Believe it or not, last month was the one year anniversary of my last period.
TMI? Maybe, but this is essential to my health journey, so if you want to hear how I’m working to heal acne, amenorrhea, weight gain, and the other consequences of hormonal imbalance, you’re going to have to stick with me here.
I knew that something was wrong even before I lost my period. I was bloated, covered in acne, and, while suicidally emotional as I used to get on the eve of my period, something felt off. I menstruated for about a day and then…no more.
This all went down on the same trip to my sister’s graduation when I realized that I could no longer be a vegan if I wanted to be healthy.
The following month, no period. Nor the month after that. And now, a year later, even after introducing meat (and organ meat), bone broth, fermented cod liver oil, and saturated fats while cutting out soy, grains, legumes, and dairy (although I hadn’t had any dairy since transitioning from my cottage-cheese-why-protein-and-greek-yogurt “Eat-Clean Diet” to veganism), I am still not, for all intents and purposes, a functional woman.
Now, most of you out there who do have your period are probably looking at this blog and thinking I’m crazy to want my period back. Yeah, PMS and cramps and bloating and bleeding all suck, but look at it this way: nature only has a use for animals that are of reproductive age. Not to be offensive to any of you out there who are facing menopause or peri-menopause, but from the scientific perspective, once you’ve moved past reproductive age, nature has no use for you. Your hormones stop working right. You decline.** This is just a fact of life. And not one I want to start happening to me at age 26.
After this year of infertility (which is not my first experience with amenorrhea–I was infertile for a year while starving myself as a fitness model wannabe), things are on a definite decline.
My hormones are now so out of whack that I’m fairly certain my thyroid, which was already performing sub-optimally, is now not doing it’s job. Weight has been creeping on for the last several months, and even a return to the gym and to my yoga practice hasn’t helped. (And this, in addition to some unpleasant bowel blockage–not gonna go into that here, kthnx–and brittle nails and depression/fatigue, has led me to believe that my low T3 just got lower.) In fact, over the last three months, the weight gain has sped up so much that I can’t fit into the clothes I wore to Paleo F(X).
I also suffer from hot flashes and excessive sweating, hirsutism,*** and, of course, the acne.
Oh, the acne. Bane of my existence. My 13 year battle. My (partial) excuse for pardoning myself from facing social anxiety.
This year has just been a giant, unresolved n=1 to try to solve the acne and hormone problems through digestion, as I’ve written about before. And I’m embarking on another big experiment now, based on a lot of conjecture and a pretty big hunch, since a single visit to the non-insurance-accepting functional medicine doctor who might be able to help me solve this problem will cost more money than I actually have available in my bank account right now.
I found this great explanation of “face mapping,” which correlates different types of acne with dysfunction in different areas of the body. Unfortunately, I seem to have something wrong with…everything.****
So before I get into potential solutions, and this month’s experiment, I thought I’d outline some of the things I’ve tried over the last year that have either not worked or had no effect:
- Autoimmune Paleo: No nightshade veggies (peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, etc.) and no spices. I think this actually has helped with lowering the inflammation in my body, but I only really followed this 95%, because I couldn’t part with my red pepper flakes. I’ve given myself a sharp slap on the wrist for that one, and I’ve been 100% for about 2 months now.
- Low FODMAPS: I’ll let Chris Kresser explain this one for you, because it’s a whole blog post topic (at least) in and of itself. I didn’t see a change after a month, so I gave up on this one. You can’t take my garlic away from me.
- Starchy Carbs and Fruit: Didn’t like the way this made my stomach feel. Enough said? Needless to say, not eating much of this anymore.
- Low Carb: I’ve gone about as low carb as I can, given the high volume of veggies I eat. I have cut out almost all fruit but berries…but berries will be my downfall.
- Seaweed: Too much iodine? Not enough? I was eating Pacific Wakame in my bone broth daily, and kelp noodles in my salad at lunch. Cutting back a little, since the iodine in seaweed could be potentially contributing to the low thyroid problem.
- Caffeine: I haven’t had a cup of coffee since mid-March (I’ve been drinking Dandy Blend tea in the mornings instead) and I have reduced even my green tea to a couple of cups a week. Chocolate (raw cacao) remains my only daily caffeine indulgence. I should probably do something about that…
- Biotin: I tried Biotin for a couple of months, but I was one of the poor suckers for whom vitamin B5 backfired. Instead of improving my skin, hair, and nails, I ended intensifying the cystic acne on my jaw.
- Maca Powder: I took maca powder (1 tsp/day) back in October, and by god, I got my period back. And then I freaked out because Maca is a phytoestrogen and stopped taking it. No more menses for me. So I tried the Maca again…and now it doesn’t work. I’ve been taking between 1 tsp and 2 tbsp for the last 5 months and hoping, but it hasn’t helped. I’ve switched to Femmenessence MacaHARMONY as of Sunday, so I’ll report back.
- Belle Femme: I first heard about this through Liz Wolfe’s Skintervention Guide. Dr. Ron’s makes this proprietary blend of Chaste Tree, Dong Quai, Wild Yam, Black Cohosh, and Indole-3-Carbinol is supposed to be especially balancing for women’s hormones. I’ve been taking it 2x/day for about 4 months, and I’ve had no results. Switching to a Vitex/Chaste Tree supplement as of Sunday, so I’ll keep you updated on that too.
- Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter Oil Blend: This is the famed Green Pasture brand that Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe recommend through the Balanced Bites podcast. Love this stuff.
- Turmeric: I was taking this for inflammation (figured I’d do double duty with my face and my ankle), but I really didn’t find any change whatsoever. So I stopped.
- Brewer’s Yeast: I don’t know if this counts as food or a supplement. I started using it in my bone broth and when I ate tuna fish for the chromium. It is incredibly tasty, and I love this stuff…but I stopped using it about two weeks ago. More on why in my next post.
I figure that’s enough information to throw at you for today…But I’ve set in motion a very exciting new experiment that may or may not blow up in/on my face. So we’ll see how that goes. Stay tuned.
Are any of you still suffering from adult acne or hormonal imbalances? What supplements/diet hacks/remedies have you tried?
*not exaggerating. Once a month, like clockwork, from the age of 13 on, I would have a nervous breakdown and threaten bodily harm two days before my period (which was actually twice a month for about 6 months while I was 16). I’m assuming this had to do with low progesterone levels from my PCOS, as low progesterone (or low relative to estrogen or testosterone) can cause PMS.
**Unless you go out and read Dr. Sara Gottfried’s The Hormone Cure. Apparently she has the secret to continued health and vitality in her Gottfried Protocol..but it involves rebalancing your hormones, which your body may not know how to do anymore on its own.
***Unwanted hairiness in places there shouldn’t be hair.
**** Except my heart. That zone seems to be doing okay.