had their period and you’re waiting to get yours. It was almost as milestone you’re waiting for. So I was about 13 or 14. I was a little bit later. And yeah, I mean, for me, it was something that was really quiet. Like, I feel like you’re waiting for it because you hear a little buzzes from your friends. But it wasn’t back when I got my first period, it wasn’t something that a lot of people were talking about openly. And so for me, it was just like, I just needed to know the basics, like when I get it, what do I do right? And that was kind of it was really a discovery phase because I didn’t feel like I was like prepped with a whole lot of information. 

Le’Nise So you got it, and you said it was quiet. Tell us a little bit more about what that means. 

Julie Well, it was something I told my. I only told my mom and my sister, but I didn’t openly talk about it was something I was still shy about. And in one way, you want it. Another way when you get it, you’re like, Oh gosh, like, what do I do now? And you know what? What should I use for products, et cetera? So that’s how it was quiet I wasn’t talking to my friends, who’s maybe my best friend, but that would be it. 

Le’Nise Right, and so were your other friends openly having this conversation and you just chose not to participate in it? 

Julie No, it wasn’t really open. It was like little whispers of conversation. That’s how I remember it. Like you’d be with your best friend and maybe one other girlfriend, and somebody would talk about the fact they got their period. And then you might be sort of overhearing another crowd at some other point. But it wasn’t really like this open dialogue about groups of friends we’re having or we are learning about periods whether it be the media or classes, et cetera. So that’s why it was fairly quiet. It was almost whispers whispering sessions. 

Le’Nise And then as you got your period and this idea of this feeling of quiet, do you think you held on to that as you started learning more about your period? 

Julie Yes, absolutely. I think you know for most of my life, these haven’t really been topics of conversation. I’m forty seven, so it’s been a few years. But yeah, it hasn’t been something that’s really been an open dialogue and I’m finding now with my my nieces who are now in that age, they’re teenagers. It is a little bit more talked about and I’ve had these discussions with them like actually trying to understand because I have this brand all about hormones to understand what is the discussion? Are people talking about it? It is improved, but it’s still not there, which is surprising. 

Le’Nise So what do you think has brought the, not the massive openness, but a little bit more openness that you’re seeing in your in your nieces? 

Julie I think social media has played a big part of that. I mean, you’re seeing on TikTok people, people have been openly out on Tik Tok talking about their period, checking their menstrutal health. Now just look at like a brand like August, right, that they’re really trying to destigmatize discussions around new periods. There’s been ads that have been much more bold over the years, so I think we didn’t have social media when I was, you know, computers are just sort of coming out when I was in my teen years. So it wasn’t something that we had access to these outside information. So if your family and your friends weren’t openly having the dialogue, which would have been ahead of the game if that were the case, you weren’t learning from those mediums. 

Le’Nise And do you think that as you’ve gotten older, have you become more open in terms of the conversations that you’re having with your friends? 

Julie Absolutely, yeah. And I think even more so because you know Hello Me is about destigmatizing what it means to be hormonal. I’m on that mission to really open up this dialogue and make this connection between hormones, wellness and beauty and creating products to do that. So obviously, I am actively talking about this. And then I also find a lot of my friends because, you know, they’re into wellness, they’re into health. And so we’ve, you know, we all realise how much an important part hormones play in our lives and the quality of life. And so the dialogue does open up as we go through these transitions of life, which know a lot of my friends are going through perimenopause right? Or they’ve had just had children and they’re going through postpartum. And so the conversations are much more open now, and maybe my circles are a little bit different because of the work I’m doing every single day. So it’s hard for me to know. I do know it hasn’t hit the masses, absolutely, because we’re still continuing to educate our customers and we get a lot of silent DMs and people asking or calling our hormone hotline and having these conversations with our hormone coaches. So it means it hasn’t gone completely mainstream in terms of everybody feeling comfortable. But I do think we’re making a shift and is going in the right direction. Absolutely. 

Le’Nise So just thinking back to when you were younger, so when you’re in your early teens and you got your period, you said you went on the journey of discovery to figure out exactly what was going on with you, the products that you needed to use. Talk a little bit more about that. 

Julie The one story actually comes to mind. It’s funny because I remember most vividly when the first time I had my period and I wanted to go swimming right, we had us a pool in the backyard. I grew up in the Maritimes, in New Brunswick, in Canada, I’m Canadian. And I just that’s the moment I remember the most is like, Oh gosh, I want to go swimming with all my friends. And I was mortified because I wasn’t sure what to do. I’d never used a tampon and I wanted to go swimming so that it’s really one of those moments where it’s like, Okay, I have to figure out how to use a tampon. And I was it wasn’t taught, so I literally remember trying to figure out how to use a tampon. It was extremely uncomfortable because there is no YouTube videos at the time. This or nobody else is documenting it. I don’t know if they do now. I haven’t searched, but you probably can find it somewhere. So I remember that is my most vivid moment in trying to figure that, and that was clearly a situation of trial and error self-discovery. OK. Tampons must work. I need to figure out how they work. They can’t be this uncomfortable. They can’t cause pain. So obviously I’m doing something wrong and figuring it out, right? So that’s my most vivid memory around my period when I was in my teens because it was something you don’t feel embarrassed if something leaked or they show, like if you had any blood and you also didn’t want everybody knowing that you were on your period like that was kind of a whole like stigma around it. The taboo topic. So you’re doing this quietly, just trying to figure out in your bedroom like, Okay, I’m going to go swimming later today, I need to figure out the tampon thing. 

Le’Nise And so did you figure it out? 

Julie Obviously, over time, for sure. But that first day was I don’t think I did that correctly the first day because it was painful. I remember it being painful. And so I could have used a little bit more open dialogue and conversations to have somebody that I could have been like, Hey, now I was done so that I insert this properly and I had I known, I think, not to leave my mom and educated and not leaving tampons in too long, etc., things like that. So that was never something that I didn’t know, but it’s just the mechanics of it. And then the other piece I didn’t know we didn’t have organic brands back then, and that’s something I discovered much later in life because they had just started to emerge. But wow, what a difference that makes, and I think that’s kind of the biggest thing I wish I had known and had available to me when I was younger. In addition to a little bit of information on how to navigate things. 

Le’Nise So talk a little bit more about the difference that organic menstrual products are meant for you. 

Julie Well, organic menstrual products, I mean, your audience may or may not be aware of this, but I mean just the chemicals that they use in non-organic tampons. So when you’re thinking about, I think, particularly when you think of the need for organic, especially in tampons, I mean, all menstrual products and super important, but tampons in particular because you’re inserting them into your body for several hours and they’re going to get into the bloodstream. So when they’ve got, you know, they had chlorine back then, I think they’ve improved things. But there’s still chemical by-products from glyphosate, which is sprayed on the fields or dioxins and just very various chemicals that can be in these non-organic tampons. And I remember when all the years I used them, my body would try and like, like it would sweat during the time of my cycle, and it was clearly trying to get rid of the chemicals. Because when you have two ways to get rid of it, you have a few ways to get rid of things. But sweating is one way to eliminate toxins, right? And so when I switched to organic tampon products because once they were available, that’s all I ever used. I was like, I noticed that never happened again. And so because that was another level of uncomfortableness, right, because you’re like almost bringing changes of clothes in case you’re like sweaty or you’re having gym class and things like that, and you just don’t feel as you just don’t feel as clean, like, frankly, because it’s just like if you went and had to work out and sweated and you wouldn’t feel great going to class afterwards without a shower. So that was a big game changer for me, and I’ve been starting to educate my nieces about that, just trying to have these open conversations, but also saying, Are you using organic products? Because it’s really important and it’s amazing how many people don’t actually know, like the masses don’t still know how important that is. And, you know, hopefully things are starting to shift and hopefully prices come down. So there’s not this big disparity in terms of who can access organic versus non-organic. But it’s it’s really important for, I think, our reproductive organs and overall health from the inside out. 

Le’Nise Yeah, I’m sure I can agree with you more the way the vagina is one of the most absorbent parts of the body. So as you say, anything we put up there, if it’s, you know, if there’s chemicals sprayed over, it is going to have an effect on our oestrogen and progesterone balance. I want to just go back to what you said about your, you know, the difference that organic tampons made for you. Were you experiencing painful or heavy periods? 

Julie No. Well, I did have some PMS, and that’s something else I didn’t know, but now I’m very well versed. In fact, 75 percent of women have PMS and it’s preventable. Right? Kind of talk I’ll go back to your question, really, your menstrual cycles, really. A lot of people refer to it as your fifth vital sign telling you so much about your body. And we can have a discussion on that. But um. Yeah. 

So did I see improvement? No, it wasn’t a change in my period itself in terms of the flow. And I also just I think they came out when I was in my thirties. So my cycle was always very regular 28 days and it was always four to five days. Not heavy. I never had heavy cycles. But what I would say is that one side effect I told you about, like the sweating that stopped immediately. And that was the biggest aha moment with the organic products because and I’ve since I’ve been immersed in this whole wellness space, which I study about, you know, clean products and the effect of chemicals. And I have chemical sensitivities, so I’m very aware of things affecting my body. And so I’m not surprised that that was the first thing that changed for me. But in terms of the duration or how much bleeding I had that didn’t get affected, I think what affected PMS and things like that was more my lifestyle over time. So if I was going through a really stressful time or not sleeping a lot or my diet had fallen off and I was having a lot more sugars or inflammatory type foods, that’s when I would get very severe migraines three days before my cycle, like clockwork. And I would also, I had some cramping, but it was really the migraines that was the debilitating piece. And then when my when I cut out sugar and adding in very like kind of greens and whole foods and not a lot of processed food or grains, et cetera, prior to my cycle, then like a week or two before or for that month, I would have a completely different experience. The PMS was almost nonexistent. 

Le’Nise What you’re saying is so interesting, because there is this narrative that I see where people talk about my PMS and they take ownership of it and it’s kind of something that they expect to happen. And as you say, it doesn’t have to happen. And what’s really interesting is that you were able to identify that you had you were experiencing these migraines and that you were able to make really in the grand scheme of things where that easy, simple changes that were able to change your experience of that time right before your period, which actually doesn’t have to be that bad. We can get a lot of wisdom out of that time of before our period. So tell me a little bit more about how long that took for you. So you had the migraines and then you made these changes. How long did those migraines take to resolve? 

Julie Well, literally if I had a month of very clean month, so I’m drinking green juice, I’m moving my body, I’m actually sleeping. I’m not under tremendous stress, are pulling all nighters at school or something like that, or working investment banking, pulling all nighters. If I was doing those things, then that next month, literally my cycle would be different. I wouldn’t have. I wouldn’t have these crazy three day hormonal migraines. Now I’ve also since learnt like I was like, nutrient deficiencies can be play a big role in hormonal migraines and PMS in general, right? So when you’re under a lot of stress, which I have had these careers where I was working on Wall Street, I was working a lot of hours and not sleeping a lot, so my body was deficient in magnesium. When you’re stressed, your magnesium just like plummets, right? You’d get depleted and things like your vitamin C, which helps balance out your progesterone, which is involved and it fluctuates around your luteal phase and can cause these fluctuations can cause pain. So things like my B vitamins, my magnesium were definitely depleted. And when I started getting more into the science behind all of like overall wellness and health, and with my migraines, treating them proactively with things like magnesium and B vitamins, et cetera, I wasn’t getting as severe hormonal migraines. 

The other interesting trick that I learnt over time or I had to have in not a trick but a service that really helped me with these hormonal migraines. This is before, like we had the science has caught up, and we created product like top up signs to help women, not happiness. But prior to that, when I would go and get colonic, I would just get colon hydrotherapy. I would get that a week before my cycle and I would have zero also have zero migraine. So what that was doing, it was helping my body because I’m not the best detox, like I’m on the best detox genes or detoxification genes, so hence the chemical sensitivities. But what the hydrocolon therapy did is it pulled out like some of these extra hormones helped my body kind of get rid of things that otherwise we’re ingesting and creating inflammation in my body so that my PMS was also much worse, which meant severe migraines three days before my cycle. 

Le’Nise So for listeners who aren’t aware, one of the ways that our body gets rid of hormones it’s already used is through a bowel movement. So if you’re not having a bowel movement every day, at least every day, then your body can reabsorb those chemicals. So the oestrogen, oestrogen, for example, that is already broken down and that can lead to increased premenstrual symptoms. So for you? You mentioned the colonics. Were you were you constipated or was this just giving you a bit of a helping hand? 

Julie My I would say because I’m coeliac, so I’ve had my digestive tract has been off and on throughout the years and this is pre diagnosis of coeliac. So I would have made my bowels weren’t moving as efficiently as they should, and I also didn’t have as much knowledge as I do 15 years later in terms of how to have a healthy gut biome. It wasn’t  really talked to go back then? So yes, absolutely with those variabilities. And then you can also experience that as you go through and have your menstrual cycle too. So they kind of compound each other. Then if you’re depleted and things like magnesium to it, just it’s not going to help it right? And so the colon hydrotherapy and I would say it’s really important to go to somebody who’s registered and certified and you’ve done your research, not just anybody, in the closed systems, I think are kind of the best for people if they’re looking to do that. But those really did help pull out anything that I wasn’t getting out naturally. And I think and then a little bit extra, right? Because if my digestion was backed, digestive system was backed up. It was just like making sure things are staying and stagnating into my body. 

Le’Nise Hmm. It’s so interesting about colonics because I had one. I’ve only had one. Just I had. I actually, I think maybe about 15 years ago there was this place in Notting Hill and I used to live in Notting Hill in London, and I used to walk past it all the time. And I was always really curious because that time colonics were kind of seen as this kooky sort of thing, whereas now it’s, you know, wellness and health is become more mainstream. So you tell someone your, well, I think you maybe get a mixed reaction depending on the person. 

Julie I still get a mixed reaction. 

Le’Nise Yeah, but I had this. I had this colonic and I remember back then I was a vegetarian and my diet was really bad. I was constipated constantly. So that was one of the reasons why I wanted to go. And I just remember this lightness that I felt afterwards and I thought, Oh, I must, I must do that again. I mean, fortunately, I don’t feel like I need to anymore because I’m very regular. I have no issues in that department, but it is. I just remember thinking how marvellous that feeling was of just feeling so light. 

Julie Yes, and it’s interesting. And obviously, a lot of people show digestive issues through like bloating or, you know, things like that. Or always having gas and you can get a lot of bloating around your cycle, too, which which of these things help with. So you don’t have to go through a service like that. I’m just kind of that’s one of my sort of like hacks that I discovered over the years with when I didn’t have Top up tonic available to me to balance out my hormones. So it’s just interesting what works for different people. But I think universally that’s if you’re open to it, that can be very helpful, particularly if you’re really severe symptoms around your cycle. 

Le’Nise  Tell us about your experience with your, your period and your menstrual cycle. Now you mentioned you’re forty seven. So are you perimenopause? 

Julie Well, OK, so there’s a little bit more to this, I stopped getting my cycle, I guess, two years ago because I had breast cancer two and a half years ago, so I guess a year and a half ago. And then because of the breast cancer, I have a BRCA2 gene, which means I have a much higher risk of hormone cancers. And so because of the breast cancer, I went through preventative surgery to remove my ovaries and fallopian tubes, which means I was no longer I was thrown into menopause overnight. So I was forty five. And basically, I’ve never had a cycle since because I don’t have the organs to produce a cycle, right? So so as I was getting into my 40s, I can say that shortened to about two days. It was very light in two days, so it was definitely switching sides. I’m sure I was entering perimenopause. I didn’t have night sweats and things like that, which are very common as you start to go into perimenopause. But I did notice a shift in my menstrual cycle and that it was it had always been quite like only one heavy day and then quite light, and it was never more than five days. But then it shifted literally to being two max three days and really only only one day of sort of normal flow and then very light. But it was it was still very much like every 28 days. I might be off one day if I had like a really stressful month or something, but it was like clockwork up until the point that I had the surgery. 

Le’Nise Can you talk a little bit about the impact that going through the medical menopause had on you? 

Julie Well, let’s just say it’s a journey, and that’s my mission now, with Hello Me, as I’m creating products to not make it a difficult journey for women so that they can just literally, you know, avoid all the side effects that I had to go through. So, yeah, menopause, obviously. So for people who haven’t been through it, I mean, your oestrogen, you know, your hormones are declining slowly. Typically, it happens, starts a little bit in your forties. It can go up to, you know, people can be full on menopause and they’re 50 ,55, whatever and it can so people can have symptoms for anywhere from three to 10 years. For me, I went from having, you know, a normal level of estrogen, progesterone, et cetera, and dropped overnight. So I had seven months of very severe symptoms, and I spent my time figuring out how to kind of hack that so that I could be hormonally balanced again. Because really, what the doctors were offering me was nerve blockers and antidepressants to deal with night sweats and anxiety and insomnia, etc. instead of anything else that was more natural. So I wasn’t interested in going on a nerve blocker for the next 20 years. And so that’s why I was kind of determined to hack it through more natural sources. And that’s where Hello Me is also moving to launch products for women in the spring. So it’s a life change, I would say. In Chinese medicine, they talk about as a second spring, and I love that because it’s not something to be feared. You know, you’re in your own skin, your company, you have all this wisdom and you really come into full bloom. And yes, you do have to tweak your body. You can tweak a few things because your hormones have fluctuated, just like post-pregnancy you have tweaks. When you’re in your reproductive years, you have tweaks, and so you have to do that again. But it doesn’t mean that you’re past your prime. It doesn’t mean that you have to live with these symptoms forever. And the science now is really advanced. And there’s so much, you know, so many of us focussed on innovation, the space that I’m excited for, where it’s headed in terms of a category because there’s so much that we can do to make women’s lives better. So, yeah, so my experience was not pleasant because there just weren’t any natural solutions for me. But I’m back in a place where I feel I’m back to normal. I don’t have the same symptoms, so I’ve resolved it. And really what it’s done is just been a catalyst again for Hello Me and a whole other category of products. 

Le’Nise So someone’s listening and they’ve gone through that experience of medical menopause, which is very different from the natural menopause, where it can happen more gradually. Medical menopause, it’s hitting you like straight away. What were the kind of natural solutions that you would recommend to someone going through that experience? 

Julie So one thing that’s really important, and I don’t know that it’s common knowledge, is that your adrenal function, so you know, the organs are a little bit above your kidneys that help support you and give you energy prior to adrenal fatigue or if people have heard of that. It’s really important that your adrenals are healthy and nourishing your adrenals. So. And that’s done from lifestyle factors as well as nutrients. So like, you need to be taking your B vitamins because you’re going to have lower energy. If you’re don’t have all your hormones supporting you, you do need to take things that can support the adrenals. In others, things like ginseng, there’s adaptogens you can take. 

But I’d say I did for me, I did the Dutch test, which is a hormone test, and it really showed me sort of where my cortisol was. And it’s not really that surprised that my cortisol was quite low because I was in the middle of launching a business and I had breast cancer. I had a few things that had gone on. And so those weren’t supporting my body because they typically step in to help when your other hormones are coming down. So I would say the Dutch test if there’s the option to take it to just really understand where your hormones are and then to kind of work with that and understand, like how do I support the adrenals? Usually if you’ve gone into surgery, like in menopause overnight, you want to be working with the health care practitioner to like, help guide you, at least from the beginning. So I was working with specialists who are naturopathic medical doctors or specialists, and we were working on really getting my adrenals back and nutrient IVs, which gives you sort of like high dose nutrients so that it’s a quicker recovery period for your adrenals. And because that was exacerbating my symptoms. And once I had my adrenals in a much healthier state, I slept better. I didn’t have the same low grade anxiety every day. So a lot of things shifted. I wasn’t getting night sweats and waking up in the middle of the night with a racing heart. So I would say that was sort of the biggest takeaway for me. I saw that massive shift. One I spent 8 weeks supporting my adrenals. And it’s also sleep, an exercise like yoga and things that are nourishing and doing things that literally like reduce your stress level so nourishing for you. It’s not just supplements and diet, it’s also, you know, doing things that are going to bring your stress levels down and release those sort of endorphins naturally. 

Le’Nise I think the message you’re sharing sharing is a really positive one because certainly in the UK, the message that we get is that once you’re in your when you’re in perimenopause and then in menopause, it’s all about HRT or hormone replacement therapy. And that’s a kind of drumbeat that’s in the press over here. And you know, as a nutritionist, I know that there are other solutions out there, but the doctors over here are really kind of adamant about women going on HRT. And so I’m really kind of enthused to hear your story because there are alternatives out there. And so for women who are listening, you know to what Julie’s talking about around adrenal support is so powerful because you do make sure you’re making a weaker form of oestrogen in your adrenal hormones don’t all stop and you support your adrenals. You can access this really important form of oestrogen that takes us through to post-menopause. So fantastic. I love the message you’re sharing.

