HOW I GOT MY PERIOD BACK + BALANCING HORMONES NATURALLY

I pride myself on having my shit somewhat together for someone my age, but for the last 14 months my health has not been one of those things, it’s been a rollercoaster and to be honest a lot of the time I felt completely out of control to the point where I didn’t even really feel like myself a lot of the time. That’s because 14 months ago I came off of the hormonal birth control pill and lost my menstrual cycle. Trust me when I say that when I came off the pill I didn’t know this was even a possibility, I had NO IDEA how my life would change or what I was going to face just by taking myself off the pill. I actually can’t believe that its been 14 months - oh how time flies when you’re having fun AKA when you have NO FREAKIN’ IDEA WHAT’S GOING ON IN YOUR BODY.. It has been a journey and a half let me tell you and I have learned so much about myself and my body over the last 14 months it’s actually crazy.

I’ve dealt with so many skin issues from acne to rosacea to eczema to inflamed tiny bumps all over my face, hair loss, cramps, fatigue, body aches and pains, mood swings and roughly 100 emotional and mental breakdowns (haha I’m not kidding). I’ve seen 3 different Western doctors, all of which gave me ZERO answers, had 10 blood tests done and an ultrasound scheduled that I never attended. I also worked with a Naturopath who CHANGED MY LIFE, she had me do a saliva cortisol test and a 200+ antigen food intolerance test (that’s where they test you for intolerances to basically every food on the planet), eliminated the foods I am intolerant to for 3 months, done IV vitamin therapy to boost my immune system and reduce inflammation and got me started on seed cycling (I’ll talk more about this in a minute), meditating and reducing my stress. Oh and I even tried acupuncture to try and channel energy towards my reproductive organs and cupping for my stress and tension (all of which was amazing if you’re wondering 10/10 recommend).

It has been a LONG AF process and I’ve tried what feels like literally everything but through trial and error I feel like I’ve really learned exactly what works and doesn’t work when it comes to balancing hormones naturally and regaining a menstrual cycle, because 3 months ago - 11 months after going off of the pill - my menstrual cycle came back and has been (mostly) regular ever since!! You guys i’m not kidding when my period first came back I cried, actual tears but I thought it was too good to be true so when it came the second month in a row I cried again. You never really appreciate something like that until it’s gone and you have no idea how to get it back, I didn’t feel like a woman, I didn’t feel adequate, I felt like shit physically and mentally and I knew how unhealthy and suppressed my body was so it made me feel even worse, and I felt like this for almost a year straight. If you’re dealing with hormonal imbalances or an absent period, I’m here for you babe, you’re not alone and just know that there is always hope!

HOW I BALANCE MY HORMONES NATURALLY

DIET

HIGH FAT - fat is the building block of all cell membranes in the body and is the main material that our bodies need to produce and maintain proper hormones.

LOW SUGAR - sugar spikes blood sugar which in turn spikes insulin which throws your endocrine system out of whack and causes hormonal imbalances.

ADEQUATE CALORIES - calories are energy, and if you’re not feeding your body adequate energy to support daily suctions and sustain life then it will go into starvation mode and shut off all biological processes that aren’t critical to survival and the first thing that it shuts off is, you guessed it - the menstrual cycle. I used to suffer from binge eating disorder and even up until last year would still find myself allowing my disordered eating habits to sneak back in to the point where I would almost subconsciously restrict calories and carbs and depriving my body of the energy and nutrients that it needed to produce a cycle. Eating more was one of the biggest things that I had to overcome mentally but I can’t stress enough how important it is to this process!

LOW TO NO CAFFEINE - caffeine spikes cortisol which contributes to adrenal fatigue. I haven’t been drinking any caffeine for the last week or so, I have replaced my morning coffee with Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee I AM OBSESSED with all things Four Sigmatic but this coffee is my fav product by far! You guys can use my code LULU10 for a discount! Don’t get me wrong though, I love a good cup of coffee and nothing beats the real thing but for right now I’m focusing on limiting my coffee intake to once a week or not at all until my adrenals come back to normal.

LIMIT ALCOHOL - alcohol impairs the function of reproductive organs and can result in hormonal imbalances, but the occasional glass of red wine is totally fine and actually VERY beneficial (hallelujah!) because it contains resveratrol which is a natural compound that actually helps moderate androgen hormones and promote hormonal balance. 

SEED AND OIL CYCLING - the basic concept of cycling is to consume certain seeds and oils during certain phases of the menstrual cycle to support the female body, the different seeds and oils contain the exact minerals and lignens that the female body needs during that exact phase. You can read more about the 4 different menstrual phases in my blog post HERE! I take 1 tbsp ground flax seeds, 1 tbsp ground pumpkin seeds and 2 tsp (OR 1000mg) high dose fish oil every day during my follicular phase and 1 tbsp ground sesame seeds, 1 tbsp ground sunflower seeds and 1000mg evening primrose oil every day during my luteal phase. Here is a great article you can read about seed cycling!

LIFESTYLE

MEDITATION - (every morning, mid afternoon and before bed) reduces stress, lowers cortisol, balances blood pressure, elevates mood and centers the mind and body. 

STRESS REDUCTION - stress causes the adrenals to secrete cortisol, too much stress causes an excessive production of cortisol which can cause adrenal fatigue. When the body is so focused on the fight or flight response that too much stress creates it doesn’t have any energy left to focus nothings like hormonal balance or the menstrual cycle.I suffer from anxiety and chronic stress which is the main cause of my adrenal fatigue and was one of the causes of my missing menstrual cycle for 10 months, so it is crucial that I practice mindfulness and stress reduction on a daily basis to try to lower my stress levels.

PUTTING MY PHONE AWAY EARLIER AT NIGHT & CHECKING IT LATER IN THE MORNING - the blue light from electronic devices actually spikes cortisol which contributes to adrenal fatigue.

BREATHING THROUGH CHALLENGING SITUATIONS - allowing yourself to unnecessarily stress over things doesn’t do you any good, raises cortisol and contributes to adrenal fatigue.

JOURNALLING - promotes relaxation, is a good way to express emotions and feelings without getting overwhelmed or stress and helps to lower stress.

PRIORITIZING SLEEP - while we sleep our body synthesizes and releases hormones into the blood stream to replenish the supply used the day before so it is critical to get a full nights sleep every night to maintain adequate hormone levels. Unfortunately because my cortisol is so imbalanced right now it tends to surge at night so I have been waking up throughout the night a lot lately, having crazy dreams and night sweats (how fun right?!), that being said I try to make sure to get A MINIMUM of 7 hours of sleep every night (preferably 8 because yo girl needs beauty sleep).

SUPPLEMENTS

*as always please do your own research before starting any new supplement, vitamin and/or adaptogen*

MAGNESIUM BISGLYCINATE - reduces overactivity of the HPA axis which helps to reduce anxiety and stress and therefor lowers production of cortisol, critical in helping the body to produce estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. I take 2 of THESE before bed.

HIGH DOSE PROBIOTICS - the gut is the center of all health in the body, the bacteria in the gut help to regulate hormones so if your gut health isn’t optimal it can cause hormonal imbalances which cause mood swings, fatigue, poor digestion, acne, etc. The probiotic that I take has 50 Billion CFU and includes organic ashwagandha and organic Alaskan blueberries, both of which help the body produce GABA which supports emotional health and well-being. I Take 2 of THESE every day.

