An Interview with Lara Briden - Naturopathy & Endometriosis
Interview by Jessica Gray, Interviewee Dr Lara Briden
Dr Lara Briden will be joining us for an exclusive QENDO event on 13 July 2019 in Brisbane. Visit qendo.org.au/events and stay tuned for more information!
In today’s blog our very own QENDO volunteer, Jessica Gray, interviewed naturopath Dr Lara Briden about endometriosis. Lara is known as “The Period Revolutionary” and is passionate about leading the change to better periods.
Jess: Hi Lara. I’m so pleased to talk with you about endometriosis and the years of experience you have in naturopathy. You are a qualified and highly experienced naturopathic doctor specialising in women's health. You call yourself The Period Revolutionary. What led you to pursue naturopathy and to support women in particular?
Dr Lara Briden: I started my career as a scientist so my interest was in how the human body works biologically, and understanding that the body is a logical regenerative system. The body knows how to be healthy when it’s given the right nutritional and lifestyle support and naturopathic medicine can provide that support.
I came to women’s health from the thousands of women who came to me over the years seeking help and alternatives to contraceptive drugs. I just knew there had to be a better way, and as I worked with my patients, I discovered that natural treatment options work even better than I had expected.
Before we dive into endometriosis in particular, one thing that is very obvious about your approach is that you are very tuned in to the latest science and research studies. How do you include scientific research into your work? There can be misconceptions that alternative treatments aren’t evidence-based or lack clinical trials.
“Evidence-based” is an interesting concept when it comes to endometriosis because there is actually a lack of evidence for treatments generally for the condition, not just evidence for natural treatments. For example, according to a recent Cochrane Review, there “is no clear evidence” that the pill works for endometriosis.
That said, there have been quite a number of studies looking into the value of anti-inflammatory nutrients such as zinc and curcumin for endometriosis. And the great thing about many of the natural treatments is that they are inexpensive and low-risk, so easy to try.
I love that you always reference your sources of research when you write your blogs. Which by the way are fantastic and so informative. Thank you for writing and sharing them. How do you stay up to date with the latest research and why is that important to you?
I try to follow the latest research for women’s health research in general, and for endometriosis in particular because I’m always looking for new and better ways to help my patients. Basically, because women deserve better than what has been traditionally offered.
You wrote recently about endometriosis not being a hormonal condition at all, but is instead affected by hormones. What’s the difference?
All the latest research points to the fact that endometriosis is primarily a disease of inflammation and immune dysfunction. The disease is strongly affected by estrogen, of course, but so are many inflammatory diseases. Endometriosis is not caused by excess estrogen or any underlying problem with hormones.
What can you tell us about the new research into endometriosis and immune dysfunction?
I can tell you that the research is moving at a rapid pace! Just last week, there was the new finding that macrophages (immune cells) behave abnormally in endometriosis. Prior to that, there have been numerous studies about abnormal T-cells, auto-antibodies, and even the possibility that bacteria contribute to the abnormal immune response. I’ll present some of that information at my upcoming presentation for the Endometriosis Association.
Endometriosis can have such variety in how it presents in women. How do you approach your treatment of endometriosis when the condition can be so variable?
I start with the same basic anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating treatment for all of my endometriosis patients, but patients with Stage 3 and 4 and deeper implants generally do require more parts to their treatment. That could include additional natural treatments, surgery or sometimes hormonal suppression — although I prefer to avoid hormone suppression if possible because women need hormones!
This is an interesting point. Why are these hormones essential in women for our overall health?
Both estrogen and progesterone are important for the long-term health of the brain, heart, muscles, metabolism and bones.
Do women always know they have endometriosis when they see you? Endometriosis is only able to be confirmed by a surgeon via laparoscopy. What if women haven’t had that surgery to be definitive about an endometriosis diagnosis before they see you?
I see many patients who do not yet know they have the disease. I refer them back to their GP to obtain a referral to a gynecologist for assessment.
You wrote a remarkable, informative book called “The Period Repair Manual”, which is now in its second edition. Congratulations on its huge success. It not only covers natural treatment options for a range of women's health conditions, but it explains how a woman’s body works when it is in harmony. This was probably the first time in my life I properly learnt about the intricacies of a woman’s menstrual cycle. It’s astounding I learned this as an adult in my late-twenties and not at high school in science or sex ed. Do you think women, including teenagers, don’t know enough about how our bodies work? Is this vital to understand even if we are seemingly healthy and well?
A natural menstrual cycle is how we make oestrogen and progesterone, which are both important for health in general, not just for making a baby. So, yes, I would love to see women understand more about menstrual cycles and I am pretty much working full-time to try to make that happen.
Your book and blog posts go into detail about some great natural, gentle treatment options that you find successful in managing endometriosis. Can you share your top tips for women suffering with endometriosis or women who suspect they have endometriosis?
Most of my endometriosis patients benefit from strictly avoid cow’s dairy and gluten. Both gluten and A1 casein (the inflammatory protein in cow’s dairy) can be profoundly immune-disrupting, which is a problem for a disease that is primarily about immune dysfunction.
I also prescribe the natural anti-inflammatories zinc, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), and curcumin, which are relatively inexpensive and safe to try.
Beyond that, I have been getting good results with a two-month course of a herbal antimicrobial like berberine or goldenseal. Antimicrobial herbal medicines are best prescribed by a naturopath or herbalist and I’ll speak more about it in my presentation.
When do you advise your clients to expand their treatment for endometriosis beyond yourself and naturopathic treatments? When do you work with surgical gynaecologists or pelvic pain physiotherapists or traditional Chinese medicine doctors?
Most of my patients are also under the care of a gynecologist and I encourage them to have surgery if recommended by their specialist. I have started to refer fairly routinely to pelvic pain physiotherapists.
And finally, I know you are in high demand. Your clinic is based in Sydney, and you live in New Zealand. How long is your waitlist?
I’m not currently taking new patients, but I refer to a few other naturopaths in Sydney who work closely with me.
Thank you Dr. Lara Briden!
You can buy Lara’s book online at: https://www.larabriden.com/period-repair-manual/
Period Repair Manual is an everyday guide to better periods using natural treatments such as diet, nutritional supplements, herbal medicine, and bioidentical hormones. It contains advice and tips for women of every age and situation.
Published by Pan Macmillan, the latest edition of Period Repair Manual is fully revised and updated and contains insights from Dr. Jerilynn Prior, Professor of Endocrinology
Dr. Lara Briden is a naturopathic doctor and the period revolutionary—leading the change to better periods.
Informed by a strong science background and more than twenty years with patients, Lara is a passionate communicator about women's health and alternatives to hormonal birth control. Her book Period Repair Manual is a manifesto of natural treatment for better hormones and better periods and provides practical solutions using nutrition, supplements, and natural hormones. Now in its second edition, the book has been an underground sensation and has worked to quietly change the lives of tens of thousands of women.
Lara divides her time between Christchurch, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia, where she has her consulting rooms. She's helped thousands of women find relief for period problems such as PCOS, PMS, endometriosis, and perimenopause.
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