Julie And would say everyone’s individual too, right? So for me, I had like I zero. I like there. They’re so low. My doctor said, I can’t believe you’re feeling worse, not feeling worse than you are. And I said, Well, I didn’t know it could feel worse, to be honest. And and I would also say, like for me, now, I do this DUTCH test just because of the cancer risk and everything else, and I do that test every six months for me. And it’s important because they are monitoring how I’m breaking down. So I have a very, very low dose bioidentical hormones, right? It’s like the lowest you can just so that it made a difference for me and made a difference. So that plus the adrenal support was the game changer. Not everybody is comfortable doing bio identicals, and I’m on as low dose as it can possibly be just because of the cancer risk. But for me, I found it at my age and where I am, I wanted to have a little bit. And so I do this Dutch test every six months to make sure that like, I’m still where the risk is, is when you start to, you know, you take bio identicals and you realise your body’s not breaking down. The by-products are being processed properly and then that can increase your risk. And so some people say don’t ever take anything, you know, even the bio identical hormones. But for me, I’m monitoring it and I take like such a low dose that that plus adrenal support, it gets me to where I need to be, plus my daily nutrients that I take my supplements. 

Le’Nise And so let’s talk a little bit about your, your company and also you, you as a clean and clear living expert. What does that mean? 

Julie So clean and clear living is really about getting to your best version of yourself by first. You know, clean living is many pillars, so it’s hormone balance. But it’s also environmental, right? Like making sure you’re living in an environment that’s clean, not full of toxins that you don’t have a toxic burden that is unmanageable. It’s movement. It’s it’s doing something that’s purposeful in your life. So when I combine these things like my passions is about helping people live their best lives, that means having great health. Because when you’re in great health, we can do so much more and I’ve experienced the other end of things. I also believe that once you’ve got service, clean internal blueprint, which makes you feel great, you have more confidence and you have more clarity in terms of like, you’re your path. You have the confidence to pursue your path and things that are important to you. So you feel like you’re living a fulfilling life. And for me, I feel like when people are following their own authentic journeys is a whole other level of healing that goes on too. And I’m a spiritual person from the sense that I believe like when you’re on, you feel like you’re living a purposeful life and you’re authentic and you’re really being true to yourself. It’s kind of back to those molecules of emotion. You’re not storing all the stress in the body. The body has more levels of inflammation, so you not only make your biggest impact in the world and you give the gift to the world by being authentic self, but you also feel your best. And you look your best because you’re more when you’re happy, right? Or you’re more joyful. So clean and clear living is about those pillars that allow you to have that super clean, balanced imprint on the inside, which provides the confidence and radiance and clarity to do what you’re meant to do and follow your profession, be your authentic self. 

Le’Nise And then in terms of the company that you build. You mentioned that you went through this really tumultuous time in your in your mid-40s or early to mid 40s where you had breast cancer and you were launching a company. Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the company. You’ve alluded to it a little throughout our conversation and why you chose to launch it during this time in your life. 

Julie Yes. So Hello Me was born prior to getting breast cancer. So in terms of the idea and the vision, it’s quite interesting that I basically went through all the life phases in a very compressed period to, I guess, accelerate what I can do for women with Hello Me. But that’s the only way to put it into a positive light. But Hello Me. Originally, I was suffering from migraines, all in my twenties and thirties, from a hormonal imbalance. I was on birth control. The science wasn’t caught up. I finally went to a holistic practitioner. They said, Look, these symptoms are low grade anxiety that later develops from the nutrient depletions, as well as the migraines, from being on birth control. Right? Depletes your key nutrients that most women don’t realise, right? Probiotics, antioxidants, et cetera. And so I went off it, and then I dove into the whole wellness world like I was always interested in wellness, et cetera. But I really dove in to heal myself. And so after I spent a year healing myself through studying nutrition, anti-inflammatory diets, really replenishing everything, I’d been putting it through for a decade. You know, I realised what a change in quality like you can have. And fast forward several years I started to look at like, how could I create a company that truly impacts the lives of the masses for women? And nobody was making the connection between hormonal balance and wellness and beauty and the dialogue, really, you know, we talk about with periods like, no one’s really starting to talk about it and shows like yours are a gift to everybody because you’re really sort of opening up this for people. But nobody is making that connection and talking about it. And so it really was a combination my personal experience of having alleviated that hormone imbalance, which completely changed my quality of life. When you’re having six migraines a week to like maybe two a month, and that was those were the hormonal and around the hormone hormonal period time. And so I just felt like this is a way that I can create products that truly address from a root cause level and provide natural, effective solutions. Having been created for women for decades, and so all these women who are suffering in silence or just in the survival mode like I was, can now take our products and actually get back to looking and feeling their best and feeling like their most truest, authentic forms of themselves. So I like to say, you know, we get you firing on all cylinders because we make those tweaks. You do it at the root cause, and it’s amazing what happens to how you feel and your skin and the bloating and everything else. So Hello Me about looking in the mirror, being proud of who you are. You’re back to the best version of yourself and you’re ready to conquer the world and do what you’re meant to do. 

Le’Nise I love that. And tell us more about the products within that you offer. 

Julie So at the moment, we have three products that women can purchase, and we’re launching a fourth one in the spring, which I’m excited about. So we’ve got Top up tonic, which is a once a day capsule, it’s vegan, and it’s got 18 nutrients, probiotics and antioxidants that your body needs for hormonal balance. So what we find is women who are on birth control. Women are suffering from PMS, PMDD or you’ve got hormonal acne that’s happening or just really fatigued a lot. This product is a godsend for women like me in terms of you look, take it for six weeks, up to eight weeks and your body has bio-accumulated these nutrients you’ve been needing and you start to really feel and see a transformation. And so that’s for women, really. I’d say 16, you could take about 18 to thirty five is really the sweet spot for that product. I also had a lot of women in their 40s, 50s, 60s later in life because it supports adrenals, they take it for energy. And so tonic really is going at once a day solution that balances out your hormones through all the key nutrients you need and adjust your gut biome that has probiotics in it. That really helps reduce things like bloating, right? And see how this impacts immunity, too. So Top up tonic is one. 

And then we also have a product called Hydrophoria. So Hydrophoria is my favourite daily product because it’s a ritual for me. It’s a sachet. It’s collagen, probiotics one. So we have 10 billion colony forming probiotics seven strains. So it’s multi strain five grams of therapeutic clean, bovine collagen. So we get different types of collagen. And then it’s got ingredients like snow mushroom, which is a natural form of hydrolonic acid. So this product is all about gut healh, which is a core pillar of hormonal balance and then nice benefit is skin as well. So women who take this product, we take it in the morning. It tastes like berry flavoured water. It’s super clean and it’s just hydrating from the inside out and it balances out the gut. So you get rid of bloating, you get rid of digestive issues, and it balances the hormones and hormones that way. 

And then the last product is Inner Charge, which is all your oil based therapeutic nutrients and antioxidants that need to be in an oil base that help you with hormone balance and mood. So your omega-3 is it’s got GLA from borage oil,  potent antioxidants like Astaxanthin, Zeaxanthin, Lutein. So you take those capsules with the AM and PM sachets, and those really help reduce inflammation, which helps balance the hormones and then add all the healthy oils helps with mood. 

Le’Nise Fantastic. So we’ve got three really interesting products. If listeners want to find out more and purchase these products, where can they do that? 

Julie [Just go to the website, www.hello.me, and you can see the products there and we have a hormone coach hormone hotline. So if you’re curious and you have questions about your own health or you know what’s best for whatever you’re dealing with, you can text us or email us on the website. And I’d also say happy to give all your listeners 20 percent off with their PERIODSTORY20 for the next month, if they want to purchase some products they’ll get 20 percent off their order.

Le’Nise Fantastic. So you said a lot of really interesting and valuable things across the course of our conversation. What’s the one thing that you want listeners to take away today? 

Julie The important thing, hormonal balance and how you feel every day, and if you’re suffering from mood swings, depression, anxiety, irritability, constant bloating, hormonal acne or lots of fatigue. This is very likely a symptom of hormonal imbalance, right? And we can help you. It’s really usually a nutrient depletion that your body needs. You just need some tweaking and you can get back. So I don’t want people to feel discouraged and women who are going through PMS. Those women don’t need to suffer anymore. You know, take a product like Top up tonic for two months. You’re going to have a massive shift. And so, you know, just to really bring that to the forefront in terms of thinking, like, are these symptoms a symptom of hormone imbalance? And if so, yes, we can help you. 

Le’Nise Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time today, Julie. It was really fascinating to talk to you and hear more about your story. 

Julie Well, thanks for having me. I love meeting you and having this conversation. So have a wonderful day. 

Let’s Talk About Irregular Periods!

Let’s talk about irregular periods and menstrual cycles.  

We ideally want our menstrual cycles to come every 21 – 35 days.  

If yours isn’t always 28 days and the number of days in your menstrual month (your menstrual month = the day your period starts all the way through to the day before your next period starts) varies each time, that’s totally normal. 

A variation of up to 5-6 days each menstrual cycle is fine, so if one menstrual cycle is 25 days, the next is 28, then the next is 26, there’s nothing wrong with you.  

Remember: your menstrual cycle (and period) is a vital sign from your body that gives you information about what’s going on with your health. Variations in cycle length could mean more stress, illness, changes in medication, the effects of jet lag or life changes such as starting a new job, a breakup or a bereavement.  But what if your menstrual cycle is much longer than 35 days or shorter than 21 days?

Here are a few suggestions: 

1. Track your menstrual cycle for 4 – 6 months to understand what the variations in cycle length look like for you.  

2. Look at what other symptoms you’re experiencing. What’s your body temperature like? Do you crave sugar? Do you have dark, coarse body hair on your face, chest and abdomen? Are you in your mid-40s? 

3. Are your menstrual cycles really long or have your periods completely stopped (and you’re not post-menopausal, pregnant, breastfeeding or undergoing treatment that has triggered medical menopause)? Are you taking hormonal contraception?  

4. Look at what’s going on in the rest of your life. Are you under a significant amount of stress? Have you rapidly lost or gained a significant amount of weight? Are you exercising excessively? Are you dealing with significant current or past unresolved trauma?  

All of this information will help you understand what’s behind the irregular menstrual cycles you’re experiencing. It might be PCOS (and one of the 4 types), it might be a thyroid issue, it might be hypothalamic amenorrhea, it might be perimenopause or it could be another issue. 

Is your period irregular? Tell me more in the comments.

Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash


Le’Nise Brothers is a yoga teacher and registered nutritionist, mBANT, mCNHC, specialising in women’s health, hormones and the menstrual cycle. She is also the host of the Period Story Podcast, which aims to break taboos around menstrual health and hormones. 

Le’Nise has helped hundreds of women improve their menstrual and hormone health through her private practice and group programmes, talks and workshops for the likes of Stylist, Channel 4, Boden, Ebay and TikTok and her Instagram page. Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

Her first book You Can Have A Better Period was released in March 2022. 

Period Story Podcast, Episode 51: MaryEllen Reider, The Ultimate Form of Self-Care Is To Take Care of Your Health

On today’s episode of Period Story, I had a very interesting and eye-opening conversation with MaryEllen Reider, the co-director of Yarlap, a wellness device to treat urinary incontinence and improve pelvic floor health.

We talked about the prevalence of urinary incontinence (did you know this affects 1 in 4 women!?!), the need for better pelvic health education and of course, MaryEllen’s first period story. Listen to hear how MaryEllen’s dad helped her understand what was happening and how he bought her first menstrual products. 

Thank you, MaryEllen! 

Get in touch with MaryEllen:

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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Le’Nise On today’s episode of Period Story, we have MaryEllen Reider. She is a co-founder and director of marketing for a company called the Yarlap, and she’s doing really amazing work educating about the importance of the pelvic floor. I want to just get into our conversation by starting off with the first question that I ask all of my guests: Tell me the story of your first period. 

MaryEllen So my first period was a little bit, I guess everybody’s different, but I didn’t get mine until I was 16, so I was kind of later than the rest of my friends. The rest of my friends were in middle school or whatever, and I was nearing the end of high school and I got my period. But we never talk about it, ever. I don’t remember talking to my friends about, especially in middle school and high school. Nobody talked about your period because it was thought of as kind of disgusting, gross, dirty. 

And when I got my first period, I remember thinking I can use panty liners like an adult. And turns out that panty liners don’t help on your first few days of your period. And I thought then I thought, Oh my gosh, I’m bleeding, something’s wrong with me because I’m bleeding through all of these things. So I went to my dad, actually. He was also the other co-founder of Yarlap because he always talked to us about our body parts and that body parts are just body parts. There’s no shame if something’s wrong, tell me. And we figure it out. Go to your doctor. We figure this out. So I went to him and I said, Something’s wrong. I’m bleeding. It’s not stopping, help. And well that freaked my dad out because that’s not what you want to hear. And then I slowly told him it was my period. I’m bleeding through panty liners. I don’t know what to do. I mean, he goes, OK, well, we’ll just go to your doctor anyway, just so you have appropriate information. And then he proceeded, while I was at my my doctor getting this full rundown of what I probably should have gotten in my health class. To be honest, I was getting the full down run from her doctor, Dr. Burke. I remember her. I remember it because it was so I remember thinking, Oh my gosh, I’m never going to get over this, this mortifying. And she’s telling me all about what was happening with my cycle and everything and while I was doing that my dad went to the grocery store and bought one box, every tampon and every pad and put it into the box and came. And he was like, You’re going to find out what is comfortable for you and what fits for you and whatever you don’t need, we’ll figure out what to do with the rest. And that was that was my first period story, and I remember it because. I think he had like six bags, six grocery bags of of absorbent pads, tampons. This was way before the Diva Cup or anything like that, just literally just pads and tampons. I remember seeing all of them and I remember I play soccer. I played soccer very intensely, so I was like, I’m going to do the one with the girls with sports and the tampon with the sports. And I don’t need pads because no. And I just remember I remember that so intensely, because then I told my my friends afterwards that my dad was the one that helped me with my period. And they all were. They were like traumatized and I don’t know why. I was like, It’s just my dad. But turns out dads are the ones that back in 2003 or whatever. They weren’t the ones telling, telling their daughters about periods. I guess I was. That wasn’t the norm, but it was at our house. 

Le’Nise Well, this is actually the first time I’ve heard a story where the dad was so involved, and I think it’s beautiful and it really should normalize this idea that your, both set of parents in a heterosexual relationship should be able to talk to their daughters about menstruation. So why do you think why was your dad so comfortable with this? Where did this all come from? 

MaryEllen Yeah. So my dad is a medical device engineer, so he creates these devices to help with muscle tone and muscle rehabilitation. And he has. So he’s what you would think of as like a stereotypical engineer, he’s very practical everything. And so when we were growing up, it was just parts are parts, and it’s all. I hate to say this because it takes the humanity away for people, but by no means means if, but. Our body is essentially just a machine, and to keep it running smoothly, you have to label the parts correctly. And so for us, there was never like a coochie or of a vajayjay or a pee pee, a booty hole or anything like that. It was penis, vagina, vulvovaginal area, anus, rectum. Sometimes you’d call it a butthole. I always thought that that was a hilarious term. And I still do. 

But for us, it was always just talk about your body parts. It’s OK, everybody poops. Everybody farts. Everybody keeps half the population bleeds once a month, theoretically, and that’s just the way it is. That’s OK. There’s no shame in it. There’s shame in being shamed. So I’m very grateful of having that. And I know after doing stuff with the Yarlap, I very. Aware now that that was not that is not the norm, it’s still not the norm, especially for women and especially for women with dads who talk to them openly about their periods like I did. That’s very much not the norm. 

Le’Nise Yeah, I really appreciate that pragmatic approach because I’ve got an eight year old son, and I’ve always been kind of really straightforward about the naming of the body parts and just kind of like, it’s a penis, because over here in the UK, the euphemism is, they call it a willy. Like, that’s the kind of the kids in North America like pee pee. But over here it’s a willy, and I’ve always said, it’s your penis. You may use a proper name and that and that kind of stuff. Although now that he’s gone to school, they his friends, they like joke a lot and they call the body parts different names. But he knows what they’re supposed to be called. And I think that’s really important. Especially, you know, if there’s any trauma happening that children should be able to say the exact name of anything that is happening to them. So what you are saying about your dad is really refreshing. So you then told your friends and they were traumatized because they didn’t get the same sort of education that you got, but just kind of working it back a little bit. You got your period when you were 16. But did you know exactly what a period was because your dad had done that education on the kind of menstrual health side as well? 

MaryEllen No. So that didn’t put my like my menstrual health stuff didn’t really hit until I got my period, and that’s why I was such a big shock. I was like, I had heard the term, and I know like my friends had cotton balls. Turns out those were tampons, and I knew that it made them uncomfortable. They never talked about it. They would sometimes joke when they would exchange tampons or pads in the hallway, and I wanted to be part of that club, but I knew that I didn’t want to be in the pain that they had described, but I didn’t know. Anything about biologically what was going on are really like the basics of what was going on until I got my period. And then it was like a quick run through like a one on one brief five minute thing from my dad. And then we drove off to the doctor’s office and I got a forty five minute description with a 3D anatomical like womb. And then there were charts and all these other things, and I just remember her talking about the female body. But then I remember her also talking about the male body, and I remember thinking, How does this affect the male body? And I, she was giving me a full Health class in forty five minutes. She was like, why didn’t I? She’s like, I’m surprised that more people don’t know about this in health class. I thought, I’m a good student. We don’t. We aren’t taught about this in health class I would have remembered because this is terrible. This is not stuff you forget. And I think that that was definitely the first moment where I remember thinking, Wow, why don’t we ever talk about what is fundamentally going on with our bodies? And I was at age 16, so.

Le’Nise So you got your period, you got this education from your dad and your doctor. And then what was your relationship like with your period after all of this happened? 

MaryEllen I think of her as a, I love her. She annoys me. She’s kind of the best friend that you’ve had since you were born and you have this deep fondness for her. But also at the same time, I have this thought, if we met now, we’re not like you. You know what I mean? And I I I like her. I know when I know everything is running smoothly. When she arrives on time, I know that my diet’s OK. My exercise is okay. I’m hydrated when it aligns within my time frame. But. I know that it’s I get really bad pain and cramps my first two days that are unbearable. I essentially sit on a heating pad. And. That’s basically it. I sometimes worry how that dynamic is going to change when we’re trying to conceive because I’m a little bit on the irregular side. So I’m a little hesitant of how to track her and her welcome party when I’m what I’m doing to start trying to conceive here in the next year or two. Hmm. 

Le’Nise When you got your period, was it painful from the very beginning? 

MaryEllen Absolutely not no. I remember thinking, why does everybody so angry and upset and have these massive craving for chocolate and sweet or salty stuff? Why? Why are people bending over backwards and why is it portrayed as this awful thing on TV? Why does everybody have heating pads and all these other things? And I think up until about four years ago, I was totally fine. And then the past four years, I. That’s when I learned to kind of dislike her. And so it’s kind of at the beginning, it was just like, whatever. No pain, no sensation. Nothing. And I think a little bit after college, she started to get a little bit more painful. Maybe that’s my body telling me maybe to work out a little bit more or change my diet or something, but I and I guess when I was younger now, no discomfort, no pain, nothing like that. I couldn’t understand why it was portrayed that way. 

Le’Nise And then so four years ago, did is, can you pinpoint something that happened that may have changed the way you experience your period? 

MaryEllen Four years ago, I would say no. The only thing that comes to mind is I was often on with birth control for a really long time, and the cold turkey was about five years ago, six years ago. I mean, totally done. And I remember I got insane, chin acne, that I couldn’t get rid of, and I still kind of have it just intense acne on my chin, down on my. My, my cheeks. My t-zone are like my forehead was fine, which was really annoying. And. I think it was really hard, if not impossible, to track for about two years afterwards. And then about four years after we were kind of regular, it was fine, everything. That’s the only thing I could honestly say might have been a difference. My diet kind of always been the same. But that’s been it. And that was that was tough. Now I remember thinking, this is not who I am behaviorally. 

I was so mean. I was so mean. And I remember thinking, this is the words that are coming out of my mouth like I couldn’t. I couldn’t take them back. But like as they were, I feel like I was out of my own body and I was just watching me burn bridges and I just thought, This is, you need to go away, you need to not see anybody until you figure this out. You are not a good person right now. And finally, kind of. Finally was able to balance that out. 

Le’Nise And this was before your period or during your period?

MaryEllen During, it was like the two days before. And then I was delightful afterwards, but I mean, it was just like the two days before was terrible. The first two days were terrible. That’s like a solid week out of my month. I was a monster. That is not OK. 

Le’Nise No, no. Have things gotten better in? 

MaryEllen Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. Now I’ve now replaced anger with cravings for peanut butter. So now we got I think I am single handedly keeping Jif peanut butter in business. But one week out of the year I am, I will eat jars of peanut butter. But I’m I like to think that I’ve been told that I am very pleasant now. 

Le’Nise Well, that’s a big, big shift going from mood changes to cravings for peanut butter. So what is it like protein, fat?  

MaryEllen Salty. I think it’s probably the protein and the saltiness. I’ve never really been a sweet flavor. I’ve always been a salty, like a savory over sweet person. And I think just during my period, especially the first two days and then the first two days of actual bleeding, I I am all over anything savory. Especially if it’s covered in peanut butter. 

