I’ve imagined what it will be like writing this post for so long. And now I sit here totally blanking on how to share the news. The excitement. The relief. I have been thinking over the last fews days – maybe this is too much to share – and that fear of being open is always there. But as I gently remind myself why I even started this blog, now I sit here ready to put words on screen. To connect with you. To share my journey and hopefully encourage you as you go along your own.
***NOTE: Just so you know, I never read back over my blog posts before I share them. This is me and my thoughts, no special critiques and grammar checks. I am not an English major or a writer, so I’m sorry if my posts make you cringe!!!***
Without further ado. On October 1st, while everyone else was excited about the beginning of Fall and pumpkin spice lattes, I was throwing myself a PERIOD PARTY!!! That’s right. After 9 freaking months of my period being MIA, I can finally feel like a normal 19 year old female. Cramps, bloating, and all.
But let me back track…
The last time I had my period was the first week of January 2017. But the last time I had a REAL period was May 2016… over a year ago. You might be wondering what is a real period? Well, that is a period that is not produced as a result of synthetic estrogen and progesterone from birth control. When I went home for Christmas break last winter I went to many doctors offices and one Nurse Practitioner recommended I go on birth control. I was very against it, I knew this wasn’t natural but I tried it anyway. She gave me a month trial of the pill and after 3 weeks, I got my period! But right when I got off of it, I lost it again… This is because birth control MASKS the underlying problem. It is NOT a solution to your problems!! I can not stress enough how angry it makes me that the only thing doctors do to help women in this state is suggest birth control. This will not help you in the long run!!! If you want to have children, have a healthy body without added hormones, have a normal menstrual cycle you need to find the root of the problem and fix it from there!!!
So…Over the last few months I have been trying to make lots of changes in my life in order to bring my body back to its healthy, natural state. The first case I wanted to address (well, HAD to address) was gaining back some body fat. Last year, during my spring semester of college and in the middle of my track season my body composition percentage was a whopping 10%!!! Anything under 17% is considered too low and females should really have about 19-22% of body fat. No wonder I wasn’t getting my period!
You might think of fat in a negative way, and I totally get it because I was in that same spot too. But it actually serves several very important roles in your body. Fat protects your vital organs, surrounding them with a layer of cushion in case of sudden movement or trauma. Your subcutaneous fat – the layer of fat directly beneath your skin – helps to regulate your core temperature (Last school year, I was ALWAYS cold and everytime I barely hit something or someone barely hit me I would feel so much pain). Fat plays a role in nutrition and metabolism, too. While the fat-soluble vitamins — A, D, E and K — require dietary fat in order to be absorbed, these vitamins are stored in your body’s fat tissue. Your body also uses fat stores as a backup energy source when all other fuel sources have been depleted. The amount of body fat that’s absolutely necessary for the body to function properly is called essential fat (and I was definitely in this realm – no wonder I was so tired and depleted!). But the bigger issue – The production of estrogen in the body depends on fat, so when there isn’t enough body fat, estrogen levels become deficient. As a result of low estrogen, menstruation ceases, causing infertility and a cascade of other health problems.
When estrogen levels drop due to low body fat percentage, calcium leeches out of the bones, decreasing bone mineral density and significantly increasing a woman’s risk for osteoporosis. The longer amenorrhea and a low estrogen level persist, the lower the bone mineral density becomes. Although menses usually resumes when body fat is gained, bone density may never recover, according to an article published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Now, you can see after 6 years of having my period 3 times tops every year and not getting it naturally for over a year now I was getting a bit worried!!!
When I started getting serious about my recovery over the summer, I purchased a book by Alisa Vitti called Womancode. This book changed my perspective on my body and how cool our female bodies really are!! She also gave me so much hope and shared how she helped so many other women just like me who were dealing with the same problems.
When I was in high school, I always felt special for hardly ever getting my period. All my friends would be complaining about cramps, nausea, bloating, and I only had to deal with these symptoms three times a year! I thought myself pretty lucky at the time. Every time I went to the doctors for check ups or was asked about my last cycle and I answered with “I don’t remember the last time I had it, it’s probably been 3 months now,” they never EVER made it seem like a concern. They just looked at me, said okay, and continued my physical or check-up. So, I had it in my head that there was no consequence for me not having my period every month. I was just one of the lucky few who was blessed my God to not have to be bleeding from you know what. So I thought… It was’t until my junior year of high school when I did my Senior class presentation (a year early) on The Female Athlete Triad. A disease that taught me how estrogen is so vital to our body and that as a result of my lack of menstruation and estrogen, my body is literally eating away my bones. Scary!!! But I didn’t do anything about it… I kind of just set it on the back burner. I kind of thought I was immune to any osteoporosis or health problems. I didn’t want to believe the ugly truth – my body was breaking. And I continued to let it for two more years.
Another issue that I needed to address was stress. Pretty ironic, huh? Here I am over these last few months stressing about my body becoming too frail, never being able to have a baby, the possibility of growing cysts on my ovaries, thyroid issues and any other health problem that could occur and now I have to worry about not worrying???
Stress causes late periods by the way it disrupts your hormonal patterns. Your hormones need to meet certain levels and follow certain patterns in order to trigger both ovulation and your period. If stress gets in the way this can cause a messed up cycle. Stress causes a rise in stress hormones, specifically cortisol, and cortisol affects your other hormones – the levels produced and their interaction.
