Transcript with host Steph Gaudreau
Topics: (See the video page for the interview)
- 2015 was the year of the Period
- Lara’s backstory
- The power of women’s hormones
- Moving beyond the phrase “hormone balance”
- The role of inflammation
- Why women’s hormones are put in the too hard basket
- Men care too about women’s hormones and about periods
- Pill bleeds are not periods
- Ovulation is how women make hormones
- For women who aren’t trying to have a baby right now, why does hormonal vitality still matter?
- Hormonal birth control castrates women
- Periods are valuable because they our monthly report on our health
- Value of period-tracking
- Making a plan to come off hormonal birth control
- The Pill causes insulin resistance
- What are the underlying causes of PCOS?
- How low carb diets stop periods and can be a problem for women
- The worst carbs
- Lara’s favorite vegetable
Steph Gaudreau: Welcome back to Harder to Kill Radio. I am extremely excited to have this very, very intelligent, very wonderful, kind woman with me today. This is Dr. Lara Briden. She is a naturopath, she lives now in New Zealand?
Lara Briden: Yes.
Steph Gaudreau: Okay. Now in New Zealand, was in Australia. And we had the very, very great pleasure of meeting last year at the Ancestral Health Society symposium in Queenstown New Zealand. So welcome to Harder to Kill Radio.
Lara Briden: Thanks Steph, I’m really excited to be here.
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah, you know, I sat in on every presentation at AHS. And I came back – I think you were – you read after a break or after lunch. And I remember coming in on your presentation and I think I missed the first bullet point that you were talking about in your presentation and I was like “Oh my gosh, this theme is so good. I couldn’t believe that I had missed it.” So I’m very glad that the presentations are all on video but I definitely want to ask you a little bit about your presentation in a bit and so we’re going to talk about hormones today and all the stuff that you do which I’m really excited about because I think there’s like more people are kind of aware of hormones these days, what do you…
Lara Briden: Absolutely. A lot of people are calling 2015 the year of the period. And I started using that phrase way back in April-May last year when I released my book, Period Repair Manual last year. That was the perfect year to do it because there was a growing consciousness—an awareness about the importance of women’s hormones. I think we’re at a watershed moment for women’s hormones and yeah, I’m really excited to be part of the period revolution.
Steph Gaudreau: It’s so – it’s such a great stuff and when you were speaking at AHS and we had a chance to chat kind of on the way to dinner one night and I was really just struck by the authenticity and passion that you have for this topic. And it’s not just like “Oh, this is the hot thing at the moment. But you’re – it’s obvious to anybody who listens to you and reads through your material and sees your book and if you’re watching this on YouTube, I’m holding up Dr. Briden’s book right here which I’ve had the pleasure to look at and it’s fantastic. But you know, I was really struck by the authenticity and true like you are a teacher of this stuff to other women. And as you were saying before we got on the show here today making this stuff accessible for people. So can you fill us in a little bit on your back story? Were you always interested and geeked out on hormonal stuff. I know you had before you were a naturopath you had a slightly different career track. So fill us in on all that stuff.
Lara Briden: Yeah. Fair enough. So my first incarnation, my first work was as a wildlife biologist, evolutionary biologist. I actually studied bats which is not something that I share a lot because sometimes I think people might be a little bit creeped out by that. But I studied the gender differences and foraging patterns between male and female bats. So I was actually way back then 20 years ago looking at reproductive health that have the specialness of females. And then I retrained. I moved on and tried to become a naturopathic doctor, qualified in 1997 and I did not set out to treat hormones from the beginning, no.
What happened was and I think perhaps where some of my passion for this comes from is I just learned from the patients who were coming to see me. I mean I was – this was back in the 90’s, the mid-90’s. Things aren’t that much better now to be honest. But the things I was seeing that women were dealing with and the high-dose birth control pills, the surgeries, the really just complete lack of help that they weren’t getting anywhere else. And I very early on the ground working just realized I have the tools, my profession, you know the diet and nutritional supplements and herbal medicine are highly effective treatment for women and they need it. It was this huge gap in the world of what women needed.
So I think from the beginning I was just learning as much as I could to make a real difference in women’s lives.
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah. You certainly have. I know – you know, as you were saying 2015 seems to be kind of this breakthrough moment for hormones and our – I won’t say understanding because we have a long way to go there, but it almost seems like now there’s to me perhaps like we wanting to blame everything on hormones. So it seems that we’ve almost swung the pendulum. We had no idea that certain things were controlled by hormones and now sometimes it seems like every answer is like hormones. Every answer is pointing there. Do you think that’s the case? I mean have you seen that with your patients?
