When she was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) at the age of 20, Alisa Vitti saw how limited options were for meaningful support and effective treatment for women dealing with hormonal struggles. She decided to pivot from her OB/GYN studies and dedicate herself to researching the endocrine system and functional nutrition to target these issues more effectively.
Millions of women suffer every month from symptoms that range from annoying (minor breakouts, fatigue) to debilitating (painful cystic acne, severe PMS, brain fog, infertility, Endometriosis) and are given almost no option except synthetic birth control. After successfully solving her own hormonal challenges, Alisa founded FLO Living, an app and website which helps millions of women across the global address their hormonal symptoms with her proprietary “pro-hormonal” five-step dietary process that treats the root cause of endocrine dysfunction and promotes “Cycle Syncing” to normalize the menstrual cycle.
As a women’s health advocate, Alisa is also an integrative nutritionist, best-selling author and contributor to numerous media outlets. Based in New York, she has spoken about her work in health and as an entrepreneur at TEDx, Talks@Google, SXSW and more.
Alisa, let’s talk about FLO Living, the brand you built to help women feel better and healthier during menstruation. What is the brand’s mission and how does that relate to the customer experience you’re building for someone who may be struggling with a hormone imbalance?
Women are the biggest consumer base for healthcare and wellness, yet there isn’t an affordable, accessible portal for the symptoms that get them seeking support in the first place. Not every town has a functional medicine doctor and, if they do, it’s typically cost prohibitive for the average woman.
For those who can afford it, the experience often becomes a wild goose chase of supplements, testing, expensive visits and almost no progress. Women are left frustrated and most give up. I remember when I was struggling with my PCOS diagnosis, I wished there had been a resource where someone could educate me on what I needed to know, teach me what to do with my diet to resolve my issues, and curate the supplements and products that were best for my health.
I promised that if I could create a protocol that would get real results for women with any condition, that I’d build such a platform that offered 360 degrees of support, where you can test, track, treat, and talk with a period coach about your issues. FLO Living is that place.
The mission at FLO Living is to modernize menstrual health care. Our digital programs and coaching services are accessible to women aged 20 to 45 worldwide. We believe women need two care providers for their reproductive years—their OB/GYN for annual visits and FLO Living for their day to day hormonal management.
The FLO Living Hormone Center allows women to learn about their conditions (via the library and free online classes), test their hormones (via saliva kits shipped directly to their homes), track their periods and recurring symptoms (via the MyFLO period app), treat their condition naturally with the groundbreaking FLO protocol (via the MonthlyFLO program and the Balance Monthly Hormonal Supplement Kit), and, most importantly, talk to a period coach about their issues and get guidance on dietary changes.
Women shouldn’t be searching for answers on Google, they deserve better than that. FLO Living is their hormonal and menstrual concierge experience. You can get whatever level of support you want—no more, no less.
Women aren’t raised, typically, to think of ‘menstrual health,’ let alone to see getting their cycles in balance as a cornerstone to good health and well-being. How can we help young women have a healthy attitude towards menstruation and not feel shame or other negative feelings that might lead them to ignore any issues down the road?
In 2015 The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology decreed that for women, menstruation must be added as the fifth vital sign of health, so it’s no longer just an opinion that we should care about this, it’s a new medical fact and health reality.
From my point of view, and what we’ve been doing to shift the conversation and culture, we help girls and women change their attitude in three ways: 1) give them correct information that puts an end to the cult of toxic period mythology that keeps us sick; 2) teach them how to take care of themselves so they can have experiences where they resolve their symptoms and know it is possible to do so naturally; 3) create a positive framework to interact with her hormones so she begins to use them to her advantage in her everyday life and see them as an asset.
We’re first and foremost a health tech company. We’re here to provide total support digitally if you need testing at home, tracking, live support, etc. Women want what they want and how they want it, so it’s a flexible platform with a variety of products to fit the need. I created and introduced The Cycle Syncing Method in my book WomanCode in 2013. This hormonal-centric lifestyle, supported by our app, membership and our legion of social media followers, is becoming something of a revolution—especially among millennials who, in the age of free-bleeding on social media, period panties, and the disruption in feminine hygiene, are not only looking for ways to feel better, and to consume consciously, but are also realizing a new desire to embrace what is uniquely female about themselves and to express their feminine power.
Your bio says that you’re building the next generation of disruptive women’s health tech. What are you trying to disrupt? And what would you like to address next?
In 2011, there was no telemedicine, no femtech vertical, and menstruation was still taboo. Our effort to provide modern menstrual healthcare was an outlier. But we’ve been pioneers in this space, going beyond disruption, to create a business that has never existed before—a healthcare portal for period health management, one that supports women, democratizes information, and makes care universally accessible to women around the world. We’ve helped turn menstruation into something okay to talk about and more importantly spread the good word that you don’t have to believe you’re destined to suffer with your period.
At our core, we’re disrupting the traditional GYN health care model. In that model, there are few options leaving women to suffer unnecessarily for decades and leaving them vulnerable to the most widely-performed surgical procedure on the planet—hysterectomy—the representation of where a lifetime of menstrual healthcare neglect typically ends.
FLO Living disrupts this “medicate or wait” approach to menstrual health. And as the first and the only “place for periods” for women who have trouble with them, FLO Living remains an important disruptive force in the market. We’re the premier online health portal for women with period problems. We’re where women can go to get answers, support, and most of all, an effective solution.
As for what I’d like to address next, the diet/fitness industry needs disrupting as it’s all predicated on male hormonal needs and to move beyond triage to a paradigm shift where we base our self care on our cyclical nature.
Biohacking is essentially using supplements, food, lifestyle, and technology to optimize the body’s performance. There is a subtle gender bias in biohacking, not necessarily purposeful, but as our endocrinology is different, women need a specific way to biohack to optimize their hormonal phases.
Biohacking for women is all about understanding that women’s bodies have cyclical needs and that those needs shift both as your hormones shift during your regular monthly cycle—and as your hormones shift in broader ways as you age, from your teens to your twenties, thirties, forties, and beyond.
Because biohacking, or cyclical self-care, is the foundational piece of menstrual health care for women, I developed the MyFLO Period Tracker App so women could follow their hormonal clock seamlessly throughout the day, week, and month. It enables women to have a better period naturally.
Bonus question: As a female entrepreneur, what advice would you give to other women who aspire to be leaders? Can, or should, brands play a role in championing female leadership?
Take your place and lead! But don’t feel you have to compromise your health in the process or abandon your feminine energy or intuitive wisdom in order to succeed. I go in to corporations and train female teams and leaders on how to use cycle syncing to optimize creativity, productivity, and well-being in the workplace because it is protective for women’s individual health and healing of our nonstop, push till you drop culture.
Let’s take the opportunity to shift the culture of leadership to one that includes feminine values which have been extensively studied and shown to increase performance and profit. To take the next step for equality, we must normalize and incorporate our cyclical nature in the workplace that has been historically based on male hormonal patterns. We don’t have to wait for institutions to change, we can lead by example.
By making these shifts in our own spheres of influence, we can model a more sustainable version of success for everyone. This is essential not only for people as we navigate our relationship to technology and an increasingly endocrine disruptive environment, but also for the planet. Brands can champion female leadership by encouraging a culture at work that includes women’s experience of reality and acknowledges their needs and values—every team should be cycle syncing at work!
Nicole Diamant is head of communications for InterbrandHealth.