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:











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:











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:










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:










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.

Let’s Talk About Advocating For Yourself With Medical Professionals

This week, let’s talk about how to prepare for appointments with medical professionals. I know for many, this can be a source of trepidation because of negative experiences in the past. 

Maybe you’ve had a doctor who dismissed your concerns. Maybe it was a nurse who made you feel like everything was all in your head. Maybe you’ve been intimidated by the experience of sharing intimate health concerns. Hopefully what I’ll share here will help you navigate your next appointment with a little more ease.

  • If you can, choose the type of appointment that makes you feel most at ease. You might feel most comfortable with a virtual appointment over Zoom or your doctor’s digital service. 

  • Prepare for every appointment: write down your symptom(s), when they happen (including when in your menstrual cycle), any pain you experience, including the levels and description and your questions. Remember to focus on one problem per appointment. 

  • Know all your key information: menstrual cycle length and variations, length of period, what ovulation and menstruation feel like for you. 

  • Know your desired outcome from the appointment / consultation. Is it a referral? Is it a diagnosis? Is it a blood test? Is it a certain type of examination? Is it to have a discussion about what you’ve been experiencing? Whatever it is, be really clear about your desired next steps.

  • During the appointment, write everything down so you can refer back to it later. Don’t rely on your memory, especially if you’re going to be discussing something complicated. You might go further by asking if you can record the consultation, as a voice memo or a screen recording. 

  • Make sure everything is written in your file. Sometimes you might not reach your desired outcome in an individual appointment. If you’ve been refused a referral, examination or medication, make sure this is noted on your file. This will help if you switch doctors and you need to show proof that what you asked for was declined. 

  • Make sure you leave the consultation feeling really clear about what’s been said to you and the next steps. Even though each appointment is for a limited amount of time, you’re allowed to ask questions. Make sure you don’t leave feeling confused or uncertain. 

If all of this feels really overwhelming, bring someone with you that can advocate on your behalf. Here’s a link to find out more about patient advocacy options in the UK.

I’d love to know: do you feel able to advocate for yourself when speaking to healthcare professionals? Tell me more in the comments. 

Photo by National Cancer Institute 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, 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.

Let’s Talk About Lunar Tracking

If you read last week’s post and thought, ‘okay, cool, menstrual cycle tracking is interesting, but I have a very irregular period / I’m on hormonal contraception / I’m perimenopausal / My periods have gone AWOL / I have PCOS / I’m menopausal’, then this week’s post is for you. 

Menstrual cycle tracking isn’t for everyone. For a number of reasons, you might have an irregular period or even have a period at all. Enter lunar cycle tracking.   

At its heart, lunar cycle tracking uses the different phases of the moon to help us understand how we feel physically or energetically and find patterns.

There are 4 phases to the moon: new moon, waxing moon, full moon and waning moon. 

You might find that your physical and mental energy peaks during the full moon, with less sleep and more powerful and lucid dreams. This is akin to how you might feel during ovulation. 

Then we have the new moon – many use this as a time to evaluate different parts of their lives and understand what’s working and what isn’t. This is akin to the self-reflection we might feel when we menstruate. 

Lunar cycle tracking can give us something to anchor our energy and moods to. This is helpful during the uncertainty of an irregular or missing period, during perimenopause or menopause or when you’re coming off hormonal contraception and waiting for a regular menstrual cycle to return. 

And of course, you can tie in lunar cycle tracking with menstrual cycle tracking. If you get your period during the full moon and ovulate around the new moon, this is a red moon cycle. 

If it’s vice versa, this is a white moon cycle.

There are also variations: a pink moon cycle is when you get your period during the waxing moon (when the moon is moving to a full moon) and ovulate during the waning moon (when the moon is returning a new moon). If it’s versa, this is a purple moon cycle.

This type of tracking has links with many ancient cultures, with the white moon cycle linked to fertility and the red moon cycle linked to healing and healers. 

You might think all of this is nonsense and that’s your prerogative! 

If you want to learn more about this, I highly recommend Tamara Driessen’s book Luna.

Have you ever noticed the connection with the moon and your energy, mood, motivation or sleep? Tell me more in the comments. 

Photo by Ganapathy Kumar 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, 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.

Let’s Talk About Menstrual Cycle Tracking

This week, let’s talk about tracking our menstrual cycles.