Lara Briden: Yeah. It’s interesting the phrase “blaming hormones”. And I think we chatted about this in our little chat before dinner.
Steph Gaudreau: Yes. Yeah, yeah.
Lara Briden: Okay, so I’m a cheerleader for women’s hormones. I think – well, I know — they are powerful. They’re SO powerful. And actually estrogen, estradiol which is one our most powerful hormones. Men need it too. It’s important for bone health in both genders, insulin sensitivity, libido in both genders, which is interesting.
We know testosterone is a very fantastic hormone and men need it for mood. No one would debate that men need testosterone for who they are. And yet, that is now just coming into awareness seemingly kind of for the first time that women need these hormones and that estrogen and progesterone affect us at every level including mood, brain health, bone health, metabolism, insulin sensitivity, all of these things. These are some of the things I touched on in my talk, so…
In answer to your question is it valid to kind of bring – bring female hormones into any conversation really about health? Yes, it’s valid. I wouldn’t call it blaming them but yes, we’re involving them.
Steph Gaudreau: Sure. Yeah. And I think the – that choice of phraseology almost comes from this idea that – and a lot of times when we talk about hormones, we almost assign them this sort of like okay, they’re screwing everything up, these things are bad, certain hormones like for example cortisol often times seen as a negative sort of thing. Can you kind of give the laypeople out there listening a quicker or primal like are hormone is bad or is it…
Lara Briden: Hormones are not bad.
Steph Gaudreau: Is it just a – is it the balance? And how do we kind of listen to our bodies when it comes to that stuff?
Lara Briden: Yeah, that’s a great question. Okay. Hormones are not bad, obviously. You know, we would actually – we would die without cortisol, we would die without insulin, we know this. We don’t do very well at all without any of the hormones.
Steph Gaudreau: Sure.
Lara Briden: So it’s about – and I don’t even like – I don’t know, I’m moving beyond the word “balance” because I feel like that’s a bit too nebulous. We need to work with our hormones and collaborate with them and have – and one of the things I talk about in my book is a term called hormonal – which I call hormonal resilience. So we need to have the right – create the right kind of playing field if you will, the right situation for the hormones to do what they need to do.
And one of the things – I’ll bring in the concept of inflammation—chronic inflammation— and how that interferes with hormonal activity in the body. Inflammation is probably something I’m guessing your listeners have heard about. It’s a topic that comes up a lot in nutritional medicine and health. And it’s very relevant for hormonal health as well. So when we can reduce inflammation, it clears the way for progesterone to work, to get a better response from cortisol so it does not to go too high for insulin to work better.
Steph Gaudreau: Sure. That’s a really good way to put it and I like your analogy kind of the playfield. And really the issues with the word balance because I think sometimes we expect that things will be sort of equal or even equal on the opposite. I like to use the term harmony and I like to kind of think of an orchestra because you can have all the players there or even all the instruments but if the strings are playing in harmony with the woodwinds and you get sort of a noise, right? And it’s not that they’re not there but if these things aren’t all playing together, certainly there can be some disruption in the beautiful melody that’s supposed to come out of that stuff.
Lara Briden: That’s a great analogy. And the other thing about women’s hormones in particular which is different from men and perhaps that’s why women’s hormones have always been put into the too hard basket, is they fluctuate. That’s what they do. One thing I like to say is if our hormones were balanced, we wouldn’t have periods. Because the only way you can get to a period is to go through these pretty dramatic, pretty interesting ups and downs of estrogen and progesterone and that’s what it’s all about for us. And so we want our hormones to fluctuate and go up and down. We just need to adapt to that to be resilient to that.
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah, it’s such a great point. So for people listening out there and any guys out there or even some ladies out there, we’re going to talk about some period stuff and I like to just think this is just life. This is normal, this is a part of things like so many times do you get the sense from what you see out there online or maybe with your patients like people still don’t want to talk about this? I mean…
Lara Briden: That’s changing. This was the year of the period. It’s coming into the broader conversation. Men – I’ll tell you one thing. I’ve been quite surprised and pleased at the response to my book from men. And I don’t know why I thought – I think I was even still operating in that old idea that men don’t want to hear about this. This isn’t part of their – but of course they do. Because they – a lot of them might be practitioners, they might be trying to help women, they might be married to a woman, they have daughters, they have sisters, they care. You know, it’s because they’re – we’re all humans and it’s a pretty major human experience, periods.
Steph Gaudreau: Absolutely. And I mean that’s really a part of what it – it is a part of what it means to be female. And I think so many times you’re kind of like it’s this annoying thing or we don’t know a lot about it or we’ve been on birth control for a long period of time and don’t really understand how we’re supposed to naturally function. So maybe that’s what leads to some of them being a little bit unknown or scary. I don’t know, what do you think?