Le’Nise And it is just peanut butter, or is it almond butter or so? 

MaryEllen It’s just peanut butter and I I will tell, I tell my partner all the time. I will I’ll message him and say, I need you to bring back peanut butter, peanut butter, covered pretzels, peanut butter like noodles because what he’s like, OK, well, I mean, we we know she’s coming soon. And two days later, without fail, there she is. 

Le’Nise Wow, that’s I mean, you’re not alone with having these really intense, savory cravings, but it’s really interesting how it’s very specific to peanut butter. I want to just go back to what you were saying about the birth control. Can you talk a little bit about why you got started on it? Was it was it the oral contraceptive or was it another type of birth control? 

MaryEllen I always did the oral contraceptive, the little packet with the circle. And then, you know, sometimes it changed the packet of square packet and it went left to right for the placebo at the very end and I changed around. I changed the dosages. I did it because I had really bad acne. I would get hormonal acne and I couldn’t get it to go away no matter what. It was just it wasn’t for period pain. It wasn’t for sexual purposes. It wasn’t anything like that. It was purely for an acne purpose. 

And I had a really bad mood swings any time I changed it or I changed the dose, the higher it was, the more irritable I became. And it got to the point where I was still not myself and I was at the lowest possible dosage and do not do this. I am not a medical professional, so I cannot diagnose but do not do what I did. And don’t take yourself off. I don’t test to see if it’s better off. Don’t take yourself off randomly. Go to a doctor and figure out a good way to do this. Don’t be my 20 year old self and try to do a self trial. That’s a terrible idea, but that’s what I did, and I took myself off and I was awful. After six years of being on it and then I went back on it, still terrible, and I basically did everything that I’m pretty sure a doctor would tell you not to do to take yourself on it, putting yourself on, take yourself off, And. Then I took myself off to cold turkey, and it took a while for me to balance out my mood. But oh my gosh, did I love her, like this girl who was not on on? Oh, I loved her. She was awesome. She is awesome. I I don’t feel intense negativity. I feel a lot of things. It’s wonderful. The journey to do that? Talk to your doctor. Don’t do what I did. It was a tough journey. 

But oh my gosh, I love I love this. And I’m not on it and I can track who I am regularly. My cycle regularly. I do all of that. I have a little handicap that you that I mark on the month to month basis. Is a monthly calendar really tiny, but I can. I can track on the day, usually anywhere between twenty six to thirty two days. But again, I’m not the most regular person, but I I would not for my own purposes and my own body. I’m not going to ever go back onto pill or IUD just because it was not. I wasn’t really proud of who I was, and I think that that was more of a a mood thing of how it changed that the level within me and I know that I’m probably a total outlier. A lot of my friends adore their IUD. I love it. Rave about it. Whenever we catch up, they’re talking about their updates. I have a very,  we’re obviously very open. But but for me, I’m I’m the only one that’s completely off out of my core group of six. And the only one that’s off, four of them have IUDs. Three of them love it. And. But that’s that’s this is my story. So I just don’t I do not like I was. I love who I am now. I know how it’s like with monthly spikes of. Intense negative mood swings, intense negative feeling, because by the time I felt like I was stabilizing out of that. It would be like. Five days until the next period, and I don’t want to have five days of normalcy for the rest of my vague, unpredictable, so I took myself off of it. 

Le’Nise Well, you know, you’re you’re this is not something that is unusual. I do hear this a lot. Mood changes due to hormonal contraception. So it’s really important that you’re sharing your story and sharing the impact that this had on you from a mood perspective. But you know, if you are listening to this and you’re thinking, Wow, this is me as well, I want you to know that you’re not alone. This is actually more common than a lot of people realize. I just want to say something. Go back to what you said about your menstrual cycles because you said that they’re between twenty six and thirty two days. Mm hmm. That’s actually quite common for it to be not like just bang on twenty eight days every time. So you mentioned that you might have irregular cycles, but in my work as like a women’s health specialist, an irregular cycle to me would be going from having one menstrual month, being 21 days and then the next one being 40 days. Like you’re looking at like for me, that’s like an irregular cycle, like a really big differential. Whereas what you’re talking about is like four, maybe five days. And I think, you know, that’s not to me, that’s not an irregular cycle. That’s more your body reacting to things that are happening to around you. Maybe one menstrual month, you’re more stressed or you have a lot going on that might change the length of your cycle. So I obviously don’t work with you. I just wanted to give you that little bit of insight. 

MaryEllen No, I love it. I think that this is one of the first few times that somebody said that normal. Thank you! 

Le’Nise Just to go back to what you’re saying about hormonal contraceptives. So you were you got your period at 16 and then at 20, you took yourself off of the pill. So you that mean that you went on it and you were on it for six years, so you were on it from when you were 14. 

MaryEllen So I guess it was four years, four years or so because it was I remember thinking, Oh, I’m on my period. I get to have birth control because that’s what everybody did, and I don’t know if that was. I think that that might be something that was very generational because. It was if it felt like we were kind of made to feel a little weird for doing that. And I remember going to high school when everybody was birth control. And I live in a I lived in a. A small little town in Ohio and everybody was on birth control, so it wasn’t like a city versus rural situation. And a lot of them were on it for the same reason I was on. It was a hormonal acne situation. A lot of people wanted it to balance out their period. I remember I had friends who like you said they would have months go by and they didn’t have a period or they would have months go on and they wouldn’t stop having periods and. I remember everybody was on it for a different reason, one or the other, but I think for me when I went into high school. I was the odd one out because I hadn’t had my period yet, and I wasn’t on birth control because there wasn’t need to. Why would I be on birth control when nothing’s going on anyway? But I was the odd one out. I felt like everybody who I knew in my circle. And I’m not saying I was a popular kid. Please don’t take it that way. But. It was a small school of about two hundred and fifty people and half of those were girls, and they’ve known each other our entire life, and it’s a small town. And I think that everybody was on. Everybody was on it, and that’s OK. But. I remember thinking, I’m an adult, this is weird. When I got my first packet back, when I first filled it. And it was on that for about four years straight, I guess. And then took myself off and then took myself off cold turkey and that was bad. Don’t do that, please. Please don’t do that. I was. That was rough. That was rough. 

Le’Nise So you’ve been on a real journey with hormonal contraception, with your period and the changes that you’ve experienced where it was fine and then now it’s painful. You have moods. You used to experience mood changes and now it’s now it’s the cravings for peanut butter that are quite intense. For someone listening to you and who who who is on the same journey that you have been on with hormonal contraception and now trying to conceive or on that in getting ready to think about that next step, what would what will your message be to them? 

MaryEllen Don’t panic. Because I’m very prone to going to WebMD or the Mayo Clinic and just spiraling, don’t do I’d, like to a point where my doctor tells me, you know, please don’t do that. If you have any questions, call me and we’ll discuss it. But I would just say, don’t. It’s so easy to self-diagnose and panic. And especially now with the Yarlap, with the pelvic floor, I’m now very firmly on that boat of don’t panic, don’t self-diagnose. It’s OK. Whatever’s happening we can, we can work within the parameters given and. You know, with all of this and a lot of my friends who have already had their first kid and and the few that have let me kind of be part of their personal journey and see how difficult it can be, it’s not always as depicted on social media where it’s it’s flawless and it’s beautiful and. Easy. It’s not, that’s a facade. So. I think my thing would be. If you’re within my world, don’t panic. Don’t freak out. Don’t write yourself off. It’s OK, it’s OK. 

Le’Nise So just switching gears a little bit, I want to just go to the pelvic floor and this is an area that I personally didn’t actually learn that much about until after I had had my son. And then I started learning about the different exercises that you needed to do. Of course, you know, like you learn about Kegels and, you know, like that’s kind of permeated into the cultural conversation about pelvic floor. But I didn’t have a true education until I actually really needed to strengthen my pelvic floor. So can you tell listeners why that pelvic floor is so important? 

MaryEllen So just like you, I didn’t know about the pelvic floor muscles until I started doing stuff with Yarlap, with my dad, so that wasn’t until I was about twenty four. So about. Six years ago, and only because I started working in it did I realize what was going on and even my own friends if I wasn’t standing on a soapbox, you know, yelling about the pelvic floor. I don’t think you would know about what’s going on at the pelvic floor because we we aren’t taught about it. Ah, no, really where it’s located until we have a child or we have bladder leaks. And then it’s kind of an, Oh, did you know that this body part existed? Were you aware that these muscles are in your body and they’re in everybody’s body? Did you know that? And the most common answer is no, I had no idea. So. I’m in the same boat with the pelvic floor muscles, it’s just we never discussed it and we never talk about it, even though they are. Basically, the foundation to hold for women, your bladder, your uterus, your visceral organs into their natural position, and for me, not knowing about that was mind blowing. Even when I got the health class discussion from my doctor who he didn’t talk about it. We still didn’t talk about the pelvic floor muscles because I and I’m not sure why. I don’t know why we don’t put more emphasis on these muscles, especially for women, because it’s more of a laundry list of what does it affect them as to what doesn’t affect them for women? 

Le’Nise And OK. And so it’s a really important muscle. Can you talk about some of the effects that not taking care of it, not through lack of awareness or not pointing any fingers, but some? What are some of the effects of not taking care of it? 

MaryEllen Yeah. So some of the effects can be pelvic board pelvic floor dysfunction. So that can include urinary incontinence, which is involuntary bladder. So when you laugh,  sneeze, cough and you pee a little bit? It can be sudden urges to go to the bathroom. It can also be on the other side where it’s super tense. The muscles are very tense all the time and it can make intercourse, penetrative intercourse extremely painful and not even penetrative intercourse. It can just be inserting anything including a tampon that we’re talking about. Menstrual cycles that can include that you just can’t do it because it hurt so much. Your body’s so tense. It’s just it’s not feasible. And that could be on that spectrum of pelvic floor dysfunction, of not having control or proper tone of those muscles. And it can kind of, I think when we think of pelvic floor dysfunction, your pelvic floor not working. Most of us draw a blank of what that even is. So, you know, the two most common are super tense or pelvic floor weakening, which leads to bladder leaks and. I think that what bites us in the rear is that we don’t talk about these enough business. And then when we do, it’s kind of like, Oh, I didn’t know. Well, how are you supposed to do it when you didn’t know that it existed? Don’t put that. Don’t put that burden on yourself. 

And then we’re told to do Kegel exercises, and we wish there was a study. That so that even with written instructions, women do them incorrectly over 50 percent of their of over 50 percent of the time because we end up using our rear ends and our thighs are. Our abs or something like that, and if you’re engaged in a different set of muscles, you’re not engaging the pelvic floor in its entirety, and if you’re not doing a proper workout of the muscle, how are you going to get the benefits that you’re reading about? So it’s kind of why they do these exercises. Good chance not going to do them around the block the by and. It felt like we were setting ourselves up for disaster or failure, more like we were setting ourselves up for failure because by the time we find out that these that these muscles exist, we already have the issue. So it’s not a preventative measure for a lot of people. And then when we do, it can’t be a treatment method because we don’t know how to work them out. We’ve never seen them and we end up engaging the wrong muscles. And that’s kind of how we as Yarlap came into fruition, how we kind of created a space for pelvic floor awareness that. We didn’t want to create this area of shame and burden for women, we wanted to be kind of a safe space of shelter for like, do you not know what’s going on? Hi. We’re here.

Le’Nise Talking about the pelvic floor itself, so that you mentioned there’s a spectrum where it’s super tense or it’s weak and that can lead to incontinence. So how we normally think about incontinence in the sense of like older older people and then now that I am a mother, there’s another side of incontinence that we hear about, but across the population, and I know you probably can only speak to US figures. But how how common is incontinence? 

MaryEllen One in four women. 

Le’Nise Wow, one in four women? 

MaryEllen One in four women, and that’s what blew my mind in the United States is one in three. And the AARP and the University of Michigan came out with a study a few years ago that it’s almost one and two after the age of 50 in the United States, but we never talk about it because. I’m drawing a blank. I don’t know why we don’t talk about it, if there was any other issue, any other medical issue that affected this many women. And was this common universally? It would be plastered everywhere. It would be at the front of stores. It would be at the he’ll be at ATM machines. It would be a disclosure. ATM machines. But we don’t talk about it because we’re afraid of being a butt of a joke or we’re afraid that it’s not. You can’t treat it because I didn’t have it when I was younger and. There’s a lot of myths and miscommunication about it. And it kind of breaks my heart a little bit because. We believe as women, we believe those myths that we’re alone and that there’s nothing you can do about it, you just kind of live with it, suck it up. And that’s a lot of the health issues. That’s not just incontinence. I feel like that’s a lot of things for women in general. PCOS right off the top of my head. Suck it up and live with it until really, really recently. And that’s one in 10 women. So I I don’t understand why. For women, we aren’t more vocal about what is going on with our bodies because it’s important and your health is important and you are important and your quality of life is of the utmost importance. So. I mean, the one in four figure should blow your mind, the one in three in the United States should blow your mind. One in two over the age of 50 should blow your mind. 

Le’Nise My mind is blown, my mind is blown. I’m, you know, you we we get told that it’s a lot of things, as you say with women’s health, we get told that we need to live with these long, painful periods, mood changes, incontinence. And you know, I’ve spoken to older women who are dealing with incontinence, and they just think that it’s just part of life. It’s part of this natural decline that we go into as we get older. But it doesn’t have to be like that. You know, you don’t have to stock up on Depends or in the UK, the brand is Tena. You don’t have to stock up on these things. There is a lot that you you can do. I want to just go back to the other side of the spectrum, which is having a very tense pelvic floor. What can. What’s because we we often don’t think about that, but what can cause that? 

MaryEllen A lot of it could be trauma. Your body’s reaction to tense up. And I’m not saying psychological trauma, can be physical trauma as well. But it’s just like any other body part, it can just be you were formed like that, and that’s OK, and you just need to learn how to properly relax those muscles. But a lot of a lot of the instances can be from trauma related instances and your body’s just tense all the time as a protective measure, and so you just got to learn how to relax those muscles. But again, that’s so much easier said than actually done. The theory is so much easier than the implementation and, and in that vein, we have a lot of women who have hypertense muscles and they can’t experience the pleasure of. If they would like to do penetrative stuff or they don’t have the option to use tampons or anything like that because it’s excruciating pain and there are therapists, pelvic floor therapists to do that stuff kind of stuff. To help with either incontinence from a weak and pelvic floor or hypertense pelvic floor or having hypertension or having a weakened pelvic floor, there’s all sorts of different resources and tools that are available for this. And I think that that is another another major gap is that we don’t talk about it and because we don’t talk about it, people don’t know the information and they don’t know that the information can lead to resources and tools that can help you get rid of it. And I think that that is is something. Very near and dear to my heart that like I, if possible, I would hire a blimp and just with skywriting and write it all over the world. But. I think that there is an information gap where we assume that, well, this is just part of life and then we don’t look deeper into it and we don’t find the tools and the mechanisms to help with the actual issue and then treat it. The treat, the issue. We, you know, we sometimes treat the symptom by getting absorbent products or anything when it could be just toning up a muscle or learning to relax the muscle and getting the tools to get rid of the root cause rather than the symptom. 

Le’Nise So awareness is a big is a big part of this. How can we? How can we increase education around pelvic health? 

MaryEllen Break the stigma around it. I think that we’ve come really far, we still have plenty of work to do when it comes to the menstrual cycle, but we can now we now talk about it openly and we we joke about it. It’s not at a point where everybody feels comfortable doing that. But I think it’s more. Acceptable, then, to look at people and be like, I peed myself. And I think that if we kind of do take within the same vein that we have with the menstrual cycle and break that stigma and nurture a conversation that helps, knowing that you’re not alone, knowing that you’re not the only person in the world who suffers from this is a huge. A huge step forward. And that knowing that there is something there to help you get rid of it is also very key. Yeah. 

Le’Nise So to that point, let’s talk a little bit about about the Yarlap because these sorts of products are really powerful and you have a country like France where after you give birth, you get prescribed pelvic floor therapy. But in the UK, that doesn’t happen. So people are women are scrambling around trying to figure out a solution. And so you and your dad have created a product which is could be a solution for many, many women who are experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction. Tell us a little bit more about it. 

MaryEllen Yeah. So it’s actually funny that you say that about France, because that is. Perfect. Where my dad actually was on the team to help design the device for pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation for the national health care system in France. And in Germany, Scandinavia as well. So. He kind of knew he knew what needed to be done and then created an over-the-counter one for the United States and also for the for the UK as well. And. There is just this gap, and we fell we fell into it ourselves before we created the Yarlap. It was a big moment is that we had a family member. Well, family member, but not a family member, a dear friend that had urinary incontinence to the point where she knew she had 15 minutes. She had 15 minutes of freedom, and she had to go to the bathroom and it was like clockwork. And it got to the point where she wouldn’t leave the house. And then she became secluded, which led to a whole array of things. And. Destroyed her social life, all this other stuff. And my dad goes, well, there’s stuff in the in in France and in Europe that you can just go and get it and it will be covered. So there’s probably something like that in the United States where you can just easily go and get it. Well, no, it’s not because it’s the United States. And so then we we created something that we knew we had the we had the resources, the quality. We had everything that we could do to bring something that would work. To the United States, it could be easily accessible. And that’s the key that it was easily accessible and that it worked. And. I think that there are so many things out there that you want to look for something that is good for your journey. If you have pelvic floor muscle control and you can do the workouts, but you’re not sure if you’re doing them properly or if you’re engaging in the correct muscles, there are an array of tools, right? There’s like there’s eggs, biofeedback tools and all these other things. But if you’re if you want something done for you and you just sit there or you have no ability to control those muscles at all, those tools may not be of use for you because they could engage the wrong muscle, right? You can end up using your your butt again to hold everything in and just clench and to squeeze. And if you’re using your butt, you’re not using your pelvic floor muscles. And so you’re not going to get the benefit to have a rear end. That looks amazing, but you’re still good, but you’re still going to have these leaks because you’re not engaging the pelvic floor muscle. 

So maybe those aren’t correct for you. You want to use an enemy as a neuro muscle electro device that sends a signal into your pelvic floor muscles. And there are just different there’s different arrays and there are dialators for super tense pelvic floor muscles. There are an array of tools, but you want to find out what works for you and what is beneficial for your journey. Because if you have a tense pelvic floor muscle, getting something that is going to do the pelvic floor muscle workouts and clench for you is not what you want. You want something that’s going to help you learn to relax those muscles. So it’s really important that you find out where you are on this spectrum of tone and then go find a tool that is appropriate for you because you don’t want to be backpedaling and not getting the correct tool for your problem. So you want to find out what, what, where exactly you are on this spectrum of tone. 

Le’Nise So if you are wondering where you are, so if you don’t have the obvious, some of the obvious signs where you have bladder incontinence or you have like a super tense like you can feel it or you have issues inserting tampons or issues having penetrative sex. Would you say that the best way to get a sense of where you are is to see a pelvic floor specialist like that sort of therapist? 

MaryEllen Or your GP, whoever does your. Exams, if that’s your OB or if that’s your gynonow or whomever can tell you where, how, how, how you are in your tone, where you are, if you have any. If you’re good, if you want to use devices that are as a preventative measure or as a treatment measure, it’s a good if you have the luxury of going to a licensed health care professional. That is your best bet. 

Le’Nise OK, great. So if you if someone’s listening to this and they’re on this journey and they they’re feeling scared, they’re really worried about the symptoms that they’re experiencing, whether it’s either end of the spectrum or somewhere in between. What words would you give them to give them a bit of support? 

MaryEllen Go to your doctor kicked out of the door and say, Hey, this is what I’m feeling, because just taking that action step of making the appointment or even going to your friends or your family or your partner, or look yourself in the mirror and say, I have a problem, I’m going to go fix this. It’s is a huge, massive step and you should be so proud of yourself for taking that step because you’re trying to improve your quality of life by no longer having this health issue. And you should never feel alone, isolated or ashamed ever about taking control of your own health. So anybody who makes you feel any type of negative way for taking control of your own body, for taking control of your health? They are the ones that should be embarrassed. They’re the ones that should be ashamed for making you feel that way because you’re amazing for doing this for yourself. This is the ultimate form of self-care. I know that we are not throwing that term around for creating a bubble bath and lighting some candles. And that is a form of self-care for people. But I personally believe that this is the ultimate form of self-care is to take control of your health. And if you are doing that and. And you are going to make an appointment or you’re you know, you’re talking to people about your pelvic floor health or your bladder leaks or whatever, and you’re about to start this journey, know that this is so amazing and you are so great for doing it because not a lot of people do. And they just sit and suck it up, even though they’re not happy about it and their quality of life sucks. And you are doing something good for yourself and you’re putting yourself first and you’re taking control of your health. That is amazing. I do not ever, ever feel alone, ever. 

Le’Nise Fantastic. I think those are really important words. If listeners want to find out more about you and Yarlap, where can they go? 

MaryEllen They can go to www.yarlap.com or they can find us on Instagram or Facebook. Instagram is I live and breathe on Instagram, so Instagram is a great place to be at. We’re at @yarlapotp. And you can send us messages, comments, whatever you want and we’ll get back to you as soon as we possibly can. And usually that’s within like an hour or so, and so we’re pretty quick to respond. 

