I got my period the summer before 6th grade. It was crampy, it was bloody, and my digestive system was a mess. Since then, my periods were always heavy, always clotty, always painful and always accompanied with digestive distress. The only thing that was normal was that they were consistent. Once a month for 7 days. I also consistently made a mess of myself, because pads… and Middle School… I’d often bring a change of clothes and a sweater to tie around my waist, because making a mess of myself was inevitable during my heavy days. When I finally figured out tampons, it was still messy. I stocked up on the largest tampons I could find, Playtex Ultra (the size up after super plus). On my heavy days, they lasted about 30-45 minutes before they would self eject. (Sorry for the visual, but it’s just a reality of the heaviness) I missed school often because I would be laying in the shower until the water ran cold, doubled over with cramps, or hiding in the nurse office bathroom waiting for my pants to dry after cleaning them in the sink.
As a college student, I chose to take birth control because I was told it would help me feel better, lighten my flow and make the period all around more manageable. After starting the pill, my periods did lighten a bit, but what hormone balance I had went out the window. I started dealing with extreme anxiety and depression, which is something I had never experienced. After using the pill for a while and realizing what it was doing to me, I decided to stop taking it. The anxiety and depression lessened some, but thats when “the change” happened… I started gaining weight, getting acne, losing my hair, growing hair on my face and body… but the worst of it was the periods… the never ending periods. It started out like this: my periods would last several days past my 7 day norm, each time getting a little longer. Next thing I knew I was actively bleeding for a month. As they got longer, they got lighter with a few heavy days here and there.
I decided to do some research and I learned all about the synthetic hormones in the pill that get trapped in the body, and how the body identifies chemicals and synthetics as xenoestrogens in the body, which can easily lead to estrogen dominance. While a perpetually broke college student, I started switching my personal care products to natural products and shopping at the 1 natural grocery store we had in town at the time, which almost required a third job!
I’ve visited several different OBGYNs with hopes that they will find the cause and fix me, only for all of them to suggest that I go back on the pill… Really? Here I am telling you what the pill did to me and why I stopped taking it, and the only suggestion you have for me is to start taking it again?! All the blood work looks normal, they’d say. You don’t have any cysts, so it can’t be PCOS… (which I’ve since learned that you don’t need to have cysts to have PCOS) I admit, after some frustration, I tried it again, only to come to the same conclusion. This pill is ruining my body. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…
I begged for more blood work, I begged for them to find the cause of this issue and not to just give me a pill, but my symptoms were always brushed off. I want to correct this, but the only options I had caused suffering either way. Not acceptable.
This was sometime in 2010, I decided to take matters into my own hands and I fell into the world of natural health. I’ve learned so much about what toxic substances do to the body and how imperative it is to avoid toxins and synthetics. We get inundated daily with substance that are not natural and that the body cannot effectively identify or process. From anything and everything that touches our skin (soap, shampoos, lotions, cleaners), to the pesticide and hormone laden food we eat, the “freshened with chemicals” air we breath and the pills we pop for every little discomfort.
Many of these toxins are treated as hormones in the body, leading to extreme hormonal imbalances which can spiral into all sorts of issues like infertility or endocrine disorders. Now here we are full of toxins and hormone imposters… what’s a liver to do? Well the liver is supposed to remove these toxins from our bodies. But now we’re stuffing our faces with heavily processed sugar rich foods that have no nutritional value, robbing the body of essential nutrients, minerals and fiber that it needs to effectively remove these toxins and hormones from the body via digestion. So they just build up in the body, stored in fat cells. It’s no wonder that as we age, more and more health issues present themselves.
Over the years the bleeding just lasted longer and longer. My longest bleed was 7 months long. I had tried several things during my crunchy natural journey… supplements, organic food, switching my products, progesterone creams, fasting, dieting, juicing… etc. I’ve done countless hours of research and determined that I am estrogen dominant. Side note: I also took a ton of acetaminophen as a child due to chronic migraines which could have contributed to my inability to effectively eliminate the estrogens. As the bleeding got worse, so did my ability to metabolize alcohol. After 1 drink, I have a migraine. After 2 or 3, instant hangover. Then in 2016 I got idiopathic pancreatitis. I had already stopped drinking and was never a frequent or heavy drinker. It was then that I found Young Living Essential Oils, which helped me tremendously through the pancreatitis. What they did for me sold me hard on essential oils, but that’s another story in itself.
After overcoming pancreatitis, I started researching ways to reduce estrogen dominance. I found an article about an estrogen flush for men and started researching the ingredients for that and ultimately found a supplement called Estrosense at Whole Foods. After a few weeks of taking it, my 7 month marathon period stopped. Then 2 weeks later I had a normal (albeit extremely heavy) period.
This was the closest to normal I’ve gotten to in over 7 years, but unfortunately it didn’t last. Even while continuing to take the supplements, the marathon periods came back. During that time, I was working on making the move to Colorado, so once again… I just ignored it and tried to live life.
After settling into my new life here, I decided to try out a Colorado doctor, where I FINALLY got a diagnosis. The official diagnosis is “Disordered Proliferative Endometrium” which is a form of endometrial hyperplasia or abnormal cell growth. Thankfully we’ve ruled out cancerous cell growth with a biopsy, however the high amounts of estrogen still put me at greater risk of breast cancer. Again, I was told that I do not have PCOS (Polycycstic Ovarian Syndrome) because I do not have any cysts. I am not convinced of this because I have almost all of the symptoms. (abnormal menstruation,
absence of menstruation, heavy menstruation, irregular menstruation, short and light menstruation, or spotting, obesity, overweight, weight gain, inability to lose weight, acne or oily skin, infertility, depression, loss of hair, unwanted hair) Another thing about PCOS is that most who have it, have insulin resistance.
The next step for me from my doctor was to have a D&C (Dilation and Curettage) and to begin taking the diabetic drug Metformin, which is a diabetic drug that is often prescribed to those with PCOS… While hesitant, I was leaning towards going this route however it was delayed due to lack of insurance during a job change. In that time, I’ve decided to try and take control of my diet by trying a healthy Ketogenic diet. I’ve always struggled to maintain a healthy diet and lose weight, even knowing my poor diet was likely contributing with my poor health. I’d always end up defeated because no matter what “diet” I did, the weight would never come off. I’ve chosen the Ketogenic diet in order to reduce my insulin swings from my former high carb, high sugar typical American lifestyle. Losing some weight will also reduce estrogen that is stored in the fat cells. There will be future posts about my struggles and experience with a Ketogenic diet. I am also looking to visit a Function Medicine Practitioner in the near future and plan to share my experience with this as well.
Please note: this is not a blog about the Ketogenic diet, it is just something that I am trying to help balance my hormones. If you are looking for Keto resources, I can gladly point you in the direction of some helpful resources I am using. I will be discussing various topics in my future posts such as supplements, essential oils, personal care products, DIYs, yoga, chemicals.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story and I hope to bring value and resources to the many other women who are struggling. Please join me on the Pursuit of Hormonal Balance.