Today’s post has been a long time coming. It’s been almost 4 years into my journey to balance my hormones naturally and I’ve learned so much. And I’m incredibly thankful that I’ve been able to do it. Taking the natural approach to healing can take longer but it’s worth it! So today, I’m sharing my journey from start to now. Every book I read, habit I changed and the general lifestyle overhaul that brought me to where I am today. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, as always, so grab a drink. Let’s dive in!
Disclaimer/Note: This post is meant to share my journey. These are the things I did and found worked for me. But they were also rooted in a lot of research. I’m not a doctor. This isn’t medical advice. I also did all of this on my own. No doctors. Just loads of research, trial & error and time went into healing myself naturally. My hope is that by sharing how I did it that you’ll know that it’s possible for you to do it too.
Birth Control & The Linger Side Effects
I was 18 the first time I went on birth control. I’d left home for college and my body began manifesting the stress of my first semester by affecting my period. For the first month of so, it would come irregularly. And of course, we all know where this leads: birth control. I had a problem. My doctor had a solution. I was no where near the days of starting WSS or considering living a more holistic lifestyle. So I took the pills and went on my merry way. I started birth control and poof. No more period issues.
But here’s the thing no one tells you about going on birth control to fix a problem: the problem is there for a reason. Slapping a bandaid on it doesn’t fix the fact that you need stitches or surgery. It just puts a bandaid on it. Birth control was my bandaid.
And so for the rest of college, I stayed on birth control. My insurance covered it. It didn’t seem like a big deal. There was never really a conversation about the long term side effects of using a hormone altering pill daily for years. Nope. Just life as usual. Until I decided that I didn’t want to be on it anymore.
Going Off Birth Control
The first time I went off birth control, there was no weaning off the pill. One of the thing Alissa Viti talks about in Woman Code (more on books to read in a bit) is having that conversation with your doctor. I didn’t. I just stopped. And for the most part there were no issues. Everything seemed fine. But if you’ve ever gone off birth control, you find out that about 3 months in your body starts to go back to normal. Or as close as it can get to balancing your hormones naturally after years of being told otherwise. It’s not always the easiest balancing acting. For me, the birth control bandaid reared its ugly head with a new, worse problem: hormonal acne.
If you’re new to blog, I talk a lot about hormonal acne, how I healed it naturally and where I’d focus starting over. Hormonal acne for me was the first big indicator that something was off with my hormones. But again, I wasn’t ready. So I did the research, talked to my OBGYN and put myself back on birth control.
Looking back now, I can say that the next few years of my life made the situation a lot worse. And so when I was finally desperate enough to start the journey to balance my hormones naturally, I had A LOT of healing to do. Regulating your hormones, especially if you’re someone with hormonal issues, requires a full lifestyle change. At the time I finally decided to go off birth control for the 2nd time, I’d come off 3 years of making all the wrong choices for keeping your hormones happy.
I’d worked in film & television (my dream job) for several years. But the life isn’t all that glam. Working 14-16 hour days, 5 days a week with little job assurance. I was also plant based at the time eating a not very balanced diet. If I was lucky, I got 6 hours of sleep a night. And I’d also taken a few rounds of antibiotics over this time period which kills your gut flora. A recipe for a high cortisol levels, preventing my body from naturally regulating (you need sleep for this) and eating a diet that wasn’t quite right for my body.
My decision to go off birth control came around the time I moved home to help my mother care for my then 88 year old step father. Between the hormonal acne that was still happening despite being on birth control and a large amount of cavities due to stress, dietary choices and other issues, it was time. I knew I wanted to take the holistic approach and felt like it wasn’t something I could teach and share if I wasn’t myself following it. So again, I went off birth control.
It had been my hope when I went off birth control the 2nd time that things would be okay. I wouldn’t need to stress about hormonal acne. Maybe I wouldn’t have to worry about how to balance my hormones naturally, it would just happen. Of course, it didn’t work that way. But a girl can dream right? Instead, my body adjusted a few ways.
About two months after I’d gone off birth control, I noticed I was a bit more PMS-y. I had stronger cravings for chocolate. I was far more emotional. My body had really been impacted and I had a lot of work to do to fix it. But I didn’t really know where to begin.
I bought and read loads of books:
The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers In Healthy Foods That Cause Weight Gain by Dr. Steven Gundry – This book grew in popularity when Kelly Clarkson shared how she’d been following the diet a year or so ago. I’ve also done a video sharing the 3 day detox. But essentially, Dr. Gundry teaches you about how plants protect themselves in the wild. You learn about lectins (something very few talk about) and their impact on your body. Lectins are in pretty much all plants, nuts and seeds to some degree. And they can prevent your body from properly absorbing certain vitamins and minerals.
WomanCode: Perfect Your Fertility, Supercharge Your Sex Drive And Become A Power Source by Alisa Vitti – If you’re looking for one book to start with, I’d highly recommend this one. It’s probably one of the most common books that people share regarding how to balance hormones naturally. She covers a lot of the lifestyle changes and is really honest about the fertility side of things. Her company also has supplements (I’ll dive into that that more in a second) and an app that helps you track your period & symptoms. I’ve used the app for a few years now and it’s one of my faves.
Skin Cleanse: The Simple, All-Natural Program For Clear, Calm, Happy Skin by Adina Grigore – One of the big reasons I went towards more clean beauty (see: a beginners guide to clean beauty) was this book. Now while my intentions were always to balance my hormones naturally so that I could have babies one day when I wanted them, my priority at the time was curing my hormonal acne. I wanted to create a space where my body could heal which meant limiting the toxic load I was putting on it. Thus, I made the transition to clean beauty.
