Georgie Kovacs: You just launched an incredible book called Fix Your Period. And I read it, highlighting much of it. Let’s start with your story, as I think it would be helpful for women to understand how you even got to writing this book and the conclusions that you came to about this six weeks to hormone health program.
Nicole Jardim: I was that teenager who had terrible periods. I struggled for so many years, and I was clueless. I had absolutely no idea that any of this meant anything besides being just my lot in life. When I say terrible periods, I'm talking about super heavy bleeding, really terrible period pain. I would have all this spotting throughout the cycle and terrible mood swings. I was just a hot mess. I just assumed that it was all normal because not only was my mom saying this, but other friends had some of these issues as well.
I finally saw a gynecologist and she put me on the pill because my periods had not only been so terrible, but then they started becoming really irregular. I thought I had found my period panacea. It really was that for the first few years.
From there, I remember starting to experience all of these symptoms:
Chronic yeast infections and UTI’s
No sex drive
Terrible gut health issues
Hair falling out
Melasma all over my face.
I'll never forget a dermatologist telling me that this only happens to pregnant women. I don't know what is going on with you. You're only 20. This is so weird. Stuff like that.
I had no clue what any of them meant.
And of course, I'm completely traumatized by all of this. And I finally just gave up on conventional medicine when I took a UTI medication for the third time in the year, and I ended up in the ER. I had an allergic reaction to it. I'm red like a tomato. I'm itching. It's a nightmare. And my fever is like 104.
Okay, enough is enough.
The next day, a friend of mine said you should really try my acupuncturist. At this point, I had nothing to lose. He was the first person in years to say, “I think the birth control pill might have something to do with what's going on with you here.” And I was like hell no. But eventually I came around to the idea that this was a problem and that was what helped me get off the pill.
I started to make incremental changes to my diet because I was still in college. I'm being realistic here. And that was the beginning of the journey for me. And that was 18 years ago.
I am at the point now where I feel better now in my early 40s than I did in my early 20s, which is completely backwards. But that was really what set me on this path. And I'm so passionate about this, because I was completely clueless, I was the most unlikely period girl ever. I had no idea I would lie in the doctor's office about when my last period was. I thought, “I don't know, and why do I care?” And now I'm like this obnoxious person who's like, you need to track your cycle, you need to know what is happening every step of the way.
Georgie Kovacs: Share more about the importance of tracking our cycles.
Fundamentally, when we track our cycles, and we know this information about our bodies, this is power that we have, that we did not have before. We can have educated conversations with our doctors, we’re able to advocate for ourselves, we're able to not live in fear. But we live an empowered life knowing that our body has our back rather than it's always trying to dismantle our lives, because that's what it feels like for so many women who have these chronic conditions or they are dealing with chronic period issues. So yeah, that's really how I got into all of this, and why I wrote my book.
Georgie Kovacs: In your book, you said, “Hormones don't operate in a vacuum.” Talk to us about that.
Nicole Jardim: I learned that from Dr. Sara Gottfried, and I had done training with her many years ago. And she was instrumental in me understanding how hormones work. What I mean in this statement is that there's an endocrine system in our bodies. It is made up of glands that are essentially releasing hormones all day, every day. And these hormones are all communicating with each other via these glands. So there's this ongoing conversation that's happening. And when we do things, like for instance, take a birth control pill that shuts down the conversation between our pituitary gland in our brain and our ovaries, we are sending a signal to our ovaries basically saying we don't need you to do your job anymore.
The problem with that is that when you shut down the function of one endocrine gland, there are going to be problems that inevitably arise with other endocrine glands, because they're dependent on the hormone production from your ovaries. Your thyroid is a perfect example of that. There is evidence that shows that, when you're on the birth control pill, that down regulates your thyroid function. So your thyroid doesn't work quite as well. And there are multiple other organs and systems that are potentially disrupted.
The point here is that your hormones are constantly in flux. They're doing their thing based on what other hormones are doing. So ultimately, we have to be cognizant of that when thinking about shutting down a whole endocrine gland in our bodies.
Georgie Kovacs: To add to that you said, “One size fits all is not possible,” which I think leads to one of your recommendations to regulate hormones, or the theme of your recommendation for your six-week program.
Talk about why the one size fits all doesn't work, and then maybe start running through what that program looks like at a high level. And then of course, people can refer to your book for the details, which are really important. There's a lot of caveats you put in there. So I don't want women to think that what we discussed here is as simple as it is.
Nicole Jardim: This comes back to the medical approach to human bodies. And as we know, there are scientific studies, and then there are human bodies, and they both tend to go different ways. And so that, to me, is really where I got this idea that this the one size fits all approach as in, we're just going to prescribe the pill or a surgery or the IUD or whatever, to everyone across the board is potentially very harmful. And I recognize that it's not as simple as that, but that is generally what tends to happen.
So I believe that there needs to be certain testing, like I said, for a bleeding disorder, for instance, or specific testing for PCOS, before someone is put on the pill. The work of Dr. Felice Gersh, she is incredible, she's an OB GYN, and she has written multiple books, and her work around PCOS and how to address it without the pill I think is groundbreaking and phenomenal.
We just need a more nuanced approach to female bodies so that we can figure out what the best way forward is for that particular person because, as we know, suffering related to your menstrual cycle is statistically normal, but it's not biologically normal. What I mean when I say that is there's clearly a reason that you are suffering. And I want everyone to be able to find out what that is.
I recognize too, that that's also a very privileged standpoint, which it shouldn't be. I was talking about this recently, because I've had multiple low star reviews on my book, claiming that the information I'm sharing is unrealistic. And it comes from a place of privilege and all of these things. However, I'm operating within a system or framework that has set it up to be that way. That you know, I mentioned, and my line was, “Twinkies should not be more expensive than a bunch of kale.” And yet, that is the case in our country. And so that is the system that we're all operating in. And so don't shoot the messenger, but really try and figure out how we change this system from the ground up, because that's what needs to happen.
Georgie Kovacs: You mentioned in your book, “Diets are missing one factor, the individual.” I think I did a dance when I read that sentence.
Nicole Jardim: There's definitely a trend here about the individual approach that we have to take. And a lot of doctors I know practice what they call precision, or individualized, medicine. And I'm really into that. Again, it's hard to come by because it's not cheap.
Food, of course, is one of the factors under that umbrella. I quoted this study in my book, and I've seen multiple examples of this over the years of clients, is that one person's medicine is another person's illness or whatever you want to call it. And some foods work great for some people, others don't.
And I talked about this in the book where I said, if someone could try a keto diet, and it could really help their menstrual cycle pain, their irregularity. If they have PCOS, for instance, it can be really useful to be on a low carb diet, whereas other women lose their periods completely on a low carb, high fat diet, and it just does not work for them. So genetically speaking, we're also different, we may look the same outside, but we're not.
So the point here is that when we think about the food that we're eating, we have to take all of these things into consideration and how we do that is by how we feel when we eat, forget what everybody else says about how you should eat.
Your personal trainer is possibly only thinking about how a male's body works because they're looking at studies on men and not on how a female body responds to the specific diet that they've recommended for you. So just consider all of this and ultimately how you feel after you eat right away and then two or three hours after. Ask yourself:
Do you have energy crashes
Do you sleep well
Do you wake up feeling tired