VITAMIN D3 - interacts with and has an effect on the secretion of hormones from the parathyroid gland, deficiency can lead to the abnormal release of parathyroid hormone which can lead to hormonal imbalances. I take 5 of THESE every morning.

ASHWAGANDHA - supports the nervous and endocrine systems, promotes a natural sleep cycle, helps the body adapt to stress and helps support normal mood, energy levels and immune function. I take 2 of THESE before bed. I take 2 of THESE before bed.

RHODIOLA - supports the adrenal glands and encourages a health response to stress. I take one full dropper of THIS every morning.

HOLY BASIL - aka tulsi which means “balance”, helps you respond to stress in a healthy way while nourishing the mind and elevating the spirit. take 1 of THESE before my first meal.

GELATINIZED MACA ROOT - supports the body’s stress response, helps tone the HPA axis to support the body’s natural production of hormones, boosts fertility, stimulates libido, I take 1.5 tsp of THIS every day, either mixed in my smoothie or in an elixir.

I hope that you find these tips and practices helpful and can see some improvement in your life if you’re dealing with any hormonal imbalances. As always, every person is different and what worked for me may not work for you so please do your own research and if your cycle doesn’t come back right away don’t get discouraged, I had to implement all of these factors, practices and lifestyle changes into my life for 3 months straight before I saw even a slight improvement. Its all about being patient and trusting the process.

XO - LU



HORMONE UPDATE

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Okay so it’s obviously no secret that my hormones have been kind of bat shit crazy for the better half of the last year, I’m very open about it and I have kept you guys super informed about my journey because I know a ton of you have dealt with or are dealing with similar things and I want to be able to share my experience with you. If you’re not familiar with what’s going on for me, let me just sum it up for you in the quickest way possible - I came off of the pill 9 months ago (read about why here) after being on it for 7 years straight, my only reasoning was that I didn’t want to be putting synthetic hormones into my body anymore. When I came off the pill I knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy process to get my body back on track naturally but I never imaged it would be THIS hard. I’m 9 months into this whole crazy journey, sans a normal menstrual cycle and to be honest it has started to take a tole on me, I just feel like I have literally tried everything and nothing has worked up until this point so about 6 weeks ago I decided it was time to seek out actual professional help.

In July I went to my family doctor and demanded a blood test to test my cortisol as well as my estrogen and progesterone just so I would at least have an idea of where my levels where at, he didn’t really take me seriously and was hesitant but agreed. The test came back showing that I have extremely high cortisol (which I knew) and extremely low estrogen and progesterone (which I also knew) - okay cool so now that I had some answers and we could actually do something about this, right? Yeah I wish that was how the medical system worked.. Unfortunately for me, my lack of a cycle and my ridiculously high cortisol is not a priority for the medical system because it isn’t life threatening so my follow up with my doctor was scheduled for 3 weeks after my blood results came back. I’m sorry what?! Yeah no that was not happening, I was not going to wait another 3 weeks to even hear about what the next steps were and I was more than over the whole western medical system at this point so I decided to look for a naturopathic doctor to work with.

I FOUND AN AMAZING NATUROPATH

She is local to my area and the second that I met her for my initial consultation I knew that this was EXACTLY what I was supposed to be doing. Her and I just vibed so well, she has a very similar mindset to me and she is super down to earth and actually took my issues seriously which is 100x more than I can say my Western doctor. The first thing she did was ask me a million and one questions to try to get a better understanding of my diet, lifestyle, fitness and emotional habits and issues and if you follow me on instagram you’ll know that that appointment alone was a huge breakthrough for me because I realized that I hadn’t been prioritizing myself or my health for a long time and that there were a lot of things not serving me in my life anymore and that in order to actually allow my body to heal and get back on track I needed to make some serious changes (read more about that here) to my life first.

The next thing that she wanted to find out was at what times of the day was my body the most stressed (aka my cortisol the highest) and what was stressing my body out so much. We did a 4 point cortisol test which is basically a set of 4 tubes that you spit in throughout the day - when you wake up, before lunch, before dinner and before you go to sleep - then you freeze the tubes and send them off to a lab to be analyzed for your cortisol levels at all of those points throughout the day. In a healthy not chronically stressed body your cortisol should be high in the morning, dip around lunch time, come back up a little around dinner and then dip to it’s lowest point at bed time.

My naturopath also wanted to test me for any food intolerances (even minor ones), her reasoning for this was that if I did have any intolerances especially to foods that I was frequently consuming then that would be causing inflammation and forcing my body to have to put energy into fighting the inflammation instead of putting that energy into more important things like reproduction and my menstrual cycle. I have actually wanted to get a full food intolerance screening done for a while anyways because of my digestive issues so I was super excited to finally know what was going on in my body and which foods, if any, don’t work for me. The test itself is simple, it’s just a blood test but the protocol leading up to the test is what actually takes time. The test that I chose tests for over 200 different types of foods by testing the number of antigens your body has to the foods, well in order for your body to have antigens built up you have to consume EVERY SINGLE FOOD on the list in the span of the two weeks. Yeah I know.. Mind you you only have to consume a tiny bit of each food but it was still pretty challenging to get in the many different foods in that short of a time span, especially since I’m a total creature of habit and basically eat a variation of the same things every single day. But the test is not cheap so I was not going to cheat myself on any possible results and I managed to cross every food off the list!

I did both tests in the first week of August but they had to be sent to a lab in another province to be analyzed and the results take roughly 2 weeks but I was actually in Ottawa visiting my family when the results came back and they can’t give results over the phone so I had to wait even longer!

MY BREAKTHROUGH ON VACATION

I had planned this trip to visit my family in Ottawa for a week but when all of the shit with my relationship and my health hit the fan in the beginning of August I kind of just took it as a sign that I needed to go ASAP and stay for a little longer to just really focus on myself and try to allow my stress levels to come down. The day that I finished my tests I decided to change my flight on a whim to leave in 5 days, a week and a half earlier than I was supposed to. I knew that I was moving out the day I got back from my vacation so I basically had to pack for the vacation itself as well as pack my entire life up in the next 5 days. It was a lot and I questioned my decision about 1000 times but I knew in my heart that getting away and coming back to a clean slate was exactly what I needed.

While I was away I was able to actually just be. I didn’t set an alarm, I didn’t have to schedule myself, I didn’t have to give anything to anyone other than myself, I didn’t have to try to please anyone, I didn’t have to think about my relationship that just ended and I got to actually spend time with my family and be present in the moment without stressing over if I was doing “enough” in my day. My body was actually able to relax and let go of so much of the stress that I was holding on to, to the point where I actually HAD SIGNS OF A CYCLE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 8 MONTHS!!! The signs were light but they were there and to say that I was happy is beyond an understatement, I honestly cried you guys. If you told me 2 years ago that I would be crying in a bathroom over my period and not over the fact that my 6.5 year relationship just ended a month ago I would’ve called you insane but here we are.

It’s funny how life shifts your priorities to surprise you like that..

TEST RESULTS

I had an appointment scheduled for the day after I got back from my trip. My results back for my cortisol test I was not surprised in the slightest. Basically my cortisol is extremely high all day long and doesn’t really dip at all until just before bed time, which is why I have no problem going to sleep at night but wake up feeling exhausted and run down usually hit a wall at around 3/4pm. Basically what this means is my adrenals are so fatigued and don’t know how to dip below a certain point so they keep my cortisol elevated until they literally have none left at the end of the day and then they let my cortisol dip. Her recommendations were pretty straight forward, no caffeine before 8am, coffee only 3-4x per week MAXIMUM and start meditating in the middle of the day around 3/4pm to try to calm my body down and promote that dip in cortisol that I should be having.