Le’Nise Great. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today. 

MaryEllen Thank you so much for having me. So nice to talk to somebody about taboo subjects that somebody who’s not embarrassed to talk about them as well so that was really nice. 

Let’s Talk About Period Pain!

We’ve spent the last four weeks talking about each of the menstrual cycle.

I hope it’s clearer to you now and you can use this information to get a better understanding of what’s going on for you during each phase.  

Let’s move on to talking about period pain.

If you’ve been following my work for a while, you will have heard me say that period pain is common, but it’s not normal.  I recently read an Instagram post that challenged this idea, saying that period pain is indeed normal and when we say it’s not normal, we diminish the pain that people experience due to chronic conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids and adenomyosis, as well as period pain caused by inflammation due to systemic stressors such as racial and sexual discrimination, healthcare and economic inequalities and more.

I’m interested to know your perceptive on this.  

I’ll say right away that I don’t agree this perspective.

When we understand that we don’t have to live with terrible period pain, we stop normalising a sign from our body that something is wrong.

Even with conditions like fibroids, adenomyosis and endometriosis, when we understand that period pain is, although common, but not normal, it can empower us to take charge of our health outcomes.  

Some might say that I’m advocating healthism. This places the problem of health and disease in the hands of the individual, rather than acknowledging there are also systemic and political issues – such as the lack of consistent and equitable access to health services, or lack of research into women’s health – that contribute to menstrual and hormone health issues. 

Again I go back to knowledge.

Pain is a signal from the body that something’s amiss.

Our periods and menstrual cycles are our body’s fifth vital sign, a measure of how important parts of our health are functioning. Chronic menstrual pain tells us that an important part of our health needs attention.

This knowledge can help you find the support you need in order to change your health outcomes. This might simply start with a conversation with a friend or relative. It might be pushing your GP a little harder for a referral, diagnosis or a better explanation. It simply might give you comfort that you’re not alone and you don’t need to endure the pain you experience.  

Let me know what you think.

This might be a new perspective for some of you. If you disagree, let me know – I want to hear your thoughts! 

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash


Le’Nise Brothers is a yoga teacher and registered nutritionist, mBANT, mCNHC, specialising in women’s health, hormones and the menstrual cycle. She is also the host of the Period Story Podcast, which aims to break taboos around menstrual health and hormones. 

Le’Nise has helped hundreds of women improve their menstrual and hormone health through her private practice and group programmes, talks and workshops for the likes of Stylist, Channel 4, Boden, Ebay and TikTok and her Instagram page. Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

Her first book You Can Have A Better Period will be released in March 2022. 

Period Story Podcast, Episode 50: Natasha Richardson, PMS Is A Hypermedicalisation of A Perfectly Natural Phase

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!

Get in touch with Natasha:

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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

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 natasha@foragebotanicals.co.uk. 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. 

Let’s Talk About Our Inner Autumn!

Let’s get into the final phase of our menstrual cycle, the inner autumn, otherwise known as the luteal phase. Click these links if you want to learn more about the menstrual / inner winter, follicular / inner spring and ovulatory / inner summer phases.

I like to think of the luteal phase as having two parts – early and late. Think of it like early autumn, September to mid-October. There’s still a bright energy in the air, with the leaves changing colours. Then we move to late autumn, mid-October to November. The nights are starting to draw in, there’s a cold crispness and all you want to do is stay warm and cosy inside. 

In our early luteal phase, we still have lots of energy and our moods are still balanced. Then we move into our late luteal phase: estrogen and progesterone naturally start to gradually decline and we might find that we move a little slower. We also might get super focused on working through our to do lists as a way of getting as much as possible done as we move towards the end our menstrual cycle and get ready to start anew. 

Let’s talk about our expectations for ourselves during this time. 

You’ve heard of a little something called PMS, right? That’s premenstrual syndrome, a collection of over 150 different symptoms. I often hear women referring to how they feel as ‘their PMS’ or that they’re ‘PMSing’. If you simply chalk up how you feel to ‘PMS’, then you miss the opportunity to identify what’s really going on for you. 

Is it premenstrual anxiety? Premenstrual bloating? Premenstrual headaches?  Diving a little deeper into how you’re feeling instead of using a broad term like PMS gives you the chance to reframe the time before your period. It also helps us shift this cultural expectation that we’re supposed to put up with two weeks of feeling  like crap (a week before our periods and the week of our periods). 

If you’ve never heard anything like this before, explore how this new idea makes you feel. It can be hard to shrug off long-held views about how we’re supposed to feel, especially ones that have permeated the cultural landscape.

Before you say I’m being Pollyannaish, remember that it’s normal for our moods to change.

We can’t always chalk changing moods up to our hormones. We can have normal reactions to events, people and situations all throughout our menstrual cycle. They might be a bit heightened before our period (we have less estrogen and less serotonin and dopamine).

Here’s another way to look at it. Estrogen, being our feminising hormone, is also our hormone of tolerance. When it naturally declines in our late luteal phase, we may have less tolerance to things that we’ve been putting up with. I know I don’t want to deal with any nonsense right before my period and I don’t. Or I bite my tongue a little harder because I know what I say might be a little harsher.

How you do feel about the time before your period? Tell me more in the comments. 

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash


Le’Nise Brothers is a yoga teacher and registered nutritionist, mBANT, mCNHC, specialising in women’s health, hormones and the menstrual cycle. She is also the host of the Period Story Podcast, which aims to break taboos around menstrual health and hormones. 

Le’Nise has helped hundreds of women improve their menstrual and hormone health through her private practice and group programmes, talks and workshops for the likes of Stylist, Channel 4, Boden, Ebay and TikTok and her Instagram page. Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

Her first book You Can Have A Better Period will be released in March 2022. 

Period Story Podcast, Episode 49: Cherie Hoeger, Use Your Business As A Force For Good

I’m so pleased to share my conversation with Cherie Hoeger. Cherie is the co-founder and CEO of Saalt, a women-owned period care company aiming to modernize reusable period care. In 2018, Saalt launched its flagship product—the Saalt period cup—with the vision of making cleaner, more sustainable period care accessible to everyone. 

Leading Saalt’s social impact efforts, Cherie began networking with impact partners to provide their period cups to underprivileged girls and women so they could confidently manage their periods, stay in school, and lift themselves out of poverty. Now in their fourth year in business, Saalt has donated over 20,000 cups in 34 countries to create a wave of informed cup users who then act as mentors for other donation recipients.

A quick note on today’s show – we recorded this early last year, so please check the Saalt website for the most up to date information about the products. 

Cherie and I had a fantastic conversation about her inspiration for starting a menstrual product brand, her journey as an entrepreneur, how to try a menstrual cup and of course, the story of her first period. I can’t wait for you to hear this episode!

Thank you, Cherie! 

Get in touch with Cherie:

Website

Instagram

Facebook

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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Le’Nise: On today’s episode of Period Story, we have Cherie Hoeger, the founder of Saalt Menstrual Cups. I’m so excited to have her on the show today. I am a huge fan of the cups, a huge advocate, so I’m really excited to dive into her story and find out what inspired her to found the brand. But firstly hear her period story. So this is the question I always ask my guests to begin with. Can you tell me the story of your very first period? 

Cherie: So I grew up with an Argentine mother, and she was very street savvy, very straightforward. She taught me a lot about periods right away. So I feel lucky to have known a lot more than I think most girls my age. And to be honest, I can’t remember my first period, and I think it’s this indication that it was a pretty smooth experience for me because I was so knowledgeable. So I feel really grateful to be able to have had that experience but I also felt more prepared than most girls my age, but I never loved my period regardless. I remember struggling with it, feeling embarrassed about certain situations and experiencing what so many others do, leaking through their pants when their periods comes early or tampon leaked to their underwear, or having these terrible cramps during school. 

Le’Nise: So when you’re when you said that you felt more prepared than others, tell tell me more about what made you feel more prepared. 

Cherie: It was the knowledge that confidence I had someone walking me through with that freedom and granted there was so much I still didn’t know, but the fact that she took time to prepare for it was something that just surprised me as my underwear. One day I was just really grateful for my love for being proactive. 

Le’Nise:.So your mom prepared you and you feel more confident. You felt like you were more in control about what was happening to you. What about in school? How did you learn about periods, say in health class or from your teachers? 

Cherie: Yeah, so I had classes, just like most do in American schools here, where they had a class where they pull you sside, it was funded by Tampax or Playtex, and they introduced you to tampons for the first time, my mom attended. I think it was overall a good experience for me, but of course I was introduced to disposables right away. Reusable  just wasn’t something that was even in schools and very little taught in schools right now as well. That’s something that I hope to change. But of course, it was embarrassing being there with with so many peers and learning about periods for the first time. And and, you know, everyone just struggles with those with those same stigmas that hush hush talk, that’s still a problem. 

Le’Nise: Why do you think it was embarrassing? 

Cherie: You know, looking at what I know about periods now, I’m ashamed to say that I was embarrassed, but I just think that it’s a reality for so many women and girls all across the world, and it’s because of those learned stigmas that we learn in society, that we learn from our male colleagues and our male peers and also our female peers and even my even my mom would tell me, Hey, hide your tampon up your sleeve. And so it was it was still very much the stigma that shame. 

Le’Nise: So that you you went through high school hiding your tampons, feeling like this was something that had to be hidden. 

Cherie: Yes, very much so. 

Le’Nise: How old were you when you got your first period? 

Cherie: I believe that I was 13 years old. Yeah. 

Le’Nise: And when you got your first period, you felt really confident and then how how was it actually having your period going through high school? Was it painful? Was it heavy? And how did you navigate that? 

Cherie: I used primarily tampons, and I have a regular to heavy flow, and despite feeling prepared for my period, it didn’t mean that I had good feelings toward it and it didn’t mean that I was really knowledgeable about it. It would still surprise me all the time. And I was very active in high school, so I did dance. I did gymnastics, even thought of martial arts capoeira. And you know, we’re we’re wearing white pants, we’re wearing shorts and cheer skirts. And I remember always being scared so you would wear liners. And sometimes it was surprise you and I’d have those embarrassing moments. I think it’s unfortunate that so many women and girls live with fear, with that lack of confidence every single month, not knowing when their period in arrives. So I’m so grateful that we have that are solutions out there. But it just it causes that shame that’s so sad to see that especially young girls, how it’s instilled at a young age. 

Le’Nise: And knowing that you had there was a stigma that around periods of menstrual health for you thinking about where you are now. What have you done to change your attitude towards periods and kind of release the stigma around it? 

Cherie: That’s a great question. It’s interesting because as a business owner entrenched in the menstruall health industry, I think people expect that I must have gotten into this industry because I was an expert, but that’s simply not the case. I’m an average woman who loved menstrual cups and wanted to get the word out to the consumer, and we knew when we started Saalt that we were going to battle these long held stigmas around periods that presented both our greatest challenge and our opportunity. So from the outset, we knew we were entering this product category that’s still really taboo for a lot of people. So we took that stigma head on with beautiful, high end packaging that looked like unboxing a beautiful lipstick. And we wanted to be able to be a clean personal care product that sat on the same shelves as other cool beauty products. We wanted it to be seen as something that was sustainable and healthier and more comfortable. And so we were able to battle a lot of the stigmas by just how we presented our brand imagery and voice, and we tried to do that same thing with just periods in general is get out this messaging to mainstream consumers that periods don’t have to be considered gross or an inconvenience or something that something that should be shameful or sit in there. Beautiful. This is 50 percent of the population that menstruate. And it perpetuates the human right, we just think that deserves kudos, not censorship. And so we actually just released a brand campaign that’s all about flipping the script, the negative script about periods and turning it into something positive and showing it as divine and something beautiful and something powerful, powerful like the cycles of the Earth. So it shows a woman shows cycles of the Earth, and it shows that same power and that same correlation. And we’ve got a lot of great feedback because we’re really trying to take that head on. In fact, I really have a pet peeve in the industry.

Le’Nise: OK?

Cherie: And that that is those ads that show women dressed up personified in red, sometimes in a hazmat suit because their boyfriend is coming for the weekend and it’s showing periods as an annoyance and something gross. And I just think really? Are those the messages that we want our daughters to see that we want this next generation to see to form they feel about periods? And I really believe that type of messaging is damaging and creates a stigma. I have five daughters, so I’m a mother of five and I don’t want my daughters or any young person to be degraded by those same stigmas that past generations have. So it’s something that we’re really trying to combat head on. 

Le’Nise: So you have you have five daughters. Talk to me about how you’ve been teaching them about periods and menstrual health and taking out some of the stigma that you felt towards your period. 

Cherie: So I try to tell them that as menstruators were the ones who set the cues for how other people feel about having a conversations about period, so number one, I tell them to be open when my daughter is on her period, she says, oh, I don’t even want my sisters to know then. That’s just perpetuating stigma. Talk about it when you’re on your period, you can have open conversations. If anything in our household, it should be something very welcome. And yet it’s interesting to see her still struggle. She’s 13 years old, my oldest and her still struggle with the stigma that she gets from school and society in general. But I’ve taught her to have those open conversations and that that’s the way we can progress forward as women and girls. So and menstruators. So I tell her to the way that she speaks about periods and as straightforward as she can be. Those are the cues that her counterparts, her peers see. So if we feel awkward, then they’re going to feel awkward. We feel open. They’re going to feel open and they’re going to be fine. Have. I also like to tell her about how her anatomy works, like, for instance, there is a lot that I wish I knew back then about just cervix height and she uses a cup. Of course, I taught her how to use. a cup and knowing your cervix size is really important when you use a cup. And also that the menstrual cycle has four phases. You have your menstrual, your follicular, your ovulation, your luteal phase. And I think there’s a lot of perception that those PMS symptoms happen just during your period, your bleeding phase when in reality is, you know, they happen two weeks prior and that luteal phase, that’s when you actually. So  just teaching her how her hormones are affecting is and how it’s very natural and her cycle brings awareness to her that she understands her body she’s feeling, and she’s able to make better choices and and really focus on her health because of that. 

Le’Nise: So do you feel like she does, sometimes with teenagers, teenage girls? And I don’t have a teenage daughter, but I’m speaking from my own experience where your mom tells you something and you kind of you kind of pooh pooh it because it’s your mom. Do you think she’s taking on board what you’re saying? 

Cherie: That’s a great question, so when I first, she helped us develop our teen cup, we wanted to make sure that it was a good size for a 13 year old. So she helped to test it. But at first she didn’t want to. She wanted to try tampons first, and it was so funny. I said, Your mom owns a menstrual care menstrual cup business. You need to use a cup for the first time. But of course, when she tried a tampon, I was going to be supportive. I said, That’s fine. When you’re ready to switch to a cup, do let me know and you can take that jump. And she did. She tried it on her own. She didn’t tell me when she did because you’re right, they don’t always want to listen to Mom. But I had a moment, a moment of celebration when she came to me and said, Mom, I tried the cup. I don’t know why more people don’t use the cup. It was so much better. It’s so much cleaner. I love it so much more, and I just wanted to jump for joy. And yes, I can convert my own daughter then other teens can also enjoy the cup. And it’s interesting because our teen cup is a lot smaller than our regular flow cup. And since within the same few months, her next cycle she moved to our regular size. So it really was just just getting over that first hurdle. 

Le’Nise: I want to come back to the cup and the business a little bit later on, but I want to kind of rewind a little bit to find out more about your menstrual health journey. So you did you always have periods that were just that were heavy or you should use a medium to light cup. So did you always have periods that were kind of the same as you went from your teens to your 20s? 

Cherie: I actually consider myself very regular, very regular and know when my periods come, I’ve only missed one period my entire life during a moment of stress. And that was that was interesting and very telling to see where I was at. But otherwise very much like clockwork and I am regular with my flow. The one thing I’ve noticed is I have had a decrease over time. I think part of that is because of the cup. But I remember when I was younger, I would have terrible cramps. I remember traveling to Hawaii once and because of the humidity and because I live in a desert area, it really just magnifies. And I stayed in our hotel room. I went in the closet and just sat in the fetal position while everyone was at the beach. My mom came and found me, and she was so mad that I didn’t ask for a Tylenol. Again, that speaks to that shame I was. I didn’t want my brothers. I grew up with four brothers and I was secretive about my period because sometimes I would be mocked a lot by my older brothers about my period. So, so yes, I I feel like that has changed a little bit over time, mostly in cramping, but my flows make pretty consistent. 

Le’Nise: And you did you use a mixture of pads and tampons when you were younger? Yeah, you said. 

Cherie: Yeah, I started at the very beginning I started, I started with as I moved to tampons very quickly. But as you know, tampons often leak through, especially with the heavy flow and being as active as I was, I couldn’t always go change the tampon quickly. And so I would always wear a liner. 

Le’Nise: And what was the light bulb moment for you when you realized that actually that those weren’t the products that you wanted to be using? 

Cherie: So I didn’t discover the menstrual cup until a lot later in life, about eight years ago. And I think this is the case for a lot of people. The cup was invented in the 1930s and people are always shocked to hear that it was invented … a rubber cup. But the design was very, much very similar to the modern cups. And I just think that because there’s these big disposable conglomerates that make a lot more profit for disposable products, they were pushed quite a bit more. So menstrual cups have really made a comeback in more recent years but a lot of people still don’t know what it is. There was about eight years ago when I was introduced to the cup, and the story is I had been talking to my aunt in Venezuela, and the situation there is very dire. They struggle to get anything on grocery store shelves, food and diapers, let alone things like tampons and pads. So I thought of my five daughters and what I would do in that situation and that dependance we had on disposables really kept me up at night. So I looked at what other reusable options that were out there, and that’s when I was first introduced to menstrual cups and I learned that it was cleaner and it was nontoxic. And it lasted 10 years and you could wear it for 12 hours. And I just thought, where has this been my whole life? So I tried several cups. I tried several different cups out there, and I just couldn’t find one that fit my anatomy. And one that I felt was ideal to be able to share with other friends something ideal for beginners. And that’s when I roped my husband to help custom design a cup that I felt would be great for the consumer. Great for beginners. And one that would be made of high quality silicone that contained fillers like we have overseas but was US made, US sourced and that that’s kind of what started the Saalt dream. 

Le’Nise: What I really love about the Saalt Cup and this is, listen listeners, this isn’t an advert I just like. You know, I when I talk about the products that I love, what I love about the Saalt Cup is that it’s soft and I’ve used other brands that much harder and you know, it’s you have to fold it. So it is malleable, but it is. It is harder. And I personally started using the Saalt Cup two menstrual cycles ago, and I actually see a difference in my period. And I what I love is that you do that. You have that quiz to see the cervix size and the cups are soft. And I used to get this kind of suction feeling, like a deep suction, rather when I used the old cup I used to use and I don’t get that anymore, and it actually has reduced the period pain that I was experiencing where it just kind of I’ve been amazed by it. Absolutely amazed. So tell me how you how you realized that the softer cup was better and that you needed to pay more attention to kind of cervical size in order for this to be the best product for people who menstruate? 

Cherie: Yeah, first, first of all, say that we have a Saalt Cup academy as a private group on Facebook in its made up of 25,000 Saalt users. And they’ve said over and over again the same experience, similar experiences that when they tried the cup, it’s less pressure and it’s just a better, more comfortable experience than other products. So that’s so great to hear. I love hearing how much you love that we did set out to make a cup that was better. And we have two varieties, and it sounds like you might use our softer cup. We have one. That’s an original. Yup. We have one that’s an original and firmer. That one is one we do recommend for beginners, it pops open and stays open, but many people do favour the soft cup over the firmer one. I use the soft cups and it’s a little bit more of a manual open, but it stays in very well. It’s very comfortable. You forget that it’s there. And what we learn is a lot of it has to do with the finish on the cup. Our cups go through this process called cryogenic deflashing. So after they’re made in the liquid, it gets pulled. They go into this tumbler that is called with liquid nitrogen, and they have silicone beads that are blasted all around the cup. And what it does is it creates a super smooth finish. And so there’s no seams like it looks virtually seamless over its sleeve, but it’s part of that cyrogenic deflashing process that makes it so soft. The other thing is that it has a very flexible stem that doesn’t have any of those refrains that you really irritable, especially around the vaginal canal and labia. And so we created a stem that was very soft and flexible so that it wouldn’t irritate people, wouldn’t have to cut it off or cut off their stems all the time because they would say it’s uncomfortable. And I said, why not create a cup that you don’t have to cut the stem off? So that was that was a little bit of a design change that people really appreciated. So I’m glad to hear that it’s so great. 

Le’Nise: Yeah, I’m a I’m a huge fan. So for listeners who are hearing what you’re saying, they’re interested in trying a menstrual cup, but they’re a little bit nervous. That’s something I hear all the time there. I had a conversation with a client a couple of weeks ago, who she said, I want to try it, but I’m just nervous. I’m nervous about the spilling. I’m nervous about the mess. How would you recommend that someone who’s feeling like that starts? 

