It can take up to a year to find natural hormonal balance after having taken synthetic hormones. Because of my experience on the pill, I was keen to speed up the process and restore my hormonal health.
I was unsure about sharing this part of the ‘series’ because it is very personal. However, I decided it might be worth it. After all, society’s double-standard in taking away women’s agency through misinformation (or lack of information) and mass-indoctrination when it comes to contraception all while making us want to hide our bodies, conceal our menstruation (we’ll gladly watch blood pour out of someone’s body in a violent movie scene, but any talk of menstrual blood and we are shhh’d) and treat our womanhood as a disease is something that we need to address. And so I’m putting myself ‘out there’ for just a little while, and I’m aware that I’m exercising privilege in choosing what I do with my body in word here and in action elsewhere, when other women are not in control of their choices.
Ok, now that I’ve got that out of the way, here is what I found…
First off, the basics. I’m not a scientist, but the science behind readjusting your hormonal health is this (skip this section if you just want to know what I did!):
1. The liver is in charge of chemically breaking down everything that enters the body. It also activates and degrades hormonal activity. It has lots of other vital functions, but when it is working on restoring balance, it is good for it to have energy to focus on just that – instead of spending energy on breaking down toxins or complex structures from food, for example.
2. Hormonal balance or imbalance is also linked to the endocrine system which consists of a number of different glands which secrete hormones (that in turn dictate how cells and organs behave). The hormones produced by the endocrine system help the body to regulate growth, sexual function, mood and metabolism – so really, a LOT of what your body does. This helps to understand how synthetic hormones can mess with a lot of bodily functions and suggests that in order to heal, you need to take a whole-body approach.
3. The adrenal glands are a part of this endocrinal organism, and they are responsible for releasing hormones in response to stress. The pill suppresses the adrenal glands. I knew my body had been stressed by the synthetic hormones, and I wanted to make sure my adrenals now had a chance to respond appropriately and naturally in a way that would heal my body.
Essentially, I wanted to give my body a chance to heal and to refind its natural balance. I did this in three ways:
Getting enough sleep is something that is SO overrated. I love what Arianna Huffington (yep, from the Huffington Post) has to say about that. I tried to ‘be good’ to my body by giving it a chance to recuperate.
Giving my body a break.
I ‘juiced’ – I think for a total of 5 days over the past month, and then during ‘normal’ days as well. I drank green juice and fruit juice and LOTS of water to help my liver flush out toxins so it could focus on my hormone levels. Juicing and thus, not eating for varying periods of time also gave my body a chance to spend the energy unusually spent on digesting on healing itself. (Please note: when juicing, you should not reduce your daily calorie intake…so drink up! The point is to give your digestive system a break, not restrict your energy intake.) By giving my digestive system less to break down, but by drinking juice to access micronutrients, I allowed it to restore balance naturally.
I also intermittently cut out dairy and meat which are things that are difficult for the body to break-down, to again provide more energy to hormone restoration. The meat thing is an interesting one: animals are often fed hormone-injected things and are full of their own hormones as well, so eating meat adds hormones to our bodies. After doing this for a few weeks, I don’t feel the need to have meat regularly and enjoy the ‘clean’ feeling after an easily digested meal. So I alternate between vegan, vegetarian and carnivorous diets, mostly enjoying vegetarian meals. (On my travels I came across lots of information about how the animals in much of what we eat are treated and it’s crazy, so that helped, too. More on that later, perhaps!)
And something that was at first very difficult, but that I’ve enjoyed, was cutting out caffeine…mainly Diet Coke. If you’ve read other posts on here you know how much of a fan I was! But caffeine adds stress to the adrenal glands and giving mine a break was one of the best things I did in this process.
Taking in good things. Essentially, using food as medicine.
As well as cutting out foods that are difficult for the body to process (ie meat, dairy, process foods or things I can’t pronounce), I ate things (after the liquid fasting) that directly helped my hormonal functions. Leafy greens, dark vegetables, berries and other foods that I knew had properties that would help restore balance. Flo Living really helped with knowing what my body needed and the photos in this post are a few of my favourite staples (this is different for everyone, though there is a lot of common sense to it as well.)
I ate more raw things: raw micronutrients are incredible for healing your body. Munching on some raw peppers as a starter before dinner, incorporating raw vegetables into lunch, snacking on raw fruit (not that I like cooked fruit anyway!) have become habits that are fairly A-B-C but do get overlooked, and that I now really enjoy.
My cycle returned in just over a month after stopping the pill. As I said before, this can sometimes take up to a year.
I feel great – full of physical energy, lots of mental clarity, skin and hair are strong and healthy again. I also dropped 6 kilos in four weeks of this process – my body was stressed and holding on to things it didn’t need and is now settling at a weight it is comfortable with. And I haven’t been ‘dieting’! This is a side effect of listening to my body and treating it well: I wasn’t expecting weight loss (remember, health does not automatically equate to weight loss!). But once my insides got a bit of a break from all the toxins and synthetic hormones I’d been sending them, teamed with healing foods and habits, it was able to get rid of things it didn’t need.
A better connection to my body: listening to my body and focusing on its healing has helped me reconnect and feel in control of my body…which is a really nice feeling. I am learning to recognise when it is tired, when it needs certain nutrients, when I need to slow down.
I also feel ‘in touch’ with my fertility. These steps towards restoring balance, teamed with finding a method of non-hormonal birth control that I like, mean that I am working with my fertility instead of treating it as a disease to be eradicated or suppressed.
I developed new habits I’d like to hold on to – drinking a lot of water, being mindful of what my body needs, eating more raw produce, protecting sleep.
DISCLAIMER: I think it’s important you know that with it being summer, I’ve been to BBQs, experimented with some baking, had late-night nibbles with friends, celebrated a sister tradition of McDonald’s indulgence and STILL all this goodness has happened. Our bodies really just need a bit of a helping hand sometimes – it doesn’t have to be 100%, radical change. (In fact, I’ve just had a chocolate doughnut… Actually, did you know that in 2009, Swiss researchers found that chocolate reduced the levels of certain stress hormones? They’d have to be Swiss, wouldn’t they?!)