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Getting To Know Lola Ross: The Nutritional Therapist Focused On Female Health And Cycles

We first worked with Lola Ross a few years ago and were fascinated by her approach to nutrition and knowledge of women’s cycles and hormones. As these talking points become more central to our everyday conversations, we felt it was the perfect time to reconnect with Lola and pick her brains on the topics we keep returning to.

We visited her eclectic home in Kentish Town to photograph her and delve deeper into the relationship between nutrition and medicine; how we can further support our hormones, health and healing; the importance of lifestyle aspects such as sleep patterns and light exposure and how women can support daughters and family members who are experiencing shifts in their body as they mature.

When did you first become interested in nutrition and medicine?

As I had learnt more about hormones and antibiotics in industrial farming in my teenage years, I made the decision to become a vegetarian because of animal welfare and health. Being brought up by a Ghanian mum who avoided processed foods and medication was definitely an influential factor too. When I had my son I also fell deeper into a natural lifestyle and a lot of my learnings came from alternative practitioners. Janet Balaskas who pioneered the western model of active birth was instrumental in me leaning in to my innate knowledge and power, and considering practices like homoeopathy, acupuncture, healing herbs and nutrition. It rolled from there and food became more and more central to my interest in health and healing.

“As I had learnt more about hormones and antibiotics in industrial farming in my teenage years, I made the decision to become a vegetarian because of animal welfare and health.”

Your work is focused on food, supplements and lifestyle changes to support women’s hormones and cycles. Can you tell us a little bit more about this functional medicine approach and why this area interested you specifically?

In functional medicine we look at the body systems as an interconnected web. If one system becomes imbalanced, it can have a negative effect on other systems. Functional strategies to healing span wide – from nutrition support and sleep to psycho-emotional support and body movement. We consider the patient’s environment and toxic exposure as potential triggers or mediators to a specific condition. We also take time to understand the patient’s story and what led them to their current health state. Nutritious food, a positive lifestyle and supporting supplementation are often what’s required to bring people back to health and we work to support those on chronic medication – we value medication where it is needed. In my clinical practice I have seen huge changes in people who are experiencing cycle or hormonal related imbalance through food and lifestyle changes.

“In functional medicine we look at the body systems as an interconnected web. If one system becomes imbalanced, it can have a negative effect on other systems.”

Have you seen a change over the years in how people think and talk about female hormones and the menstrual cycle, and if so, how?

Totally. The landscape of female health has flourished over recent years with so many more platforms and advocates educating us on the hormone experience and bringing information to light. It is brilliant to see the language around female health becoming more familiar to people and stigma around issues like PMDD, period leaks, perimenpause, vaginal microbiomes/health and endometriosis due to sex trauma are becoming part of our conversations. The rise in corporate wellness supporting female health is brilliant as many people spend a lot of time at work and may be living with hidden reproductive mental health conditions. They need to feel supported.

How long does it take to put together a nutrition/lifestyle plan to support a person’s unique needs? Where do you start with this process?

I have an initial phone conversation to assess if I am the right person for the patient’s health objectives. From there, I organise a session to gather information from the patient and identify their goals which helps us to focus on achieving maximum results. I may use functional testing as part of the process and once these results come through, I base my recommendations on these insights. I then meet the patient for a follow up to interpret any results, run through the plan and allow them to ask any questions or modify parts as needed. I may see patients twice or intermittently over a period of time.

Do you work with women of all ages? How do you tailor the support you offer to different age groups?

I work with women across the reproductive life cycle but post-menopause isn’t my area of expertise – there are many really skilled practitioners who focus on this important stage of life. It is really vital to focus on a particular area as the scope of health is so wide and complex, so becoming an expert in one area is the best way to really help people. In terms of supporting different age groups, I’ve been a 20 year old so I appreciate that a 20 year old patient may have different financial capacity to a working 45 year old. There may be a university lifestyle to consider or other obstacles around cooking. I keep these considerations in mind so that patients don’t come unstuck and we find recommendations to fit in with their lifestyle. Within these age groups I also consider the cultural needs of my patients, making recommendations that fit around cultural food preferences too.

“It is really vital to focus on a particular area as the scope of health is so wide and complex, so becoming an expert in one area is how you can help people most.”

