Here’s my story
In the series about systemic inflammation I mentioned a couple times that I would be talking about body systems as well. I want to start by sharing with you ladies the story of how I came to learn more about my body. As well as why I started to research more about our cycles and body systems. I think it’s important that I share with you the backstory first so you can understand why it was so important for me to find ways to naturally help my body heal and recover. In this series I am going to share with you how I found out what was going on with my hormones, how I made some changes to help, and what resources I used and found helpful.
I guess my story starts way back when when I was 13 years old and first got my period. You see to say it arrived with a vengeance is putting it mildly. My family has a long history of women with painful cycles, hormone imbalance, hysterectomies and fertility issues. So when my cycle arrived like an angry devil no one batted an eyelash, it’s just what we go through in our family. With each year it seemed to be getting worse and worse and by the time I was 16 it was so excruciatingly painful and that I would be bedridden for the first couple days of my cycle. At this point it got so bad that I had to go to my doctor and ask for help. I can clearly remember sitting in the doctor's office telling her my symptoms; extremely heavy flow, migraines, debilitating pain, clotting, and often multiple cycles within each 28 day period. My doctor felt that I most likely had endometriosis, or some sort of cystic disorder and sent me for ultrasounds and tests. Almost every test I did come back inconclusive with abnormal cell development. Her only offer for help was a mid birth control that would essentially stop my cycle so I would stop these symptoms, and a heavy duty pain killer. Unfortunately for me at that time, I was not allowed to fill these prescriptions and ended up continuing down this painful path for another year. My symptoms increased each month, resulting in more embarrassing "tie your sweater around your waist" moments at highschool than I care to count. Ladies I know you know what I am talking about here. On a mother / daughter vacation to the east coast the following year my symptoms became so overwhelming that I could no longer function without some sort of intervention. For the entire trip my pain was so intense that I couldn't even wear pants,as a waistband felt like a torture device. I spent the entire trip in the fetal position, wearing the same Maxi dress and oversized fleece. There was a picture of my sister and I at a look out point, and she is literally holding me up as I was in too much pain to be able to stand on my own. My flow was so heavy that I became extremely anemic, and would feel like I was fainting every time stood up. It was one of the worst feelings I have ever had. My entire body felt like it was being taken over by the "red demon". When I returned home I booked in to see my doctor again, again she ran the same gamit of testing and again the same results. This time when she wrote out the prescriptions, I filled them and paid out of my own pocket. I could not continue to feel like this. I remember asking the specialist she sent me to why I felt this way and what was causing it, his response "it's normal for teen girls to have period issues." I took me until I was in my late 30's to learn that NONE of what I had experienced up to this point was "NORMAL".
I would continue to experience a WHACKLOAD of horrible symptoms, that I now know were caused from Estrogen dominance and triggered by inflammatory factors. I spent years getting blood tests, PAPs, mammograms, ultrasounds, and scraps done. I was eventually diagnosed with PCOS and dense fibrotic breast tissues, But again when I asked WHY I was told it was just the way my body was. I can remember reading my blood panel and asking my doctor why my estrogen was at the top end of normal and what that meant. She said that it was still within normal and it was nothing to worry about. At the time I didn't know a lot about my cycle, but I knew enough to know that the top end of "normal" was not necessarily "OK". At this time I was in my late 30's, and they had added early onset Menopause to my list of "lady issues"in my chart. The craziest part about all this learning I was doing, was how little my medical doctors actually knew about my cycle. When I would bring them information I had found on my signs and symptoms, they also seemed shocked. I eventually decided that it was my body and the only one looking out for my health was ME. That's when I really started to research the effects of the pill, what it was really doing to my body, and how dangerous taking hormones and the medications I was prescribed to mask the symptoms really where. I had experienced at least 300 periods at this point, and yet I really knew NOTHING about my cycle, and neither did my doctors.
So, where do you start? How are you supposed to go about recovering the sacred and beautiful thing that is our cycle, if the only relationship you have with it is trauma based. That is something I am working really hard towards, but in the meantime here are some of the things I started doing to get back to a natural cycle. As always, this is what has worked for me in repairing my flow and helping to rebuild my relationship with my cycle, please make sure to listen to your body and do what is best for you. I discovered through the blood work and research that I am estrogen dominant, and therefore have Estrogen Dominant PCOS. Finding out where your hormone levels are will be a vital first step in creating your plan to wellness. Remember that even if your levels are "within normal" look at where they are in the normal range. Are you high normal or low normal? This is important to understand.
Here we go! This is what I did.
First and foremost, TRACK! Track all the things for at least 2 - 3 months. There are a bunch of great cycle tracking apps that allow you to chart emotions, energy levels, cravings, flow, discharge (yes, this is VERY important to chart), and take notes. Not everyone has a 28 day cycle, with a 7 day flow, so pigeon holing all us women into this one box has really done a disservice to a lot of women. I have really come to love the Stardust app because it combines all the things I want to track, with the cycles of the moon,,,, And I thrive on lunar energy so this app just makes sense to me.
Once you have an idea of how your cycle flows..... look at your symptoms.
I did a couple internet searches on my list of symptoms and kept coming up with the same thing, Estrogen Dominance;
✅Irregular cycles and heavy bleeding
✅ Weight gain, especially in hips, thighs and mid-section
✅Fibroids / Endometriosis
✅ Breast swelling, pain
It all added up for me, because I knew I was at the high end of normal in my hormone testing too. I was gifted the book The Essential Oils Hormone Solution by Dr. Mariza Snyder at the start of this journey, and it became a reference point for me on several occasions. Knowing I was high in estrogen I was able to use the parts of the book that related to my issues. It was a great tool to have in my natural wellness tool belt.
Next, eliminate the hormone disruptors! Or at least as many as you can. We are SURROUNDED by these chemicals all day, so eliminating as many as you can from your home, personal products and food sources will be a HUGE step in the right direction. This includes processed / fresh foods, toxins in personal hygiene products, cleaning products and even your drinking water. The toxins I refer to are called endocrine disruptors and will affect your hormone balance. The herbicide glyphosate is prevalent in our food/water and by eating organic foods and using a water filter you can reduce your overall toxin load. I realize that only buying organic foods may not be in most of our budgets (mine included) so making sure to wash your produce, make swaps where you can and trying to increase your locally sourced meats will be a huge help. The biggest change you can make right away is to throw out the perfumes, room sprays, candles and cleaners that are riddled with chemical compounds that block proper hormone function, and not just in women. Growing up we used a lot of chemical cleaners, febreeze and those glad plug ins around our house, like so many do. There is very little education on what these chemicals are actually doing to our bodies, but there are LOTS of studies available to read, if you care to learn more. As we changed over to natural cleaners and toxic free products I did notice a change. First thing I noticed was the decrease in my headaches and migraines. I did this along with changes in my eating habits / supplements as well, but I will get to that in the next blog. For now, if you are looking for a place to start I suggest grabbing the cleaners in your home and checking the labels, and doing a google search on whether or not they make the Dirty Dozen List. Many products on the market also "greenwash" the labels so they look like natural cleaners, but aren't. I have switched all my cleaners over to essential oil based products, like these, that I feel confident using.
If you or anyone in your household is having hormonal issues this is a great place to start. Next week I will share with you the steps I took to exam my nutrition as well as how stress factors were affecting my cycle, but let's wrap things up here for now.
Remember, this is my story and what has worked for me. Make sure to dig deeper into your symptoms and ask questions. Find what works best for you.