Lara Briden: Okay, I wanted to say something and make sure I get a chance to say this because this is one of my key messages. Pill bleeds are not periods. This is the big part of the emperor’s new clothes just bizarre thing that we need to change about our current thinking about women’s health because to sort of work on the idea – and I know you don’t think that but a lot of people, a lot of doctors think that, a lot of women think, sort of think we can control our periods on a very tight schedule just by taking these pills. But there’s no basis to it because there’s nothing really whatsoever to do with women’s own cycling. So that’s… yeah.
Steph Gaudreau: Okay. Yeah. So I want to get into this and talk about a little bit more. So first of all like can you give us kind of the general overview rundown of in your opinion, in your professional practice like what it means to have a natural cycle?
Lara Briden: Okay. It’s all about ovulation.
Steph Gaudreau: Okay.
Dr. Lara Briden: So we need to – ovulation obviously is the event where the ovaries release an egg. It’s been compartmentalized into just as a reproductive event only but it’s not. So even for those of us who don’t have kids or don’t want kids or – it’s really – yes, it’s involved in fertility of course but it’s not just that. Ovulation is – during the process of moving towards ovulation and then after ovulation, that is how – that’s really the only way that we make the two main hormones that we need. Estradiol which is the main estrogen and progesterone. There is actually no other way to make them. So when we shut down ovulation, we essentially castrate women. Sorry, I don’t always use that term in podcast but yeah.
Okay. So you were asking sort of what’s the key events of a period. Yeah, it’s that. It’s the pre-ovulatory, the pre-ovulation phase or primarily estrogen phase, you know, estrogen creatures. And then post-ovulation where progesterone comes in and we need a lot of progesterone which is a wonderful hormone. And if we make enough progesterone, that helps us to have an easier period, perhaps lighter, less painful, less PMS.
Steph Gaudreau: Less PMS. I think we can all agree that’s a good thing.
Lara Briden: Yeah.
Steph Gaudreau: And I like that you sort of put it in that context because so many times I hear from women – I hear from athletes in the gym or whatever it is that have gone amenorrheic for whatever reason and they’re not having a period. And sometimes especially it seems more common with the younger ladies out there. They tend to think “Well, I’m not trying to get pregnant, I’m not trying to have a child at this moment. So in terms of fertility like it doesn’t matter. I’m not trying to have a baby so ovulation isn’t that important. And I really like how you bring that up as kind of like that’s like global thing and we need that event to start that hormonal cascading in either direction. I think that’s super, super important to mention.
Lara Briden: Yeah.
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah. Okay. Let’s kind of dig into that a little bit. I know at AHS you talked about 5 main obstacles to hormonal vitality. And I think I was sitting on the floor during your presentation and I was just taking screenshots of everything because I was like this is so good. And obviously we’ll link to that presentation but can you kind of expand a little bit upon this idea of hormonal vitality and maybe give us a few of those obstacles, those roadblocks that you talked about like why – for ladies out there who aren’t trying to have a baby right now, like why does hormonal vitality still matter?
Lara Briden: Yeah. By vitality I guess I meant the presence of our reproductive hormones. In the talk I was primarily speaking about steroid reproductive hormones which will – we will focus on in the conversation today. Of course it’s also thyroid hormones and adrenal hormones and insulin and these are all very important. But my main message has been our reproductive hormones both for men and women are very important for our vitality in terms of its impact on mood and bone health and insulin sensitivity, metabolism. When you’re thinking about women in the gym needing – you need the right amount of steroid hormones, reproductive hormones to be able to gain muscle mass, reach your goals.
So and there are a number of things that can interfere with that. I think one of things I said in the talk is how far have we departed from the health of our – how far has our own hormonal vitality departed from that of our ancestors? I think for all of us these are issues. But one thing is men have managed to hang on to – largely hang on to that steroid hormone whereas women have not. So their vitality in terms of – defining hormonal vitality is the presence of those reproductive steroids. Many women it’s an almost unrecognizable state compared to our ancestral state.
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah. Okay. So can you sort of – and I know you made a pretty strong case against the use of hormonal birth control in that presentation. And I’m wondering if you can kind of give us some bullet points to chew on for people who are listening who’ve maybe never considered that there would be drawbacks or it’s just what you do like it’s a rite of passage or they’re perhaps using that particular hormonal birth control to manage other symptoms which seems like a pretty common practice, like if you have acne or whatever the case might be. Can you sort of give us a few of your best bullet points as to some of those issues that people may not know about?
Lara Briden: Issues in terms of reasons not to use it?
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah.
