We can make a huge difference in our overall health and happiness by tuning into our body’s natural chemistry, without the use of synthetic hormones and hormone disruptors.
Loving our periods means being intentional about slowing down and giving our bodies what they need to heal.
Learn how to speak to your healthcare providers about their relationship with herbal therapy and their practices on prescribing hormones to find holistic solutions for your unique body.
Dr. Laurena White has more than 20 years of service and experience in the field of women’s health ranging from birth doula to obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive endocrinology/infertility to acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. She and her team at the The Eudaimonia Center facilitate the transformation of complex women’s health and fertility challenges by helping women and couples address the underlying root cause of their respective conditions. Dr. White integrated her practice by forming a synergistic marriage between allopathic and traditional Chinese medicine treatment modalities in order to bridge the gaps in women’s health care.
Could you share with us your journey and what inspired you to launch the Eudaimonia Center?
I had been a doula before so I was familiar with women’s health, and my OB/GYN rotation was an opportunity to explore all the different aspects of birth and pregnancy and even fertility challenges. I realized there was so much education that needed to be done, not just with teenagers and avoiding teen pregnancy, but all the way through the lifecycle, to women into their 40s who hadn't had children and still weren't familiar with the different aspects and weren't in touch with their own bodies, and even through menopause. And as I progressed through my career, I found that as a physician I only had three things in my disposal: synthetic hormones, painkillers and surgical intervention. And I felt that there were so many other things that I could use in terms of natural remedies in terms of other treatment modalities...just what a difference we can truly make without painkillers, without synthetic hormones, and without surgical intervention.
Isn’t it shocking that 58% of women in the US are prescribed the pill or some form of hormonal contraceptive to “regulate” our cycles, and there's over 700,000 hysterectomy surgeries performed in the US annually and 90% of those are elective?
Yes - synthetic hormones are actually hormone disruptors; they're not necessarily mimics to the physiological and the natural hormones that we have coursing through our bodies on our own, as a part of our biological processes. So they're actually disrupting our natural hormones, and they're kind of not recognizable by our own body chemistry. That's where all the issues and side effects start happening once someone starts taking the pill and people can’t understand it’s because you're taking something your body doesn't recognize, and it's literally hijacking your body's natural chemistry.
Is it true that the reason why we experienced these side effects on birth control is because we're on the wrong types of synthetic hormones, that if we find the right synthetic hormones, it could work with our body chemistry?
Well, there are a lot of different types of contraception and a lot of different types of birth control in terms of hormone disruptors, and the term speaks for itself: it's a hormone disruptor, so it's never intended to serve the purpose the same way the natural hormone that your body is already biologically and naturally producing does. And I've seen women go on everything from low estrogen to estrogen combination progesterone to progesterone only. And even if it starts off well, it doesn't end well and then there's a change and another change because that stops working.
And once you stop taking a pill, the side effects don’t just go away, those effects are in your body for a long time so when you have the overlap of this pill and that pill and the next pill and an IUD and then something else, your whole body's just kind of going out of control because it doesn't even know when it's responding to or how to react or respond to the pills that you're getting and again your own body chemistry. So I'm not going to say I can't believe it to be true, I just haven't seen it.
When it comes to your unique approach of blending Eastern and Western medicine and treatment, what other gaps do you feel that it could help bridge in the overall landscape of women's hormone and menstrual health today?
We see patients from pediatric, meaning under 18, all the way up through the reproductive life cycle and through menopause. So this isn't just about your menstrual period, it's about hormones and hormone regulation:
- amenorrheic (not having a period
- not having a period and not ovulating
- having a period but having anovulatory cycles
- having heat flashes.
All these things are hormonally regulated, it's also about using your body's natural chemistry, and I think with herbal medicine or with yoga we can heal our bodies naturally without disrupting your body's natural chemistry and without putting anything else into the body that may also be disruptive.
How do you help patients learn to love their periods?
