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Hormonal imbalance. Yep, happened to me.
It was not something on my radar or anything I knew much about, much less ever considered happening to me. I knew that eventually I would have to deal with hormonal changes when hitting menopause, but figured that is years away.
But one miscarriage and 2 children later, moving past my mid-thirties (what?! already!!!) and a busy life later I find myself caring much, much more about my hormones and how I can be better at hormonal support in my daily life.
I shared high level in my About Me page about this. But will dive into a little more detail here in hopes of helping a friend out. I will admit, some of this is more personal that I prefer to share with the world so it is not easy to write this. However I think it is important to share our experiences (the good, bad and ugly) in this amazing life that we have been given to help others along in their journey.
What In The World Is Going On?
I had finished weaning my son after just over a year of breastfeeding. I did not get my period during this time, which is not unusual. It took about a month or two for it to return after I had completely stopped breastfeeding and I was thankful for such a long break from my monthly period between the pregnancy time and breastfeeding.
When it did return, I had a much shorter cycle and the period duration was on the longer side but still what my gynecologist considered normal. I was not too sure what to expect as it had been so long since I had a period due to the pregnancy and breastfeeding. Also, I wasn’t too sure what a “normal” period would look like for me as I was no longer taking the birth control pill like I had done for years before (something I regret ever doing to my body, but I digress). This lasted for 4-5 months.
Then, I started to have much longer periods and it started to be only a few weeks apart. Then I started having spotting or light bleeding in between. There was one point in a 45 day period when I only had 3-5 days with nothing…no bleeding, no light bleeding or no spotting.
Surprisingly, I was not too concerned as I had issues with spotting in both of my successful pregnancies and also bleeding with the last pregnancy so wondered if that had anything to do with it. Or I wondered if my hormones were out of whack and still adjusting from the pregnancy and breastfeeding changes. But I sure was annoyed about having to deal with it!
So I made an appointment to go get things checked out.
Ruling Things Out
Like most things, test were done to try and determine what was going on. We tested to see if I was anemic from the blood loss…I was fine. We tested to see if my thyroid was the issue…it was fine. We did ultrasounds to see if there was a physical reason, such as polyps or fibroids, that would cause the spotting and bleeding…everything was fine.
Must Be Hormonal
The conclusion is…it must be hormonal. Specifically a progesterone issue. Progesterone is the hormone that helps to counterbalance estrogen and starts the period when the levels drop. If your body does not create enough progesterone then your estrogen levels are elevated and result in an estrogen dominant situation.
I found it interesting that the way your period looks gives you indications on what is happening with your hormones. A sign of low progesterone is if your period starts off looking somewhat brown. This is old blood from a previous period that was not removed from your uterus.
I was prescribed a double dose of progesterone to take for a cycle to stop the spotting and bleeding. Ultimately, this was an attempt to “reset” my hormones. I was warned of unpleasant side effects that I would likely endure. High on the list was mood swings and irritability. GREAT…nothing like having synthetic hormones that are going to make you a PMS monster when you stay at home all day long with a demanding toddler and a needy preschooler. But if this is what it takes to “get better” then I figured I had to suck it up and do it.
Well, it wasn’t the best month but we all got through it and everyone is still living, so that is good. But I still had spotting! It was not as much or as heavy, but it was still there. On a double dose of progesterone! I was discouraged and the doctor did not seem to believe me.
Since that did not work, I was advised to take a regular birth control pill with both estrogen and progesterone for 1-3 months. The doctor was leaving it to me to decide how long I wanted to do that for. Again, to “reset” my hormones with the expectation that they would go back to normal levels and functionality after synthetically tricking my body into having a more normal cycle.
There Has Got To Be A Better Way
Something within me did not feel comfortable with this approach. Maybe it was the disappointment of having to use synthetic birth control when I had expected to never use it again.
I began praying for answers and researching online. Yes, I know that this can be a bit dangerous but it is amazing to me how much information we literally have at our finger tips. As I learned more about the female body and how it has been designed to work I am literally amazed. The complexity of the systems in our bodies is mind blowing. And for as much as we “know” there is still so much we do not know. I am also disappointed that more of this was not covered in health class or at some point in my formal school education.
What Did I Ended Up Doing?
I decided to wait on the birth control pill and started a vitamin supplement routine based on what I found was necessary for hormonal support. I did this for a few months and continued my online research on what can be the underlying causes of hormone imbalance, as I am interested in addressing the root cause and not just the symptoms. Thankfully I saw some improvement to the spotting, it was getting much lighter and I had more days without it than what I had experienced previously.
But it was still there. I figured it did not make sense to go back to the doctor until I had tried the last recommendation she made, which was to go on the estrogen/progesterone birth control for 1-3 months. Reluctantly I made my plans to do this. When I started to take the pills the spotting came back as bad as it was before I started taking the vitamin supplements! I could not believe it. I tried to push it and take for at least one cycle but with my worsening conditions I could not and ended up stopping after a few weeks.
I figured my vitamins had given me the best success so far in this journey and that there had to be more I could do in this area. I realized I was having some gut issues that I addressed with prebiotics (Bimuno, shown below, was extremely helpful with dealing with some of the strong sugar cravings I was experiencing) and probiotics. I realized that if my gut is not functioning correctly then it cannot absorb the nutrients I need, even if I am eating a healthy diet.
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I worked at reducing my caffeine intake, as I had become quite dependent on this and had significantly increased the amount of coffee I was drinking to get me going throughout the morning.
I also realized I needed to ensure that I was getting enough Magnesium through my diet and my supplements. This mineral is necessary for many functions within the body, and sadly many of us are deficient as the soil has been depleted. Many multivitamins contain this mineral, however it is usually not at the full recommended daily value percentage so additional supplementation may be necessary, as is the case for me.