Lara Briden: Yeah. Well, primarily what I was saying before that it just castrates us hormonally completely. I think we’d lose entirely that hormonal vitality, that is our legacy that women deserve to have. So that’s the primary thing. I mean I guess then you can do a shopping list of side effects which is dramatic drop in libido which is kind of laughed about and we sort of – but I think it’s quite important. I think women have the right to a libido. It’s permanent effect on bone density, a loss of muscle mass. That’s something else that the inability to gain muscle mass during exercise. Depression, anxiety, fundamental change in the microbiome, probably a lot of your listeners are interested in the health of the intestinal bacteria, that’s also affected by hormonal birth control.
So I think I make the arguments in the book in terms of what you said about using the pill to control symptoms. It does, it is effective for things like acne certainly. But it doesn’t in any sense correct the underlying problems and it really only masks it. And it prevents women from accessing what I call our monthly report card which is to check in, which is to say it does show our PMS symptoms on our skin, on our everything to see what underlying health issues are the ultimate cause of that and what underlying inflammation or sugar in the diet or lack of exercise or whatever it is is interfering with our hormonal resilience or our hormonal vitality. And if you take the birth control pill, I think you lose a chance to see that, you lose a chance to therefore act on it.
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah. That’s a good way to frame that discussion. And I know for me personally and not to get too much into my own personal story but I did get off of hormonal birth control about a 1.5 year ago and started tracking my basal metabolic rate. Sorry, my basal body temperature, basal metabolic rate, basal body temperature and…
Lara Briden: That is your metabolic rate as well.
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah. Exactly. And I was surprised to even start making correlations between things like when – post-ovulation when my body temperature is higher, I tend to not sleep quite as well. This is like over a year and a half of tracking that sort of thing but it’s amazing how I’ve become much more in tune to my own body. And the changes that I notice even when I’m in the gym, for example I know that kind of leading up to menstruation, especially a couple of days right before I’m not feeling very strong in general. So I know that at those times it’s okay for me to – I understand why I feel that way first of all and then like I know it’s probably it’s not the best time for me to try to really push myself. I might back off, I might do something different where I’m not pushing myself quite as hard or I’m not lifting quite as heavy. And I think that’s a really good – it’s a really important thing for especially women I think in my position who are really athletically minded or are pushing themselves hard pretty physically but it’s hard to know that stuff unless you’ve been keeping tabs on it.
Lara Briden: Yeah. You’re tracking it. This is also the year of the period apps and everybody uses them now. I mean you can use an app to track yours, I mean you can do it on pen and paper as well. But it just makes sense because we do – our bodies differ and the reason you’ll get that, probably that bit of fatigue or a difference in your muscles is during those couple of days for your period is that’s when your – both your estrogen and progesterone are just dive bombing. Like they’re just kind of coming down by many degrees, many amounts each day. So you can feel that. You can feel that in your energy of course.
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah and it’s kind of comforting to know why. It’s nice to know okay, that’s why that’s happening. It’s not just all in my head as women we do experience those fluctuations for normal reasons. And so that’s kind of my own personal plug for that stuff. But if you were going to be talking to say someone who is thinking about maybe anything from a more hormonal birth control type of method like what are some of the things that you would counsel them to pay attention to or kind of think about if they were deciding to get off of that stuff? Regardless like maybe pregnancy aside and that sort of thing. What are some of things that you find people are concerned about when they’re getting off of hormonal birth control?
Lara Briden: That’s a great question. Because you see so many blog posts out there that – so many of them kind of say these are the things to do when you’re coming off birth control. This kind of shopping list of do this and this and this. But what my experience clinically is it’s not quite that simple because it’s so different for every woman. So the very first thing to consider, the very first thing to ask is what were your periods like before you took hormonal birth control? Because remember, I said earlier that pill bleeds are not periods. So let’s say someone’s been off the pill or hormonal birth control and obviously the pill, it could be the NuvaRing or injections or Implanon or – these are all – they all work primarily in the same way by shutting down ovulation.
Steph Gaudreau: Sure.
Lara Briden: So then if you’ve been on hormonal birth control for 15 years you actually don’t – it’s possible the last time you had a real period you were say 19 years old or something. So I always – this is what I always ask my patients, I’m trying to make a plan for them where it’s going to go as smoothly as possible. So I want to know what we’re looking out for with their periods. Was it very heavy, was there a problem of skin, did they come at all, were they regular? Because if they were – chances are if they were irregular at 17, 18, 19, now at 35, they’re probably going to be regular. Although there could be things, some things could have changed with the health because again, periods are our monthly report card of our health.
