Women, Sugar and Hormones

This blog post is for all the ladies out there who are at the point in their lives when they get a visitor around a certain time every month.  Sorry gents, you are welcome to read on to learn more about what may be affecting the lady in your life, but I understand if you choose to bow out on this one…  Today I am talking about periods, my past experience with them (or lack thereof) and how to I got to the regular periods that I have today.

I admit that I am inspired to write this week’s post because as I type, I have been experiencing crippling period pains.  Ones that caused me to throw up yesterday at work and kept me up last night, curled in a ball in bed.  Not fun, but I try to be thankful because there was a point in my life when I did not get a period.  

Sometimes I would go months with nothing.  During the brief spell where I took a birth control pill (for acne reasons actually), I still wasn’t regular and got it every other month.  About two years ago my naturopath actually told me that I wouldn’t be able to naturally get pregnant in my current state.  I was single at the time and definitely NOT looking to have a child, but that was still pretty painful news to hear.  I felt like less of a woman, like something was wrong with me.

What was wrong with me?  Well, I had a hormone imbalance.  Some people said it was because I played sports and was extremely active and maybe that was part of it, but it wasn’t the whole story.  I was eventually diagnosed with very low progesterone levels and was actually put on medication and hormone creams.  When this all happened, I was 26 and, in my opinion, way too young to be taking hormone medication and using creams.

This development in my life, along with being diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and an underactive thyroid, led me down the path of natural health.  Of using food as medicine.  Of getting back to basics and eating what has sustained the human race for thousands of years.  Basically I believed that I was too young to be experiencing what I was going through and that something in my life was causing it.  Our bodies are amazing systems.  They are built to be healthy and live vibrant lives (except in the case of some genetically inherited diseases).  And women are built to have a cycle that is the key to creating new life.  If that isn’t happening, clearly something is up.

For the past five years I have been pretty committed to this path.  I cut out prepared foods from the freezer section and middle aisles of the supermarket that are laden with preservatives, chemicals and sugar.  I became best friends with my kitchen.  I learned to be a better cook and what I foods made me feel good and what made me feel bad.  I’ve withstood countless jibes from friends and coworkers for bringing my food every day and passing up on office cake or pizza.  Of course I slip up and indulge occasionally, but for the most part I eat extremely clean.  And yeah, it takes more time to cook my meals but to me, it is completely worth it.

2016-02-02 20.15.20

A recent creation of salmon and brown rice with roasted Brussels sprouts and squash

And I have my health to thank for it.  Today I no longer need to depend on coffee to keep me awake, which means my little adrenals are working as they’re supposed to (see more about my coffee story here!).  My thyroid is normal, though I still do take medication every morning and probably will for the rest of my life, which is typical for those with hypothyroid.  And, as you learned above, I get a period every month.  In the space of a year I went from my doctor telling me that I couldn’t naturally conceive to her telling me I was extremely fertile.  How about that for a turnaround?

Did my diet help contribute to these changes?  You bet it did.  Along with my JERF (Just Eat Real Food) way of eating, I sleep at least eight hours a day, take my dog for walks outside in nature and exercise around 5 days per week on average (mostly consisting of weight training, cardio, yoga and stretching).  I try to keep stress to a minimum and work hard to stay happy and positive.

I read a great article today about the effect of sugar on women’s hormones that I really wanted to share (see it here!).  It discusses seven ways cutting sugar from your diet will improve your hormones and your health.  I can relate to many things in this article.  My five-year quest for natural health has led to regular periods, skin that is a million times clearer and brunette locks that are pretty darn healthy.  My periods are lighter as well.

But I do have two complaints – PMS and period pain.  If anything, these have gotten worse and continue to get worse.  This week I’ve had period pain for over 24 hours and my PMS symptoms have exhausted me, not to mention the impact they have on those that I love.  So what is causing these?  Is something imbalanced?  What am I missing?  This article has a few suggestions that I am going to try, namely cutting out dairy (which I pretty much do anyway but now I have a reason to commit to it) and looking into taking turmeric supplements or using the spice more often in my cooking.  And I plan to work with my doctor to see if there is anything medical contributing to my symptoms (perhaps elevated levels of estrogen are to blame as the article suggests?).

Wherever you are in your path to health and whatever your monthly cycle may be like, we can all benefit from a diet low in or free of artificial sugar.  And maybe, just maybe, my story will be helpful in some way.  It’s why I am here and write to you as often as you can.  I want my experience to be an example of the power of natural food, cooking and an active life.

Want to learn more about sugar and how to lead a sugar-free life?  Best place to start is the blog I Quit Sugar, which is where I found the article discussed above.  This Australian group, created by blogger and JERF pioneer Sarah Wilson (who I also follow and admire greatly), has great articles, tips and recipes, as well as ebooks galore of sugar-free recipes (including one on chocolate!).  They also run a 6-week I Quit Sugar program a few times a year.  Check out Sarah’s most recent I Quit Sugar Cookbook here.

Peace, love and natural health,

The Yogi~Foodie

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