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
Do you need caffeine
All of these are going to tell you whether what you're eating is working for your body.
Georgie Kovacs: How do you take this need for customization into your six-week protocol?
Nicole Jardim: This six-week protocol is one size fits, but not really. There are foundational pillars that we can all implement in our lives. We're coming back to this conversation about the haves and the have nots and privilege and what we're all capable of doing. I was in college, I had no money, I came to this country by myself, I had no one helping me at all. I was scrounging up $60 to pay this acupuncturist to go to him. I wouldn't do anything else. I knew I had to fix my health. For many of us, it's about having a priority, and if it isn't your health, that's okay. We all have to figure out what's right. The majority of us have at least a few things that we can do in our lives to help improve how we're feeling.
Food, of course, is the first place to start. If you can just add in one thing that is nutrient dense into your diet, that can be an almost game changer for some people. And what are other things that I'm a really big proponent of is how do you arrange your plate? Do you have a lot of carbs, and then just a little bit of protein and no fat at all, no healthy fats? Or are you doing it the way I would recommend? This is a ratio that I think can be adjusted according to your lifestyle, but half of your plate should be that in the form of veggies of some kind, and mostly the green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens, if you can do that. Then a quarter should be protein and a quarter should be fat.
If we can work out a way to make your plate look something like that, you're going to start to feel better. You're going to get more fiber and nutrients, and your body is going to have the raw materials to do what it needs to do to make your hormones and make you have energy.
Georgie Kovacs: What is involved in week two?
This is about blood sugar balancing. Where do I even begin with that I feel like I'll take a high level approach. Ultimately, blood sugar imbalance and diabetes, pre-diabetes are epidemic right now. It is a threat to modern life as far as I'm concerned. If we can all make an effort to stabilize our blood sugar, we are doing ourselves a massive favor because this is not just about diabetes, this is about what is happening with your overall health. And not just now, but also in the future.
They call Alzheimer's type three diabetes. They call it that for a reason. And you know, and when we talk about all of these chronic conditions that come from the inflammation that starts because of chronic blood sugar and insulin imbalance, we would be doing ourselves a huge favor if we worked on that. I'm such a big fan of that.
Georgie Kovacs: I agree with you. And sugar is hidden in many of our foods - especially the ones claiming to be low fat. To optimize the taste, sugar has been added. I truly found the power of food when I did the AIP diet described in Aimee Raupp’s book, Body Belief. I eat ghee, coconut oil. The only sugar I have is coconut sugar - a tiny bit in my coffee. To your point, I feel healthier in my 40s than ever.
Nicole Jardim: Totally I thank you so much for saying that. If you're a child of the late 80s, or 90s, you are that message of low fat is literally burned into your psyche. And it took me years to get out of that mindset as well. And I have seen when you balance your blood sugar, or you even take sugar out of your diet, if you have a lot of it in it, PMS disappears. PMDD symptoms drop dramatically, period pain disappears, ovulatory pain stops, the bloating and the breast tenderness and the migraines, they all just diminish significantly. So if there was one thing I ever told anyone to do, that would be it. Yes, stabilize your blood sugar.
Georgie Kovacs: What steps are involved in the remainder of the six weeks?
From there, we go into gut health, liver detoxification, stress management and thyroid function. While it is important to be personalized, there are some top level things that people can do that will be really helpful to them.
Gut health is just such a huge topic, it can be talked about ad nauseum for many, many podcast episodes. But what I'll say is that your gut significantly impacts your hormone function on multiple levels. If there is gut dysbiosis, and overgrowth of potentially harmful bacteria, that can be problematic, because it can basically get into your bloodstream and cause problems for you.
There are a group of bacteria in your gut that are part of the estrogen balancing game. If they are not balanced, then you can run into problems with your estrogen metabolism and your estrogen balance in your body. That's critical for hormonal health.
Phase one and phase two of liver detox is going to determine what is happening with all of those hormones that your body is using, and then sending to your liver to break down and be gotten rid of through your gut, by the way. So this is all working hand in hand. And I made multiple recommendations for people along those lines.
And just again, a reminder, there's, there's so much we can all do. And like I know that it can be overwhelming. Choose one thing. Choose your biggest problem that you're dealing with, and just try and focus on that because that is going to move the needle on your health.
Georgie Kovacs: I think that's a great takeaway. Thank you so much for doing what you do. And I think those of us who've had personal experiences are just even more passionate. Because we get it we came around the corner and just can't wait to share with other women on what they can do to further improve their lives. And so thank you for playing your part, a critical part in this and keep doing what you're doing, and I look forward to continuing to work with you.
Nicole Jardim: Thanks so much, Georgie for having me. This was so great.
Fix Your Period by Nicole Jardim
The Hormone Reset Diet by Dr Sara Gottfried
PCOS SOS Fertility Fast Track by Dr Felice Gersh
PCOS SOS by Dr Felice Gersh
Body Belief by Aimee Raupp
More about Nicole Jardim
Nicole's Fix Your Period program empowers women to reclaim their hormone health using a method that combines evidence-based information with simplicity and sass. Her work has impacted the lives of tens of thousands of women around the world in effectively addressing a wide variety of period problems, including PMS, irregular periods, PCOS, painful & heavy periods, missing periods and many more.
Nicole is the author of Fix Your Period: 6 Weeks to Banish Bloating, Conquer Cramps, Manage Moodiness, and Ignite Lasting Hormone Balance, and the co-author of The Happy Balance, a recipe book filled with over 80 hormone balancing recipes. Finally, she’s the co-host of The Period Party, a top-rated podcast on iTunes—be sure to tune into that if you want to learn more about how to fix your period—and has been called on as a women’s health expert for sites such as The Guardian, Well+Good, mindbodygreen.
About Fempower Health and the Founder
Georgie Kovacs, is the founder of Fempower Health, the go-to resource for all things women health serving women, their providers, and companies looking to build/improve on products for women. She also hosts the Fempower Health Podcast, where she interviews experts to help women better understand how to navigate their health both day-to-day and in partnership with their providers. Her mission is to minimize the years many take to seek proper diagnosis and treatment.
Georgie founded Fempower Health after her first-hand experience with infertility and endometriosis. Leveraging this experience along with her 20+ year tenure in the biopharmaceutical industry and consulting, she leads this movement to empower women. With limited research dollars and women’s “training” to grin and bear it, both women and doctors are in the impossible position to diagnose and treat conditions with little information. Women deserve more and better information, insight and innovative health solutions.
**The information shared by Fempower Health is not medical advice but for information purposes to enable you to have more effective conversations with your doctor. Always talk to your doctor before making health-related decisions.
Contains affiliate links