So if someone has in the meantime – here’s an example, like say someone had lack of periods when they were a teenager, possibly because they had something called PCOS which is a very common condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome. So yeah, they had that when they were teenager probably possibly because their diet was terrible, they were eating a lot of sugar and they weren’t exercising and all these things. And then there’s two ways that could go – I mean that could have gotten worse if the lifestyle hasn’t changed and also because the pill. And I do want to get this message across the idea, a few bullet points I’m getting around here.
The pill causes insulin resistance. So it essentially causes PCOS. So to take the pill to treat PCOS is almost one of the most nonsensical things you can do because it causes insulin resistance which causes PCOS. It shuts down ovulation and then PCOS is primarily a condition of not ovulating. Okay. So there’s two ways, so you went on the pill at 18, not having periods and then if nothing changed in your lifestyle, it could actually be a lot worse now that you’re coming off the pill. You can find you just basically can’t get periods without some changes.
But the other way you can go is let’s say during those years on the pill someone had been getting healthier and doing exercise and eating better and stopping sugar and then they might find that it’s quite a different story when they come off the pill this time.
Steph Gaudreau: Sure.
Lara Briden: So yeah. So I ask what was your period like before and also did you have a break from the pill before and what happened? And then I’m trying sort of perhaps treat some of those issues in a lead-up time to coming off the pill to smooth the way for that change.
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah. Such a great advice. And so I’m glad you brought up PCOS because it is the topic that people ask me about all the time. I’d like first to say I’m not a PCOS expert. There are people who are and who talk a lot about it, yourself included. And I think it’s a question that a lot of women have. They’re like I was either told I have PCOS or I suspect I might have PCOS. What are some of the – and I know on your blog you talk about kind of 3 different types. Insulin resistant and non-insulin resistant, kind of the two main pathways there and then from there there’s a little bit of delineation. But can you kind of give us a quick little overview as to what PCOS is and for many women what the underlying causes are? And then perhaps what are some general – I know it’s going to depend on the person but some general things that people might want to think about if they’re going to try to get that back on track?
Lara Briden: I’m really glad this came up in your podcast because it’s a huge issue. They think it affects – up to 1 in 10, possibly even more, 1 in 5, between 1 and 5 and 1 and 10 women. It’s common. It’s common. And there’s number of reasons for that. First thing I want to say, this is very important, PCOS is not one thing. It’s what we call an umbrella diagnosis. So this is what happens in medicine, this is the state where we’re in. We’ve made this – we’ve defined these diseases I guess. We’ve given names to things and we’ve slapped these labels on people. And PCOS isn’t the only example of this. Many times – and depression might be another one for example.
It’s a set of symptoms that have arisen in different people for lots of different reasons. So PCOS is a set of symptoms. The symptoms are irregular ovulation which means irregular periods. Because remember, ovulation is the key event and you can’t basically have a period, a real period without ovulating, although you can have – let’s say here – you can have what’s called an anovulatory bleed. It’s actually not a real period. That’s kind of a – that can confuse things.
So the main symptoms of PCOS are irregular periods or no periods and symptoms of too much testosterone or what we call androgens. There’s a lots of different kinds of male type of hormones that women get and that can cause acne, facial hair which can be quite bad for some women, body hair, hair loss on the head. Those are quite distressing symptoms, especially for young women. It really affects self-esteem and… about 70-80% because we have this group population of women who have been given the label of PCOS possibly based on – hopefully based on a combination of symptoms. They might have been given it based on an ultrasound finding which I want to say is not valid. You cannot diagnose PCOS with an ultrasound. Just flat out. That’s a myth, that’s a mistake that’s made.
So within that population of people who have been given the diagnosis, about 70-80% of those women, the primary cause of their condition is an underlying problem with insulin resistance. And the other ones, the other 20-30% it’s something else which I kind of classify on my blog post.
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah. So if you’re dealing with insulin resistance, for people who may not know and I kind of know the answers but I’m going to ask for the sake of people listening ask you to talk about some of the general lifestyle factors. Because I think a lot of times people tend to think insulin resistance is only about the food that I eat.
Lara Briden: Right.
Steph Gaudreau: And so what are some general things that people might want to think about when they are trying to steer that insulin resistance back toward more of an insulin sensitive state?
Lara Briden: Exactly. Well, one thing is muscle mass and muscle – this goes well with your work, I mean exercise.
Steph Gaudreau: Sure.
Lara Briden: So muscle mass and muscle sensitivity. That’s one of the ways that exercise benefits. One of the many ways that exercise benefits us is it improves what’s called insulin sensitivity. And that can happen very quickly, just within a few weeks. Even before you’ve had any sort of noticeable – and it’s not because of the weight loss. And we always start to think, we also try to tie it with weight. Exercise is beneficial because of the hormonal things that it’s doing. So that’s a big one.