Does your focus and the advice you give to people vary depending on the season?

I try to factor in seasonal food recommendations but individual preferences or geographical location mean this isn’t always possible. If I am looking at mood related imbalances and vitamin D deficiency is an issue, I would always be keen to prescribe sun exposure and supplementation as part of a winter protocol.

What can we learn from listening to our body more throughout the different stages of our cycle? Why is it so important?

Learning about the roles of our sex hormones and how they influence many aspects of daily wellbeing – from our moods and appetite to productivity, recovery and sleep – is so illuminating and it can help you be prepared for changes during your cycle. It also helps us to notice if things have deviated from your norm. As you journey through your cycle, your body often has different nutritional, energy or sleep requirements and developing your phases/hormone literacy is useful in knowing how to support yourself.

What other key things do you focus on to maintain your own health, as well as nutrition?

Structured daily light exposure is central to my year round routines. Being brown skinned and with a genetic susceptibility to D deficiency, if I don’t focus on this, it can affect my mood and immunity. I also practice yoga very regularly which has a huge impact on my hormonal health and also how my body metabolises energy – it helps me look and feel more in balance. Social connection is major for my wellbeing and listening to new and old favourite music brings me joy. I have a wonderful husband who brings lots of new music into my life.


“I practice yoga very regularly which has a huge impact on my hormonal health and also how my body metabolises energy – it helps me look and feel more in balance.”

How related are sleep and nutrition when it comes to our wellbeing? How can we do more to support our sleep patterns via food?

Sleep is such an important part of the equation in wellness. Blood sugar imbalance has a huge impact on our sleep quality and not eating regularly, or eating lots of refined carbohydrates and stimulant foods affects our ability to maintain steady blood sugars. Eating at night also raises our stress hormones which can negatively impact our sleep. I’d advise you to eat regular meals, complex carbohydrates that digest slowly and cause less insulin spikes, and avoid stimulants such as caffeine in the afternoons and alcohol in the evening – this is a good starting point.

Vegetarianism and veganism is on the rise in recent years, is this something that affects your approach? What would your advice be to those wishing to make these shifts in healthy, manageable ways?

Even though I am not vegan, I fully support vegan patients and believe that you can be nutritionally balanced if you are focused on your vegan food choices and test for any nutrient deficiencies from time to time. Just because you are vegan does not make you more healthy if you are eating processed vegan alternatives; highly popular oat milk is a good example, as while it does confer lots of healthy plant benefits, its processing also makes it quite a high glycemic food which affects blood sugar balance.

For those who might not have access to personalised plans or support, what easy, manageable changes to diet and lifestyle would you recommend looking into?

Making the decision to eat mostly raw and lightly cooked plant foods in their whole state is a good start – providing you with the fibre, healthy fats, phytonutrients, protein and micronutrients that your body needs. Limit junk food and alcohol as these foods contribute to inflammation which over time damage our cells and give rise to imbalance or disease.

What have you found to be key in supporting your own health and wellbeing during busy or stressful times?

I suffer from stress quite easily and it has taken time for me to recognise the early signals which for me can include sleep disturbance, irritability, anxiety and being drawn to stimulant foods. It usually happens when I get too busy to exercise so making time for yoga, walking to meetings and making time to cuddle up with my husband is enormously helpful in bringing me back to focus, and calming my nervous system.

What tips could you share to focus more on using light to support our health and wellbeing?

Ensure that you get daylight exposure every day even if you are generally based at home or walk part of your journey to work so you can take in natural light. We are like plants – we need light and water to thrive.

How do you use light to support your sleep-wake cycle, health and moods?

I often work from home, so I typically expose my eyes to early morning infrared light by standing by a window or on my terrace before I start my day – particularly in the winter months when there are less hours of daylight.

For those interested in learning more about nutrition, or starting out a new career in nutrition, what advice would you give them?

Think about what your career objectives are and where you would like to land in the nutrition space. This can help you to decide on which nutrition course you should do. Human nutrition or dietetics is very different from nutritional therapy or functional nutrition for example, so do your research. As the industry grows, there are so many more opportunities for nutritionists but being evidence-based and knowing how to interpret the research can really set you apart and make you a better practitioner. I did a really rigorous degree which was tough at the time but I am grateful for the robust learning which gave me the ability to be scientific in my approach.


