Book Review: Period Repair Manual

Last Updated: September 23, 2023

My all-time favorite women’s health book is Dr. Lara Briden’s, Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatments for Better Hormones and Better Periods. Briden is a naturopathic doctor educated in British Columbia and practicing in Australia. This easy to follow guide taught me how to nourish the interconnecting systems that contribute to healthy hair growth. It’s been such a great help to me that I wanted to share a brief summary of the book and note some key lessons related to hair growth.

The book is divided into two parts, Part I lays the groundwork for understanding your period. In it she discusses the benefits of tracking your cycle, the effects of hormonal birth control, alternatives to hormonal birth control, the phases of the menstrual cycle, and the many menstrual maladies that can be addressed with diet, lifestyle and natural medicine.

Part II outlines natural treatments for all of the most common period problems. Throughout the book, Dr. Briden simplifies the science of natural medicine and empowers us with increased body literacy.

Much like Lisa Hendrickson-Jack’s The Fifth Vital Sign, Briden promotes the period from a monthly nuisance to a hugely important sign of health. A pain-free and symptom-free cycle is an excellent sign of total body health!

Briden cautions that we don’t have access to this vital feedback while taking hormonal birth control because hormonal birth control eliminates periods.

But, wait, don’t most women bleed while taking hormonal birth control?

"Periods" on Hormonal Birth Control

Most women bleed at regular intervals while on hormonal birth control, but the cyclical bleeding that occurs on standard hormonal birth control is actually a chemical withdrawal symptom and not an actual period. She calls these ‘pill bleeds.’

“Pill bleeds are pharmaceutically induced bleeds that are arbitrarily coordinated into a 28-day pattern to reassure you that your body is doing something natural.” -pg. 19

When used effectively, hormonal birth control prevents pregnancy by eliminating ovulation. Unfortunately, eliminating ovulation also eliminates the beneficial ovarian hormones created throughout a healthy cycle; estradiol and progesterone.

Estradiol and progesterone are powerful hormones that help prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, and breast cancer. When naturally created by the ovaries, these two hormones support our mood, bone and brain health, sleep, muscle development, metabolism, thyroid function, and hair growth. 

As an advocate for healthy periods Briden lays out several birth control options that don’t suppress ovulation such as the sympto-thermal fertility awareness method. (This method is covered in depth in The Fifth Vital Sign.)

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The Holistic View of Health

Part II leads with general health advice and connects diet and lifestyle habits to the health of the menstrual cycle. Throughout the rest of the book Briden outlines natural troubleshooting options for the most common period problems. 

True to the holistic view of naturopathy, Briden looks into the root causes of the most common period issues. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, acne, hair loss and various premenstrual symptoms (like migraines, fatigue, depression and anxiety) are addressed under the larger umbrellas of regularity, hormone balance, and period pain. 

Each symptom could stem from several different imbalances, but Briden does an excellent job of spelling out the various paths of healing by finding and addressing the root cause. 

The final two chapters cover perimenopause (the sometimes rocky transition into menopause) and specialty topics like environmental toxins, digestive health, yeast infections, thyroid disease, and even hair loss.

Holistic Health and Hair Growth

Though Briden is clearly focused on menstrual health and hormone balance, the topic of hair loss is sprinkled throughout the book. Here are some of the key take-aways related to hair health:

  • Some hormonal birth control pills can contribute to hair loss. If the chemical structure of the pill is similar to testosterone (also known as high androgen index) then hormonal birth control can contribute to hair loss by slowly shrinking the hair follicle. The following hormonal birth control pills are similar to testosterone: medroxyprogesterone, levonorgestrel, norgestrel, and etonogestrel.
  • Hormonal birth control with low androgen index (less similar to testosterone) like drospirenone, norgestimate, and cyproterone don’t contribute to hair loss while you’re taking them, but may trigger hair loss after you stop. Coming off these drugs can cause a surge in androgens and androgen sensitivity. 
  • Briden emphasizes finding and treating the root cause of hair loss which can be triggered by a wide variety of imbalances including: post-partum, viral or bacterial infection, disordered eating, low-carb diets, celiac disease, stress, thyroid disease, iron deficiency, zinc deficiency, protein deficiency, antidepressants, autoimmune diseases, androgen excess and PCOS.
  • PCOS is a very common endocrine disorder that disrupts ovulation and limits the availability of hair healthy hormones like progesterone. Briden takes care to explain that the different types of PCOS can be treated with diet and lifestyle changes, it doesn’t have to be a lifelong struggle.

Overall the book offers a comprehensive look at period health and the many natural options for treating menstrual malaties. Briden gives women a deeper understanding of the cycle itself and the benefits of a healthy cycle. With insights from clinical studies and her own medical practice, Briden empowers women with the information necessary to advocate for the health of their bodies.

I recommend Briden’s book for those currently taking hormonal birth control who want more information about alternative methods of contraception, and anyone who’s struggling with PMS, PCOS or irregular periods. Briden centers the book around healthy hormones and regular ovulation, which makes it a great read for anyone addressing hair loss naturally!

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