As for my food intolerance test, how the results work is there are three different ratings for intolerances, red, yellow and green. Red means that you are extremely intolerant to it and it affects your body on a systemic level, basically the inflammatory affects are actually noticeable and can manifest as stiff joints, sore muscles, congestion, watery eyes, headache, etc. The foods in the yellow section inflame your body on a less noticeable scale, they affect your nervous system, mood, cause fatigue, etc. and the green section are the foods you aren’t intolerant to at all. My results came back that I am only intolerant to 4 foods (thank god) which is actually very good because apparently most people come back with 25+ so I got extremely lucky! The only food in the red zone for me is rice of all kinds, I the yellow I had 3 foods; egg whites, Brazil nuts and brewers yeast (what they use in beer). The only thing I am kind of upset about are egg whites because I love eggs but c’est la vie, I only have to cut them out (and the other foods as well) for 3 months to test if I see any improvement in my health so it’s not the end of the world.

We went over everything and then she asked me if there was anything new that I needed to all her, she said she could tell I had something on my mind! Well yeah obviously, I literally could not wait to tell her about my potential cycle in Ottawa and her reaction was just as excited as mine was (remember how I told you she’s the best? point proven) she told me that we were going to count it as a legitimate period and start seed cycling based on that. I’m going to write a full blog post on seed cycling sometime in the next week but to sum it up it is basically the concept of taking certain seeds and oils during the 2 longest phases of your cycle (luteal and follicular) I have a blog post all about the different cycles if you’re interested in learning more about that (click here).

WHAT NOW?

I have been implementing all of the things that I just listen for about 3 weeks now and if I were to get my period it would be coming sometime in the next two weeks but obviously Ib have no way of knowing if that is on the way or not at the moment. I’m just going t keep doing everything that she has told me to and everything that I was already doing on my own and stay positive!

My naturopath also recommended that I start going to acupuncture so I have been going 1-2x per week for 60 minutes for the last 6 weeks. We spend 30 minute treating my stomach and legs to try and release any tension and get the blood circulating better to draw blood towards my reproductive organs and then 30 minutes treating my back, shoulders and neck because I hold all of my stress in my neck and shoulders and honestly it has made a world of difference. My digestion is better, my body moves better, my chronic neck pain is gone and I honestly leave feeling more aligned mentally and physically every single time!

Okay I know that I just gave you a TON of different information and you basically know me and my body almost as well as I do now (ha ha). The main point that I want you guys to take away from this is to never take no for an answer, if you are dealing with anything health related and feel like you’re not being heard by your Western Doctor or specialists or your family or whoever then to quote a very intelligent source - drop it like it’s hot and FIND SOMEONE ELSE. You have the right to know what is going on in your body and you deserve to work with professionals and people in general who hear your concern and actually make the effort to help you. Don’t ever give up, there is always more that can be done.

xo - LU

AMENORRHEA - WHY NOT GETTING YOUR PERIOD IS NO JOKE

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I get it periods aren't exactly fun or really anything that any of us women actually want to spend a week every month dealing with but they are a sign that your body is healthy and working properly and are actually something that should be celebrated! I never appreciated my period until I lost it, and I'm now going into my 7th month with zero signs of a menstrual cycle and I feel like I have tried EVERYTHING to try and get it back and to say that I'm tired of not having one is an understatement. 

When you get your period every month it means that you aren't pregnant (duh), but it also means that your body is healthy enough to get pregnant if you wanted to and that your fertility is normal and healthy. So I'm sure you can guess that when you don't get a period every month it is not a good sign. When you don't get your period regularly (regularly is every 28-30 days) it means that something is off and for some reason your brain is sending signals to your body telling it to hault ovulation. Basically no menstrual cycle = something is making your body think you are not healthy.. which is obviously bad news.

The amount of times that I have been told by my doctor and other practitioners over the last 7 months that it's "no big deal" that I don't have a menstrual cycle is shocking. I have had multiple blood tests done, a stress test, a pap and still NO ANSWERS and no concern from anyone other than me. My doctor even suggested that I go back on the pill to try and regulate things, which I immediately shot down so his next suggestion was a round of 10 days of progesterone to try and get my body to withdrawal bleed after I come off of it in a hopes that this would kickstart my period. Again, it's a hard no from me on the whole putting synthetic hormones in my body thing. The only thing that either of those options would do is pump me full of synthetic hormones which I'm not into and put a small and (very) temporary bandaid on the actual underlying issue. As a society we are way too quick to prescribe and take medications instead of actually investigating the problem, getting to the root cause of the issue and treating it with dietary and lifestyle changes and I know that it's because the pharmaceutical and medical industry is a massive business and that's how they make money but as a soon to be Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Nutritional Practitioner prescription meds will never be my chosen route for myself or my clients.

Okay now back to the period stuff. I know that not getting your period might seem super convenient but aside from not having to carry tampons around in your purse or make frequent trips to the bathroom it actually isn't awesome and comes with a pretty extensive list of seriously concerning long term health consequences. There is actually a legitimately diagnosed condition for not getting your period - Amenorrhea is the absence of a menstrual cycle for 3+ months. And let me just tell you now, it is no joke

AMENORRHEA

Amenorrhea can be caused by a number of things like; coming off of the birth control pill, taking certain medications, chemotherapy, a drastic increase or drop in body weight, certain medical conditions, etc. But the main thing that all cases of Amenorrhea have in common is a lack of sufficient estrogen in the body. 

Estrogen is the hormone responsible for sexual and reproductive development in women, increased estrogen levels cause the lining of the uterus to grow and thicken which causes your body to release an egg into one of the ovaries, if the egg is not fertilized estrogen levels will drop and your body will shed the lining of the uterus (this is your period). When estrogen levels are too low the reproductive cycle is halted, no egg is produced, no uterine lining will be shed, fertility is turned off and other body systems will start to suffer. Bone health will start to deteriorate which can lead to osteoporosis and an increase in injuries, risk of atrophy of the vagina (thinning, drying and inflammation of the walls) is increased as well as the risk of cardiovascular disease later on in life. On top of all of that there is also the risk of permanent infertility which even if you're not currently thinking about having a family one day, is still something that should not be taken lightly.

There is also another type of Amenorrhea, called Hypothalamic Amenorrhea which is very common in athletes both competitive and non, in women with a history of eating disorders and/or restrictive eating, in frequent dieters, in women who follow a low calorie, low carb or ketogenic diet and in women who are chronically stressed or who have extremely high cortisol.

HYPOTHALAMIC AMENORRHEA

Hypothalamic amenorrhea (or HA for short) is the absence of a menstrual cycle for 6+ months due to a problem involving the hypothalamus (the reproductive control center in the brain) caused by low body fat, over exercising and restrictive or inadequate calorie intake.

If energy and nutritional intake are not sufficient enough to support energy expenditure, the body will recognize that it is in a negative calorie balance and will start to shut down organ systems that are not necessary for survival – and guess what the reproductive system is generally the first to go. Think of it like this, if your body isn’t getting enough energy or nutrients to support it's own needs, then it’s definitely not going to think it’s in a healthy enough state to be able to conceive and grow a baby. 

And you don’t have be a crazy cross-fit junkie or extreme dieter to have hypothalamic amenorrhea.

