Food and lifestyle are the basis of her approach to tackling period problems. "Lifestyle changes" can sound intimidating - like we have to live on kale and tofu and do endless yoga, but Lara Briden's approach is more manageable, it includes:
- Exercise in a way that you enjoy – it flushes out the stress hormones that can disrupt your cycle. Walking, running, dancing, netball, tennis - whatever works for you.
- Look after your mental health – do things you enjoy, make time for loved ones, enjoy nature, sleep well, get therapy if you need it. Again, good for those stress hormones.
- Honour your hunger – eat proper meals with protein, vegetables and plenty of carbs - low-carb diets aren't a good option for women. Avoid wheat and sugar as much as you can, and aim for a BMI between 20 and 24.
- Eat good fats – that includes olive oil, coconut oil, butter (hurrah!) and full-fat Jersey milk (normal milk can be inflammatory, a bit like wheat). As well as general health benefits, good fats help us to feel full and avoid overeating - something that is incredibly hard to do on a low-fat diet.
"Eat good fats" is controversial, but Lara's suggestions echo the recommendations of a major fertility and diet study and those of several leading cardiologists.
The impact of stress on periods and fertility might be overstated. There's good research that low to moderate stress doesn't stop you getting pregnant, but it's no fun being too stressed about things, or depressed, so it's not a bad thing to look after your mental health - or to acknowledge the impact of society's expectations on our mental health.
I am slightly wary of all the herbal medicine and vitamins Lara recommends. In a perfect world I'd wait for big pharma to do some trials and publish all their results. But the world isn't perfect and Lara provides suggestions for cycle problems that more official sources are pretty hopeless about.
You can experiment with them in a suitably sensible way - maybe ignoring the herbs and checking out food sources of whatever vitamin she recommends. The British Dietetics Association is a good source of information.
For example cyclical breast pain. I've had this. Lara says it can be a sign of low-level thyroid issues and suggests (very careful) use of iodine and selenium. I prefer to get my vitamins from food so if my boobs are painful I eat prawn cocktail sandwiches and a few brazil nuts. It seems to work. Thanks Lara.
She doesn't claim to have all the solutions. Sometimes you will need help from a doctor, or even surgery, but most of her recommendations help our overall health and well-being. It's good to have another reason to bother with them and an approach to period problems that doesn't involve simply taking the pill. You can buy the Period Repair Manual here.