Cherie: So number one, everyone is there. It’s a big behavior change, we’re asking you to take a big jump from something that’s convenient to something else that’s convenient, but we use a lot and to be able to make that mental switch. So we like to say that it only takes one moment of bravery. Whether you’re in the shower or shower is a great risk free zone to try a cup, but also to find a friend who uses a cup or to look to an influencer that uses a cup. We have great customer service team that’s really dedicated that will help you literally hold your hand through the entire process. We found early on that for those that were scared to use a cup, we have a hashtag called #asksaalt, and it’s because it’s very word of mouth type of product. You need to hear it from a trusted friend or a trusted resource or mentor, like an influencer who can kind of tell about their experience and kind of lose some of that fear factor. And the fear factor is this there forever what we say, take the lead. Take that one moment of great bravery. Put the cup outside your shower when you’re ready to try it, you can do it before your period if you want to take a dry run and just put it in and take it out. But it’s not that scary. It does have a learning curve. So we like to set those expectations that it’s not going to be something that’s going, that you’re going to catch on really quickly. Although there’s a lot of women who do. They put it in and they figure it out very fast, but go with expectations that that there will be a learning curve. It may take two to three cycles to really get you through to make through, to get it positioned correctly. But when you do, you have thousands of cup supporters who are just cheering you on because you’re making that successful product, making the switch to something that’s more comfortable and better for you and less toxic for the environment. 

Le’Nise: Actually, the thing that I’ve noticed about menstrual cup users is that they’re really big advocates for the product. Once they find one that they love, they will just cheer, cheer anyone on who uses it. Recommend that brand, and it’s much more so than tampons and pads. And actually, this I found the same for period underwear, people. They just love them and they’ll just, you know, really, really cheer on their favorite brand. I want to talk about there’s tends to be kind of different benefits that users will focus on when they when it comes to menstrual cups. It’s either the environmental side, it’s the the idea of the hormone support or the potential of having less painful periods. And then there’s also the economic side. What I know you started the company because you wanted to fire. You were trying to find a reusable solution. But what about the hormonal and the economic side of of the menstrual products? You talk a little bit about that. 

Cherie: Yeah, so it certainly is a money saver when you invest in a cup because it can last 10 years, we like to say it lasts just as long as your passport and gives those dividends over and over again. It can save users, you know, between fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars over its 10 10 year life. It depends on how many pads or tampons or what you’re buying, but it certainly can save thousands of dollars to spend on something more fun than tampons, chocolate, travel and so forth. And so, especially during this pandemic time, that’s been a big driver. We’ve seen a very large increase in just interest in renewables in general. We also have a period underwear line that we came out with the December. And so for both our period underwear and our cup together, because it’s such a perfect way to increase sustainability and to try something again because everyone’s at home. And so it’s a risk free time to try that. And then as far as you know, hormonal, like I said, there’s been many users that report that they have less cramping and that it’s really helpful. I think it’s just anecdotal evidence I can’t I can’t promise that that’s going to be the case, but we have seen it over and over. Tampons also create that environment where there’s a lot of microtearing. When you’re pulling out a dried tampon, which increases the risk of TSS and so menstrual cups doesn’t mitigate the risk of TSS overall because you can get TSS with any products which are inserted into the vagina. But it’s vastly lower than something like a tampon because it just doesn’t create that same environment of that just has that humidity and then that moisture, together with the little rayon fibers that are often found the fiber. And so it’s it’s just the healthier option. 

Le’Nise: Yeah, definitely. And for listeners who aren’t aware, TSS, toxic shock syndrome. And that’s when you have, you know, if you’ve been wearing the tampon for longer than the recommended time you can, it can create kind of like an infection that could send you to hospital. So shifting gears to the kind of entrepreneurial side of your story, you founded a company in February 2018. You’ve been running a company that is sustainable, helping users find economic value as well. Talk to us a little bit about your journey as an entrepreneur and also running this business with a very well, in my view, a large family. 

Cherie: Yes, it is a large family, five children is large, and I feel I feel lucky every day that I have five daughters as especially, you know, for my husband as well. We’re really working to make a life for them and and change lives everywhere. Take away the barriers that are created by menstruaation. And I’m going to talk about our impact efforts a little bit and then I’ll go on to our story. But from day one, we knew that we wanted to become a B Corp and we wanted to have a philanthropic dedicate two percent of our revenues to help improve menstrual health, specifically girls education. A lot of people don’t realize just how tied girls is to menstruation,  for instance, in Uganda. Emirates and then you see it dropped 22 percent. Second, you say what happened, right? It’s periods. Periods happen. It’s as soon as girls hit puberty, school dropout rates just set to skyrocket. So if we could create this cup, this little investment in a cup and get it to girls so that they have a long term solution for their period, then suddenly we’re creating economic opportunity. 

We’re keeping girls in school, we’re helping women work and we’re literally breaking the cycle of poverty for generations. So it’s just something that really drives us every day. We’re very driven by our mission, and one of our internal goals is to help 100 million lives. 100 million women and girls be able to live more authentic lives of their elements through our products. And, you know, we’re well on our way for that. So that was a driver right from the beginning. I think that you need a strong why is an entrepreneur because of so many ups and downs and to be able to push through and say, no, this product, this product can really change the game changing. Is what really motivates us and keeps us going every day. So we did we develop the product? It was a big jump and as an entrepreneur, to decide to pull the trigger. For instance, we started with just our small and our regular cup, and the mold itself was the twenty five thousand dollar investment for one size, so fifty thousand for two sizes. And that’s because you’re literally etching it in steel. So we had to be very confident in our mold that it was going to be a product that was going to work well for people, which is hard when you don’t have the opportunity to have them tested. So we went through 14 different design iterations. We pulled the trigger, created these molds and we had a focus group of a thousand people that we built over time that we would ask all sorts of questions to What do you like about our brand? If you like this color better now, what are you looking for in a reusable product? What kind of voice do you like? One that’s more authoritative or one that’s more approachable and we’d A/B test these questions to that group. And then when it was time to launch, we gave them each a free cup. We wanted them to film their unboxing experience. So they did that on social media and it really helped catapult this is a brand and have these. So when we launched our website, it wasn’t just crickets, but we had a team of 1000 ambassadors who really believed in the product. Believe in our brand and we’re excited to be able to share them. So that was part of our journey. And then I would say our next big milestone was when we launched an all Target stores nationwide, and that was just huge to be able to do that in our second year. And that was due to our beautiful branding. She said straight up that she felt that our brand would be best positioned to take the cup mainstream because the way we presented our products and to educate is very validating. 

Le’Nise:I what I love about what you said. You said this earlier is that you didn’t want it to be a kind of typical menstrual product brand. You wanted to be more of a kind of clean, clean beauty sort of brand. And I see that in the branding. It looks, it looks very stylish. It looks like something you could throw in your basket and you wouldn’t. Not that I would hide it, but you know, you could imagine some people hiding those sorts of things and you don’t you don’t need to. And I think that’s very appealing to a lot of people who aren’t necessarily as far as we are in our menstrual health journey. Now you’re you’re launching in the UK. You have launched or you’re about to launch in the UK? 

Cherie: Now we do we do have retailers in the UK, so people are there and you can purchase offer off our website. We’re also on Amazon UK and then we’re in a couple of small retailers there and we’re looking to continue to grow our footprint. Our period underwear is not in the UK yet. You can buy it off our website will be shipped there, but we’re hoping to have it there soon. 

Le’Nise: OK, great. And so you are. So you’re now international as a brand? Great. Fantastic. So thinking about everything that you’ve learned over your journey as through your period and then as an entrepreneur, what is the one message you would want to leave people with who are on this kind of similar entrepreneurial journey where they have a vision? They have an idea, but they’re unsure about whether or not they should pull the pull the trigger. What what would you say to them? 

Cherie: I would say that more and more people want to align with companies that represent their own values that align with their personal values. So I’m a big believer in social enterprise. I love the B Corp movement because I believe that it encompasses the best of both worlds, the nonprofit and for profit business. So for those that are looking at entrepreneurs pulling the trigger on a product that they want to create or brands that they want to develop, I would look into social enterprise and see how you use your business to do good in the world. Use your business as a force. I think that there’s so much that every business do to empower their workers to be able to look and see courts do at not just the bottom line and profit. The taking that triple bottom line approach and looking at people planet profit, which includes your community and includes your customers and includes your suppliers and the factories that you work with, looking at doing everything you do in a clean and ethical way, that’s good for your customers, good for people and planet. So I’m just such a big believer. I think the brand is going to continue to show that those that have a social mission are the brands that are going to grow and those that the millennials Gen Zers are going to continue to support. 

Le’Nise: Fantastic, I love the idea of having a social a social mission, and I definitely see that resonating with a lot of people versus companies who. We’re getting all think of big ones that are purely as you see it, focused on on profit. If someone wants to buy a menstrual cup, they’ve heard our conversation today. They want, they want to dive in. How can they find find the Saalt menstrual cups? 

Cherie: The easiest way is checking our website, Saalt.com. Like I said, we’re also sold on Amazon, were sold on various retailers nationwide Target, REI or Whole Foods. That’s right. 

Le’Nise: Fantastic. Thank you so much for coming on the show today, sharing your period story. And yes, thank you so much. 

Cherie: Thank you, Le’Nise, and such a pleasure. 

Let’s Talk About Our Inner Summer!

Let’s continue with our exploration of the four phases of the menstrual cycle. We’ve come through our inner winter and spring and are now into the heady days of our inner summer, otherwise known as our ovulatory phase. If there was a time that we would feel at the peak of our powers, this would be it. If you’re paying attention to how you feel during your menstrual cycle, you’ll notice that this time is when you feel your most confident, most articulate self. You’re the flower and the bees are flocking to you. 

So what’s going on during this time? One of your ovaries has released a mature egg (it takes around 270 days for a follicle to grow into the ovum that is released when we ovulate). You may have seen that meme going around social media that says we’re born with all the eggs we’ll ever have. That’s not strictly true. We’re actually born with all the ovarian follicles we’ll ever have and it’s these follicles that turn into the mature egg that gets released during ovulation. But that doesn’t sound quite as sexy does it? 

Dr. Lara Briden has argued that we should actually be thinking of our cycle as an ovarian cycle, rather that a menstrual cycle, because ovulation is the true main event of our cycle, not our periods. This is because when we ovulate, we release progesterone, our amazing anti-inflammatory calming hormone. We also release a second, smaller peak of estrogen, which is why I like to think of ovulation as a phase, rather that just one day because we can ride the wave of these beautiful hormones and feel their effect on our mood, energy, motivation, social and cognitive skills, skin, hair and more. 

If you’re using a menstrual cycle tracking app, it’s important not to rely on this to tell you that you’re ovulating. Just as our menstrual cycles aren’t always 28 days, we don’t always ovulate on day 14. How do you actually know when you’re ovulating? There are a few things you can look for and do. 

  1. Cervical fluid

I mentioned our changing cervical fluid when we were learning about our follicular phase / inner spring. You may notice something called peak cervical fluid: it looks a bit like clear egg whites and if you were to pick it up from your underwear or toilet paper and pull it apart with two fingers, it would be thick, stretchy and feel quite strong. This is exactly what we want – it’s a sign of good health. 

  1. Libido, Mood and Energy

You’ll notice that you’ll reach the peak of your libido, mood and energy. What does this mean? You’ll have your strongest orgasms, you’ll have lots of energy to do what you need to do and your outlook will be more positive. If you notice this doesn’t happen for you, it’s worth exploring this further. In my book, I discuss pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) in detail. 

  1. Basal Body Temperature (BBT)

BBT increases just after ovulation, moving from an average of between 36.1°C (96.9°F) and 36.7°C (98°F) to between 36.4°C (97.5°F) and 37°C (98.6°F), where it will plateau until a few days before menstruation when it returns to the lower range. You can use an oral thermometer such as Daysy to check your BBT. 

  1. Cervical Position 

The position of the cervix is another sign of ovulation. During menstruation and the follicular phase, the cervix will be positioned low in the vaginal canal and will be very firm. As we move toward ovulation, the cervix softens, moves higher in the vaginal canal and the cervical canal itself opens, in preparation for fertilisation. If you’re not sure what position your cervix is in, you can check yourself or ask your partner. 

  1. Ovulation Prediction Kits (OPKs)

Luteinising hormone (LH) surges just before ovulation, telling our body that it’s time to release the mature egg from one of our ovaries. You can use ovulation prediction kits (OPKs) to tell you when the LH surge is taking place. 

Do you know when ovulation takes place for you? Let me know in the comments. 

Photo by Dakota Roos on Unsplash


Le’Nise Brothers is a yoga teacher and registered nutritionist, mBANT, mCNHC, specialising in women’s health, hormones and the menstrual cycle. She is also the host of the Period Story Podcast, which aims to break taboos around menstrual health and hormones. 

Le’Nise has helped hundreds of women improve their menstrual and hormone health through her private practice and group programmes, talks and workshops for the likes of Stylist, Channel 4, Boden, Ebay and TikTok and her Instagram page. Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

Her first book You Can Have A Better Period will be released in March 2022. 

Period Story Podcast, Episode 48: Dr. Tosin Ajayi-Sotubo, Ask Questions

I’m so pleased to share my conversation with Dr. Tosin Ajayi-Sotubo.

Dr. Tosin is a medical doctor working in London as a NHS & Private General Practitioner with a passion for spreading health awareness. She founded Mind Body Doctor as a friendly and accessible space to educate and inspire as many people as possible to look after their health. She has a huge focus on diversity and representation in health and wellness to reflect people from all backgrounds and walks of life. 

A quick note on today’s show – we recorded this early last year, so please check Dr. Tosin’s website for the most up to date information about what she’s up to!

Dr. Tosin and I had a fantastic conversation about her work as a GP, how to best prepare for an appointment, especially when you only have 10 minutes, the importance of asking questions, diversity and inclusion in health and wellness and of course, the story of her first period. I can’t wait for you to hear this episode – Dr. Tosin is an inspiration!

Thank you, Dr. Tosin!

Get in touch with Dr. Tosin:

Website

Instagram


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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Le’Nise: I’m so excited to have Dr. Tosin on the show today, we’re going to talk about periods, I’m going to ask her about being a GP and her practice in London and her focus on diversity and representation. So, let’s get into it. So, can you tell me the story of your first period? 

Dr Tosin: Sure! Such a great question to start off with and thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to dive into this discussion. So, my first period, I remember it was about when I was 13 years old, and I was at school. So, I started well, I was at school, which is always a great and interesting time to start. And I remember just going to the toilet and thinking, oh, OK, my period started. I don’t think it was too much of a shock because I knew it was coming. I have an older sister, so I’d kind of known what was coming. But still, I didn’t have anything on me. I didn’t know what to do, I don’t think I felt comfortable enough to talk to my friends or any teachers about it at the time. So, I remember just getting like loads of toilet paper and stuffing it in my knickers and walking around for the rest of the day, kind of waddling around because I had the toilet paper in there. I think we’ve all done that or been there before. And then I remember just getting home and being like, Mum, I need some help. And then that was my first period when I first started and then kind of just went from there with my mum’s help. I think it was quite an easy transition. I don’t remember it being too daunting. 

Le’Nise: When you got home and you told your mum what had happened, what was her reaction? 

Dr Tosin: My mum’s a very, erm, God bless her heart. She’s absolutely wonderful, but she’s very, you know, straight to the point kind of person, like, OK, so this is what we need to do. Very pragmatic. So, there wasn’t any kind of like, oh, are you OK? How are you feeling? It was just very much like, OK, so let’s get some pads. This is what you need to do and you’re fine. Go off and, you know, take care of yourself. And to me, I think that’s all I really needed because I’d seen my sister go through that transition. You know, I’d seen pads around the house. I’d asked what they were for. So, I really had the idea of what to do and what was coming. So, it wasn’t too much of kind of a daunting task. I don’t think I needed… I don’t think I really needed too much handholding. But it would have been nice to maybe have, you know, more of a sit-down discussion around periods in general and what was to come for, you know, the majority of the rest of my life. 

Le’Nise: When you saw what your sister had experienced with her own period, what did you take out of her experience? when you had you got your period in the loo at school, you were able to say, oh, this is my period. What did you take from your sister’s experience? 

Dr Tosin: I think the normalising of it, and I think if I hadn’t had that older female figure to see actually this is something that comes every month, it’s very normal, is nothing that to be scared of. I think maybe I would have been a bit more worried or maybe a little bit more concerned or a bit more shy around the concept of periods. But because I’d seen my mum and my sister every month getting their pads out. Sometimes, because me and my sister used to share a room at the time, you know, sometimes she’d wake up in the middle of the night when her period started and rush to the toilet. So, I kind of had the idea of what was to come. And, yeah, it was just the normality of it, which I think helped me. 

Le’Nise: When you got your period and then you had the sit down with your mum, how did you then learn about the rest of… beyond just what to do, the nuts and bolts of having a period? How did you learn about, like, menstrual cycle and everything else around having a period? 

Dr Tosin: I would say I didn’t really. I would say mostly through life, and through having a period and just learning along the way. I remember I think we had one session on it in school and I went to an all-girls school, and I think we had one session, which was, you know, they put on a video, we sat down and watched it for maybe 30 minutes, and that was it. There was no discussion about it. There was no, you know, talk to your peers about it, break out into groups. Like that kind of thing would have been nice, but I don’t remember having that at all. So, I think it was just learning along the way and talking to friends at that time as well, because, you know, a lot of girls start their periods around the same time. So, I think just learning along the way and having open conversations with my friends, I think that’s pretty much how I learnt. 

But to be honest, when it comes to the actual menstrual cycle and the complexities of it, I don’t think I learned that, you know, until I became a medical student or a doctor. So, I think I’m fortunate in that position that actually I was able, I was kind of forced to learn it through books. But I think if I hadn’t have gone down that career path, I don’t know if I would actually know all the things that I think women should know, but I do know today because of my job with my career. 

Le’Nise: And this experience at 13, when you did you have any kind of vocabulary to describe the way you felt about your period? Was it kind of… you said your mom was very matter of fact about it? Did you take that matter of factness into your experience and your feelings of having a period? 

Dr Tosin: I probably did. in fact, I probably took that into a lot of my day-to-day life. I probably did, in fact. And I think, again, until I became a doctor or started studying it and started to, you know, know how to talk about it and how to talk to other women about it, I think for me it was just, you know, something that happens every month, something that women or girls have to go through. And there was nothing more to it. You know, I didn’t know about it possibly affecting moods. I didn’t know that, you know, people could have different periods. I didn’t know you could possibly have missed periods – I didn’t know all of this. I think it was just, you know, you bleed once a month and that’s it. You get on with it. 

Le’Nise: And how would you say that your experience was going through your teenage years of your period? Was it, every month it would come and that would be it? And you’d have to deal with it. Or did you have anything else that you had to deal with regarding your period? 

Dr Tosin: I think I was quite fortunate in the fact that my periods weren’t too troublesome. So, it was really just dealing with them once a month and they were never unusually heavy and I never had terrible period pains. However, on the flip side, my sister did. So, I did experience a lot of that through her. And I always felt bad and guilty in a sense, sometimes because she would be in excruciating pain once a month. And I would be, you know, just continuing my day-to-day life. And she would have to miss out on things at school. She sometimes when we were on a family holiday, I remember one family holiday, she was just locked in her room for three to four days because her period pains were that bad, whereas I was out frolicking in the sun. So, although I didn’t experience the difficulties during my teenage years, my sister definitely did. She did grow out of that, luckily, but I think it was a difficult time for her. 

Le’Nise: Did that change the way that you thought about periods at all, seeing what your sister was going through? 

Dr Tosin: Yeah, definitely. I think it did open my eyes up to the fact that actually, you know, our periods are different. We’re not all the same when it comes to this aspect of being a girl or being a woman. And I think that did open up my eyes to that, and I think if my sister didn’t have, if I didn’t see my sister go through that, I would have just assumed everyone had periods like me that were quite easy to handle and, you know, didn’t really affect your life at all. So, yeah, I think I was fortunate. I would say fortunate although she wasn’t, I was fortunate to see that side of things vicariously through my sister. 

Le’Nise: Right, OK. And then you say you have relatively easy periods. And did that continue as you went through your 20s and your 30s? I’m guessing, I don’t know how old you are, but I’m guessing 30s? 

Dr Tosin: you’re guessing, right! 

Yes and no. I would say there’s definitely been changes in my period itself, but also just my cycles and the things that surround your period, being that your mood or how you’re feeling in the run up to your cycle and how your body’s feeling as well. So, I’ve definitely noticed changes that come and go. I say definitely into my late 20s and early 30s, which I am in now, there have been some changes. I would still say my periods are manageable, but it’s more about the surrounding symptoms, I would say, and kind of the lead up to my period that I get some of those mood changes.

Le’Nise: So that’s come as you’ve gotten older. What do you think has contributed to those mood changes? 

Dr Tosin: I think hormones, I think as we get older, our bodies change and with that, our hormones change. So, I definitely think hormones plays a big role in it and I think possibly also being more aware. So, it’s possibly that actually my mood maybe didn’t even change, but I’m just becoming more aware of it, and before, you know, I was probably just a moody teenager those times. So, I think, you know, as you get older, you become more aware of these symptoms and actually attributing them to your periods and your mental cycle. 

