For an overview please refer back to my previous post: My Period Story
So this month's period is over, I say period and not cycle as the first day of your period is a new cycle! This is period two of making changes to my diet and I have to say that it has been a much more pleasant (as pleasant as as bleeding for 7 days can be) experience. I have also just been referred for a blood test to see if I have PCOS as I know for a fact that the pain and symptoms I experience can be linked to this issue.
So the last 5 or so periods have been excruciatingly painful, to the point of feeling nauseous painful, one month I even was sick! Along with the pain, I noticed my sleep worsened after ovulation, my boobs became heavy and sore, I got cystic acne along my jawline, and along with this I was also getting severe constipation, trapped wind and diarrhea (often all within 24 hours), I knew something had to change. I took to the Internet and came across a lady called Nicole Jardim - aka the period fixer. She is incredible, she has a website, podcast, an Instagram page and now she also has a book! Turns out periods are just as simple as a period. Oh no, a whole host of hormones are involved and any imbalance in your hormones can wreak havoc on your cycle. Think of your period as a barometer for your overall health. Your period is like your 'check engine' light on your car. Period problems are an indicator of other underlying issues. Why we are not taught this at school is beyond me. However, this all appears to be changing. Talking about periods is no longer a taboo subject, more and more women are opening up and talking to each other about their menstrual issues and good on them. Ladies, we all have them. Your mum did, you nans did, your daughters will. Every female has a menstrual cycle and it should be discussed!
So now I have had my say on that matter, what have I done to reduce my PMS and period related ailments? Put simply:
I cut out daily coffee, I still have one on a Saturday morning
I cut out 90% of my dairy intake
I cut out white processed Carbs (unless it's the odd treat)
I cut out sugar
I reduced my alcohol intake (I do still have the odd glass of wine but notice how it affects me more when I do)
I increased my leafy green vegetables, beans and raw carrot
Nothing drastic I assure you, all these above steps have been implemented over an 8-12 week period. You cannot change everything at once otherwise it's unsustainable and overwhelming.
So why did I make these changes?
Coffee contains caffeine, caffeine is a stimulant and whilst many studies have been done on the benefits of coffee it can seriously mess with our cortisol levels, cortisol is our stress hormone. When cortisol is raised for prolonged periods of time it can impact all your hormones further down the chain. I also have coffee with sugar and milk, which as stated above I wanted to reduce.
Dairy - why cut dairy? Dairy products contain hormones that promote the production of androgen hormones (ie testosterone) which can worsen hormonal imbalances. I am not saying all dairy is bad but think about how we continue to get milk from cows - mammals lactate when feeding their young, cows are fed hormones to induce lactation. We are then taking on those hormones. Milk is also heavily manufactured to make it safe and sustainable to store. I do still eat feta and other cheeses but a lot less frequently.
Processed white Carbs - many of the wheat that is produced to make white breads, cereals, pastries, pizza bases and pastas have been heavily processed which stripps them of bran, fibre and nutrients. They are digested quickly and cause high spikes in blood sugar. They can cause mood swings, fluctuations in energy and weight gain (particularly around the waist line). You can easily switch out white carbs for whole grains, non-starchy vegetables (think spinach, green beans and Brussels sprouts), legumes (beans and lentils), nuts and fruit. Your body requires carbohydrates for energy, it's just about eating the right ones!
Sugar - I feel this is a no brainer but sugar will obviously cause spikes in blood sugar in the same way refined carbs do. Blood sugar has a huge sway over how your hormones react, and if your blood sugar is out of whack, so are your other hormones. When you eat sugar the stomach releases insulin, this then gets transferred to your cells to use for energy. If you do not use this energy, or if you are eating too much sugar, then the liver gets overloaded and the sugar gets stored in your fat tissues. Did you know that there are insulin receptors in your ovaries? Yup! This relationship between your ovaries and your brain can prevent your eggs from growing properly and being released! Scary huh? This can be very bad news for women with PCOS and can cause PCOS-like symptoms in women (for more details please read ‘Fix Your Period’ by Nicole Jardim - this lady knows her stuff!)
Alcohol - alcohol is very high in sugar so the above really applies here. Alcohol also puts a lot of pressure on your liver to clear out the toxins within the alcohol, if your liver is busy clearing out foreign toxins, it is not equipped with the capacity to rid the body of excess hormones causing estrogen dominance among other issues. Keep your liver healthy by reducing toxins from foods and drinks. This way it will function in the way it should by detoxing your body.
So now you know what I have taken out, its time to go through what I added to aid balanced blood sugars, to help my liver detox the toxins and help my hormones work in sync with each other.
There are many foods we can eat to help rebalance our hormones. Most of which are foods that are grown, that have flown, that have run or swam. The first thing I added into my diet was leafy greens, such as kale and spinach. It's actually really easy to add these into your diet as you can just add it onto the side of most dishes. With spinach, I like to add a handful to a bowl and wilt it in the microwave for a few seconds then add my dinner on top of it! Simple. Spinach is also great to add into smoothies, it makes it a funny colour but doesn't add any taste. The next thing I added was more fish, my go to is salmon and tuna. Now Matt is back playing football, I have salmon once a week (he won't eat it) and love a tuna salad at the weekend. I added fish as it's packed full of healthy fats which are great for hormone function. I have also added in spearmint tea as it's great for helping the liver to detox excess hormones. There are also a whole host of other benefits:
The other thing I added were beans. After hearing about the bean protocol I was fascinated by their ability to bind to toxins in the body helping get rid of them via poop. I think I will do a whole blog post on beans at a later date as it's quite complex, in the meantime if you Google Bean Protocol you can check out Unique Hammond and Karen Hurd. I also added in raw carrots. I now eat my carrot with a bean dip I make using just kidney beans and some spices.
This cycle I noted that I did not get sore boobs, my constipation and diarrhea improved, my sleep has been better, my skin has started to clear up. I will continue to update you on my period journey, there will also be more to come as I have a blood test referral to be tested for PCOS. When I spoke to the doctor they suggested that instead of having the copper IUD I should have the hormonal IUD. This completely defeats the purpose of being on a hormone free method of birth control. By adding in hormones to 'regulate' your cycle you are just masking the problems. Ideally I would like the IUD removed as having a foreign object in my uterus isn't ideal but with irregular cycles it's difficult to know what the best method of birth control is - yes I know we could use condoms but it's just not as nice. It is something I will consider moving forwards if I can better regulate my cycles.
I know this was a long read but I think it's very beneficial to know that hormone health is massively important and often overlooked. So many young women, myself included, are just put on this pill as a quick fix. Women need to be better educated when it comes to their hormones and period and I honestly believe that this is finally starting to happen and women are being more open about their periods. Long may this continue - it is not taboo, it is not unnatural , it is not something to be ashamed about.
Look after your bodies ladies - they will thank you for it.