Hello, Old Friend
I never thought I would come to appreciate my period. However, spending two years without a single cycle brought me to not only deeply appreciate the day it returned but miss that cycle every month that I didn't have it.
I didn't know you could even 'lose' your period. I had no idea it was a condition or something women (especially 20-something aged women) dealt with. Probably because it's not really talked about a lot. Or at all. But in the summer of 2015 I lost my period and I wasn't able to 'find' it until July of this year. For a couple of months, it was easy to forget that I was supposed to be cycling. Also, I had been pregnant for 2 years basically back to back + breastfeeding which means I naturally had very few periods for 3+ years leading up to that point. So at first it seemed normal.
Around the 6 month mark I started to get concerned and curious as to why my period hadn't surfaced yet. I did what any millennial (I'm an old one but still) would do, I went to the very reliable source of google to solve my problem. Here's what I learned: I should go see my doctor and that it was a condition called "amenorrhea". There wasn't much else to read about it aside from that.
Before all of this I would have thought, "No period? That sounds awesome". You quickly lose that mindset though when you begin to realize something is very off inside your body to be causing the 'no-period'. You start to feel un-womanly in a sense. I actually envied other women and their cycling bodies.
So I went to see my doctor and hopefully find out where the problem was stemming from. After blood work came back I was told I had a major hormone imbalance. My hormones were post-menopausal low. Not just my estrogen but ALL OF THEM... FSH, progesterone, testosterone, Vitamin D (yes, actually a hormone not a vitamin) etc. When you hear that, as a 27 year old woman, it completely takes you by surprise. I was prescribed the birth control pill and told to come back in 6 months. This "solution" didn't set well with me. I didn't know a lot about the pill or it's side effects but still it didn't make sense to ingest artificial hormones to try and fix an already out of balance hormonal system. I had no idea what else to do though so I picked up my free birth control on my way home. Then it sat in my cabinet for a month or two as I just couldn't bring myself to get on board with taking it.
I didn't know exactly why I was against it yet but still I was whole-heartedly decided in finding an alternative solution. A true solution. Thankfully, my mother-in-law is much wiser than me and suggested a phone consult with Dr. JimBob Haggerton, a chiropractor from Dallas. He had a practice at the time and saw patients for a lot of different issues, not just chiropractic needs. I did the mountain of paperwork required prior to the phone consult and after our 30 minute conversation, I finally had a direction to move in. I was advised to start on several supplements that would help my adrenals begin to function properly again, some essential oils that would aide alongside the supplements, incorporate more healthy fats into my diet like avocado + coconut (not a problem at all) and back off the coffee (problem). I indulged fully in adding some healthy fats back into my diet but brushed off the thought about reducing my coffee intake. At that point in time my love of coffee outweighed the desire to resolve my hormone issue.
Later that year, as my cycle had still not returned I decided I was going to get serious about healing my hormone deficiency. I went back to my notes from the phone consult and started actually doing everything Dr. JB had suggested.
While I was faithfully taking my supplements and backed off the number of cups of coffee per day, we were amidst another really big move across country and through the stress of it all I wasn't eating the way I needed to be to support my hormones stabilizing. I wrote a little about what that binge and restrict eating looked like in a past blog, "That Time I Lived On Protein Bars".
There were a lot of symptoms that went along with such low hormone levels. Weird things like not sweating. Like at all. I could go to the gym and work out for 45 minutes really hard and leave just as fresh as before I went in. My hair started falling out; even worse than postpartum falling out. Of course, there were also the symptoms that you would expect with low hormone levels, like low libido and fatigue. It was embarrassing to feel this way as a young, not-supposed-to-be-post-menopasusal woman.
It took me another eight-ish months AFTER I balanced out my eating, removed coffee for a length of time, and allowed myself to gain a little weight back; for my body to respond, support hormonal balance and allow my cycle to return. After two full years, I finally got my period back.
Just like that, I felt fully functioning, wholly woman again. I instantly had a new appreciation for ALL that my body did. I mean, my body was able to heal itself without the help of modern, synthetic hormones. Our bodies are amazing. Through this I've learned to trust my body more. My priorities shifted in caring for myself -- from focusing on staying a certain weight/size to assuring that my body had everything it needed and other things it didn't, to be able to function properly.
And every single month I'm grateful for that sign. Also, this is why you constantly hear my yelling about hormone health. I'm a junkie now and can't shut up about it. I would love to chat if it's something you've dealt with or are currently going through.
Here are some happy hormone recipes + things that helped me:
1. Adaptogens - Amazing for adrenals/anxiety relief. My go-to's are: Ashwagandha (read the blog post here) + Chaga + Reishi + Cordyceps + He Shou Wu.
2. Coconut No-Bake Fat Bites -Easy way for upping healthy fats.
3. Balanced Meals - Leafy greens always as a base + lean protein + healthy fats + appropriate carbs (sweet potatoes, carrots, squash).
4. Removing coffee/caffeine for a full month (I believe) allowed my body to fully balance out my hormones. Try my 5 Hot Drinks That Are Coffee. (I now enjoy coffee occasionally!)
5. Remove endocrine disrupting products - i.e.: plastic drinking cups, toxic makeup + perfume, chemically formulated laundry soaps + cleaning products.
6. Lighten the workout routine - I had to give my body rest. I relied on yoga from home, walks + dance parties with my toddlers as light exercise. A lot of days I just completely rested though.
There's a lot that goes into trying to naturally balance out a hormone issue and every BODY is individual. An endocrinologist + blood work to determine specifics can be beneficial. My hope is that this might just be a helpful place to start.