This post may be a little TMI for some, so I’m pre-warning you…
Yesterday began like any other day, only something unexpected happened. Something which others might not consider a big deal but something that hasn’t happened to me in 18 months. I got my period. (For any new readers, I have polycystic ovarian syndrome which I have previously discussed here, here and here.)
I quickly announced the news to Rob – who would have thought a man would be so excited about a little blood?! I spent the whole day smiling like a goof and I wanted to tell everyone. I kept my mouth shut, however – something tells me the guys at work don’t want to hear about my menstrual cycle, ha!
It’s funny because I was feeling down about myself on Monday. I had a breakout of acne and I was feeling extremely frustrated that things weren’t working. But now it all makes sense – my hormones were just gearing up for this!
I have the usual PMS symptoms and yet I’m so happy about it. For the first time in a year and a half I feel like a real woman. (Unless you have an irregular menstrual cycle, you will probably think I’m crazy! I’m not saying you have to have your period to be a real woman either, but it does suck to have it missing.)
I’m not going to proclaim myself an expert on restoring regularity to menstrual cycles, because who knows when I will get my period again. However, I am happy to share what has worked for me given that I know a lot of my readers are suffering the same problem.
1. Go natural
I tried taking hormones to regulate my cycle, which didn’t work. I took a pill to treat my acne (a milder version of Accutane), which didn’t work. The more I read about what these things do long-term, the sicker I feel. I am happy that I only tried both methods for a couple of months before reverting to an all-natural approach. I have done a lot of reading on Accutane and the risks by far outweigh the benefits. Quite frankly I would rather have bad skin than cancer or risk birth defects in my unborn children.
Having acne is an external sign that something is wrong with your body on the inside. Masking the symptoms with pharmaceuticals is no more than a temporary band-aid. Pumping your body full of chemicals will often make the problem worse, especially when you attempt to cut back on your dosage in the future.
The one good thing about having PCOS is that it has taught me to listen to my body and nurture it. I have discovered things about my body which I would have never known otherwise. I cut out all forms of medicine and instead focused on improving my hormonal health through diet and stress management. I stopped using all artificial facial products and the only products I now put on my face are all-natural jojoba oil and manuka honey.
2. Eat Paleo (most of the time)
Again, let me reiterate that I don’t think the Paleo diet is for everyone. However, I can confidently say that following the Paleo diet is almost solely responsible for my period returning (around 75 per cent of your hormonal health is determined by the foods you eat!). PCOS has again been a blessing in disguise, as I have learnt how certain foods such as soy and dairy can be hormonally toxic.
One of my in-person nutrition clients has had PCOS for 10 years. She has not been able to lose weight despite ‘trying everything’ and she still suffers from acne at the age of 40. I started working with her six weeks ago and put her on a modified Paleo diet. Yesterday she told me, with tears in her eyes, that I had changed her life.
I do not want to get all preachy about Paleo here, but I would encourage any woman that has a hormonal issue to at least try cutting dairy and soy out of their diet for at least four weeks.
I am not and will never be strict Paleo. I’d estimate my diet is 90 per cent Paleo. I’m not afraid to veer off course occasionally, as I know the stress of being 100 per cent Paleo will probably be worse for me than having a cupcake.
3. Think positive and stress less
This is probably the hardest point to master. If you constantly obsess about getting your period back and talk negatively to yourself (such as my previous example of feeling like a failure as a woman!), you will not help the situation. Your body is smart – if you do not menstruate, it means your body thinks it’s not an ideal time to reproduce. Having high stress levels is a major reason menstruation ceases.
I accepted the fact that I didn’t have my period, but I knew it didn’t mean it was gone forever. When my body was ready and healthy, it would return. As I turned my attention towards nourishing my body from the inside out, I focused on how good it made me feel rather than constantly hoping that my hormone levels were returning to normal.
In addition, I take the time to unwind and destress as much as I can. Each day I set aside five minutes to practice deep breathing and I do yoga or some form of concentrated stretching at least every other day. When 8.30pm hits, I stop all forms of work, and on Sundays I do not check my emails at all.
4. Health first
I’d like to think I’ve always made it pretty clear that my health is my top priority. Although I was upset when I realised I couldn’t compete anymore, I knew I was making the right decision for my body. I have made sacrifices in terms of diet and exercise to pursue good health.
I work out four days a week for 45 minutes at a time. By most active people’s standards that’s not very much, but I know it would not be good for my body to do any more than that. Weight lifting encourages testosterone production, so I am prepared to cut down my lifting sessions to three or even two per week if I have to. Combined with the fact that cardio is a no-no at the moment, I could potentially be exercising for less than two hours per week. It will not be easy but my health will continue to come first.
I have even changed some of the blogs I follow and the pages I like on Facebook. I know that being shredded is not good for my health so instead of torturing myself by looking at ripped competitors, I now follow pages that celebrate strength and big booties!
My thoughts on the BCP
The more research I do, the more upset I become at doctors for not disclosing all the risks involved in taking birth control. I was put on birth control to treat my (very mild in comparison to now!) acne, as many women are. When you come off the pill, it is normal for your period to go AWOL as your body has forgotten how to produce hormones naturally. It is very common for acne to become worse than it ever was.
Every time a doctor recommends going back on the pill as a method of treatment for PCOS, I want to hit them in the head. If I could go back in time, I would never go on the pill. I am not alone in thinking that the pill causes more problems than it is worth.
So many women out there are afraid of going off the pill. They worry that their cycle will become irregular or that their skin will worsen. I completely understand because I procrastinated for almost a year before I took the plunge. It is scary but the sooner you find out what is wrong with your body, the sooner you will be able to treat it. I could write an entire post on BCP but I will stop there as this post is already rather lengthy!
I cannot promote these two websites enough, so please visit Paleo for Women and The Love Vitamin if you are experiencing any hormonal problems. Remember that you are not alone – please feel free to email me any time!