HA can be caused by something as simple as having a low(er) body fat percentage, working out regularly or just not eating enough. Having a low body fat percentage decreases leptin a hormone that is crucial in regulating hunger and energy balance in the body and for the proper functioning of the hypothalamus. It's also important for me to note that just because you might be at your usual weight or the standard BMI for your body size doesn't mean that you're at a HEALTHY weight, BMI or body fat percentage. Every woman is different and what your body needs to maintain a healthy menstrual cycle might look completely different on another woman. There is no standard "healthy" weight, BMI or body fat % for everyone, just like there is no set amount of food, calories or energy or a cookie cutter diet that will fit everyone. And since we're already talking about food and energy intake let's chat about that quickly.. Restricting calories, even unintentionally by frequently consuming lower calorie foods like salads, smoothies, fruits and veggies, etc. and maintaining a lean physique with low body fat puts the body into an ongoing negative calorie balance. That alone is not good for hormonal health but when you add in regular exercise it just further increases the imbalance in energy and makes the situation worse.

You might be thinking okay but "I eat enough and I still don't get my period" sometimes the only factor in hypothalamic amenorrhea is over exercising. Exercise causes the release of stress hormones which are the same hormones the body releases during the “fight of flight” response caused by any stressful situation (think forgetting your wallet or running from a burning building). Everyone’s body has a different threshold that it can take of these stress hormones before they start interfering with the brain’s production of reproductive hormones that are essential to keeping your menstrual cycle flowing.

If you haven't clued in by now, I should let you guys know that THIS is what I am currently dealing with, after tons of research and testing I came to the conclusion on my own and have since had my theory confirmed by my doctor that I currently have Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.

I had no idea that I was doing this to my body, I haven't dramatically changed anything in my life other than coming off of my hormonal birth control pill last December. I have always exercised 5-6x per week, I love smoothies and salads and I have always been lower on the body fat % side of things, I've never had any issues at all and I honestly never would have thought that my lifestyle could be the reason I am not getting my period - but it is. All of these factors plus my chronic stress have been causing my body to produce excess cortisol and has made it feel like it is always in “fight or flight” mode which has caused it to shut down the processes that aren’t essential to life like my reproductive cycle for the past 7 months.

SO WHAT DO I DO NOW?

Well luckily HA is completely manageable and reversible with certain dietary and lifestyle changes and a little switch in mentality. The first thing that you need to do if you are currently dealing with HA is to eat more and exercise less - which if you're like me then this probably sounds terrifying to you. I totally get that and I’m honestly with you on it and with a history of disordered eating it makes it THAT much scarier but it’s something that I know I need to do for my health, my body and my hormones right now and if you're currently dealing with HA then it is something that you need to do as well. 

To recover from HA you need to be eating more nutrient and calorically dense foods, with a focus on high carbohydrate, high fat and moderate good quality protein. Fats are probably the most important nutrient to increase for HA because fatty acids are the precursor for hormone synthesis and are therefor critical for hormone production. Eating enough calories and nutrients is also equally important because we need a balance of nutrients and calories in order for our body to not be under any energy imbalance or nutritional stress. This means that on top of increasing calories you also need to be practicing zero food restriction, food restriction only causes stress which is exactly what you don't want to do! It's important to mainly load up on nutrient dense foods but also leave room to enjoy yourself and feed your mind and soul with the foods you love and remember that all foods can be part of a healthy diet in moderation!

Exercising less can mean different things for different people when dealing with HA. What stresses your body out may not put the same kind of stress on the body's of others so it's important to remember that everyone's body and needs are different. Figuring out what kind of exercise your body needs to be able to get your period back is going to take trial and error and a lot of patience, for some it might mean just limiting the time they spend in the gym from 60 minutes to 30 minutes, for some it might mean switching from high intensity workouts to low intensity, for some it may just mean lowering the weight they use in the gym for resistance training and for others it may mean cutting out exercise completely. For me it means going from 6 gym based resistance/circuit workouts per week to 3-4 (probably 3), lots of walking and yoga on the other days, more meditation, more breathing and less stress on my body and my mind. I also have to keep in mind that because I do suffer from chronic stress my body is going to need a lot of extra love and help in returning to a state where it feels calm, safe and healthy enough to have an actual cycle so there is a chance that I will have to limit my gym based exercise even more if things don't change in the next few weeks. I will obviously keep you all updated on all of that though as well as this whole journey because I know that so many of you ladies are dealing with or have dealt with the same issues. 

I want to make sure that your biggest take away from this is that not getting your period is not normal and isn't something that should be ignored or brushed off. I know how frustrating it is to not have something that other women take for granted and to not know what is going on in your body but I want you to know that there is hope. I also know what it's like to seek help and not find it, so if your doctor or practitioner doesn't take your menstrual health seriously then simply find someone who does. What I'm trying to say is that your cycle is important and your lady parts deserve to be prioritized

xo - LU

 

BALANCING HORMONES THROUGH NUTRITION

As you all know I have made getting my hormones in check my number 1 priority right now (read about that more here) and part of that means shifting my nutrition and eating habits a little bit to promote optimal hormonal balance and happiness. I already eat a very clean diet (duh) and most of what I was already eating on a daily basis was hormone friendly but there are a couple of changes that I have had to make and some things that I am focusing on a lot more now. 

The first thing that I did was up my healthy fats! I was already making sure to have a healthy fat source with every meal and snack but sometimes I was taking it a little easy without realizing it (my old calorie counting ways can creep up on me sometimes) but because hormones are literally made up of fatty acids - fats are used in the creation of hormones, specifically steroid hormones like estrogen, testosterone, progesterone and cortisol - I have upped my fat intake to almost double what it was before to promote hormone production. To some of you that might be terrifying but I can assure you that this is crucial to getting my hormones in balance and the excess fat is not going to make me gain weight.

I'm also upping my complex carbohydrates at every meal which is something I was definitely not focusing on at all before. I was having a smoothie every morning that mainly just consisted of fruit, fiber, protein and fat and no complex carbs and for lunch I was having a smaller source of complex carbs as well like chopped sweet potato or yams in a salad. When you are not consuming enough carbs your metabolism slows down which can slow hormone production as well so that is a thing of the past. Now I am making sure that I have a legitimate complex carb source in every meal and snack and am prioritizing it just like my fat sources!

I have added back in more QUALITY animal sources of protein - hold your gasps and comments please. I'm still not eating meat but I am making sure that I have wild salmon or some kind of wild fish 2x per week as well as free range eggs 1-2x per week and collagen peptides every day.

My reasoning for this is;

1. Animal protein is high in Heme-Iron which is the form of iron that is more readily absorbed and utilized in the body. Iron is essential for health and balanced hormones and low levels of iron are also commonly shown in hypothyroidism which is a common hormonal issue.

2. Animal protein (specifically salmon and eggs) have high levels of anti-inflammatory fats like omega-3s (EPA and DHA) as well as monounsaturated fats which are health protective and increase hormone production and balance.

I'm also making sure to include tons of fresh and raw fruits and veggies with every meal. Eating a wide variety of plant foods ensures that I am meeting my intake of all of the essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that my body needs to function properly and maintain hormonal balance. Antioxidants also fight free radicals, prevent oxidative damage to cells in the body and help produce detoxification enzymes that can help to detoxify hormones which keeps them in balance!

Last but not least I am making sure that I have an extra fiber source with every meal! Fiber rich foods (like legumes, leafy green vegetables, seeds, etc.) actually regulate levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone in the body and reduce cortisol levels by allowing the hormones to be detoxified through the liver and eliminated in the stool. Fiber also feeds the good bacteria in the gut which help to prevent estrogen being reabsorbed from our colon back into circulation!

