Friday, March 27, 2015

Gluten-Free Feature Friday: How I Got My Period Back... Naturally!

Today's GFFF might be a bit of a TMI... But it NEEDS to be talked about!


Because it seems EVERY women I talk to nowadays has had some sort of "Time-of-the-Month"/ hormonal issues!

And I am certainly no exception...

If fact, my personal issues with my buddy TOM go waaayyy back! To when I was in high school...

The Initial Problem
Before we get down to how I solved my problem, I need to explain the whole story...

I wasn't a normal teenage girl. I wasn't like the others, whose periods came like clock-work. I remember girls having the date of its expected arrival circled in their planner...

But, that strategy never work for me. Because I never knew when mine was coming!

I did not get my period every month. Heck, I never even got it every other month! In fact, I was not uncommon for me to go 4-5, even 6 months with no sign of it what-so-ever.

Then it would just hit me! WHAM!

And I would be bed-ridden for 2-3 days with cramps so bad it traveled down my legs and I could NOT stand up straight! I'd get so sick and have terrible headaches! I would even get cold-sweats and ended up blacking out a few times (once in the middle of a choir performance... that was fun...)

Other girls would tell me how lucky I was not having to deal with my period every month. At the time, I thought so too. I mean, dealing with the tampons and liners and all those "accessories" were just a pain! And I went through Aleve like candy when I DID have it, so I couldn't imagine dealing with that every month!

Worsening The Situation
And then I was off to college. I had a bad spell of nausea for a few days that I just couldn't shake, so I went to health services to see what they could do.

They started going through their protocol of questions, one of them being "What was the date of your last period."

Crap. I thought When was that.... 

I told the physician I wasn't quite sure because I don't get my period every month. Maybe 3 months ago...

I was then recommended, like sooo many other girls, to go on birth control pills to help regulate my periods. I also told her that when I do get them, they are quite heavy and I get very painful cramps. She said the pills would help with that too.

I thought if these pills are going to make me a "normal" girl, then great! Sign me up!

They then gave me a shot in my side for the nausea (since they had no idea what it was from...) scheduled me for an appointment with the OBGYN, and sent me on my way.

I was then on the pill for the next 3.5 years. And while I was having a regular period that was less painful and lighter, my physical and mental health began going to crap.

I gained weight, began having crazy bad stomach pains, was always tired and unmotivated, and become very irritable (not like me at all!) I was even going to a therapist for anxiety and on depression medication.

I had felt like I lost myself. I was no longer "me."

Was this entirely due to birth control pills? Probably not, but I don't think its coincidence that life took a downward spiral after being put on them.

I had also began reading that the pill increases your chances of getting certain cancers (like breast cancer) and how it can disconnect your body with its natural cycle, which could affect your ability to become pregnant.

So in the fall of 2013, I decided enough is enough! I'm going off the pill and getting my life back!

Initially, I should have listened to my body before ever going on the pill. Those irregular periods were my body saying "Hey girl! Something ain't right!!"

But instead of trying to figure out what that issue might be, I decided to override the system and mask the problem. After all, the irregular periods where really a symptom, not the main issue...
But I figured better late than never! I would take back control of my hormones and regulate my period naturally!

Regaining My Hormonal Balance
This did not happen overnight! In fact, it took over a year to get my period back after going off the pill!

It was not until January of this year that I finally received a long-awaited visit from my dear friend TOM.

  1. Going Gluten-Free: This was probably the BIGGEST contributor to getting my period back (hence, the reason it is a GFFF!) I say this because I was off the pill and trying these other methods for over a year with no luck. But one month after going gluten-free my period finally arrived! This only heightens my suspicious of Celiac, because gluten is known to screw up your hormones when you have this autoimmune disorder. Going gluten-free not only helped me feel better, but it gave me my period back!
  2. Drinking Herbal Tea: This, I will admit, I do not do on a regular basis. But I do try to drink Yogi's Moon Cycle tea every so often. This tea has herbs like Dong Quai and Chaste Tree Berry, which are known to help balance hormones in women. (1) I also drink it when I get my periods now to help with the cramps and fatigue.
  3. Managing Stress: Stress can do a number on your body, especially when it comes to your hormones! Stress can cause you to miss your period or even cause a prolonged absence of your period. I try to manage my stressful intern/ grad student life by exercising, deep breathing, and (most importantly) getting enough sleep! 
I have miss a period since getting it back (which I attribute to poor stress management. #GradLife) But the fact that I have had my period more times in 3 months than I've had in a year in a half is beyond a miracle to me!! 

I am SO happy that my hormones are truly working normally for the first time in 23 years! I get near tears every time it arrives because its still so hard for me to believe. 

I wish I had never went on birth control back in college, and instead tried to figure out what was really going on with my body (maybe going gluten-free back then would have help!?) The situation is still not perfect, but it is definitely heading in the right direction! I am also happier than ever and on ZERO medications!

Do you use natural methods to help your hormones? Have similar things worked for you?

1. Balch, P. (2010). Prescription for nutritional healing: A practical A-to-Z reference to drug-free remedies using vitamins, minerals, herbs, and food supplements (5th ed.). New York: Avery.

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