Diet of course is important and I know you told me talk about this. I’ll just put my two cents in and I think one of the biggest drivers of insulin resistance is fructose and high fructose desserts and sweets and soft sweet drinks. And that’s something that it seems to me a lot of people overlook. I get patients who are valiantly avoiding potatoes but having date balls and fruit juice and all these things like that. They kind of miss the main thing that they need to do.
Steph Gaudreau: Sure.
Lara Briden: The other factors are lots of medications, so hormonal birth control worsens insulin resistance, antibiotics do. Certain I think antihistamines. So that’s other sort of things that we’re doing. And of course stress can definitely affect insulin resistance. And – sorry, I don’t want to interrupt you – environment and toxins. These are things that… yeah.
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah. Absolutely. I’m glad you mentioned antibiotic theme too because we know antibiotics have the ability to disrupt kind of your normal gut flora. And you were mentioning earlier how that stuff can cycle back. So I can see why these topics can be so – they’re so multifactorial, they’re so – I won’t say complicated, I will say complex. And really starting to kind of tease out what you should approach first and what you should perhaps work on first. I think it might be one of the reasons why people get a bit overwhelmed with this. And so they tend to look for the really either simple solution or sometimes they tend to look for some kind of pharmaceutical intervention perhaps because it’s the way they kind of simplify and attack one of those components, right?
Lara Briden: I know. Wouldn’t be nice if women had a drug that they gave and it could solve all the problems. But I mean that’s a dream. I guess I would love that if it was that simple but it’s not as we both know. There’s another post on my blog which your listeners might want to see which I called “4 Steps to Reverse Insulin Resistance”. I was trying to address exactly what you are saying. It can all feel a bit overwhelming. Especially when you see an expert sitting here listing like 12 things that affect it. You really just need to know you’re right, just where we to start.
So those 4 things I’ll cite to you quickly that I decided to put in that blog post are quit sugar, do exercise, take magnesium which is actually – I didn’t get to it in my talk, I had to kind of skip over that part but magnesium is a powerful insulin sensitizer and it’s quite safe and easy supplement for people.
Steph Gaudreau: Sure.
Lara Briden: And sleep. So sleep affects it as well.
Steph Gaudreau: Sure. Those are all really good places for people to kind of dig in and I’ll definitely link that specific article in the Show Notes so people can click right there and dig into that a bit more. So the last thing I wanted to ask is one of the most recent blog posts you have written is about a tweet that you made. And it’s the sort of replies that you got about this tweet which was – the tweet was about women losing their periods on low carb diets. And you got a lot of pushback on that I guess from what your blog post about that said. But I’m interested in can you sort of give us a quick commentary on why low carb diets could be problematic for women and what the kind of underlying pathways there are like what do we need to be aware of?
Lara Briden: Okay. Okay. So first thing is – it’s interesting that this is coming right after our conversation about insulin resistance. It’s perfect timing, this question. So we are all individuals. So right from the start before I even answer that question, I will say some women do extremely well on a low carb diet. And there will be women for example that are strongly insulin resistant and have been not having periods because they have PCOS. In that case that group of women arguably have lost their periods because to a high carb diet.
But on the other end of things if we therefore say okay, that worked for them and avoiding carbs is better for periods in this group, therefore avoiding all carbs must be good for all women it just doesn’t play out. And the reality is the clinical reality is there are these young, health-conscious women, they’re trying to do the best they can, they’re taking it to the nth degree to do what they can. And then be over-exercised too but what I’m saying is not even that strict but fairly, reasonably strict avoidance of all starches shuts down their periods in some vulnerable women.
And I suspect it’s – I don’t know the mechanism. I don’t think any of us know because no one has asked that question in the science and the research to my knowledge but I suspect it’s really just a matter of the hypothalamus or hormonal command center is just not receiving the signals. The insulin and the leptin, it’s another hormone that we need. Signals that there’s an adequate food supply. Women’s hormones are very sensitive to food supply. This is something else I talked about in my talk. And that makes sense because historically we would have all – we would have needed to sort of only reproduce when conditions were right. So yeah. That’s the short answer.
But I was surprised, I had to write that post because I had these guys. I don’t know who they were guys that tweeted that that’s wrong, you’re just wrong because there’s no science behind that. It’s like well, it’s just happening. It’s just a fact.