So now that you have all the information you need to make a perfect, hormone balancing meal all you have to do is put it all together - let's do it..

CREATING A HORMONE BALANCING MEAL

STEP 1 - PROTEIN: 

*Should fill 1/4 of your plate*

  • Organic, free range, pasture raised eggs - eggs are rich in vitamins and minerals including: A, D, E, B2, B6, B9, iron, calcium, phosphorous, potassium and choline - all of which contribute to a healthy reproductive system, hormonal balance and healthy skin, plus the choline and iodine in the yolks are crucial for the production of healthy thyroid hormones.
  • Organic, free range, pasture raised meat - chicken, turkey, lamb, bison, beef, etc. - animal protein is high in all of the essential amino acids which help promote protein synthesis, metabolic processes and the creation of hormones. *I don't personally eat meat but if you do PLEASE make sure it is organic and pasture raised to avoid any cross over of hormones given to the animals.*
  • Wild caught salmon (or other fatty fish) - high in Omega-3's which are anti-inflammatory, support hormone balance, promote good brain health, boost your mood and reduce PMS symptoms.
  • Beans and Legumes - contain Phytoestrogens which are estrogen like substances found in plants that help promote hormone balance in the body. The most beneficial Phytoestrogens are called Isoflavones - soy beans, chickpeas and lentils are all good sources of Isoflavones!

STEP 2 - HEALTHY FAT:

*Should fill 1/4 of your plate*

  • Coconut oil/Coconut products - coconuts contain lauric acid which helps to heal the skin and is beneficial for hormone production, it also kills bad bacteria and viruses in the body, it is very easy to digest, provides a quick source of energy and speeds up your metabolism.
  • Avocados - the fat in avocados actually helps our body absorb and use nutrients, they are high in fiber, potassium, magnesium vitamin E, B-vitamins, and Folic acid - all of which are important for hormonal balance.
  • Flax oil - contains hormone balancing lignans and phytoestrogens which help stabilize our estrogen-progesterone ratio.
  • Organic butter or ghee - source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K2 which are our key building blocks for hormone production, it also is a source of short- and medium-chain fatty acids, which support immune function, boost metabolism and have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties..
  • Nuts and seeds or Nut butter - sprouted or soaked nuts and seeds, nut butter, olives and olive oil, fermented cod liver oil, hemp seed oil and flax-seed oil are all sources of Omega 3's and mono and polyunsaturated fats which are contributing factors to hormone production.

STEP 3 - ANTIOXIDANT, NUTRIENT AND FIBER RICH VEGETABLES:

*Should fill 1/2 of your plate*

  • Coloured vegetables - beets, broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, burdock root, etc. - contain B Vitamins which are critical for liver detoxification, hormonal imbalances burden our liver and slow down the detoxification process causing further imbalances.
  • Leafy green vegetables - these are naturally high in magnesium which can help to raise and balance progesterone levels. Progesterone being too low or imbalanced in any way is one of the major causes of hormonal imbalances.
  • Raw carrots - help prevent reabsorption of estrogen from the intestine so that the liver can more effectively excrete estrogen and regulate metabolism.

STEP 4 - COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATE:

*Should fill 1/4 of your plate - I know my measurements don't make sense but match your protein and carbs as the same size*

  • Sweet Potato or Yam - high in beta carotene and B vitamins that help your body to make progesterone which will offset any estrogen imbalances.
  • Brown rice - also very high in B vitamins to help the liver metabolize hormones.
  • Quinoa - high in protein, magnesium and phosphorus which help to balance hormones by keeping steroid hormone levels even.
  • Sprouted grains and breads - contain phytoestrogens and many minerals needed for hormonal balance, plus they are high in fiber and easier to digest.

STEP 5 - ADDED SOURCE OF FIBER:

*Should be about 1-2 tbsp - think a little sprinkle on top or added while cooking*

  • Chia Seeds - 5g of per 1 tbsp
  • Psyllium Seed Husks - 3.5 g per 1 Tbsp
  • Ground Flax Seeds - 2.2 g per 1 tbsp

MY CURRENT GO TO HORMONE BALANCING MEALS

BREAKFAST:

  • Green smoothie with; serving of protein powder or collagen, almond butter, steamed sweet potato, spinach, chia seeds, 1/3 of a frozen banana and unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 scrambled free range eggs, spinach, sprouted bread with half of an avocado and flax seeds sprinkled on top
  • Oatmeal with collagen, chia seeds, ground flax, 1/3 of a banana, berries and nut butter

LUNCH/DINNER:

  • Spinach salad with tons of mixed veggies, roasted yam, beans, avocado and flax seeds
  • Lentils with brown rice, sautéed kale, mixed veggies, avocado and hemp hearts
  • Tofu stir fry with, quinoa, mixed veggies and flax oil

SNACKS:

  • Sprouted toast with nut butter and banana
  • Home made protein + fat balls
  • Smoothie (same as above)
  • Chia pudding with fruit and nut butter
  • Raw veggies with home made hummus
  • Sprouted nuts

All of these are things that are currently working for me and my body and may not work for you! We are all different, our bodies, hormones and preferences are different and finding what works best for you and does not put you under any food related stress is also SUPER important in finding hormonal balance and balance in life in general. 

xo -LU

DEALING WITH HORMONAL IMBALANCES

I'm not one to sugar coat things and I'm a pretty open book (as you guys know), I share everything with you and am totally (and brutally) honest because that's just how I roll. Why? because in my opinion being full of shit get's you nowhere in life and most people can tell when someone isn't being genuine or honest about something. So in the spirit of never bullshitting you guys I have to fill you in on how badly I am struggling right now when it comes to my hormonal imbalances..

When I decided to come off of the pill in the beginning of December (read about why here)I had my concerns in regards to my hormones and my period but I honestly never imagined I would be sitting here almost 4 months later still with no sign of a period or a normal cycle and every symptom under the sun (no exaggeration) due to my very clearly imbalanced hormones. 

Acne, dry skin, eczema flare ups, IBS flare ups, water retention, bloating, exhaustion, mood swings, brain fog, Post-Birth Control Syndrome, Amenorrhea (see below) - you name it, I have it right now and it is ROUGH. I would love to be able to say that it isn't taking a tole on me mentally but I can't lie to you, it is. I haven't shared this until now because as someone who helps women with these exact issues every single day, not being able to help myself is torture. It's extremely hard to know what needs to be done and to be doing "all the right things" and seeing zero results - I feel so defeated most days.

BUT I am not giving up, instead I have decided to actually take a mini course specializing in healing hormonal imbalances through nutrition and I will be dedicating all of my free time (which is not a lot) to learning everything and anything that I can about how to balance hormones not only to heal myself but also to heal future clients who may be going through the same thing. 

POST-BIRTH CONTROL SYNDROME

Yes it is a real thing, crazy right? Post-Birth Control Syndrome (PBCS) is what commonly happens when women go off of the pill after prolonged use, the symptoms include (but aren't limited to) hormonal imbalances, menstrual irregularities, acne and mood swings. Birth control pills work by preventing the body from making sufficient levels of the hormones needed to stimulate ovulation which prevents ovulation from occurring altogether, the pill mimics a menstrual cycle by giving you something called a pseudo cycle (fake cycle). When you come off of the pill your body and hormones are used to being suppressed so it can take a while before your body can produce the necessary hormone at proper levels again, which can affect your cycle.

