Archives for November 2019

Period Talk🔻Volume 05

A weekly roundup for people with periods.
A still from @charlotteabramow's short film « Les Passantes » of Georges Brassens with @clairelaffut.
Eastern vs. Western Medicine – Thriving vs. Surviving

You know all that info out there about cramps and PMS being normal? It stems from Western medicine, which focuses on "the diseased state" and says you’re fine as long as you don’t have a diagnosable issue. That POV is everywhere so it’s hard not to buy into it. But there’s another option worth considering – the Eastern/holistic perspective, which is what our team and products embrace. Rather than focusing on the diseased state, Chinese medicine is all about identifying the "ideal state" and working towards that. As far as menstrual cycles go, “ideal” means pain-free and symptom-free (amongst other things). Essentially, Western medicine wants to make sure you survive, while Eastern medicine takes things a step further and wants you to THRIVE. Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of the differences between the two perspectives and how they play out for your health. It also runs through exactly what an ideal cycle looks like 🙂

Sex Robots

Sex dolls are getting closer and closer to Westworld level realness. With sophisticated AI, it’d be more accurate to call them sex robots than sex dolls, but they’re more than that. They have human body temps, human-like skin, and programmable personalities. They simulate breathing, they moan when you engage them, and they’re able to carry on “real" conversations. The main thing: they’ll let you fuck them however you want, even if extreme violence is your thing. So, what does this mean for the future of sex? Spoiler: It could affect all of us, not just the patrons of doll brothels and not just the people dropping $30K on their own. Also, yes, sex doll brothels are a thing.

#BleedingWhileTrans

Thank you to trans artist and menstrual health activist Cass Clemmer for reminding the world that "Not all people who menstruate are women, and not all women menstruate.” The poem they shared with their free-bleeding photo is brilliant, eye-opening, and worth a read. It’s one thing to know that not just women bleed, it’s another to hear about the intimate experiences and conflicted feelings trans people with periods have.

Inclusive Menstrual Products

In related news, out of respect for trans and non-binary people with periods, Always is taking the Venus symbol off of its packaging. Kudos, Always! (And to the people who are pissed about this, what's wrong with being more inclusive? Venus’ absence won’t change the absorbency of your pad.)

Preventing Breast Cancer

The survival rate for breast cancer is high but it is still a major risk for our health and even just thinking about it can be stressful. So, why not do everything we can to prevent it? This article explores preventative measures ranging from anti-cancer meds to lifestyle changes like exercise and diet (hint: less meat and alcohol, more fruits and veggies).

Period Problems as Sickness

The Lily interviewed our founder about her new book Seeing Red. Excerpt below, full interview here.

  • CK: You use the word “sick” — and in the book, the word “epidemic” — to talk about menstrual pain and PMS. Why use that kind of language?

KK: Every day women tell me things like, “I can’t schedule board meetings on the week of my period because I could be passing out.” To me, that is a sickness. That is not a healthy state. I spoke recently to this one OB/GYN who was like, “We don’t like to use the term ‘sick.’” And I’m like, “Yeah, that’s the problem. You’re telling women that they’re fine so they’re just taking it.”

  • CK: How do women react when you say that period pain is a sickness?

KK: Online, when I’ve suggested that this kind of pain is not normal, some women have lost it on me. They were like, “What are you talking about, yes it is, almost everybody has it.” But there is a big difference between common and normal. The distinction is — can it be fixed? And is it problematic? If you can get rid of PMS and cramping, but you keep talking about it as normal, then no one is inspired to do anything about it.

Before & After

Also, in case you were wondering, this was us before Brazen:

And this is how we feel* after:

*Almost wrote "this is what we look like after" but realized that'd be delusional / too-good-to-be-true. You're a goddess, Janelle!

About Next Week

We'll lead with the good news: Brazen has some sweet Black Friday / Cyber Monday deals lined up for you! Keep an eye out for us in your inbox.