Steph Gaudreau: Sure. Yeah and just because we’re not seeing it in the literature and there aren’t studies on it, it doesn’t mean it’s an observed phenomenon. And it’s certainly something that I see with athletes in the gym, with other females who I know who are kind of hard chargers. And sometimes that even like I’m really glad, in that post you really took sort of pains to mention that we’re all sort of different and what works for one person, may not work for another. And so I think that’s really, really important. And we tend to use these heuristics to explain things like low carb diets are great because they’re going to help sensitize the insulin and to send that. And then on the other hand we have the opposite of that.
So it’s easy to kind of get caught up in that stuff and I really like that point that you made which was for some people it works wonderfully and for other people it’s devastating. For women it really all comes down to understanding the inputs and the outputs and they’re checking in with themselves and all that stuff. It’s so, so important and it’s not quite enough to say, oh well, like this is just a thing that happens or like this what everybody else is doing so I should do it too.
Lara Briden: And overlaid on that, just to tie back to our talk about before, valuing periods, valuing women’s hormones, I do get the feeling at some level of the – I don’t know it like stops periods but who really cares? It’s like well, that’s just because women’s hormones are complicated. Just take the pill to make up for it or something. That’s sort of the message I’ve had on the one hand. Although certainly there are lots of women coming to me who are genuinely concerned that they’re not having periods.
And the other thing I’ll add to that which I don’t think I put in the post but which I do see is these young women if that’s what’s happened to them, then when they start eating starches again, they get their periods back. So there’s another side to it as well. I’ve seen both the cause and then the effect of giving starch back.
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah, I think it’s a really timely sort of post to write and to bring up because I think fat is sort of coming back. We’re like not quite as afraid of it anymore. Time had butter on the cover last year. I mean there’s kind of this more acceptance I think of healthy fats now but it seems like for some reason again the pendulum has kind of really swung in the other direction with carbs. And it’s either like you’re going to eat a ton of carbs, like unlimited sugar, like that’s not a problem and then on the other hand you have people who are afraid to eat like you said a potato which totally makes me mental. But it’s one of the things it’s like follow people who are giving good information, don’t just sort of latch onto these sound bites and I can see why it’s confusing. I mean I don’t know about in Australia and New Zealand but here in the States you kind of get that like coffee is good, coffee is bad. Fat is good, fat is bad. Carbs are good, carbs are bad. And it’s an onslaught, it’s hard for people to I think know where to start.
Lara Briden: Of course. And I’d love to hear what you think your clients – how they perceive the word carb. But my patients, most of them when they hear carb, they think starch, they think potato. Basically that’s what they think. They don’t think – I said this earlier – they don’t think the fruit juice, they don’t think the sweetened yogurts or the date balls. Like that’s not a carb in their – in a lot of my patients. So again, what I’m finding is that they’ve missed the balls. They probably do need to go lower carbs in terms of removing those sugary foods but that’s not what they’re doing. They’re removing starches from their evening meal and then binging later because they’re so hungry.
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah, yeah. It’s such an important point to mention. I think in the athlete community what I do see quite a bit is there’s kind of a movement for quantifying your macros. And I think having some knowledge of that is very important, especially for people who are training very hard. If you have no idea how much food you’re eating, it’s very common I think for people to really under eat and not eat enough to fuel their athletic performance. But what I do see with the carb stuff too is like yeah, I don’t think people should be perfect with their intake, what they eat. And certainly trying to strive for perfection can often times lead to that sort of restriction and binging sort of cycle but what I see a lot is like well, okay, you should eat this many carbs a day to fuel your performance and let’s make them all as sugary and low quality as we can.
Lara Briden: Exactly.
Steph Gaudreau: And I just – I kind of end up scratching my head thinking where we missed the mark here? And like you were saying a sweet potato or a potato makes people freak out but then again, it’s like well, in your post workout recovery period have all the unlimited sweet, whatever like…
Lara Briden: Have a smoothie or something with dates.
Steph Gaudreau: Well, candy or cool aid or stuff like that. Yeah. And I’m just kind of – I scratch my head a bit. Certainly there are some individuals who probably do fine on that but I think a vast majority of people would do a bit better to think about the quality of what they’re getting, not just the quantity.
Lara Briden: Absolutely.
Steph Gaudreau: Yeah. All right. This has been so informative. I wish we could keep talking but we were saying earlier I meant to save some stuff because maybe we’ll have you back on the show.
Lara Briden: I’d love to come back. You’re so easy to talk to.
Steph Gaudreau: Good. I’m glad, I try. So okay, I ask every guest. We were kind of talking about – you talked about hormonal resiliency which is a super great term. But I’m interested in what it takes to build human beings that are more resilient and more – the term I use is unbreakable which is flipped some ways but on the other hand like I think it’s important to talk about that resiliency and robustness. So what do you think what is kind of the most important ingredient if we want to build unbreakable humans?