Saying ‘love your periods’ sounds ridiculous because your period is absolutely rotten, you're in pain. You're either heavy bleeding, it's lasting a long time, or your periods are irregular. But all those things aren't natural, they may be normal for a particular woman, but they're not natural. That is not how it was designed to be. It's my time to intentionally be a little bit slower and dial things back a little bit. It's an intentional choice to do so, and I think that's the difference.Chinese medicine practitioners often say to think of your period as the most critical days of monthly self-care. If you do things right, you're actually setting yourself up for success and how you may feel throughout the next month, do you agree?
Exactly. Because your period is the first day of your cycle, that first day of flow, whether it be spotting or regular flow, that is the first day of your cycle. So you are setting the tone for ovulation, you're setting the tone potentially even for pregnancy, if you're trying to conceive, and you're setting the tone for the next 30 days. And I think that's very important to utilize that time wisely so that you are preparing yourself for what is to come in the weeks and the days ahead.
What do you recommend that we can do about hormone disruptors, and where else might we notice that they could be coming from?
Well, just know that every hormone contraceptive whether it be pill, whether it be a local IUD, or even a copper IUD is going to disrupt something; the idea of birth control is disrupting the process of getting pregnant. So hormonal dysregulation or regulation is going to have some immediate effects. And it doesn't always come through birth control; it can come through your food and the different things that we put into our bodies and pesticides and air pollution, because all of these things, plastics, all these different things that we use every single day are laden with different chemicals. So it is important to think about what we ingest, not just the pharmaceutical aspects of birth control, but the foods that we take into our bodies. And I don't know if you've heard about the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Dirty Dozen. The Dirty Dozen is the [list of] foods, if you're going to eat them, you have to buy them organic because they are so laden with chemicals and pesticides that can negatively affect our bodies. We take into consideration foods that we’re allergic to because we have an immediate reaction. But sometimes it's not always that stark, and that clear distinction.What if you eat something you like and it tastes good, but your organs might be allergic to it? And those manifestations don't happen immediately. They happen over a lifetime or longer.So there is that immediate allergy but there's also what I like to call that long term allergy, where you're negatively affecting your body by putting the foods in your body that don't necessarily work well for you, but at the same time they taste good, and you don't see the immediate damage that it’s doing until later on in life.
For those who might be listening and struggling, how would you suggest finding someone like yourself, finding the right doctor, and this course of treatment that is more holistic or sustainable or long term wellness and health focused?
While we're changing the healthcare system from the inside out, it's important to really speak to your providers, ask them about their approach.
- What do they know about herbal therapy?
- What are their thoughts about herbal therapy?
- How do they prescribe hormones?
- Are they always prescribing birth control to regulate periods?
- Are you taking birth control so that you don't get pregnant, or is it for something completely different?
And I think a lot of times birth control is used outside of its intended purpose. So it just becomes the go-to and the most common, but it's up to us, not just as practitioners, but as patients to express ‘I want another option.’
Where can people go to learn more about the center, and if they're not local, how can they tap into the resources?
We do virtual consults, I think mostly everybody here, from our nutritionist, or health and wellness coach, or even our yoga teacher and myself, I do herbal consults. We have definitely updated how we do things. We all have virtual patients that are nowhere in the DMV at all, so if you're local come see us. If not we can definitely accommodate you. But I think the most important thing is, again, getting to the underlying condition and not just chasing symptoms. And a lot of time it does require work, but it does require more work than just popping a pill and expecting symptoms to disappear. We're talking about transformation and healing so that you can get your body to function optimally in the way it was designed to in the first place.
That’s such beautiful and incredible work that you guys are doing, and it totally aligns with the vision of why we started Elix, to offer a woman another alternative, so that we can really take control over our cycle, learn more about our health, and be our own advocates, whether it's in the doctor's office, or in our lives. I'm so grateful there are people out in the world like you, and we hope that more people find their way to the Eudaimonia Center, and we're excited to continue these conversations with you. Thank you so much Dr White.This article was reviewed by Dr. Jessica Ritch.
Dr. Jessica Ritch is a board-certified and fellowship-trained minimally invasive gynecologist who specializes in the management of benign gynecologic conditions such as abnormal bleeding, pelvic pain, fibroids, endometriosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. She completed residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University, where she was selected as chief resident and received the prestigious AAGL Outstanding Resident in Minimally Invasive Gynecology award.