The other news? We're taking a break from the Period Talk newsletter next week so that we have time to cook all the sides we're craving for Thanksgiving. But maybe you can get your weekly dose of period talk IRL. Here's a challenge: find a way to work periods into the conversation during your Thanksgiving dinner. Do you know what periods were like when your grandma was a teen? Find out! And make your uncles and brothers find out too! (Please update us if you really do this.) Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

Surviving Your Period vs. Thriving With Your Period (Western vs. Eastern Medicine Perspectives)

Were you taught that cramps and PMS are normal? (So were we.)

Maybe you also learned (via almost every source on the internet) that it’s fine for cycles to range anywhere from 21 to 38 days and that a 2-day period is just as normal as an 8-day one?

You are not alone. This is the common point of view – it comes from Western medicine, which is focused on finding states of disease based on symptoms.

While our founder was trained in Western medicine, she prefers and embraces the holistic approach, based on her training as a reproductive acupuncturist. (Our team is passionately on board with this too.) Instead of just looking for disease, we look for every single sign and symptom that is outside perfection and then to figure out how those symptoms are related as a system. This point of view allows us to focus on optimizing your health and getting your cycle to the ideal state.

Ideal, in this case, means pain-free and symptom-free (amongst other things). It’s the bedrock of both our formulas and our periods-don’t-need-to-suck philosophy.

Western medicine is all about looking for the “diseased state” and it’s kind of like a Pass/Fail course. If you don’t have an issue that can be diagnosed (F), you pass (it’s normal, you’re fine). That means cramps and PMS are accepted as normal as long as you don’t have a diagnosable disease or condition, like Endometriosis.

Chinese medicine, on the other hand, is all about seeking the “ideal state” and it goes way back.

During the Qing dynasty in the 1700s, imperial doctors started identifying the “ideal menstrual cycle.” These doctors (who were the first reproductive acupuncturists btw) differentiated between “ideal cycles” and cycles that just had “the absence of pathology” (ie: less-than-ideal cycles with no diagnosable disease/issue). If we consider Western medicine to be pass/fail, Chinese medicine gives you an actual grade and anything less than 100 is something to work on and improve.

The differences between a "disease state", “ideal state” and less-than-optimal-but-no-pathology are important.

As long as we only look for the disease state, we are kind of stuck with “periods suck but here are some painkillers.” There’s little hope and not much to do to improve when your symptoms are called normal.

When we know what an ideal cycle looks like, we have something to compare our own cycles to and something to work towards. If you can identify how your cycle is different from the ideal one (maybe your period is longer or shorter, maybe you have cramps, etc.) and unpack how those markers relate to your overall health, habits, and lifestyle, then you can really do something. You can take actions (and supplements) to address the root cause of your period problems and work your way to an ideal cycle.

Figuring out whether to stick to the Western/conventional perspective or embrace Eastern/holistic medicine when it comes to your cycle really just depends on what kind of life you want to have. How do you want to feel every day? How do you want to feel around your period? Do you want to just fight disease or work towards ideal? Do you want temporary relief for your symptoms or do you want to learn from the signals that your body is sending you and figure out what it needs to kick ass?

We don’t know about you but we can’t get too excited about just surviving our lives. We want to THRIVE – and we wish the same for you.

So, what marks an ideal cycle?

  • Ideal Period Length: 4 days long
  • Ideal Period Blood: bright red with no clots
  • Ideal Flow: steady bleeding throughout your period that fills a regular tampon or pad in about 4 hours (or half-fills a menstrual cup in that amount of time)
  • Ideal Cramps: NO CRAMPS
  • Ideal PMS: NO PMS (That means no mood swings, no digestive issues, no bowel changes, no bloating, no breast tenderness, no cycle-induced irritability, anxiety, stress or depression, etc.)

(If that’s not what your cycle looks or feels like, no need to freak out – read this next.)

It’s kind of funny because when we talk about this, people often suggest that Chinese medicine “isn’t based on real science.” If what they mean is “I’m not familiar with this philosophy,” fine. But if they’re saying Chinese medicine isn’t backed up by peered-reviewed clinical data, they are totally wrong. There are hundreds of studies that support this point of view, just not many that synthesize them into one formal doctrine like we are doing at Brazen.