AMENORRHEA

Amenorrhea by definition is is the absence of menstruation - one or more missed menstrual periods. It's estimated that 45% of women suffer some form of a missed period (amenorrhea) each year. There are a ton of different possible causes and almost all of them lead back to hormonal imbalances due to secondary factors.

FACTORS THAT LEAD TO HORMONAL IMBALANCE

  • Birth control - As I just explained, prolonged use of synthetic hormonal contraceptive throws your body and hormones way out of whack.
  • Not eating enough healthy fat - Hormones are made up of fatty membranes and thrive on fats so limiting your fat intake to low fat or no fat diet is dangerous to hormone health.
  • Eating the wrong fats - Yes you want to increase your fat intake but you also want to be mindful of which fats you are increasing. For example Polyunsaturated fatsare unstable and oxidize rapidly in the body which causes inflammation and mutation which can lead to hormonal problems. 
  • Insufficient calorie and/or carbohydrate intake - Restrictive diets do not provide proper energy for hormone function or production. Hormones are are part of the metabolic processes and as we all know the metabolism needs both carbohydrates and food in general to function. 
  • Extremely low weight or body fat percentage - The body of a women is designed to carry, provide energy and protect a baby for 9 months, so if you do not have enough energy or insulation (fat) for yourself alone your body will automatically assume that you do not need to reproduce and you won't get a period. 
  • Not sleeping enough -  Lack of sleep spikes cortisol levels which spikes stress and puts a strain on your adrenals and throws your hormones out of balance. 
  • Consuming lots of dairy - Dairy is full of hormones (yes even pasture raised dairy) that interfere with the female reproductive system.
  • Poor digestion - Birth control actually disrupts the microbiome in the gut which leads to yeast overgrowth and leaky gut. Alternatively if your gut is not functioning properly and not eliminating waste regularly (1-2x per day) it can also lead to leaky gut which causes toxins to seep out of the GI tract and back into the body and bloodstream which disrupts hormones. 
  • Liver toxicity - Our liver is our body's main detoxifier, it is responsible for processing and excreting almost all waste and toxic substances. Synthetic hormones (the pill) put a serious strain on the liver and cause it to not be able to regulate the amount of hormones in the body through excretion.
  • Working out too much - Overtraining increases cortisol levels which causes low levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and leutinizing hormone (LH) which results in low estrogen, testosterone and progesterone levels which results in abnormal cycles and eventually no period.
  • Chronic stress -  Being in a constant state of stress suppresses the function of the hypothalamus, which controls the pituitary gland which controls the pituitary gland, thyroid and ovaries so it directly affect the bodies ability to make sex hormones! 

HORMONE BALANCING TIPS

  • Ditch the synthetic hormonal contraceptives - instead try a FAM (fertility awareness method) or just plain old condoms.
  • Up your healthy fat game - it's time to get rid of the processed fat and load up on the good stuff like avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut, all the nut butters, and salmon. Make sure you have a source of healthy fat at every meal and snack!
  • Say goodbye to the diet mentality - not only is restricting your food intake doing your hormones a disservice but it is also totally messing with your brain and stressing you out.
  • Up your carb intake during the first half of the day - your body needs carbs to function and to produce healthy happy hormones, keeping your carb intake in the first half of the day gives your insulin (an important hormone) levels lots of time to calm down so no extra fat will be stored.
  • Get on a proper sleep schedule - start setting a time every night to unwind for about an hour before bed, leave your phone outside of your room or keep it on airplane mode if you need it for the alarm and aim for 7-8 hours per night!
  • Cut out dairy - this doesn't have to be a permanent thing but a few weeks without any secondary transfer of hormones into your system will do your own hormones a world of good.
  • Help heal your gut - start by upping your water and fiber intake (here's how), include fermented foods into your daily diet and take a probiotic supplement daily and digestive enzymes with every meal to improve digestion.
  • Give your liver some love - in order to regulate your hormone levels your liver needs to be able to detoxify and excrete estrogen. Try giving up alcohol for a while and start incorporating dandelion root tea every day to help the detoxification process. 
  • Give the cardio a break - I know you love cardio (said no one ever) but intense exercise can actually worsen the problem when it comes to hormones so give up the sprints and spin for a while and try going on a nice daily walk instead. 
  • Shorten your weight lifting sessions - lifting weights triggers a ton of hormones reactions. Keep your lifting to 45 minutes 3-4x per week.
  • Limit your caffeine intake - I know I know what a terrible thing for me to say but trust me on this. The thing with too much caffeine is it raises your cortisol levels and slows down your thyroid function which limits your body's ability to take orders from your hormones. Try going just 5 days caffeine free and see how you feel, I promise you'll be okay.
  • Reduce stress - This is absolutely CRUCIAL. I want you to make a list of everything indoor life that stresses you out on a daily basis and then make a counter point of how you can try to alleviate those things from your life. Start taking time every single day for yourself - meditation, yoga, stretching, a walk without your phone, a candle lit bath, getting a massage, journalling or one of my current favourites - mindfulness based stress reduction MBSR (google it its amazing) I don't care what you do, just take time for YOU.

While everything in this post is backed by scientific research as well as my own knowledge and study of both nutrition and hormones I want you to remember that every single person is different and something that may work for most women may not work for you, I am a living example of this. I also want you to know that if you're struggling with hormonal imbalances, you're not alone, I know exactly how frustrating and confusing it can be to be dealing with something that no one seems to want to talk about or to just be prescribed synthetic hormones to mask these issues. My goal is that through sharing what I learn in this course and through my own experience and (hopefully) success in balancing my own hormones I can bring a deeper understanding to hormones and make hormonal health an actual topic of conversation for everyone, not just women.

xo -LU 

 

DIET + YOUR MENSTRUAL PHASES

Fun fact: women actually require different amounts and types of nutrients at each different phase in their cycle. It's true, certain foods actually help improve (or hinder) our vitality at different times of the month. Crazy right! As if we ladies didn't have enough to deal with on a monthly basis now we have to eat a specific diet too. Don't fear though I'm going to break it down for you the simplest way that I know how.

As you know from my last post, your menstrual cycle has four phases; follicular, ovulation, luteal and menstrual. During each phase your hormonal levels change to prepare the body for the possibility of pregnancy and with them our nutritional requirements, food cravings, energy levels, communication skills and overall state of being changes as well.

Understanding the four menstrual phases and how to properly care for and nourish our bodies during them is crucial to our overall well being and mentality. When our hormones are out of balance everything is out of balance.

That is why it's so important to know what your body needs and when it needs it throughout the month, so let's jump into it. 

MENSTRUAL PHASE:

During menstruation we are (obviously) losing blood so this is also a good time to up your intake of foods containing Iron and increase your consumption of fatty omega containing foods to help keep your mood stable while your hormones balance out. It is also a good time to increase foods with Vitamin A to help your liver while it is processing all of the estrogen that is leaving your body.

Fun fact: In Traditional Chinese medicine they talk about the importance of warming foods during this phase to prevent the uterus from becoming cold which causes cramps. 