Lara Briden: Absolutely. It’s such a great question. I will cheat a little bit and just say two things. My first thing is obviously don’t take hormonal birth control. You know, that’s just a given to me. But I do also want to – in that big sense for both men and women and what I see in my patient population and myself is to know what gives you joy and to do more of that.
Steph Gaudreau: I love it.
Lara Briden: Because I’ll just say we can fall into the trap of just thinking everything is about health. Everything is about food, everything is about exercise for health and yet very often I try to stop my patients and say, okay, that’s all great but now just tell me what gives you joy. What is the thing you love to do? And I love hearing what it is whether it’s singing or writing or reading, walking in my case. And that’s what fuels what it’s all for.
Steph Gaudreau: I love it. I love that. I think there’s this kind of teach that kind of get really narrow in your view and get very analytical and think I’m trying to do the best I can to give myself the best shot at longevity or give myself the best body composition or give myself the best whatever and I don’t know, I kind of think like if you’re not enjoying it along the way…
Lara Briden: For me health is not a goal per se. My goal is to hike as many mountains as I can basically in this lifetime. So that’s one of my goals. So for me exercising and eating well, it’s largely in service to that. It’s like I want to be around, I want to be strong, I want to be able to do these things, I want to be able to do my work and help people and so that’s why I’m healthy. Not for its own end point.
Steph Gaudreau: That’s such a great way of phrasing it. I really appreciate that. Very, very cool. All right. So the last thing I do in the show is a little section that I call the gauntlet. And it’s a surprise, so surprise. It’s a surprise but it’s a few questions that are just rapid fire. You say the first thing that comes to your mind.
Lara Briden: Sure. Okay.
Steph Gaudreau: All right. So the first one is every day I start my morning with…
Lara Briden: Journaling. I keep it private journal. I do it online now but I write private thoughts..
Steph Gaudreau: Awesome. Very, very cool. Favorite vegetable?
Lara Briden: I’m really into leeks these days. I don’t know why. Just frying up leeks in butter almost every morning
Steph Gaudreau: They are delicious and I believe they are quite underappreciated.
Lara Briden: Yeah, I agree.
Steph Gaudreau: Best place you’ve ever traveled? And I’m going to put a stipulation here here that you can’t say New Zealand because you live there now.
Lara Briden: Okay. Because I live here. No, I wouldn’t. Actually my favorite spot is a place called Tombstone in the Yukon. Tombstone park, Yukon, Canada. I did a few nights overnight hiking in there and there were grizzly bears and tundra. It was just amazing.
Steph Gaudreau: That sounds fantastic. And cold.
Lara Briden: Oh no, it wasn’t. No, and there’s 24 hour daylight.
Steph Gaudreau: So high north. Very cool. What book are you reading right now if any?
D Lara Briden: Oh yeah, I’m reading a book of short stories by – her name is Alice Munroe. It’s a Canadian – because I’m Canadian. Canadian short story author. She’s a beloved favorite author of mine.
Steph Gaudreau: I’m going to check that out for sure. And the last one is advice you wish you could have given yourself when you were 20 years old.
Lara Briden: I think it would be and I’m still struggling with this a bit. Don’t worry so much about what other people think. That’s all that needs to be said. Yeah, that’s not what needs to guide us I think.
Steph Gaudreau: I think that’s something that many of us struggle with, myself included. So you’re not alone there.
Lara Briden: No.
Steph Gaudreau: Well, you were able to survive the gauntlet with flying colors. It was like never know what’s going to happen and now I know that if we ever get a chance to see each other again, we’re going to eat something with leeks in it. So tell people where they can connect with you and remind us the name of your book which I’ll hold up for those of us looking on YouTube there.
Lara Briden: Period Repair Manual. And you can find my blog larabriden.com and I’m on Twitter at LaraBriden, it’s all the same.
Steph Gaudreau: All right. Very cool. Awesome. We’ll link that up in the Show Notes that people can connect with you and I know I’ve sent already some ladies to your way to go get your blog posts or to check out your nook, it’s all very fantastic stuff and I appreciate what you’re doing to help educate us, men and women about what’s going on here and really trying to take this into the mainstream and start conversations about it.
Lara Briden: And empower women. I have started to feel more and more that I’m part of something much bigger. There is a revolution happening around women’s health. And it helps fix men too because they love us and they are part of our lives and it’s all happening. And it’s very exciting.
Steph Gaudreau: Absolutely. Well, Dr. Lara Briden, thank you so much for coming on Harder to Kill Radio and I can’t wait to have you back in the future.
Lara Briden: Great, thanks Steph.
Steph Gaudreau: Thank you.