Still No Period (And What I’m Doing to Get it Back)

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.

hormone-imbalance-someecard

Talk about a hormone imbalance…

[SOURCE]

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.****

acne-face-mapping

[SOURCE]

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:

DIET CHANGES:

  • 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…

SUPPLEMENT CHANGES:

  • 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?

Stay hungry,

@MissSkinnyGenes

*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.

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13 thoughts on “Still No Period (And What I’m Doing to Get it Back)

  1. I’m sorry to hear about your struggles Kaila. Unfortunately I can’t offer you much advice as this is something I luckily have little to no experience with. However, acupuncture has really helped me with severe and extremely painful periods – maybe it’s worth giving a try? Good luck with your current experiment, I really hope it will help you balance your hormones x

    • Thank you! I’ve actually had a lot of people suggest acupuncture…might be just the thing I’ve been missing! There’s actually an acupuncture school around here that does it pretty affordably…

      • Just one more thought that popped into my head: If there’s one thing that contributes to hormonal imbalances and adrenal fatigue it’s stress. And judging by your tweets, you’ve had quiet a bit of stress lately 🙂 – especially your accident. So don’t be too discouraged that your food and exercise experiments haven’t shown any results yet. Because perhaps you’re eating what’s right for you already, but the positive impact of your nutrition has been disguised by the stress from your accident, commutes, work etc.

      • Very very good point. I know that stress is a big factor in mental, emotional, and even hormonal health…it’s hard to mitigate the stress though, when the circumstances of life keep throwing stress my way. I wonder…besides things like meditation, yoga, mindfulness, etc…how do we work to actively reduce those stressors in our lives?

    • Thanks, Diana! I’m gonna keep experimenting (and reporting back). Maybe some of the discoveries I make can help you (and others) as well. I just want us all to find a way to heal, feel amazing, and be happy…
      Much love to you!

  2. I have hypothyroidism and at it’s worst, I gained 40lbs in 3 months which did nothing but catapult me back into the arms of ED. I have always had troublesome skin but I found being on the pill helped stabilize all my crazy hormones. When I went off it in December after my break up my skin went haywire, my hair was falling out and the weight started creeping back on. My thyroid meds have been changed recently and after talking to my doctor, I decided I was happier on the pill and went back on it. My skin has cleared up and I feel so much better. I can’t do a lot about the weight/thyroid thing other than taking my synthroid everyday. I don’t have anything helpful to tell you but I follow a vegetarian and sometimes vegan diet. I feel like ED messed up my hormones, not my choice to not eat animals. Once the balance is gone though, its really hard to get back. I wish you luck!! And health, and happiness and good skin 🙂

    • Thanks, FB! It’s really hard to find balance, nutritionally, hormonally, medicinally…especially when you suffer from something as drastic as hypothyroid. I did take synthetic estradiol for two months, and my skin cleared up considerably, but the idea of having to be on synthetic hormones for the rest of my life seemed bleak. I’m a sucker for punishment, so I went off of it and sought answers in my diet. I’m hoping that I can come to a conclusion nutritionally, but I know that I’m eventually going to have to seek help. I don’t want the quest for answers to turn into a detour back into ED’s arms…I’m sorry that you’ve been struggling with the thyroid issue–I wish there were an easy answer or a way to make it better. Life after ED can be a real struggle, but it is also a testament to our strength!

      • Miss Skinny,
        I have often weighed the idea of being on synthetic hormones for the rest of my life vs going off them entirely. At this point I would rather stay on them and keep ED on a more even keel because otherwise I think I might (inadvertently) end up dying. It weighs heavily in the favour of synthetic drugs at this point vs the hell of ED instead. Two months ago my doctor lowered my dosage of thyroid hormone and as soon as i started to gain weight my ED behaviours got proportionally worse.

        I am glad you are strong enough to try the other route instead and I pray it works for you. I know that adrenal fatigue and thyroid imbalances are strongly linked so in your research, look for ways to support your adrenals if you haven’t already.

        Please keep me posted if you find something natural that works! This is a real testament to your strength.

        Health and happiness always,
        FB

  3. Hi there,

    I have also been there and I know it sucks. The year I went paleo (after 12 years vegetarianism) my period also stopped completely. I started out as low carb and later on added back more fruits and potatoes because I was oh-so-cold, but still no period. It was like a constant PMS, all of the time. Unfortunately, my period only came back one day after I said screw this – and ate a whole baguette (eeeww wheat, right?) doused in olive oil, plus 400gr ice cream (full of sugar!!!) to the point of being almost sick. But it was very instinctive, it was like my body was begging for it. My period came back the very next day and it has worked like clockwork for the past month (it had always been irregular, I had PCOS). A few months after that, I went to the doctor and the ovarian cysts I had are all gone – for the first time in years! I don`t know what is the deal, I am not a science expert, but I guess my body shuts down when I restrict too much. Now I consume gluten and sugar very sporadically, but I do consume it, whereas before I completely shunned them. Just my personal experience, hope you get better soon!

    • It’s so funny how different things end up working like that…I’ve noticed more and more that there’s just no dogma that works for everyone. It’s like how Stefani Ruper said she eats 12 apples some days–it’s not low carb, but what’re you gonna do about it? It works for her. I’m so glad that you found something that works for you, and that it’s allowed you to get your body back to optimal. I’ve tried sugar and dairy, and they are both major acne triggers for me, and I’m afraid to go back to the bloated gassy mess that was me on grains–I’m impressed that you were able to listen to your body and give it what it wanted!! Hopefully, I’ll be able to figure out what the heck my body is asking me for one of these days. It’s the hardest part of overcoming the ED: remembering how to listen (truly listen!) to my body….thanks again for sharing your story!

  4. Hi Kaila,

    Just found your blog…
    I too have struggled with Eating Disorders for a long time. I also lost my period for 2 years.

    Not sure if you are still struggling with this….
    But, one thing I do know is that low carb totally sucked the big one for me and only made issues worse. (Like lowering T3 levels even further – something I consistently see with too many women I speak with).
    I think two things helped my periods return. The first was eating lots of food, and a generous helping of carbs at each meal like rice. (If you keep at it, your digestion improves). And the second was Min-col. An amazing calcium supplement.

    As for acne – the only thing that worked for me was Estroblock and Turmeric.
    Hope your period returns and things get balanced out. 🙂 x

    • Thank you so much for your comments, Emilee! I’m actually reading Perfect Health Diet right now…I’ve been eating very, very high carb lately, but mostly because I eat a lot of fruit. I want to try changing that to more starchy carbs, and I want to do it healthily. I haven’t heard of estroblock, but I’ve used turmeric before. I’ll have to look into it!

      Thanks again & I’ll be posting an update on my progress soon!

      Kaila

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