  • Root vegetables - sweet potato, carrot, beets, etc.
  • Warming spices - curry, ginger, cardamon, cloves, turmeric. 
  • Soups and stews
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flax
  • Kelp
  • Kombu
  • Dulse
  • Mushroom
  • Blueberry
  • Cranberry
  • Adzuki Bean
  • Kidney Bean
  • Mussels
  • Squid
  • Catfish
  • Miso
  • Sea salt
  • Liquid Aminos

FOLLICULAR PHASE:

Our estrogen is rising during this phase so it's important to eat foods with probiotics and prebiotics which help your body break down and metabolize the powerful hormone. It's also important to eat foods that are high in antioxidants to support the maturation of the egg.

  • Oat
  • Barley
  • Artichoke
  • Broccoli
  • Carrot
  • Lettuces
  • Zucchini
  • Avocado
  • Citrus
  • Sour cherry
  • Black eyed peas and split peas
  • Green lentils
  • Mung Beans
  • Brazil nut
  • Cashew
  • Flax Seeds
  • Eggs
  • Trout
  • Soft shell crab
  • Nut butter
  • Olives
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kombucha

OVULATION:

Estrogen is still very high during this phase which can cause noticeable signs like PMS, eat estrogen detoxing foods like cruciferous vegetables, broccoli sprouts and foods high in fibre as well as raw whole sulfur-rich vegetables so your liver gets enough glutathione which is a powerhouse detoxifying molecule.

  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Asparagus
  • Bell Pepper
  • Spinach 
  • Tomato
  • Coconut
  • Fig
  • Apricot
  • Strawberry
  • Raspberry
  • Red Lentils
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Tuna
  • Turmeric

LUTEAL PHASE:

During this phase progesterone and estrogen levels start to surge and then drop which can cause mood swings. It's important to eat blood sugar stabilizing foods as well as foods that are rich in B Vitamins to help our brain produce serotonin (the please producing hormone) and combat the highs and lows. During this time your body also craves magnesium rich foods (hello chocolate cravings) and your basal metabolic rate increases which means more calories are required. 

  • Brown Rice
  • Millet
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Daikon Radish
  • Squash
  • Sweet Potato 
  • Apple
  • Date
  • Peach
  • Raisin
  • Chickpeas
  • Navy Beans
  • Walnuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Cod
  • Halibut
  • Mint
  • Spirulina

Now before you all go crazy and think that if you aren't following these guidelines right now you're messing up your body, let me bring you back down to earth and say that you're not by any means. It's important to eat a wide variety of foods all the time to keep your nutrient levels normal and your body functioning and THRIVING at its highest level. I'm also not telling you to completely write off your current way of eating or deprive yourself if you're craving something other than these foods during different phases of your cycle. I'd never do that, as you all know I am a forever member of Team NO Restriction and I don't believe in stressing yourself out over food or nutrition, ever.

That being said if you do think that you could be living a little more of a HIGH VIBE life than making small changes to your diet during your menstrual phases could do you a world of good! It's also important not to get obsessive over this way of eating either, just because you are in one phase doesn't mean you have to stress yourself out or turn down certain foods to stay on track, your body will regulate and be perfectly fine if you eat something not recommended for a certain phase. Just like any diet change it's important to implement changes slowly and pay attention to how your body reacts and how you feel mentally and physically!

xo -LU

THE FOUR MENSTRUAL PHASES

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Did you know that almost half of all women don't know what's going on in their bodies every month? HALF... That is absolute madness! Every single month our bodies go through this incredibly complex process and 50% of us don't have any idea that this process even really exists nor do we even seem to be the slightest bit curious. 

I get it, our menstrual cycle is stereotyped HEAVILY - cramps, cravings, mood swings, tampons - our "time of the month" has been turned into a total joke. But it is far from a joke, our bodies are actually doing incredible things to make this seemingly uncomfortable time that we all love to hate happen and it's time to talk about it. 

Understanding your menstrual cycle is the key to you living your best life so let's unlock that sh*t and start actually thriving instead of curling up in a ball and eating chocolate for a week straight.

As John Mayer would say "your body is a wonderland" and I think it's about time we explore it.

*Days are an estimate for the average 28 day cycle*

THE MENSTRUAL PHASE (Days 1-7)

This phase doesn't really need an explanation, it's commonly referred to as; your period, monthly guest, aunt flow, the dot, that time of the month or shark week (if you're feeling a little annoyed or insensitive about the situation)

The menstrual phase is the elimination of the thickened lining of the uterus - also known as the endometrium. The menstrual fluid contains blood, cells from the lining of the uterus and mucus. (woohoo)

We typically tend to feel a little bit run down, tired and sluggish during this phase. That is because our main menstrual hormones - estrogen and progesterone - are at their lowest level during menstruation.

WHAT TO DO DURING THIS PHASE:

  • Do not exercise vigorously - try something like yoga, walking, etc.
  • Take it easy - your body is at it's lowest point energy wise so don't do anything crazy. 
  • Do something nice for yourself - get a massage, take a bath, etc.

The Menstrual Phase usually lasts anywhere from 3-7 days.

THE FOLLICULAR PHASE (Days 1-13)

The follicular phase actually starts on the first day of menstruation (and ends with ovulation). It starts off with our pituitary gland releasing follicle stimulating hormone - also known as FSH. FSH stimulates the ovary to produce tiny follicles, each follicle contains an immature egg. Only one egg actually matures and the rest of them die off (around day 10) the follicles then stimulate the uterus lining to start to thicken again to prepare for possible pregnancy.

Your energy is finally building back up and your mentality becomes clear and focused during this phase.

WHAT TO DO DURING THIS PHASE:

  • Try something new - you naturally have more energy so take advantage of it.
  • Learn - you are more alert and focussed during this phase.
  • Set goals - you are extra optimistic during this phase.

The Follicular phase lasts until ovulation so roughly 13-14 days.

THE OVULATION PHASE (Days 14-16)

This phase starts when the follicle with the mature egg ruptures and the egg is released in the hopes of meeting a sperm. The release causes a rise in estrogen which causes the pituitary gland to start producing the Luteal Hormone - also known as LH - as well as FSH and testosterone. Ovulation is triggered by the high levels of LH which causes the egg to be fully released, it is then funnelled into the fallopian tube towards the uterus.

The rise in hormones leaves you feeling energized, confident and ready to take on the world through this phase!

WHAT TO DO DURING THIS PHASE:

  • Workout - all of your new found energy is perfect to channel towards trying a new workout or getting your butt kicked in your favourite class.
  • Do something social - you are confident and your skin is clear and glowing during this phase.
  • Romance & Pleasure - your libido is higher during this phase.

 Ovulation generally occurs mid cycle and lasts for 1-2 days.

THE LUTEAL PHASE (Days 16-22)

Okay so remember how the follicle had to burst open to release the egg? Well the ruptured follicle stays on the surface of the ovary for the next two weeks or so and transforms into a structure known as the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum starts releasing progesterone and estrogen which start to thicken the lining of the uterus in hopes of a the egg becoming fertilized and implanting in the wall to begin pregnancy.  When there is no fertilized egg to be found the corpus luteum starts to shrivel up and die and our hormone levels start to drop again and that is when we may start to experience PMS symptoms and menstruation and then the cycle starts all over again (woohoo).

WHAT TO DO DURING THIS PHASE:

  • Light to moderate exercise - your energy levels are dropping off during this phase.
  • Organize & Declutter your life - you are calm and relaxed during this phase. 
  • Self care - prep yourself for your menstrual phase. 

The Luteal Phase starts after Ovulation and lasts until Menstruation so roughly 8 days.