After making these changes I ended up doing a 4 day detox diet that stripped my diet of caffeine, sugar, processed foods, meat, poultry, dairy, gluten and alcohol. It focused on some fruit, vegetables, healthy fats and liver support (here is a great book on a 21 day Hormone Reset diet that explains why and how the foods we eat impact our hormonal system, I just removed the trouble food items all at once for 4 days but taking the time to do over 21 days would be extremely beneficial to learn about how to best support your body through your food choices). I also took the time to do a soak in an epsom salt bath for added magnesium absorption and had a massage to aid in my self care for my body.
I was concerned that I would be hungry on the diet. I surprisingly was not. And after I finished and reflected on my experience, the word that I felt that best described how I felt was NOURISHED. My body felt good and it felt nourished.
I incorporated some of the hormone supporting food from the detox into my regular diet, such as spinach, avocado and ground flax. I have also continued with my vitamin supplements. The next cycle I had NO SPOTTING!!! The same result the next month and the next month after that and the next month…if I could do a cartwheel I would have done a ton. Yes after months and months of issues, I continued to make minor steps to improve my wellness and did one 4 day detox diet and immediately had my symptoms resolved. Talk about mind blowing.
I addition to my prebiotics, probiotics, supplements and hormone supporting food, I also try to focus on addressing these ares of wellness and self care to help support my hormones:
- Sleeping 7-8 hours a night consistently.
- Drinking plenty of water to help with flushing toxins from my system.
- Being intentional with my diet
- Focusing on maintaining normal blood sugar levels by eating a low glycemic diet.
- Ensuring I am consuming plenty of fiber and regular with eliminations.
- Reducing how much meat and dairy I am consuming on a daily basis.
- Eating more vegetables, fruits and whole foods.
- Managing stress better.
- Exercising (but not overdoing it).
- Better cleaning processes with my produce to remove pesticides, even if organic (check out this post on Best Ways to Clean Fruits and Vegetables).
- Reducing my toxic load by addressing the cleaning and personal products I use (check out this post on 7 Simple Ways to Reduce Chemicals In Your Home).
What Was My Problem?
As with any issue in life, it is hardly just one thing that was the specific cause. And for me, I believe it was a cumulative series of inputs that ended in a large hormonal imbalance.
When I look at the 18 months prior to my issues starting there had been a large hormonal shift (pregnancy and breastfeeding), sleep disruption with taking care of a baby, stress (starting a new business while pregnant and selling/moving homes when my son turned 1), poor diet with a lack of key nutrients during our move and over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, some gut issues, constipation, age, potential toxicity from the new home from cleaning chemicals that were used by the previous owners and then an intense exercise program.
That is a long laundry list, but are all things I now know can contribute to impacting the endocrine system (hormonal system). Ultimately, I would say a lack of self care during a busy, stressful season in life contributed to the perfect storm that caused my health to suffer.
I have found that the largest key that contributed to my hormonal issues is my magnesium intake. I believe that with the gut issues I was experiencing and my poor diet, I was not absorbing the magnesium I needed through the foods I was consuming. And with my intense exercise program that I undertook my magnesium was depleted resulting in a hormonal imbalance.
When I first started with the supplement routine I was not taking enough magnesium, and this is why I believe I saw improvement but not full resolution to the spotting symptom.
How Has It Been Going 1+ Year Later?
After doing the detox diet that helped to initially reset my body and resolve my issues, I decided to do it again 4 months later because it was after the holidays and it seemed to make sense to take the time to detox after consuming the rich food that is associated with that time of year. I also felt that for ongoing self care it would be a good practice to incorporate some sort of dietary detox into my life periodically. Also, starting the year in a healthier place physically seemed to be a great way to start the year off right.
It was good to do and I am glad I did it, but I did not feel the same as I did the first time. I figured it was because I have been taking care of myself and was nourished with the nutrients I incorporated into my diet so my body was not in such a deficit like the first time to feel such an immediate impact.
It has been an interesting journey. While I wish I could say I eat the cleanest of all diets, that is not the truth. I am making much more of an effort to focus on consuming less sugar and processed foods and filling my plate with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I am looking forward to continuing on this part of my journey of health and wellness. I believe that these efforts will not only help my hormonal situation but my overall health.
I found that when I am not as regular with taking my vitamin supplements or if I reduce the amount of magnesium then over time some of my health issues return, such as the spotting between periods, constipation and migraines.
I know many women find relief to their hormonal issues through synthetic or natural hormone replacement, including the use of essential oils. I can understand why it would be easy to go this route, especially if using natural products. However, I would suggest trying to address hormonal issues through your diet first or in tandem.
As in my situation, if the underlying issue really is just a magnesium deficiency then using any type of hormone replacement would just mask the problem. Maybe my hormones would not feel unbalanced using natural replacement products but other processes in my body would continue to suffer without this necessary mineral.
As we age, starting at even 35, our hormones begin to change as we get closer or enter perimenopause or even menopause. These changes might necessitate the use of a hormone replacement, but by doing what we can through our diet first we will need to use less of the product and have less of a reliance on it.
I hope this post has been both helpful and interesting to you as you navigate the various stages in your own wellness journey. This experience was one of the largest motivators in developing this website as I continue in my wellness journey. I am so thankful that I am able to find a way to address my health concerns and resolve in a way that promotes health and healing.
To read more about how varies areas of wellness can impact your hormones, check out 12 Causes of Hormonal Imbalance (so you can fix it).
Are you dealing with hormonal imbalance? Have you made any wellness changes that have helped to support your body to resolve naturally? If so, let me know, I love learning new ways to help support my body in this way.
Disclaimer: For informational and educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you have a health concern, a medical condition, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or are taking any medication please consult your healthcare provider.