Le’Nise: What do you do to manage your mood changes before you get your period? 

Dr Tosin: I think for me, it’s just the being aware that actually this is coming. And I think it’s been helpful for my partner as well because I think it’s difficult sometimes for partners when you’re in a relationship to not understand when your mood changes if it does change. So, I think having those open discussions and conversations with your partner, I think that’s really helpful in a relationship, from a relationship point of view. So, I think just being aware that actually, you know, this is the time of the month, my mood might be changing and actually I find I can cope with it much better. 

Le’Nise: Before you were having these conversations with him, did you find that he would kind of walk on eggshells or kind of tiptoe around you before you had your period? 

Dr Tosin: No, not at all. Because to him it wasn’t a monthly thing. It was just, you know, sometimes I have mood swings. It wasn’t, he didn’t really recognise the pattern because most men don’t understand that there’s a pattern to the symptoms. And I think when I had that conversation, he was like, OK, makes sense. And I think, you know, now he’s more aware, but he’s like, ‘oh OK, it’s that time of the month, maybe I’ll go easy on her’. 

Le’Nise: But what’s really interesting about this is that, you know, we do attribute a lot of mood changes to hormonal changes, which, you know, they’re definitely connected. But as I go into deeper into this space, I do kind of also always want to say that, you know, having moods is something that makes us human. And if we attribute all of our mood changes, especially right before a period to, you know, oh, I’m moody, I’m about to get my period, I’m premenstrual, then that kind of also takes some of the humanity out of it. Like, you know, we’re not allowed not to be happy all the time. We’re allowed to be upset or just a bit blah. And that’s OK, I personally think.

Dr Tosin: I think one hundred percent. You’ve picked up on something like completely important that I think, you know, moods are normal. That’s what I always say – emotions are completely normal is what makes us human. So definitely, I think, you know, attributing mood changes and emotions that we experience, men experience, people experience to just hormones. I think that is a dangerous, dangerous trap to fall into. So definitely, I think there is a distinction. And, you know, we’re human. We have emotions that’s completely normal. So yeah, 100%. 

Le’Nise: You said that you learnt more about the nuts and bolts of your cycle when you were in medical school. Can you tell us, firstly, what inspired you to study to become a doctor? 

Dr Tosin: Yeah, sure. And I think when people ask this question, they expect some significant moment in life when you’re like, oh, my gosh, I’m going to be a doctor – this is it, this is my career, this is the rest of my life. Whereas for me, it was more of a gradual progression. I think I was whilst I was in school, I was absolutely fascinated by biology. I was a bit of a geek and absolutely loved it. And I think when you good at the sciences, a teacher mentioned, oh, how about medicine? I was like, OK, I’ve never thought of it, but why not? So, I think I went on some work experiences. So, I went into hospitals and followed doctors around for about a week or two and I absolutely fell in love with it. I think it was the fast-paced nature of it, but also the fact that you were changing lives, you were having an impact in people’s lives and you were able to help people. And then, you know, the rest is history. I applied to medicine. And that, for me was really the point where I decided that I wanted to be a doctor. 

Le’Nise: And what made you decide to specialise in general medicine rather than going down a specific, a more specific route? 

Dr Tosin: Yeah, I mean, it wasn’t always that way. So, I did I started off wanting to do obstetrics and gynaecology, funnily enough. So, I went into what we call our junior doctor training and thinking that was what I was going to do, and it just so happened. So, when you’re a junior doctor you do rotations in the hospital, so it just so happens that my first rotation was in obstetrics and gynaecology and I very quickly realised that I didn’t like surgery, which is a big part of it, delivering babies. And I was like, OK, maybe this isn’t for me, but I love the gynaecology part of it. Still, I found that really fascinating, being able to help women. I found that really, really fascinating. So, I kind of trundled along not knowing what I was going to do. And then very similarly to how I realised I wanted to be a doctor, I did a placement in a general in a GPs, general practitioners, and just absolutely fell in love with meeting different people, being able to go on a journey with people, and being able to help people from loads of different aspects, from children to elderly people to men to women. And so, I was just like, OK, this is it. This makes sense. And I can also focus on the gynaecology or the women’s health part, which I did do. I did a diploma in family planning and sexual health, which allows me to focus a little bit more on women’s health as well. 

Le’Nise: So, what would you say if someone asked you the typical day of a GP because most people, their experience of the GP is trying to get an appointment, having difficulty getting an appointment, and only having 10 minutes to speak to their GP, and not really getting the information or support that they want. So, what would you say? What would you, just kind of looking at it from the other side? Can you share a day in the life of a GP or your day in the life as a GP? 

Dr Tosin: Yes, sure. Gosh, I don’t know if I can do this in a minute or so, but I’ll try! So, I do both NHS and private work as a GP. So, I split my time half and half, so I’ll come at it from an NHS GP point of view because that’s what we really know in the UK. So usually, you probably get it in the morning, let’s say 8:00 or even earlier, and you’ll sit down, and you’ll look through your list of people for the day. Now, even usually for me, even before I do that, I’ll get in early and catch up with blood results, consultant notes that come in from the hospital, reading them, prescriptions for my patients I’ll sign and then be sending them to the pharmacy. So, I’ll try and catch up with as much admin as possible because it is never ending. So, I try to get as much of that out of the way. 

And then you go on to your morning clinic or consultations, and this can vary anywhere from, I would say fifteen to twenty-five patients, usually in the twenties range and usually back in the day before the pandemic that we’ve experienced in the past year, its back-to-back base appointments, 10 minutes each for each patient. We don’t get longer than that. Now it’s a bit of a mix of telephone calls, but you’ll be surprised that telephone or video consultations actually adds a lot more workload and take a lot longer because you’re not able to examine that patient, you’re not able to be with them in the same room to actually get more of an understanding of what’s going on. So you have to ask more questions and you have to really dig deeper, so it takes often takes longer. 

And so, you’re back-to-back ten-minute patients. And as you can imagine, not every patient you’re going to be able to deal with in ten minutes. If someone comes in and let’s just say they talk about their mood, they’re having difficulties with their mood, it’s very difficult and you don’t want to cut them off at ten minutes. So, with that patient, you might spend 15 or 20 minutes. That extra five or 10 minutes can add on, and obviously, that’s when you start running late and then that’s when patients start to get angry in the waiting room. It is so, so, so difficult. And then after your morning session, you will then do any what we’d say admin that’s accumulated from that morning session, it’ll be that or doing blood tests, doing referrals to the hospital. Again, looking at blood results that have come through, looking at letters that have come through, writing prescriptions, and then you usually have to go off and do home visits. 

So those patients that can’t come into the clinic but still need to be seen. So, you go to their house, you see them, you come back, you have a quick lunch, then you start the afternoon clinic again. And that’s pretty much a normal GP day. Very hectic.

Le’Nise: Wow. It sounds hectic. And it’s very interesting hearing it from your side, because, as I say, there is… I know from the work that I do, there’s a lot of frustration that I hear from my clients and other women I speak to about their GP, their personal experience with their GP. And I just wondered, you know, knowing that you only have ten minutes with a GP, what would you say or what do you say to patients that helps them maximise their time with you? What can they do to maximise their time with you? 

Dr Tosin: Yeah, I think it’s really difficult from a patient point of view. And I’ve definitely been on the other side as well. And I think the frustrations are completely understandable. I mean, as a doctor, most of us wish that we had more time with our patients. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is at the moment. So, I would say for a patient, the best way to manage a ten-minute GP consultation is be prepared. So, I would say go in knowing what you want to say to that doctor. And write down as well, a few bullet points of what you want to get across. Because often I find patients come in and they’ve said what they thought they wanted to say but actually at the end, they remember actually I had xyz to say as well, and I think with the pressure about 10 minutes, sometimes what you want to say just quickly goes out of your head. So, I say, write down what you want to say, the questions you want to ask and the points that you want to get across. 

I will also say you probably hear this a lot, but one problem per appointment, and we say that not to be difficult, but just that if your GPs trying to deal with multiple problems in an appointment and they often will try to do that, if you have more than one problem, that’s when they run the risk of missing something because they’re trying to rush through all your problems, and it doesn’t do any justice to you as a patient because they can’t really tackle one problem properly. So, I would say try to stick to one problem per appointment. It’s not always easy, but I would say if you go into your GP consultation and you have more than one problem, right at the beginning, say, OK, I have more than one problem, maybe you’ve waited a long time for that appointment and they’ve just accumulated up. But be honest, say you have more than one problem and list them all out and then have the conversation with your doctor. Which one is the most important, which one you might tackle today and then make a plan with your doctor going forward, how you’re going to tackle the other problems. That could be a follow up telephone call or follow up video consultation or another actual face-to-face appointment. And I think that’s the best way to handle it if you have more than one problem. 

And then my last point, I would just say ask questions. And I know this isn’t really about managing a ten-minute consultation but ask any question that you want to when it comes to wrapping up the consultation. Obviously, you might feel like you have to rush out, but the worst thing you want to do is to leave that room and then feel like you have so many unanswered questions or feel like you actually didn’t get what you needed or feel like you just had no idea what that doctor told you. So, ask questions – that one-minute extra can make such a difference in the way that you feel when you leave that consultation room. 

Le’Nise: Fantastic. That is so helpful. And, you know, basically what you’re saying is what I will and always share with my clients, because there is this kind of intimidation factor that some people feel regarding their GPs, whether it’s they’re not sure they’re not going to have enough time or there’s this kind of matriarchal or patriarchal feeling about, well, my GP said it so, you know, that’s kind of law or they feel like they can’t question anything. So, what you’re saying is so valuable and I would encourage anyone listening to write this down, and when you have your next GP appointment or if you are working with any health professional, you know, go in there being really prepared and allow yourself to be empowered through that preparation. 

I want to ask you, you know, just thinking about going and seeing doctors there is thinking about the communities that we both come from. There is, you know, the black African, black Caribbean community. There is a known research, you know, hesitancy around dealing with medical professionals. And as a doctor, what is your take on that? 

Dr Tosin: Yeah, I think it’s such a good question and something that we definitely need to be having conversations around and something I’ve definitely obviously heard of and seen first-hand. I think it’s just this notion or, I think there’s something within our cultures that you just kind of get on with things. You don’t speak about your problems, you know, you just get on with things. And I think that has trailed down through generations and I think is also, you know, the hard-working nature in us as well. And I think that’s what makes people from our culture, you know, very hard working and very resilient. But I think it can be a detriment when it comes to our health that we just, you know, we keep it inside and we don’t have those conversations. And I think even within families, the conversations aren’t being heard. And I spoke about this on my Instagram the other day, that we don’t really talk about our family history. And I think that’s such a detriment to ourselves, and generations to come. That actually we just don’t talk about health within our communities and within our families. Although I do see it getting better, I really do see it getting better. And I see more patients from certain backgrounds and cultures coming in to seek help that actually wouldn’t have before. And I think mental health is a big one in there. When I see patients from certain cultures, especially the older generation, actually coming to speak about their mental health, I feel so proud because, you know, I know how much it took them to actually take that step to come and speak to me or a doctor. So, yeah, I’m not sure exactly what the reason is, but I do think there is something there and there is a big cultural divide, I would say, or obstacle in stopping some people coming forward to seek help. 

Le’Nise: Do you think it’s helpful when people they go to see a doctor who is of the same cultural background to them? 

Dr Tosin: Yes, that’s a good point. I do. And I do obviously think that might be another barrier, and people not seeking help because there’s so much anecdotal and also research theories in that people just don’t feel heard by health care professionals. And there’s been some papers that look at, you know, black women vs. women from a white background being offered pain relief. And actually, black women are offered pain relief lesser than white women. So, it’s difficult to say why these things are. I think that multifactorial, but I think that does add to the barrier because there has been historically people not feeling heard and not feeling like they’ve gotten the right treatment that they needed. So, I do think that adds a barrier to it. And definitely from my own personal experience, I think I worked all over London and also outside of London so I could definitely see the difference when I worked in an area of London that’s very heavily a West African based community. And it was just such a nice feeling to see my patients come in and be like, oh, my gosh, I’m so happy to see a black doctor or I’m so happy to see someone that looks like me. And they would just open up and say things that they said that they’d never spoken about with a health care professional because they felt that I would understand, because we have a certain familiarity or that certain connection. And sometimes actually I, I maybe didn’t understand because we’re from two completely different generations, but it was just that fact that the patients felt they could open up more was absolutely great. So, I think there’s definitely something in that.

Le’Nise: What would you say to maybe a GP from a white background who’s listening to us or a health care professional from a white background, who’s listening to this and thinking, well, how can I, you know, I’m obviously not of the same ethnic or racial or cultural background as one of my patients, some of my patients. What can I do to connect with them? What can I do to make sure that I’m not just listening, but I’m really hearing what they’re saying and not dismissing their concerns? 

Dr Tosin: I think a lot of it is listening and gaining experience and understanding, and I think if you want to learn about something, you will learn about it. And I think taking from your patients experiences and learn from the patients that you’re seeing and asking questions. I think if you ask questions about your patients and their cultures and their backgrounds, what they eat on a day-to-day basis, if you take an interest, the more they’ll feel comfortable in opening up to you. And it’s not always about, you know, a difference in the way we look or a difference in skin colour that patients don’t feel comfortable to open up, it’s just that actually they don’t feel that the other person maybe wants to hear their story. So actually, just that taking an interest in asking questions and listening, I think that definitely helps in allowing patients to feel more comfortable opening up. 

Le’Nise:  That’s really, really valuable information. I mean, you’re just a breath of fresh air. I wish you were my GP!

Dr Tosin: We can make it happen. 

Le’Nise: I wanted to ask just kind of just switching tacks a little bit what you think about patients who come in and they have been working with another health professional. You know, I’m just really interested in it from a professional perspective. When you hear patient and you see patients and they’ve been working with a nutritionist like me, what do you think as a GP? 

Dr Tosin: I think, you know, whatever helps, you know, GPs, we are not the be all and end all, we don’t have all the answers. And, you know, there’s different aspects to health, health is not just a one track for all – I call it a health puzzle. There’s so many different aspects that you have to look at to someone’s health, be that their mental health, their physical health, the nutrition, what they’re eating on a day to day basis, how they’re moving on a day to day basis. So, all of these aspects equal, you know, the entirety of someone’s health, and I think taking a what we call in medicine as a multidisciplinary approach of lots of different professionals, imparting their knowledge and giving patients or people the tools they need to be able to live their healthiest lives, I think it’s absolutely great. And I always say at the end of the day to patients, you know your body the best, so actually, if you feel that you need to see a nutritionist, or you need to see a therapist, or you need to see someone else, then do what works for you. And I think that’s the key thing here. And as much as a doctor, a health care professional can say, oh, well, actually, I think everything’s fine, you don’t need to see this person, you don’t need to do X, Y and Z, I can’t find a specific problem… If you know that something doesn’t feel right in your body, then I would say, listen to that and listen to your body and seek the help within reason that you feel is needed and helpful for you. 

Le’Nise: Yeah. Yeah. OK, that’s really interesting. I want to ask about your focus around diversity and representation in health and wellness. So why is that important to you? 

Dr Tosin: Yeah, for me, I think, you know, health is the one thing that should really be inclusive. Everyone should have equal access, equal understanding when it comes to our health, because it is the most important thing, I think. And I think it’s really difficult, especially in the wellness industry, especially with social media. You have people looking online. You have people looking in magazines wanting to learn more about their health and living a healthy lifestyle. But they’re just seeing a certain representation, a one size fits all approach. And even for me as a health professional, sometimes, you know, I find myself getting sucked into that. I’m like, oh, okay, is this the picture of health? And I can’t relate to that. So how can your average everyday person in society relate to that one size fits all picture of health? So, to me, it’s really important that we are representing everyone in society, so people are able to relate and understand to the person that they see talking about health. 

Le’Nise: And so, what do you think that… what do you think needs to be done in order to increase diversity and representation in health and wellness space? 

Dr Tosin: I think the onus is obviously on both sides, I think. So, definitely in terms of, I would say, the health and wellness industry, which is a massive industry that’s blown up, they need to make sure that they’re representing people from different races, different sizes, different skin tones, just all across the board, different genders. And I think that really needs to be put on the forefront. And I’m starting to see changes, I would say definitely in this past year, which is great. And hopefully that just continues to change, and we will get there. I also say on the other side of things, I would say, you know, people like yourself, people like me coming forward and actually taking up that space and actually realising, hold on, you know, there’s no one like me in this sector. There’s no one speaking about the things around health and wellness that looks like me and actually coming forward and creating that space for people. So, I think the onus is on both sides. 

Le’Nise: Yeah, definitely. Onus is on both sides. And I think what you’ve said about taking up space and using the platforms that you’ve had and creating your own platforms is really powerful because, you know, there’s a great I think it’s Maya Angelou quote, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it” and I think just seeing someone like yourself as GP, private practise and NHS practice is so, so powerful as that model of, oh, this is something that I can do and you’re not just in and I don’t say just in practice, but you’re not just in practice. You know, you’re out there in the world sharing your experiences, talking about all of this on social media. And I think it’s really powerful, you know, as an example for those coming up to see, to show them what is possible and what they can do if they choose to go into general practice. 

Dr Tosin: Yeah, definitely. And I think, you know, when I started taking my work kind of outside my day to day work as a GP and going online and social media and doing talks, it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind to be representing or to be talking about diversity and inclusivity, but I think it was just a natural progression, and I think it was when I started getting messages from people that are younger than me or medical students being like, oh, my gosh, thank you so much, you know, you’re such inspiration, seeing someone like you doing what I want to do, I know that it’s possible. And I was like, oh, my gosh, this is so true. And I reflected back to when I was younger and actually not having people in front of me that looked like me to say, actually, you know, that’s possible. I can do that. And I think that would have been so helpful. So, I think now that has become such a driving force for me where it wasn’t before, and, you know, I just think it’s so huge for the next generation coming through that they have examples, and they can see what is achievable. So, yeah, one hundred percent. 

Le’Nise: What would your advice be to someone who is in med school right now or they are kind of a junior doctor and they’re struggling a little bit and they just don’t see a path forward for them. You know, maybe they come from a similar background to you. What would your advice be to them? 

Dr Tosin: I would say don’t give up. And for me, when I got through difficult times, I would always say, OK, well, someone has done it before me, even if it’s just one person that I can see they’ve done it, that means so can I. And I think just using that to push you through the difficult times I think is really important. And also finding people to lean on or finding a mentor. I think mentors are so important and it’s not something that I had when I was coming through medical school. But if you can find someone to reach out to and they don’t have to be someone that mentors you on a regular basis, it could just be someone that you can reach out to when you’re struggling or someone that just gives you advice when you need it. And I think that is so, so important. So, if you can find a mentor and don’t be shy about reaching out to people, because I think so many people would love to be mentors, it’s just that actually no one’s reached out to them or they haven’t taken that step to reach out to people. So don’t be afraid of sending the message on social media. LinkedIn, I would say just reach out to people, if you feel actually you’d benefit from having someone who has been through your process that you can relate to being there for you and supporting you along the journey. 

Le’Nise: I think that is such great advice. I personally love it when, you know, nutritionists coming up, maybe they’ve just graduated or they’re still studying. They email me or they message me. I love it because I love seeing other women come up in the space and I love being able to share what I’ve learnt because I didn’t have that you know. I do remember this one time I did, I had just graduated, and I emailed a nutritionist. She was you know, she just she maybe was five years in, and I thought I would email her just to ask her a few questions. And she just never really responded back to me. And I just thought, I will never do that. And it’s so important to be able to know that you have that connection, and that people are accessible. I know, of course, have your boundaries, but you should be able to know that, you know, you’re not just in it for yourself, that you’re able to help others who are coming up in that space. 

Dr Tosin: I think so, because it also, it gives you more of a purpose as well for what you’re doing. And I think that’s so important to have to know that you can actually help someone else on their journey. I think, you know, just fills me with so much joy. I absolutely love it. So, yeah, I think it’s really important. 

Le’Nise: So just thinking about what you’ve got coming up next, is there anything that you want to share about what you’ve got coming next? Anything interesting that you want to point listeners to? 

Dr Tosin: Yeah, gosh, I would say this past year has been such a whirlwind, hasn’t it? And I think just starting to find our feet again. I’m just starting to find my feet again in terms of normality of life and my work life and my separate Mind, Body, Doctor life, which is my separate platform. So, I would say nothing in particular, but lots and lots of exciting things and lots of partnerships. I think I love working with brands for that exact reason that we were talking about earlier, just that representation factor, you know, being able to speak from a different point of view, from a different perspective, and knowing actually that someone might see me speaking about this issue and be able to relate to me. So, lots of partnerships coming up. So definitely have a look, mostly on my Instagram is where I talk about most of the work that I’m doing, but also on my website as well. 

Le’Nise:  And your Instagram, which we’ll link in the show notes  @mindbodydoctor. 

Dr Tosin: Yes, exactly. 