Our bodies are quite literally doing a million different things every month to make our cycles happen and so many of us have no idea of the process that is going on inside of us. There are actually different levels of activity and different types of food and nutrients that our body needs during the different phases of our cycles as well, that is why it's so important to educate yourself on your body and what is needs to function optimally. I'm currently writing another post on exactly how to eat during your phases to promote the best cycle possible for yourself so stay tuned for that!

As always, everyone's cycles, regularity and durations will be different depending on health, diet, sexual activity, etc so as I said at the beginning of this post - all of these days are just the average for a normal cycle.

xo -LU 

WHY I CAME OFF THE PILL

After 7 years of being on the pill (birth control) I out of the blue decided to throw my last package away last month and start getting in touch with my body. 

I originally went on the pill when I was 15 (I'm 22 now) to clear up acne and regulate my period and I have stayed on it since as an actual method of birth control. For the last 7 years I have seen nothing wrong with being on the pill, my acne cleared up, my periods were regular and overall I felt totally normal. But after getting into the holistic health and wellness industry as a career and educating myself on all aspects of health (one of those being hormones) I started to get uncomfortable with the fact that I was dosing myself with synthetic hormones on a daily basis and I realized that a lot of the small health issues that I have experienced over the past few years may actually be being caused by my birth control.

To put it simply - birth control is a synthetic hormonal pill that suppresses your natural hormones and convinces your body you are pregnant in order to stop it from ovulating and keep you from actually getting pregnant. Most birth control pills are meant to be taken every day and if you think about that logically it doesn't really make sense to assume that long term use wouldn't affect our bodies. If you had to take synthetic pain killers every single day for 7 years your liver and kidneys would become damaged which could possibly lead to disease or cause them to fail all together, so why do so many of us take synthetic birth control every single day for upwards of 10+ years and think nothing of it?

If you have ever struggled with irregular periods, acne, cramping, nausea, etc. then you have probably been told one time or another that going on the pill would solve all of your problems. That's the thing with western Medicine, Doctors are quick to prescribe synthetic medications for all kinds of conditions to and we take their advice because they are certified professionals. To the unknowing public it seems like they are handing us a solution to our problems in the form of a pill but in reality we are often being lead blindly into suppressing whatever issue we are dealing with and messing up our bodies even further. 

For some reason birth control, periods and hormones are kind of uncomfortable and maybe even a little taboo for most people to talk about. You know those commercials where the girl asks random (male) strangers to go in to a store and buy her tampons and the men freak out and find every excuse not to? Yeah uncomfortable like that. I don't really know when we as a human race decided that women talking about their hormones and fertility was a no no but I for one think it should be a topic of discussion. After all, every single women is supposed to get their period and yes some may not be as frequent or normal as others but it is still something that we all have in common so I'm opening up the discussion and I'll go first. 

SIDE AFFECTS OF THE PILL

1. GUT HEALTH - This was my initial #1 reason for coming off of the pill - I bet you didn't know that you have hormone receptors everywhere in your digestive tract and that the added hormones in your body from the pill can actually affect those receptors negatively. The pill actually destroys the beneficial bacteria in your intestines which makes you more susceptible to yeast overgrowth, lower immunity and infection.

2. INFERTILITY - The pill damages the cervical crypts that produce cervical fluid, which is vital during ovulation. It can take years for the body to heal to a point where it can make adequate cervical fluid and sometimes it never heals and the damage is irreversible which cause infertility.

3. CANCER RISK - There are numerous studies that have linked cervical cancer as well as breast cancer with prolonged oral birth control use. 

4. AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE - Estrogen can negatively impact the body’s immune response which  can trigger a predisposition to autoimmune disease.

5. NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY -  Long term birth control pill use commonly depletes the nutrients; B-6, B-12, and folic acid which can lead to cardiovascular disease as well as vitamin C, magnesium, selenium, zinc and the amino acid tyrosine which can lead to an increased chance of heart disease. 

6. DECREASED BONE DENSITY - A decrease of normal estrogen levels can negatively impact bone density. This is also why women who have just finished going through menopause, meaning their natural estrogen levels are significantly lower, are at higher risk of osteoporosis.

7. BECOMING OUT OF TUNE WITH YOUR BODY - When you are on the pill you experience a fake period, it generally comes regularly and you know you can't get pregnant so you don't pay much attention to any of those things which causes you to lose touch with your body. 

There are way more side affects than I am prepared to list so I strongly encourage you all to do your own research on these side affects as well as others.

MY INITIAL CONCERNS

When I decided to come off of my birth control I planned for the worst, after all I have voluntarily suppressed my hormones and my body for 7 years. I didn't really know what to expect..

1. My acne returning.

2. Irregular periods - if my period even came back at all. 

3. Painful, crampy, bloated overall terrible PMS symptoms.

4. Mood swings caused by hormonal imbalances. 

5. Getting pregnant.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED WHEN I STOPPED TAKING THE PILL

Okay shockingly enough coming off of the pill wasn't nearly as frightening as I worked it up to be in my head. I have noticed some changes in my body though.

1. My acne did return but only shortly - I had a couple small breakouts in the first couple of weeks after going off of the pill but my skin has cleared up and is actually the nicest that it has been in years. YAY!

2. My sex drive has increased - when I was on the pill I had a pretty normal sex drive, it never really fluctuated too much but now that I am off and my body is actually starting to try to begin ovulating again my sex drive comes in waves. 

3. I am more emotional - I have always been a pretty emotional person but lately I have noticed that my emotions are a little bit more intense. I have always been a crier (no judgement okay) but now there are times when I basically cry about nothing and everything all at the same time. The pill has estrogen and progesterone in it so it keeps the hormones (and in turn the emotions) balanced, so right now my hormones are regulating and once they level out my emotions should level out as well.

4. My digestion is better - as I just explained above, the pill can actually destroy the good bacteria in our guts and cause tons of digestive and health problems. 

5. I feel like I'm getting to actually know my body and my hormones - when you go off of birth control you actually need to take time to get to know what is going on with your body to prevent pregnancy and stay on top of your health. My boyfriend is getting to know my body as well, we have been in a relationship for 6 years and I have been on the pill the entire time so up until recently he never had to think about my cycle or a risk of pregnancy. I think it is super beneficial for us as a couple to be learning about this together.  

My period has not returned yet but that is actually completely normal after long term use of the pill so I am not overly concerned, I am just being patient and doing everything that I can to balance my adrenals and my hormones and reduce stress currently. I have an appointment next week to have some blood work done to test my thyroid, nutrient levels, etc. just to be safe!

WHAT I'M USING NOW TO TRACK MY CYCLE + FERTILITY AND PREVENT PREGNANCY

After a ton of research and numerous second opinions I have decided to sign up with Natural Cycles. It is a temperature based Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) - you use their specially designed thermometer to take your temperature every morning right when you wake up and input it into an app on your phone which then uses an algorithm that accurately detects and predicts ovulation and fertility. It takes roughly 1-3 cycles of you tracking consistently for the app to get to know you well enough to give you accurate predictions and after that it is 99% effective. It works by giving you either a red day which means you should take extra precautionary measures if you are planning on being sexually active or green day which means you are clear to get down to business as you please. 

I also just started reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility By Tony Weschler I have heard really great things about this book and so far I am learning A LOT so I definitely recommend it to any of you who may be going through this transition or just want to learn more!

Just like everything that I talk about on here all of my knowledge on this subject is through my schooling as well as tons of my own research and personal experiences! If you are thinking about coming off of the pill for whatever reason I strongly suggest that you do your own research before making your final decision. 

xo -LU