I recently read an article that claimed that tracking your menstrual cycle fed into a narcissistic obsession with diagnosis. The article’s author claims this is part of a self-obsession, ‘the constant monitoring of ourselves and our lives’.

I beg to differ.

Understanding your menstrual cycle, where you are in it and what you experience during this time can help you tune into patterns, especially if you’ve been struggling to get on top of something particular, such as premenstrual mood changes or painful periods. 

When we have a deeper understanding of what our entire menstrual cycle feels like and we remember that it is our 5th vital sign, then we can connect what’s really normal and what needs further investigation.

For example, as I’ve been talking about Instagram over the last two weeks, many of us have accepted premenstrual bloating, anxiety and pain as just a normal part of having a period and menstrual cycle. When you realise that these don’t need to be a permanent feature of your menstrual years, it can change your perspective on your expectations of your pre-menstrual phase. 

So how exactly do you track your menstrual cycle?

The most important part is making it work for you. If the method you chose starts to feel onerous or like yet another task on your to-do list, then try something different. I typically suggest that my clients pick a few methods in the beginning while they’re narrowing down to the one works best. You might download a few apps (I like Moody and Flo) or use your Apple Watch or Fitbit or even just use your calendar. There are also some beautiful journals, if you prefer a pen and paper format.

You might start by simply noting the beginning and end of your period, marking the length and how you feel. You might also note when you ovulate. Remember, it’s important not to rely on an app to tell you when you’re ovulating. Just as our menstrual cycle might not always be the same number of days, we might not always ovulate on the same day each cycle! Rely on the physical signs of ovulation instead, such as changes in cervical fluid, change in cervical position and changes in energy, mood and libido. 

Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can start to add in more detail. For example, during your period, you might note:

  • The colour
  • How heavy it is
  • Any clots and their size
  • Your energy levels
  • Any pain and what it feels like 
  • Your mood
  • Anything else 

If you experience changes before your period, you might note when they start and how long they last.

For example, if you experience premenstrual mood changes, notice when they start, whether they’re intermittent or constant, whether you’re aware when they’re happening and whether they’re an actual reaction to something you’ve experienced or if they’re an exacerbation of existing depression or anxiety. 

If at any point, it feels overwhelming, put back and return to the basics. 

Eventually, you’ll get to a point when you’ll know what to expect from your menstrual cycle and your period and can pinpoint when things start to change. 

Do you track your period and / or menstrual cycle? Tell me more in the comments. 

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, 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 spring 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.

Let’s Talk About The Inner Seasons

spring blooms

This week, let’s talk about the four phases of the menstrual cycle.

We have four phases: menstruation, follicular, ovulation and luteal. For some of us, using those terms to describe the phases can feel really clinical and nowhere near the emotional and physical feelings each can bring. Using the analogy of the outer seasons is another way to think about the four phases. I find it easier to connect with, because we already know what each outer season is supposed to bring and can connect this to our inner menstrual seasons, giving us a rough guide of what to expect.

The analogy of the seasons was originated by Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer in their book Wild Power: Discover The Magic of Your Menstrual Cycle and Awaken the Feminine Path to Power. They say that throughout your menstrual month, you move through an inner winter (menstruation), spring (follicular), summer (ovulation), autumn (luteal) and back again. Each phase brings a set of specific resources and psychological challenges that help you grow into yourself and your power. 

If we think about how we might feel during our inner winter, there’s likely to be a sense of slowness and a call to hibernation or at least staying closer to home. We’re shedding the lining of our uterus, an energy intensive process that can see us turning inward. 

After winter, comes spring, a time for growth and renewal. We feel this in our inner spring as estrogen and testosterone start rising and with it so does our energy, mood, libido and confidence. 

Then we come to summer, where we’re at the peak of our powers, fizzing with energy and vitality. 

Finally, we get to autumn, which we can split into two parts. We have early autumn when progesterone is still high and estrogen has reached its second smaller peak. There is a bright, calm feeling, similar to September and October. Then we have late autumn, where the leaves fall off the tree in earnest, the clocks go back, and the nights draw in, similar to November and December. 

Do you connect with the analogy of the seasons as a way to understand your menstrual month? Let me know if the comments. 

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, 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 spring 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.

Let’s Talk About Period Pain

walpole picture theatre

In my last post, we talked about what a normal period looks like. This week, I want to dive deep into period pain. If you’ve been following my work for a while, you will have heard me say that period pain is unfortunately is very common, but just because it’s common, that doesn’t mean it’s normal.