If you know about me, then you know that for the last year I’ve been running 6 times a day sometimes even everyday a week. This is SO much stress for your body. Any type of training is inherently stressful. That’s the whole point of training: to stress your body so it can get stronger. But when you train too hard or you run for a period of time (maybe 20 minutes or more), your body begins to release cortisol to make energy available. And when you exercise everyday (if you’re a cardio bunny like I was *and still working on it*) you get into this state where stress becomes chronic. Chronically elevated cortisol levels have been linked to problems including abdominal fat gain, cognitive decline, and compromised immune function. The link between cortisol and weight gain especially — which has been overblown in some quarters, but is real — has caused the hormone to acquire a bad reputation within the past decade.
“There can be too much of any good thing. Just as cortisol turns from good to bad when chronically produced in excess, endurance training turns from healthful to unhealthful when an athlete over-trains. In the over-trained athlete, high cortisol levels may have negative health effects, but even then high cortisol levels are just one of many imbalances seen in endurance athletes who work too hard and don’t rest enough.”
Another stress that many people don’t realize is when you don’t eat enough. If your body is not receiving enough nutrients it needs, it goes into survival mode. And it sees your low blood sugar as a threat. So your cortisol rushes in and tells your liver to pump out sugar. When your body goes into a state of stress, it thinks it is in trouble therefore it begins to shut down the organs that aren’t needed to survive – AKA your reproductive organs (hence, bye bye period). Because who wants to have a baby when they are in trouble? If you can’t take care of your own body, how does your body expect you to take care of another human being.
A few steps I took to elevate stress from my life:
- Quit cross-country: I knew I was burnt out and in too much of an unhealthy state to continue running competitively. I needed to focus on what my body needed and be able to listen to how it wants to exercise every day, rather than force it to run many miles every morning before 8am.
- Journaling more: Getting my thoughts down on paper really helps me feel more relieved and calm afterwards. It’s sort of my way of meditation.
- Praying always: God always brings me so much peace. I just speak with him, read his word, or ask him to bring me His presence and tell me everything is going to be okay. He LOVES when we reach to Him during our times of weakness.
- Baths/Pamper: I LOVE to take baths, do a face mask, drink my tea, and just have a candle-lit night to myself.
- Netflix/Naps: I lalalalove rainy days because it means netflix binging and endless naps. I always feel reenergized when I just spend a day relaxing and not worrying about exercising. If you feel exhausted, listen to your body and take a nap already!!!
Something else I have been focusing a lot on recently is balancing my hormones. Throughout this whole process I have just fallen in love with how our bodies function and the different hormones and what they do, and how we can balance them NATURALLY through food and adaptogens, instead of medicine and birth control (big no, no!!).
Progesterone deficiency and estrogen dominance are two main root causes of missing periods when the above two reasons are off of the table. Your body needs nutritional support via the right foods to create enough hormones, use those hormones, and then process and detoxify excess hormones. This will maintain hormonal balance and ensure your body is able to trigger ovulation. Once you are ovulating your period will naturally follow and flo. Your body wants to ovulate, that’s what it’s designed to do, but it just needs the right fuel and foundation.
I started following the FloLiving protocol and eating foods that supported my cycle by doing what Alisa calls cycle syncing (read more about it here or here). This not only helps with people with missing periods but it also helps with PMS symptoms because guess what! PMS is not normal! We are not supposed to be breaking out, feeling awful, and having the worst cramps of our lives once every month! So, I encourage you to go check out her research and work! I also started taking a multivitamin called Raw One for Women and Vitex Berry by Gaia Herbs. I am taking the multivitamin because it helps make sure I am getting enough iron, B-vitamins, and other essential vitamins and minerals. The Vitex Berry helps balance my progesterone levels because after reading Alisa’s book and website I found out my progesterone levels were very low and this was one of the ways I could fix it. Another thing I’ve been doing to balance my hormones is consuming different types of adaptogens and applying DoTerra Clarycalm essential oil to my lower abdomen. Some adaptogens I have tried are Maca and Ashwagandha, I put them in my matcha, tea, morning lemon water, or smoothies! Adaptogens are herbs that help your body ADAPT to your surroundings, so it also makes it great for stress. The essential oil is a blend of ingredients that support a healthy cycle and balances your emotions and mood.
A few thoughts to leave with you…
As always, you know what is best for your body. You always have a choice and if you love your body with good health, space and time… It will love you back.
- What does nutrition look like? Are you getting enough calories and nutrients?
- Is exercise too intense in either quantity or quality?
- Is your body weight and/or body fat too low? And that does NOT mean just falling in a normal BMI range.
- Is there emotional/mental stress going on?
- Is there stress from lack of sleep?
There is so much that goes into a woman’s reproductive health. So I blab on and on about all of this because I think it’s imperative that we as women know about our bodies, so instead of trying to “fix” something with medication, we can take a step back and look at our health as a big picture with so many moving parts and address each part individually.
Health is so much more than your weight and just because you’re a certain BMI, doesn’t mean your body is at a healthy, sustainable weight for you. And once we step into that realization and let our body be the size it’s suppose to be and take care of ourselves, there is so much freedom to be found.
+ Where can you pour some gratitude into this divinely feminine experience? Yes, there may be cramping and bloating and all you want to eat is chocolate (yep!) – but how can you be grateful for your body’s ability to release the past month and create space (literally!) for new beginnings?
Please remember to speak to your own health professional team before making any significant changes to your lifestyle.
Share with me in the comments below. And please, share this with your ladies.
All my love,
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:8 |