“As the industry grows, there are so many more opportunities for nutritionists but being evidence-based and knowing how to interpret the research can really set you apart and make you a better practitioner.”

Where’s a solid place to start learning and informing yourself more about nutrition?

There is a classic book called Healing with Whole Foods that I still dip into from time to time, which covers a lot of different aspects of naturopathic nutrition and has stood the test of time. Renegade Beauty is also full of easy to read sound guidance. However I’d always say getting information from a registered functional nutrition practitioner is a great investment as you’ll get evidence based direction and have an opportunity to ask questions.

As someone who is a mother yourself, what advice would you give other parents to start to introduce a healthy focus on nutrition and lifestyle to their children as they grow up?

I think ‘do as you say’ is one of the greatest teachings. Introducing healthy approaches at weaning is also crucial to help your child develop a taste for good food, as well as reduce allergies and illness. When I worked as a community nutritionist we encouraged parents to offer foods that their children have previously been rejected and to persevere with them. They’ll often come back to these foods if they are normalised at the dinner table. No sweet fizzy drinks are a given, and it’s important to educate them on mindful drinking as they journey into adolescence and are exposed to alcohol.


“Introducing healthy approaches at weaning is also crucial to help your child develop a taste for good food, as well as reduce allergies and illness.”

And what advice would you give parents introducing young women to key ways to support their cycles and hormones when changes start taking place?

Being a good listener is essential. Cycle imbalances can sometimes be isolating or confusing but being able to be heard and supported emotionally keeps the dialogue open and means things don’t progress silently. I’d encourage the use of symptom tracking as it is such a huge tool in understanding what has been happening. Using an app like Moody Month is super easy and you have a historical record of logged symptoms which you can discuss more with a health professional.

Who else inspires you in the health and wellbeing space? Or outside of it?

I am always inspired by the functional medicine community and it is a place that I get a lot of my learning from. I am lucky to be exposed to lots of incredible experts across the wellness space from practitioners working with psychedelics in healing, to reiki masters, other nutritionists, psychologists and doctors – the list is pretty long.

Can you recommend any other literature, apps or podcasts for educating ourselves more on female health and hormones?

I’m a contributor to the book Moody: A 21st Century Hormone Guide for Women, which is part author’s personal journey, part expert voice and I highly recommend it. App-wise – I still love Headspace and Therapy for Black Girls is a great resource for Black and brown women. The podcasts I listen to are often academic ones for learning and for more relaxed listening I enjoy The Matt Walker podcast. Others I dip into are The Menstruality Podcast, The Period Podcast, and episodes with Dr Sara Gottfried as a guest are always hormonally insightful. I recently read Aroused which takes us through the discovery of hormones and the field of endocrinology itself. I’d also recommend Do Grow (so you can learn some simple ways of growing your own toxic-free vegetables). Perimenopause Power and The Hormone Reset are also easy reads about hormones.

You’re London-based, living in Kentish Town. What do you love the most about living and working in the city?

I am a true North Londoner and I love the city for its cultural diversity, exciting conscious food businesses and community projects. I enjoy living side-by-side with a broad range of people which is a constant source of inspiration for my work. I live near the overground and love crossing the city by train and watching the scenery change through the different neighbourhoods.


“I am a true North Londoner and I love the city for its cultural diversity, exciting conscious food businesses and community projects.”

What do you like to do on days off work?

I love being with friends, sifting through ebay for furniture with my sister who is an interior designer and doing essential grooming. Spending time with my children and husband when I can is a priority for most of my spare time though – laughing together, Sunday dinners and trips away makes my heart full. My daughter Coco left home for university in September so this is always precious time. I have lots of sisters, sister-in-laws and lovely nephews and nieces too. My mum and 95 year old grandmother are all based in London too, so days off are often with one of this crew.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

The pandemic put several projects on hold which I am picking back up. It was frustrating but it also gave me a lot of time to focus on my clinical practice which sits at the heart of what I do and love. This quarter we are super focused on the development of new products in the Moody app and we will be launching these over the next 6 months.

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