To be a scientist, you must be curious. You must ask questions that have never been asked before; to test theories that have never been explored before. This is the work we are doing at Brazen and we do it for one and only one reason: we believe nobody should suffer because of their period, regardless of whether they have a diagnosable disease or just a less-than-ideal cycle. We want to get all people with periods to 100 and won’t stop till we do.

Period Talk🔻Volume 04

A weekly roundup for people with periods.
^ real footage of Heidi (Team Brazen) writing this newsletter for you.
PMS & Depression

Did you know that depression can actually be a symptom of PMS? Studies show that more than 20% of people with severe PMS experience depression. It’s common, sure, but it’s not healthy and it’s not just a random matter of luck. Here are the factors that increase your risk for PMS-related depression (and some things you can do to reduce your risk).

Painful Sex

Why don’t doctors treat sex pain like chest pain; something that needs to be understood, diagnosed and treated? This article looks at how common it is for women to experience pain during sex (spoiler alert: SUPER common) and the solutions that are currently on the market. It also makes a case for why it’s important to dig deep and look for the root cause – even if the Ohnut or Bumper is already helping you enjoy sex sans pain. 

Virginity Tests are BS

Virginity testing is not only an ethically fucked up violation of human rights but also a completely baseless sham. There is no clinical or scientific way to test for virginity... so, everyone should really stop trying (we are looking at you, T.I.). Also, fun fact: some girls are born without hymens. 

Women in Space

Turns out that women are better suited for space travel, both physically and psychologically. This article breaks down why and makes a case for an all-women mission to Mars that we’re 100% on board for. (If anyone works for NASA, please let us know how to get our supplements to the women on your missions – we’d love to help make their periods out-of-this-world good.)

Broadside

Is there a past tense for FOMO? ROMO? (Regret of missing out?) Because that’s what this recap from the feminist festival, Broadside, is making us feel. It’s also making us think hard about feminism, SHE-E-Os, the language of motherhood, and what the internet and smartphones have done to us as humans.

Here are some thought-provoking Broadside gems from the Twitterverse:

Book Release: Seeing Red

Our founder’s book, Seeing Red, was released on Tuesday! (Congrats, Kirsten!) Based on insights from over 20 years of clinical experience helping people “fix their periods”, her new book  dispels menstrual myths, untangles the stigma that keeps so many of us silent about our suffering, and provides tools that’ll give you a newfound agency around your cycle and health. Snag your copy today (and maybe buy a few extra copies for your favorite people with periods too? It makes for a truly life-changing gift!).

(Illustrated) Period Diary

Last but not least, we're loving Claudia Sahuquillo's illustrations of her going about her life while bleeding.  Follow her for more.

^ Is she reading Seeing Red

The Link Between PMS & Depression

Did you know that depression can be a symptom of PMS? Studies show that more than 20% of women with severe PMS experience depression. That makes it common, but it certainly isn’t healthy. The good news is that this isn’t a random you-have-it-or-you-don’t scenario and you’re not just stuck with the cards you were dealt.

To a certain extent, you’re actually the dealer and if you understand the game you can choose your cards for the next round. (The prize? No PMS! Health!)

The first thing you need to know is that PMS is correctable (and not at all necessary for your cycle). When the systems in your body are healthy and working optimally – especially your liver and your gut – your hormones will be metabolized properly and you won’t experience PMS. PMS only shows up when something is out of whack in your body and your specific symptoms actually send you messages about what’s going on. If your depression is a symptom of your PMS, you may be able to overcome it by working to prevent PMS.

In addition to addressing the root cause of your PMS, you can reduce your likelihood of experiencing PMS-related depression by being mindful of the following risk factors:

• Taking Antidepressants and/or Oral contraceptives

Women reporting use of oral contraceptives and/or antidepressants were found to have a higher risk for major depression compared to women who were not using either.

It’s worth noting that there is a significant increase in suicides amongst women taking oral contraceptives and for adolescents the risk increases threefold(!).

• Hating Your Job

Women reporting work dissatisfaction had a higher risk for PMS and cycle-related depression. If you hate your job, it affects more than your 9-5 experience.