Le’Nise: OK, great. So, if you wanted to leave listeners with one thought from all the different pearls of wisdom that you’ve shared, what would you want that to be? 

Dr Tosin: I would say that accept your body and your health for what it is and know that we are all different and we are all on our own personal health journey, and I think it can be so difficult with social media and the Internet these days to compare your journey and what you’re experiencing to other peoples. But remember that your health is individual, and you are on your own health journey. 

Le’Nise: I love that you’re on your own health journey. Comparison is the thief of joy, we know that… you should be on your own journey. Walk your, run your own race. I love that so much. So, we’ll link to different ways that listeners can connect with you in the show notes. Thank you so much, Dr. Tosin, it’s been wonderful having you on the show. 

Dr Tosin: Thank you so much. It’s been such a great conversation; I can talk about all of this all day long. So, thank you so much for having me.

Let’s Talk About Our Inner Spring

In my last post, we talked about the first phase of the menstrual cycle, menstruation, which most of us are very, very familiar with.

Let’s talk about what happens after our periods finish when we move into the follicular phase, or our inner spring. 

A lot of us look forward to this time in our menstrual cycles, because we know as we move further into our inner spring we’ll start to feel like our best selves. Our estrogen levels are rising and with this comes more energy, an outward focus, a need to try new things or take more risks, more creativity and a feeling that things are more likely to go our way.

With more estrogen comes more serotonin (our happy hormone), more dopamine (the neurotransmitter associated with reward) and more acetylcholine (the neurotransmitter that helps us think and come up with ideas). 

Do you notice changes in your libido after you finish your period? Does it come roaring in again? Or do you find yourself feeling more aware of yourself, even by 1%, as a sexual being? That’s the effect of more energy from estrogen and rising testosterone, the hormone that is associated with libido.

Testosterone is also the reason why we may feel more confident and stronger when we exercise or it simply feels easier to lift something heavy. If you’re exercising and moving your body according to where you are in your cycle, this is the time when muscle becomes easier to put on. And this is really important because after the age of 30, we lose about 3 – 8% of our muscle mass each year. Supporting muscle also means healthy bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis, or decreased bone density. 

There are physical signs we can look for to show us that we’re moving into our inner spring.

After our periods finish, you may notice that your cervical fluid (what you see after you wipe your vulva in the loo or in your underwear) starts to change. This is a good thing.

On a personal note, I didn’t learn about changing cervical fluid until my early 30s and actually went to the doctor at one point because I was baffled by the changes, thinking I might have a yeast infection. I didn’t. Your cervical fluid will change from very clear to a similar texture to egg white. If you were to pick it up in your fingers right before ovulation, it might feel viscous and sticky – we want this, because this is a sign that estrogen levels have risen to their peak and we’re about to release an egg from one of our ovaries. 

What’s normal during the follicular phase? More energy, a feeling of wanting to rejoin the world again, more confidence and creativity, increased libido, better skin, improved mood, better sleep, a smaller appetite. 

What isn’t normal? Sustained low energy, pre-ovulatory anxiety, lack of libido, no changes to cervical fluid or excess cervical fluid, constipation. 

How does this phase of the menstrual cycle feel for you? Tell me more in the comments. 

Photo by Arno Smit on Unsplash


Le’Nise Brothers is a yoga teacher and registered nutritionist, mBANT, mCNHC, specialising in women’s health, hormones and the menstrual cycle. She is also the host of the Period Story Podcast, which aims to break taboos around menstrual health and hormones. 

Le’Nise has helped hundreds of women improve their menstrual and hormone health through her private practice and group programmes, talks and workshops for the likes of Stylist, Channel 4, Boden, Ebay and TikTok and her Instagram page. Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

Her first book You Can Have A Better Period will be released in March 2022. 

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle! If you’re looking for support with your hormone and menstrual health, click this link to book a 30 minute health review to talk about working together.

Period Story Podcast, Episode 47: Erin Holt, We Have A Innate Ability To Heal Ourselves

The podcast is back! Welcome to season 5! We went on an unexpected hiatus last year when I realised that I was running myself ragged trying to do too many things – see clients, write a book, homeschool and sell a house. I have more breathing space again so Period Story podcast is back! 

Today’s podcast is such a good one. I’m so pleased to share my conversation with Erin Holt. Erin is a board-certified integrative and functional nutritionist with a feisty attitude and over a decade of clinical experience. She blends evidence-based practices, functional lab testing, energy medicine, boundary setting & humor for a unique and customized approach to women’s health. She dives deep with women to get to the root cause of their health issues and finally get answers to their mystery symptoms.

A quick note on today’s show – we recorded this early last year, so please check Erin’s website for her most up to date programmes and courses!

Erin and I had a fantastic conversation about boundaries, diet dogma, how to recognise intuition and of course the story of her first period. I can’t wait for you to hear this episode – Erin is a fountain of knowledge and a great person to follow on Instagram! 

Thank you, Erin!

Get in touch with Erin:

Website

Instagram


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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Le’Nise: Hi, everyone, I’m so excited for you to meet Erin Holt on today’s episode, so, yes, enjoy the show. And let’s start off with a question that I always ask my guests, which is tell me the story of your, your first period. 

Erin: OK, so this is really not something that I’ve thought a lot about. So when you sent over the the questions ahead of time or just, you know, things to ponder for this show, it really, really made me think and not just about the actual story, but sort of the whys behind it and what did that tell me? And so I just want to say that this is really the first time that I’ve thought about this. But I got my period when I was in sixth grade. And you can tell that I’m like a kid of the 80s and 90s because in sixth grade we just like would walk to our friend’s house after school. Like no parental supervision. No, like nothing. I have a first grader and the thought of her doing that in five years, like I would never I would never. So I was at my friend’s house. It was a boys house. And there was just a bunch of us there watching MTV back when they actually had music videos. And I remember having to put on a pair of his sweatpants because it was very muddy out. So I was wearing his pants at a boy’s house with my friends and I got my period. So it luckily it wasn’t like a big, huge thing. I was able to go home. But what happened when I went home, as I told my mom and she asked me, were you having sex over there? I’m in sixth grade. I’m 12 years old at this point, maybe even 11 and. I saw right out of the gate I got this impression or this message that this is wrong, right? This what just happened to you is actually like because you did something you potentially did something bad and holy smokes. Now, my mom, I have to say, she had me really young, but we were really open and she was hip. You know, she that was I think that kind of just came from a place of like fear and like nervousness within herself. And probably if she could go back in time, she probably would have done it a little differently. But that that is really my takeaway from the first time I got my period was feeling like, oh, this this this is something that that that happened. 

Le’Nise: So when you got your period at your friend’s house, what did you do? Like you actually like in the moment you’re wearing his sweatpants. So like for the Brits listening, like, they’re like just sweat sweat bottoms, tracky bottoms. And then you felt like you felt your period come. What did you do? Like take us through that actual time at your friend’s house? 

Erin: I didn’t feel it. I went to the bathroom and noticed, like, oh, my gosh, this is something. And of course, I said nothing. I didn’t say anything to anybody and was like, oh, my God, I can I just going to get home as fast as possible. My mom has to come pick me up and got to get out of there because how mortifying to get your first period at a boy’s house while you’re wearing his pants. So it wasn’t a very you know, there wasn’t much of a story to tell because I just hightailed it out of there after that. 

Le’Nise: And did you know what it was? 

Erin: I did. I did know. I did know what it was. And I’m trying to think of how I knew because I had not really had a conversation about this is going to happen. And here’s what we do. I mean, my mom got her period and like I said, she was really open. So I was aware of what menstruation was, what it looked like, all of that. But as far as I knew what it was, but I didn’t know, like, where do you go from here? 

Le’Nise: And so then you got home. Your mom asked you that question, which she said that she probably regrets. And then what did you do? Like, did she give you pads? Did she give you tampons? 

Erin: No, she gave me, we got pads. I remember that. But we I spent the summer times with my with my grandparents. And I remember the very first time I had to use a tampon because my mom hadn’t taught me how to use a tampon. She got me pads and that was sort of it. And the summer, like I said, we were with my grandparents. I was meeting my friends at a water slide and I got my period. So I’m like, oh, I have to figure this out. I have to figure this out like really fast. How do I use a tampon? Because I can’t go in a bathing suit on a water slide with a pad. And so I remember, I totally remember the exact bathroom I was in. I remember it was so uncomfortable. I had no idea what I was doing, but I just went for it and figured out how to use a tampon through my bathing suit. But I there was no there was no guidance. There was nobody walking me through the steps. And in fact, I went I was the first one in the group to get my, in my group of girlfriends to get my period. And so when another one of my friends got it and wanted to start using tampons, I was the one that had to teach her. And I taught her by drawing a diagram because that was easier than actually like teaching, you know, like going into the bathroom with her. So I drew a diagram and then gave her the notebook. I remember the journal that she wrote it in and she took it in and figured out how to do it because we really just didn’t have parents swooping in and saying, OK, here’s what’s going to happen. Here’s the next steps. Here’s how to use this. It was like a total, like, magical mystery tour. 

Le’Nise: And so you became the kind of educator in your group of friends, so then after you figured out how to use a tampon at that, the moment of the water slide, how did you then further and learn about what was happening to your body? 

Erin: Well, I’m thirty seven in two days, and I’m just now learning about it, so that gives you any insight I. I didn’t I mean, of course, we had like. One course in in like middle school, you know, like talking about the birds and the bees type of vibe, but outside of that, there really wasn’t any education around. Why this is happening, like the actual physiological reason it’s happening, what to expect, what the different phases of your cycle might mean, what’s normal, what’s not normal. I’m pretty fortunate in that I have  dealt with a lot of health issues, but none of them really, I didn’t I’ve never had really hard periods. Let’s let’s just say that. And so I just kind of like when went through the motions, really. 

Le’Nise: So then you kind of kind of figured it out on your own and then you never had any hard periods, so no period pain, heavy period or any other issues with your menstrual cycle. 

Erin: The I was I did battle eating disorders for over a decade. And so there was a time when I was in my my early teens and I had lost a really significant amount of weight. I was overtraining, under eating, significantly restricting my food source. And I lost my cycle for a while and didn’t even know that that was. And for a while I would say under a year, not not several years. But I didn’t know that was a problem. I didn’t communicate that to people knowing what I know. Now, looking back, I was like, oh, my goodness, that was a big deal, but had no idea that that that that was a thing. And like I said, didn’t didn’t even talk about it. Never told anybody. But outside of that, no, I didn’t have really horrible cramping or heavy bleeds or big issues surrounding menstruation. 

Le’Nise: Yeah. It’s interesting you say as a student athlete, when you lost your period, I spoke to someone else on the show last year and she was saying that something happened to her, the similar thing happened to her. And she was actually really happy when she lost her period because her and her friends, they always saw their period as a hassle as as athletes. And that was a kind of. Kind of common theme throughout high school and university for her, doing sports, period was, having a period was always a hassle. If you think about you as a student athlete and then your friends who also played sports, did you said that you didn’t notice that you lost your period, but did you, were you getting any other messages, if you think back about it, around periods being a bit of a hassle as an athlete? 

Erin: Totally. And so let me just clarify that. I wasn’t an athlete. I think I was like self-inflicted. So I ran a lot. I joke if my husband could hear you call me an athlete, it would be like the joke of the week. But so I wasn’t really in the athletic group, so I can’t really speak to that. But I absolutely got the message that a period is is not. It’s not something to revere, right, it’s something it’s our cross to bear, it’s this thing that it’s kind of cloaked in shame. You don’t really discuss it with anybody. It’s embarrassing when it happens. And, yeah, it would be it’s a great thing to not have to deal with it. Like I said, like not having a period. I was never like, OK, something something is off here. I was like, cool, you know, like one less thing to have to deal with in this, you know, crazy body of mine. 

Le’Nise:  If you think back to how you learnt about your period and or you’re still learning about your period and your menstrual cycle, what can you take from that into the way that you teach your daughter when she eventually gets her period? 

Erin: Well, there’s going to be a conversation leading up to it first and foremost, and it’s a we even have conversations now because she sees we’re definitely an open parent. And so she sees the fact that I menstruate every month and we have conversations about that. And so there’ll be more conversation leading up to it. But what I really hope to instil in her is this appreciation for what her body’s actually doing every single month, because it took me well into adulthood for me to understand that. And if she can go into it understanding that this is more of a superpower than it is a cross to bear, I feel like, what a gift. And my my my job will be well done if she she can if she can take that away from it. 

Le’Nise: So you mentioned to see it as a superpower. What does that mean for you? 

Erin: Well. Just the the. Miracle that our body essentially creates a new gland every month. I mean, I think as as this is a generalisation, but as a woman, I’ve been extremely hard on myself and on my body. And I tend to look for the broken places and I tend to look for the places that aren’t meeting some arbitrary ideal. And I tend to beat myself up for all of those places rather than the more I study the human body, the more I work with a lot more women, the more I’m like, oh my God, this body truly is a miracle in what it can do every single day, every single week, every single month, over and over and over again. So this the fact that this was a big aha moment, the fact that we’re just creating these things within our body every month is is so significant. And then once we can really get in touch with the phases of our cycle and understand that they each hold a purpose, like a really big significant purpose is is huge. I think that for me, understanding the luteal cycle and what’s happening there. Was a really big eye opener for me, because I tend to be my husband calls it my outrageous temper. I tend I have I’m a hot tempered person, right. And I beat myself up for that a lot. Like, why am I like this? What’s wrong with me? You know, why is this happening? And understanding that there is that we become so much more discerning in the week or the weeks leading up to our menstruation that we’re able to look around and assess, hey, what in my life isn’t working? You know what’s not really like feeding my soul anymore and being able to understand that and harness that? That’s not a problem. I’m not a I’m not a bitch. I’m not broken. I’m not awful. It’s just that I’m more in tune to different aspects of my life. And to me that that’s a real gift. And if we can if we can just teach women that versus telling them why they’re so awful all the time, you know, I think that just creates such a different environment.

Le’Nise: And how have those learnings that you gained about how you behave differently or think differently in different parts of your cycle, have you taken those into the way that you work and the way that you run your business? 

Erin: I won’t say that I’ve gotten to the point where I create my schedule around different parts of my cycle. However, I give myself a lot more grace around how I interact with people. I understand that, you know, in the follicular phase, I really enjoy interacting with people and I have a lot more patience for folks, whereas on the other half of my cycle, not so much. I tend to be a lot more introverted and communicating with people feels like a lot for me energetically. And so I think this really applies especially to social media and my interactions on social media, on that Instagram is the one where I spend my most time. So whether it’s DMs or interacting with people that way, I give myself a lot of grace because I would get really frustrated that I felt like people needed me all of the time and were asking so much of me. And now I just understand that, like, there are times in my, in the month where I’m excited about that and then there are times in the month where I am not. And so that I would say, is how I’ve harnessed that the most in my work currently. 

Le’Nise: I really love that because you you saying that I have never thought about it, but that actually Has connected a lot with me. There would be times where I could be like you. I get a ton of DMs and there are times where I just like why? Why are you DMing me? And even though I say to me, like, you know, and then other times I’ll just be tip tapping away. I love responding and I never really thought about it like that. But I actually want to ask you that now that we’re talking about social media, I love what you say about boundaries on social media. Can you share your stance on boundaries for listeners who may not be familiar with you and don’t follow you on Instagram? 

Erin: Oh, my goodness. Of course I am. Boundaries are is one of my most favourite things to talk about. And I view boundaries as a form of self care. And self care is a term that I don’t really vibe with. I don’t really align with that term. But it’s a good catchall term. People know what you mean when you say it. And I work with a lot of women in my in my work who are really struggling with some chronic stuff. It might be GI, it might be ongoing hormones. It might be just utter extreme burnout, autoimmunity. And what I found over the years is that so much of it comes from our inability to just set and hold boundaries, whether that’s in our life with our family or in-laws or friends or our work. It’s, you know, I think, again, generalisation, but a lot of us are brought up to believe that we have to be the peacekeepers, that we have to walk into a room and make sure everybody’s comfortable. It’s, we’re responsible for everybody else’s comfort level above our own. And we’ve been taught this lie that if we start to take a step forward and say, hey, I matter, though, right? My my energy matters, my health matters, then we’re selfish. Right. And so and the more I talk about about boundaries publicly, the more I get gaslit into thinking that, like, oh, well, you’re just selfish or. Or greedy or your money hungry or you don’t care enough about people. And so this happens like this. Our society teaches us that in doubles down in that message, often infrequently. And so I get why people are nervous to step forward and create boundaries. But it is arguably one of the most important things that we can do. I joke that like Boundaries is my favourite adaptogen because all it’s doing is saying I need to take care of my energy. Right. We are walking around, burnt out, strung out, exhausted, like dragging the limbs all over the place. Just really, really, really tired. And what nobody is going to swoop in and give you an extra few hours of the day to take care of yourself. That will literally never happen. And if it did happen, I’m sure you’d be really good about filling up that space with doing things for other people anyway. So we have to kind of stake a claim on our own lives and say here’s like evaluate our energy and be radically honest with energy leaks, like where’s my energy going in? Does that feel good to me? And if it doesn’t, that’s where we have to create a boundary. That’s where we have to say, I’m unwilling to do this. And I think it’s really challenging when it’s something that we used to be available for and to all of a sudden say, I am no longer available for this. You know, we can use DMS as an example. Maybe now you’re saying, DM me, I love it. I love to chat on DMs and then perhaps your business might shift in restructure to the point where you can no longer DM people back and forth all day. And so you would have to create a boundary and say, I used to be available for this. I am no longer available for this because I took stock of my energy and I realised that it doesn’t feel good any longer to do that or I don’t have the bandwidth for it. And so I think a boundary boundaries is is a must. I think we’re hearing a lot more about them and I’m really glad for that because it’s hard. I think it’s very hard to have a good handle on mental health, emotional health and physical health if you are unable to create boundaries in your life. 

Le’Nise: I I am just nodding along with what you’re saying, because I’m a big believer in boundaries. I like I don’t like it when people behave in an unboundried way. And I always push back against that. I mean, I’ve I think social media is, because you have access to so many people or you feel like you have access to so many people because you can just send them a message. It makes people feel like, well, you know, I have access to you all the time so I can just send you what I want. But and people don’t necessarily think before they send you, you know, their like whole page long health issue. And I love that people feel open and able to share that. But I think there’s a kind of energetic exchange that happens. And what I love about what you said is it relates quite nicely to people who work in healing professions. There is a boundary issue that happens because you are giving so much of yourself when you’re working with people. And there is a kind of, it’s a it’s a challenge to be able to say no, because you’re so used to giving and giving and giving, and that’s certainly something that I’ve learnt in my time as a practitioner that I have to have boundaries like I don’t let people contact me on certain platforms anymore, I just I don’t like it and I need to have my own space to be able to know that I can be there as Le’Nise Brothers, the person rather than Le’Nise Brothers, the practitioner. So, yeah, that’s kind of I’m really connecting with what you’re saying, 

Erin: I think that social media can be the biggest boundary breach if we let it, because to your point, we’ve created this this false expectation that people should be entitled to our time, our expertise, our brain, our energy at any moment in the day. And so I do think there has to be a little bit of a resistance and a little bit of a kickback, because at the end of the day, we’re all human beings with a finite energy source. Many of us have families and other obligations outside of of the app. And we show up because we like to interact. We like to create content. We like to help people. But I think what also some people fail to understand is that a lot of that, especially for for practitioners, is that that a lot of that is content marketing. So we’re willing to show up and to give in the hope that that message will resonate with somebody and then they’ll end up working with us because there has to be a monetary exchange. I am the primary provider for my family. So if I don’t get paid, the lights don’t go on. I don’t have Internet to provide free content. We don’t eat. So I have to get paid. And that is a boundary in and of itself is that that energy exchange of receiving compensation for the energy that I put out in the world. And we have to we have to understand that, too. And a big thing that I get asked a lot by other business owners are like, aren’t you so afraid to set boundaries on, publicly like you do, like aren’t you afraid you’re going to lose clients? A lot of people are afraid to say no because they they they need clients. Right. Understandably. But I look at it a completely different way, because if somebody is going to overstep my boundaries on a on a free platform, then they’re surely going to do it when they’re paying clients. Surely. And so I almost use that as a screening tool to assess who who is a good fit for me, who can work with me. If you can’t respect me here, then you don’t get past this check point. You don’t get access to to my one on one work. And it has been really quite tremendous and helpful for me to to hone my clientele, because by the time somebody is paying to work with me, they’re so respectful, they’re so understanding of my boundaries, they’re so respectful of them that I love the work that I do. And I’m not hitting that that burnout that so many of us practitioners or business owners hit when we’re just saying yes to everybody. 

Le’Nise: So someone’s listening to this and they’re thinking, yes, I just have a huge issue with boundaries, whether they’re a practitioner or whether they’re just a person in this world. What was, what would one tip for them to start with? What would that one tip be? 