Think about it this way: we’ve normalised being in pain for at least 2 – 3 days every time you have your period, or just over 3 years of the 40-odd years you’ll menstruate. To me, that’s completely unacceptable. If you’re one of the many who experience period pain, I’d like you to think about your attitude towards this pain. Have you accepted this as something you just need to get on with? Have you ever thought your period could be different? Have a little think about this: what have you accepted? Is it because you thought this was normal and something you couldn’t change? Is it because you’ve been taught that this is the way it’s supposed to be?

There are two types of period pain we need to consider: primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea is pain that is the result of having a period, secondary dysmenorrhea is period pain that is the result of another condition such as fibroids, endometriosis, adenomyosis or pelvis inflammatory disease. 

No matter what the cause of the pain, it’s important that you get support and that it’s taken seriously. The International Association for the Study of Pain has redefined pain and these two points are of great interest to me: Pain is always a personal experience that is influenced to varying degrees by biological, psychological, and social factors. A person’s report of an experience as pain should be respected.  

Something I hear time and again from my clients is that their pain hasn’t been taken seriously and that they’ve heard some variation of the following comments: “it’s all in your head”, “it’s a normal part of having a period”, “just take some painkillers and get on with it”. If you experience period pain or any kind of pain, you deserve to be taken seriously and your experience respected.

Here are my top tips for making sure the pain you experience is taken seriously when speaking to healthcare professionals:

  1. Make sure you have at least 3 menstrual cycles worth of information about the pain you’re experiencing
  2. Note down when in your cycle the pain takes place and how long it lasts
  3. Rate the pain from 1 – 10, 1 being no pain and 10 being the worst
  4. Describe the pain: is it sharp, twisting, intermittent, burning?
  5. Note any accompanying symptoms, such as diarrhoea, vomiting, headaches / migraines, fainting, fatigue 
  6. Note the location(s) of the pain 

All of this will help you begin or continue to have a vocabulary to describe the pain you’re experience and have tangible and constructive conversations about it. 

Do you experience period pain? Tell me more in the comments. 

Le’Nise Brothers is a yoga teacher and registered nutritionist, mBANT, mCHNC, 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, 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 spring 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.

What’s A Normal Period?

Let’s talk about what a normal period is. The word normal is a bit loaded these days. What’s normal has changed and there has rightly been a lot of pushback against outdated norms in many areas of society.

But when I talk about what a normal period is, I’m talking about what is biologically normal, rather than what is culturally normal. The cultural norm for our periods is the expectation of pain, maybe heavy bleeding and definitely emotional upheaval. It boggles my mind that we’ve normalised period pain. Pain isn’t normal and if we think about the period (and menstrual cycle) as a vital sign, it’s a message from our bodies that something is going on that we need to investigate. 

So what is a normal period? We want it to be between 3 – 7 days: less than that means the endometrium has not grown thick enough and longer than that means that we’re losing too much iron and can be a sign of another condition such as fibroids.

The colour of the blood matters too. We want to see bright red (think cranberry) for the majority of the flow. Brown blood can be a sign of not enough progesterone, a lack of ovulation in the last cycle or can be old blood that wasn’t released during the last period. We also don’t want to see large blood clots. A few very small ones are okay, but too many can be a sign of an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. 

What about pain? A few light twinges and aches are normal. Remember: the uterus needs to contract to shed its lining. It’s when the pain is excessive, stops you from doing what you need to do or has you relying on painkillers to get through the day, you need to investigate further. Think of it this way: if you have 2 days of pain every period and have around 12 periods each year, that’s 24 days you’re potentially losing or not enjoying to the fullest. Nearly a month! 

From an energetic perspective, it’s normal for energy to be a bit lower during your period. Our bodies are shedding something it’s spent 3+ weeks building up. What’s not normal is for energy to be completely depleted. You need to be able to do live your life, perhaps more slowly than normal. And you might have a more muted mood – less estrogen in the book means less serotonin and dopamine, but again, if you’re on emotional rollercoaster right before or during your period, that’s a sign that needs to be investigated. 

What’s your period like? Was there anything in this article that surprised you? Tell me more in the comments. 

Le’Nise Brothers is a yoga teacher and registered nutritionist, mBANT, mCHNC, 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, 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 spring 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.