• Stress, Drugs, and Poor Overall Health

Women with PMS who reported high psychological distress, low mastery, psychotropic drug consumption, and/or low self-rated health had a higher incidence of major depression.

So, you can do what you can to avoid the risk factors above and work to address the root cause of PMS. That will definitely help. But we’re pulling out all the guns, and there’s more.

Here are 5 more ways to decrease your likelihood of experiencing PMS-related depression:
• Reduce Inflammation.

Studies have shown that people with major depression disorder appear to have more persistent inflammation in the brain as well as other diseases commonly associated with inflammation, like heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis

• Take the Right Supplements.
These supplements have been clinically proven to improve depressive symptoms: omega-3s (like in fish oil), vitamin D3chai huginkgo bilobasuan zao renpassionflowerkava rootSt. John’s wortinositolprobiotics.
• Exercise.

Remember you don’t have to start training for a marathon to get the benefits of exercise for mental health. Moving for 30 minutes a day 5 days a week can make a significant impact on your period and overall well-being. It’s a critical behavior for good mental health as well.

• Eat Real Food
What you eat directly affects your health. To reap the benefits of food as medicine – and to achieve better periods and mental health – eat as much real (whole, not processed) food as possible. To protect against leaky gut, a condition that is linked to depression and anxiety, you will also want to include foods with abundant healthy bacteria, like fermented foods and kombucha.
• Try Brazen PMS Support
We make a great supplement that addresses the root causes of PMS and improves the physical and emotional aspects of PMS/PMDD. If you’re suffering, the PMS Formula can provide immediate help. We put this last because all of the factors above will make a huge difference in how much you actually need our supplements.

Our mission is to make healthy (pain-free, symptom-free) cycles the new normal. Though our supplements are definitely a powerful part of that, our long-term goal is to make them obsolete by providing people with periods the tools and resources they need to maintain their own menstrual health, on their own, forever. (Hence “Forever Brazen”!)

If you have any questions or doubts, please reach out to us –  nothing makes us happier than helping people achieve a healthy cycle.

PS. We were surprised by this finding on booze & PMS:

We weren’t sure what to do with this information, so here it is in the postscript; The same study that covered the risk factors above found that women who reported moderate to severe alcohol consumption actually had a lower risk for PMS.

Our founder thinks the alcohol can have a mild stimulating effect on the liver, which may prevent it from stagnating (aka not functioning optimally and making you feel crappy). But this does not mean that drinking more will eliminate your PMS.

While in the short term, alcohol can stimulate the liver and help relax the body, the risks for your health from alcohol consumption do NOT outweigh those benefits.  Current research shows that no amount of alcohol is beneficial to women. (Disappointing, but true.)

Period Talk🔻Volume 03

A weekly roundup for people with periods.

Photo & 'stume credit: Conceived in Brooklyn

The Root Cause of PMS:

People tend to blame hormonal imbalances or conditions like PCOS and endometriosis for their PMS. But those conditions are really just symptoms themselves. This article breaks down the true root cause – and what you need to avoid PMS altogether.

Better Sex with Weed:

Though doctors can't legally recommend it yet, a recent study shows that women who use marijuana before sex are almost 2x as likely to experience "satisfactory orgasms" compared to non-users. Plus, in-line with research from the 70s and 80s, women who use weed report increased libido, more sexual pleasure, and greater intimacy. Before you smoke a whole bowl, the fine print: related studies find that these "positive effects are present with lower doses of marijuana" and actually "decrease as marijuana consumption increases". (More here.)

Period Tracking Apps & PCOS:

If you think you may have a hormonal imbalance disorder (specifically PCOS) because of an assessment you took via the Clue or Flo app – read this.

Women & Success:

In case you needed another reason to support womxn: research shows that women benefit more from collaboration than competition and, overall, women who support women are more successful. While networks are important for everyone, new research from HBR shows that specifically for women, having "an inner circle of close female contacts" makes you "more likely to land executive positions with greater authority and higher pay." So, let's keep lifting each other up!

Side Effects of Hormonal Birth Control:

Hormonal birth control affects everyone differently and can come with a rickety rollercoaster of side effects (think: wooden rollercoaster from the early 1900s). So, how can you possibly know what to expect? The Lily consulted 85 women about their "endless guessing game" and "trial and error" experiences. Here's what they had to say.