Erin: I think it’s putting the responsibility on yourself to understand, because it’s hard to know where where we need to set boundaries if we don’t if we don’t know what’s triggering us. So really, really pay attention to those trigger moments. You know, when I for me, when I get triggered, I get really hot. Like, I physically feel a sensation in my body where I’m like, I have to get up and like, pace my house. I’m just like, walk around because I get this, like, big visceral sensation. So I would like understand what your kind of trigger, you know, clues are and then really think about what’s happening in this moment in time. And then is there a pattern here? Does this happen every single time, X, Y, Z happens? I think pulling it in, if you are somebody who menstruates and has a cycle, pulling it into that luteal phase, because, again, we’re going to be a lot more attenuated to like, oh, these are the things that are driving me nuts, you know, and maybe kind of utilise that. I always say, and I’m sure you say the same like that that period is not the best or that phase of the cycle is not the best time to act on your decisions. Like if you if you have clarity, you don’t necessarily have to take action, because at least for me, that action is usually a little too aggressive. But you can pull it into your menstruation and like think about it meditate on it come from a clear headed spot. But that, I think, is the very first step is to pay attention to where you get bothered in rather than say, oh, there’s something wrong with me for getting bothered, like, why am I like this? Why do we react this way, use it as information. Because there’s probably a boundary that needs to be set. 

Le’Nise: And this actually segues nicely into this. You’re talking about tuning in and understanding what you need. It segues nicely into what I wanted to talk about around your work and intuitive eating. And on your website, you talk about ditching diet dogma and you talk a little bit more about what that means. So ditching diet dogma. 

Erin: So I want to first say, because I’m, transparency and integrity are like the two bedrocks of my business. And so there’s a lot of intuitive eating terminology being thrown around. I do not, have not received training and intuitive eating. And I just say that because that is a trademarked framework. Right. So I don’t want to co-opt that or make it sound like I’m doing something that I’m not doing. I, in my eating disorder recovery, intuitive eating came into play. And I did work with a registered dietitian who is trained in intuitive eating. So I’ve had exposure to it. Ditching the diet dogma means stop living as though your diet is your religion, right, we can get, tribalism is so huge right now, we can see it play out in politics, especially here in the U.S. pretty keenly, but it’s also infiltrated so many other systems like our food. Right. And so we have different camps. We’ve got the paleo, we’ve got the keto, we’ve got the intermittent fasters. We’ve got the vegan, the plant based diet. We you know, there’s so many different camps and everybody shouting from the rooftops, why this is the one way. This is the end all be all this is the thing to finally fix your broken pieces, to finally save you. And so we can get really locked into that. And I just see it do such a massive disservice long term to be so locked in and so rigid. And it’s like, you know, I recently said it’s like when when your food plan, your way of eating becomes more like religion. Right. More like like doctrine than that usually creates problems in the long run because there’s no wiggle room for you to say, oh, jeez, this isn’t working for me anymore. There’s no space for your intuition to come through and say, you know what, this actually doesn’t feel good in my body. Right. So I would say that ditching the diet dogma is more about embracing the idea, because this is a lot easier said than done, but embracing the idea that our own body’s communication and our own intuition should guide the way that we eat versus somebody else’s set of rules. 

Le’Nise: Now, I know we talked a little bit about this over over DMs. And you have recently released a very interesting podcast episode about intuitive eating, intuitive fasting, where you you position this as a position, as an opinion piece. But I just want to go back to what you just said about tuning in and understanding your intuition. What would you say to someone who says, well, I don’t even know what the word intuition means, like what I don’t get I don’t connect. I know that this is something I need to ditch diet dogma, but I don’t get that.

Erin: That is a really, really good question, because that is that’s sort of my the rub for me with any type of intuitive eating approach, whether it’s the trademarked intuitive eating or something similar, because we can’t just turn on our intuition when it comes to food. You don’t just walk into the kitchen, open the cupboard and say, my intuitions on now. It is really something that we have to practise throughout our entire, the rest of our life, not just with food. And so where do you begin? I mean, what is intuition? It’s like the sort of like the quiet whispers that you might hear that you’re like that that can’t be real or even like the gut sense that you’ve got. What I always say is like, has there ever been a time where you just knew something? You didn’t know how you knew it, you just knew it and you acted on it. In looking back, you were like, oh, my gosh, thank God I listened to that. That that that was a big thing. That’s your intuition speaking to you. And where does it come from? I don’t know. I think it probably depends on what kind of spirituality or philosophy or religion you align with. So I won’t go there. But it’s coming from it’s either your higher self or it’s coming from something bigger than you. And I think that the only way that we can access this is by creating space to do it, like having the desire and the willingness to say, you know what, I really want to really want to check in with my intuition. I really want to figure out what these messages mean or where they’re coming from. And I think we have to practise it. And I think we have to create space for it. I call it like mental white space, almost. If if our heads and our bodies and our days are so filled up to the brim with stuff, with noise, with information all day, every day, there’s really not a whole lot of space for your intuition to come in. Right. Whereas with what’s the entry point? And so I think that’s why having a meditation practise or having a mindfulness practise can be really good because it creates that white space in your day. Now, for some people to just sit down, you know, quietly for ten minutes to listen to their intuition, it’s not going to happen. It’s like being hit by a Mack truck. All of a sudden, you know, you’re going, going, going, going. And then they sit down. They’re like, I got to get out of here. I can’t do this right. So I also think that we can access it. One of the ways that I do it is through nature. We live in the woods. So I will go I call it my forest medicine. I will just go into the woods. I think nature has this ability to connect us to something bigger than ourselves. It’s that that sense of all that sense of wonder that we’ve sort of been disconnected from. I think we all have it as children and then we move away from it the older we get. But you go into a wide open space of nature, whether it’s green space or blue space, and you just see if you’re able to feel into this sense that there’s something bigger than me, doesn’t make all your problems go away. But it kind of gives you perspective on your problems a little bit. And for me, that creates a little bit of a pocket in my day. A quiet moment. A pause, if you will, from all of the noise and the chatter and I find that my I can connect with my intuition really, really well there, but I think we all have to find what works best for us. But it really is about one being willing to go into creating a pocket of time for yourself to listen. 

Le’Nise: I I think what you’re saying is so interesting, and it reminds me of one of my yoga teachers, she would always say that you need to listen, listen to the whispers before they become screams and if you take that principle beyond the physical body. When you’re doing kind of asana movement to kind of what’s happening internally and related to your hunger and what you’re what your what your body needs, it’s really interesting. And it’s almost like a muscle that you have to build. But if you give yourself that small space weather is, as you say, a walk in nature or even like just five minutes away from your phone, just kind of looking at your candle, whatever it is, you know, it’s that little kind of white space. I love that, that white space that gives your brain a chance to focus on something else. I, I just think, I love that. I think that’s so interesting. 

Erin: That quote is so I love that quote so much. And I think that’s sometimes for some people my myself, definitely. So I’ll use myself as an example. If we’re not listening to our intuition or we’re not heeding the message, sometimes those messages can come through our physical body. And I use that that quote in relation to physical health, because I’ve I’ve really struggled with I was diagnosed with an autoimmune illness six years ago. And so I’ve had some some battles with with my physical health. And I think looking back, that’s exactly what was happening. I was not heeding my intuitive messages. I was I had kind of gone dark on myself a little bit where I was like, I can’t even listen right now. And so those those whispers started to come through my body and I didn’t pay attention. And then those whispers slowly became screams in the form of a really serious health condition. And so I think it is. And I want I want to just make sure that everybody listening is not hearing me say that if you are struggling with a health condition, you caused it. I’m not saying that, I’m not saying that, but I do think that our bodies try to communicate to us and we’re not really great at listening to those to those signs and those symptoms. And so there’s multiple ways that our, our intuition can communicate with us. And some for some of us we’re like more I don’t know, like I get a lot of messages through my body, some of us are like, that’s how messages come in. Some people are more clairsentient, I think it’s called. So you can hear it’s like somebody speaking to you or something. Speaking to some people are more clairvoyant where they see different energy. I feel like I’m I think it’s clairsentient maybe. I feel people’s stuff. So I think that that’s an important thing, too, is that if there’s if there’s this repetitive message coming through, like whether you go through any of those channels, it’s really important that you listen to it because your intuition usually doesn’t just turn off. Right. It’s going to try to get your attention in there. If it’s not, it’s not getting your attention in a gentle way, then it might ramp it up in a different way. 

Le’Nise: Yeah, absolutely. And in terms of the work that you do with your clients beyond what you’ve said about ditching dogma. So you mentioned that you you have an autoimmune condition yourself and you do work with people who have autoimmune conditions. Talk a little bit about how, because they tend to be more complicated as a practitioner, a little bit about the work that you do with those types of conditions and what you’ve learnt perhaps from what you’ve experienced yourself. 

Erin: So I do a lot of functional medicine, works with a lot of lab testing to assess, to get the data to assess for what could be contributing to the overall imbalanced immune system. So I do that. From a food perspective, it’s interesting because the functional medicine space loves a good elimination diet, right? It is its restriction. It’s a whole new form of restriction where it’s not necessarily restricting calories in order to lose weight, but you’re restricting food as a safety mechanism to keep yourself safe so your disease does not progress, which is equally as stressful. I will say that. So I’ve found I’ve sort of found this weird little pocket of the Internet where I’m deep in the functional medicine world. But I’m also kind of kicking back against the fact that they prescribe these very restrictive diets as a way to cure or treat an illness. Because what that tells me is that you’ve taken the humanity out of it, you’re not looking at the human, you’re looking at the diagnosis and you’re saying, here’s the template, here’s the protocol. Here’s what you do. And you forget that there’s a human being sitting on the other end of that and that human being might have their own restrictive past. That’s certainly what happened to me. I had put myself into remission of 13 years of disordered eating. And I was like, I’m living the dream. I’m feeling good. I’m not dieting anymore. I love my body. And then I got smacked upside the head with this really scary diagnosis. And of course, in the blogosphere back then, it was all autoimmune paleo protocol, AIP, which is extremely restrictive. If no if you haven’t heard of it, I know that you have. But listeners, you remove all gluten, all dairy, all grains, you remove eggs, you remove all nitrates, you remove all spices that have nitrates, you remove all nuts, you remove all seeds. It’s intense. But if you have a doctor saying, hey, this disease could kill you, you’re pretty highly motivated to do whatever it takes. And so a lot of these people are on these really restrictive diets scared, saying I have to do this or something really bad could happen. So it creates the safety structure. And I just find that. When we take you know, there’s a lot of practicality with with removing certain foods, for example, with an autoimmune illness like a Hashimoto’s, for example, it makes sense. It makes practical sense to remove gluten. Right. But if it if it crosses over from practicality to restriction for the sake of saving my life, there’s a whole soup of emotions that go with that. And I just feel like that’s kind of where we’re missing the mark is that we’re not honouring that emotional aspect to these healing therapeutic strategies, and that’s kind of where where I’m at right now in my work is saying like, don’t just don’t just slap a template on somebody, don’t just slap a protocol on somebody, treat them like a human being. And you have to work within within their own emotional situation. Does that makes sense? 

Le’Nise: Yeah, that makes total sense. And where is the balance that you find with someone with with Hashi’s, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, for example? Who they, you know, that they are taking gluten out would be beneficial for them based on what you see in their labs, their antibodies, et cetera, what you know, that there is a history of restriction or disordered eating there. How do you find the balance there with that, with a patient or client like that? 

Erin: So that’s an awesome question. I will say that I have one client right now that we just discovered the presence of Hashimoto’s antibodies, which explains a lot. We’re not just looking at lab data. We’re also we’re looking at lab data and saying, does this explain what this human being behind the data is actually experiencing? And in this case, absolutely. So with the Hashimoto’s. My one of my first things is to say, OK, because of the way that gliadin, in the protein within gluten can cross react with certain tissues in the body. Right. We want to pull out gluten. But you’re saying, OK, that makes sense from a practical standpoint. But what happens if if that doesn’t make sense from an emotional standpoint for her? She, her entire world, her entire identity is gluten because her business. She’s an entrepreneur and her business is making bread. So, I mean, holy smokes, it’s not the same thing as having a history of restriction, but this is a big deal, right? So in these cases, what I do is I say I think this is where it makes sense to invest in doing a test. The one that I run is called the Vibrant Wellness Wheat Zoomer, Wheat Zoomer from Vibrant Wellness in that shows, as is your immune system, actually reacting to these peptides within week, because what if the answer’s no and then we just restrict unnecessarily just based on theory. So for her for a situation like that, I think it’s really makes sense to invest in proper testing to say, is this your bag? Is this something that we have to focus on? And if it is what the next step is, it’s not to just smash her into a gluten free diet, but it’s to assess how does this make you feel? So I just told you that you have a gluten free diet is a practical way to support your health condition. How does that make you feel? And I’m looking for two things. One, does it feel expansive in your body? Or does it feel like contraction in your body because some people are like, oh my God, I feel so much better knowing this. I’ve wondered about this. I’ve thought about this for years now. I have the data. I feel good. I’m excited to get started. I want to support my body in this way, like let’s go and some people get that data and they’re like, how am I going to do this? My kids eat gluten. What if I want to go to Italy? Can I never eat pasta again? I can never eat bread again. This this girl is like, do I quit my business? Like, well, what do I do? And so we want to, I never want people to make a choice, a decision from a place of constriction and contraction if it feels hard, scary, rigid, bad for lack of a better term in your physical body, that’s information. And we’re not going to make a decision from that place. We’re going to wait. We’re going to give ourselves some breathing room. We’re going to talk through it. We’re going to talk about your biggest fears. We’re going to do all of that before we run into this potentially restrictive diet. 

Le’Nise: That is just like music to my ears, because, you know, we’ve talked about diet dogma and we see a lot in this space, we talked about restriction. But what’s interesting is that what you just explained is a very nuanced approach. And that’s something that we’ve talked about before, this lack of nuance and the lack of seeing, even though we get trained to see the person for who they are, the whole whole person, physical and emotional, there is this kind of default of going back to templates and protocol. And this nuance is really important because that’s where the healing really begins, because you’re seeing all elements of the person and what they will actually respond to rather than take out gluten, take out dairy, you know, take it all out. It’s well, actually, how does this fit into my life and where I’m at emotionally, professionally, personally, all of that. 

Erin: And I think the longer that you do this work, the more people that you work with. And this is why I always want to talk to practitioners, not just researchers, because the research is really important. It’s really important. But how that research applies to actual human bodies is the work that I’m most interested in. Right. It’s that is the big stuff and. That’s where we learn about the nuance, that’s where we learn that context matters, is working with lots of people and that’s where we can have compassion for that piece into say, like, I know this is hard. I know this is really hard. Right. I can’t tell you how many people have come to me that have been put on like a leaky gut protocol or like a leaky gut diet or a ketogenic diet or, you know, all of these things. And they’re they’re pulling their hair out because they’re so stressed about it. But they’ve never had anyone say. Does this feel manageable for you? Are you OK with this and what is understood discussed because it’s not as sexy as diet and it’s not as sexy as protocols, but what is under discussed is the role that any type of stressor can have on the gut, on antibody production, on autoimmunity, on any of the things that we’re talking about, on food sensitivities, even. Right. And so if every single time we sit down to our plate to eat, we’re locked into this stressed out, hyper vigilant state that’s going to impact your physical body, too. Right. And so we have to make space for all of those things to exist. It is not just as simple as do this diet. All your problems go away. If it was, none of us would have any problems. It’s not that simple. 

Le’Nise: I yeah, I’m just I’m just nodding my head. I just I’m just agreeing with everything you’re saying. I know that listeners who will be connecting with what you’re saying. Can you tell them about what you’ve got coming up in your business, how they can get in touch with you if they want to find out more? 

Erin: I think the best place to start is with my podcast. I’ve been podcasting for three and a half years now, and I really do a lot to put a lot of good information and well researched and well thought out information there. So that’s the Funk’tional Nutrition podcast. That’s a really good starting place to just get your feet wet, you know, understand who I am, whether or not we would even be a good fit. And then from there, I run different nutrition programmes and then also functional medicine programmes. So the next one coming up would be my carb compatibility project, which is going to be in May. And that is a four week process to explore doing a lower carbohydrate template, because for some people that can be really health healthy or really helpful to manage GI issues or other things that are going on, blood sugar regulation. And so we talk a lot about that. But we do it from a place of compassion and we also do it from a place of there’s a template, there’s a framework, but we do it from a place of accessing your own intuition so you can keep coming back to your body and saying, but does this work for me? And every single time you have a question, I’m going to remind you to do that same thing. People are like, yeah, OK, OK. I know, I know, I know. You’re just going to tell me, like, listens to my intuition, but many cups of blueberries should I eat in a week? You know, it’s like still I totally get it. We want the easy answer because it it makes it less work. But if we choose the path of more resistance, we choose to really listen to ourselves and kind of do the working and like what we are talking about practise that it helps us in so many more ways than just food. So that is the next thing that I have on the horizon. But lots of different programmes. And then there’s always the option of working with me one on one as well. 

Le’Nise: Great. And all of all of Erin’s links will be in the show notes so you can check out her website, check out her podcast, her Instagram. Now, if you could leave listeners with one thing, one thought based on all of the amazing things that you’ve shared on the show today, what would you want that to be? 

Erin: I would say that and this is right off the cuff. I really want people to understand that our bodies are like Wolverine. My, my daughter and my husband are really into like superhero movies right now and Marvel and all of the things. And my daughter was like, if you could have one one superpower, what would it be? And I’m like, I would be Wolverine, because he has the ability to self heal. And I’m like, I am Wolverine. I do have the ability to self feel like our bodies truly, truly do. We’ve never been taught that. We’ve never been taught that that’s an option for us that’s available to us. And because of that, we don’t know that it is. And so my mission is to help people understand that we have this innate capacity to heal ourselves. And once we understand that, that it’s available to us, we like unlock this massive superpower. 

Le’Nise: Wow. Again, I’m just nodding my head as you’re speaking. Thank you so much for coming on the show today, Erin. It’s been fantastic speaking to you.

Erin: Oh, thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure to be here. 

Let’s Talk About The Menstrual Phase

With the new year comes a new start or a fresh impetus to look at what’s working and what isn’t. Is this the year you get on top of any menstrual or hormone health issues you’ve been experiencing? 

Understanding what’s really normal and what isn’t can help you understand what you’ve been accepting and what you can change when it comes to your menstrual health.

In my next four posts, I’ll talk about each of the four phases of the menstrual cycle – what’s normal and what isn’t. My hope is that you can use this information to make the shift towards understanding how to work with your entire cycle and how to make the connection with your energy, mood, cognitive state, desire to exercise and more. 

Let’s start with the first phase – menstruation. 

The menstrual phase or inner winter is typically 3 – 7 days or the duration of your period. 

This is the time in our cycle when we may feel at our lowest ebb.

Our estrogen (the feminising hormone that supports our energy levels) and progesterone (our calming hormone that we produce after we ovulate) are at their lowest points and this can have an effect on our mood, causing us to turn inward and become more introspective and analytical. These changes in our hormones also mean that we may feel more tired and want to go a little slower, even if it’s just by 1%. 

During this phase, we’ll be shedding the lining of our uterus (which is made of more than blood – it’s also cells, bacteria, mucus and more!) – a very energetic process. This also why we may feel called to slow down and hibernate, especially on the first 2 days of our periods. For many of us, this shedding can be painful to varying degrees, especially with an existing condition such as endometriosis, fibroids or adenomyosis. 

In terms of what you see during your bleed, this can vary as well. We ideally want to see bright red blood, with very few clots, although dark red blood is also normal. If you see brown ‘blood’, this can be a sign of old oxidised blood that wasn’t pushed out of the uterus during the last period, or a sign of low progesterone levels. Grey or orange blood can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, a type of infection and very pink blood can be a sign of low estrogen levels. 

When it comes to movement, this is a great time to really tune into what your body needs. You shouldn’t necessarily expect to lift your heaviest or run your fastest, but if you have the energy to move your body, it always helps, especially if you’re doing it in a really intentional way. 

What’s normal during the menstrual phase? Lower energy, a feeling of turning inward, slight discomfort, changes in your appetite, feeling more reflective.

What isn’t normal? A very light period that last less than 3 days or more than 2 weeks, a heavy period that lasts longer than 7 days, losing more than 80mL of menstrual blood per cycle, flooding (changing your pad / cup / tampon / underwear every 1 – 2 hours of more), very painful periods, large blood clots, headaches, migraines, nausea, mood swings, a complete loss of appetite. 

Looking at this list, what have you accepted as normal during your period that isn’t? Tell me more in the comments. 

Photo by Jaanus Jagomägi on Unsplash


Le’Nise Brothers is a yoga teacher and registered nutritionist, mBANT, mCNHC, specialising in women’s health, hormones and the menstrual cycle. She is also the host of the Period Story Podcast, which aims to break taboos around menstrual health and hormones. 

Le’Nise has helped hundreds of women improve their menstrual and hormone health through her private practice and group programmes, talks and workshops for the likes of Stylist, Channel 4, Boden, Ebay and TikTok and her Instagram page. Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

Her first book You Can Have A Better Period will be released in March 2022. 

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle! If you’re looking for support with your hormone and menstrual health, click this link to book a 30 minute health review to talk about working together.