Feminists Against Faking It:

We know it's common and sometimes easy to fake orgasms. But doing so both compromises our sexual pleasure AND feeds into the male-domination of sex. This article, written by someone who has faked more than a few, makes a case for not faking it, breaks down the effects, and provides tips for achieving a ~real~ orgasm with your partner. It also includes this bright spot that's making Team Brazen very happy: a recent study showed that although more than half of women (58%) reported having faked it at some point in their lives, 67% of them reported that they no longer do. Can we get a "fuck yes" for this no-faking trend?

Self-Care: ​

Going beyond bubble baths and face masks, how can we make self-care actually feel like self-care and make it work for us in the long run? This article highlights the importance of experimenting to find your own unique self-care routine – one that meets your physical, spiritual, mental and social needs.

Gay Men Draw Vaginas:

​Because, yes. Here are two to satisfy your daily vag art needs (more here):

In case you missed it:

Our founder wrote a book designed to shift the conversation about menstruation worldwide. Get a sneak peek, pre-order, and help her change what's possible for people with periods here.

The Root Cause of Your PMS (It’s Not What You Think)

You might think that cravings, crying, zits, and swollen boobs are all just part of getting your period. It’s common, for sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy or normal. Let that soak in for a second because the first step to getting rid of PMS is realizing that it’s possible.

The next step is understanding what’s up with your PMS and what’s happening in your body to cause it. Your PMS is a reflection of your overall health. So, if you’re getting slammed with symptoms throughout your menstrual cycle, it’s a sign that your system is out of whack – that your organs aren’t functioning optimally and/or your habits aren’t supporting a healthy body.

The Root Causes of PMS:

People often think the cause of their menstrual problems is “hormonal imbalance.” Some have painful conditions like PCOS or Endometriosis and believe their conditions are to blame. But the truth is that hormonal imbalances, PCOS, and Endometriosis are actually symptoms of deeper problems with the liver and digestive system.

So, what people tend to think is the cause of their symptoms is actually a symptom in and of itself? Yes. Stay with us and you’ll see what we are talking about.

This article is all about your liver and your gut (digestion) – and why keeping those in check is key to a healthy cycle (and good mental health). If you want to do a deeper dive, we laid out the habits and lifestyle changes you can make to improve your cycle here, and we unpacked the messages that individual PMS symptoms send here.

Your Liver:

Your liver is responsible for metabolizing (using) and eliminating your hormones. When it is in tip-top shape, it’ll do a great job of metabolizing hormones and you won’t get PMS. We repeat: if your liver is healthy, you won’t have PMS.

When your liver isn’t able to metabolize and eliminate your hormones properly, your systems get kind of bogged down and everything moves more slowly. On the digestion front, things tend to get stuck and you’ll experience bloating (yay!). As for your boobs, this makes for swelling and pain (sometimes A LOT of pain!) because fluids aren’t able to flow freely through your breast tissue. The cherry on top? It also fucks with your emotions, making you feel really emotionally stuck or anxious.

Your Gut / Digestive System :

Breaking down hormones, making blood, and regulating your cycle? They all require energy and that energy depends on our bodies’ ability to take in food, break it down, and convert it into (you guessed it) energy.

So, if you want a healthy symptom-free cycle, your gut and digestive system need to be functioning well. If they aren’t, your body’s access to energy will be compromised, your body won’t get the energy it needs to do its thing, and everything else (including your cycle) will suffer.

If you want to get rid of PMS, you need to put in the work:

Now that you know how important your liver and gut are for avoiding PMS, you’re probably wondering how to take care of them and get them healthy. The PMS section of our Healthy Period Handbook contains tips on both – plus some tips tailored to the specific PMS symptoms you may be experiencing.

Listen to your body, put in the work, and you can say goodbye to PMS for good. We believe in you and think that a symptom-free cycle is not only something you deserve but also something you can achieve. If this is something you’re working on, we’re here for you – feel free to reach out with any Qs you may have along your journey!