Clean Cuisine: An 8 Week Anti-Inflammatory Diet That Will Change The Way You Age, Look And Feel by Ivy Larson – I don’t think I would have really know what an anti-inflammatory diet was before starting this journey. You always hear about people detoxing or cleansing. I’m not particularly a fan of either. But after moving towards an anti inflammatory diet, I could tell the overall difference in my body. Less pain, better sleep, happier gut. Clear skin. It’s major.
Body Love by Kelly Leveque – Kelly’s written a second book since this one. I’d recommend both because she teaches you how to create sustainable habits. I’m sure you’ve seen her celebrity clients. Emmy Rossum wrote the forward for her 2nd book and she shares how much Kelly’s approach has helped her manage her endometriosis.
I also discovered other bloggers and youtubers who had been on similar journeys and come through the other side. And from there, I started to develop a plan.
Testing + The Plan
Now I’ll be quite honest and saying that it took some time for me to really transition into the healthy lifestyle I have now. There was a lot of muting people on social media, adding in the right people and standing firm with the decisions I was making. I tried things that failed. I tried things that worked. I went back to the things that failed and tried them again. It was a process. But here’s essentially the plan/path I took:
I Took A Hormone Test
Because I’d been all over the board in my attempts to balance my hormones naturally, I wanted to get specific. I didn’t have insurance at the time. However, thanks to my job, previous tests I’d covered (see my food sensitivity post) & some overall blessings, I was kindly gifted a hormone test from Everly Well. I’d wanted to take one for ages to have an idea of where the heck I needed to start. And this at home testing option was great.
I learned that I had 3 areas of concern. If you’d like to see what a test looks like, I’ve set mine up to share. You can find it here. Based on some more research, I decided that I would treat my healing process as though I was someone who had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). I’ve not been officially diagnosed but it’s been a topic of conversation more than once.
I Cleaned Up My Beauty & Cleaning Products
As a rule, I’ve never made WSS about being perfect. I don’t particular enjoy the hate that comes from certain spaces. But I’ve also found that economically, living a perfect, clean life is incredibly challenging for many. So I would say we live at 90% clean. The 10% of that is the space I give myself to buy products that work over just buying products that are “clean”. I.e. I buy Method laundry detergent despite the fact that it’s not the cleanest because the clean ones do not get the bronzer out of my washcloths or clothes.
I put a lot of emphasis on the products that are going to sit and soak into my skin. I’m also conscious of what I’m breathing in on a daily basis. For me, it’s about the level of exposure and managing the toxic load on my endocrine system. If my endocrine system is completely compromised trying to deal with all the preservatives, additives and toxins, it’s going to be harder for me to heal. Going clean, at least at 90%, allowed me to decrease my toxic load.
I Added Supplements
To be honest, I was quite desperate to do anything I could to heal my hormonal acne. It wasn’t so much about finding a way to balance my hormones naturally as it was about the acne. For better or worse, my focus on acne led me to conversations that helped me to take other actions. But one of the first ones I took was adding supplements. My mother has half of the vitamin shop in our house. At the time, I tried the FloLiving supplement range.
TBH I don’t know that I would try them again. The biggest component of the line is the detox pill that helps you flush out the extra estrogen. However, there are other supplements that do this at a more affordable price. I also prefer Seed, my daily synbiotic (probiotic + prebiotic), to the one that is required in their subscription. I recently did a deep dive into my full supplement routine you can dig into here.
I Went Paleo Based
Before really starting on this journey, I’d been plant based for several years. At the time, I was learning that my body was not a fan of dairy. And eventually, I transitioned that into being fully plant based. Unfortunately, my body didn’t respond very well. So as I came off birth control, I added the protein back in.
I’m not sure that I ever really intended to adapt a paleo based lifestyle. It was something I’d seen others with my issues do and it prompted me to try it as well. But given everything I’d learned reading The Plant Paradox & Clean Cuisine and what I know about how those with PCOS can often struggle with insulin resistance, it made sense.
However, I’d also taken the Everly Well Food Sensitivity test that indicated my body really needed some healing. I was sensitivity to gluten, wheat, cinnamon and malt. Eating a more grain free diet aligned with my goal of healing, living a more anti-inflammatory lifestyle and also pushed me to find new ways to enjoy vegetables.
I Educated Myself On Food Quality
Growing up, my parents had always focused on eating more whole foods. Both had grown up on farms, worked in the medical field and were not prone to giving me pop tarts even if I really wanted them. I’d already begun focusing on eating more organic (again, lessening my toxic load). But I also started to learn about pasture raised meat, grass fed & finished beef, wild caught fish and more.
When I added meat back into my diet, I knew I wanted to focus on quality. But once I learned about the difference in meat quality and how it impacts your body, I was converted. The short version: you are what they ate. So if you’re removing certain foods from your body to allow it to heal but you’re eating something that ate those foods, you’re still getting them. You may be making the choice to go paleo. However, you’ve chosen to eat chicken or beef that’s been fed grains. Therefore, you’re still getting it in your diet.
Additionally, the farms that raise the previously mentioned animals tend to be more environmentally friendly and more humane. Thankfully, grass fed & finished beef seems to be more popular in stores. But for all things chicken, turkey and the like, I shop via Grass Roots Coop (ps. my link saves you $30 on your first order).
I Added A Fasting Window
Intermittent fasting had a hot moment a few years ago. It seemed like every fitness/wellness influencer was in on the game. And like always, I took my sweet time before I tried it. When my esthetician mentioned that part of the my acne was due to digestive issues, I took note. My gut wasn’t happy and it needed a break. Temporarily adopting the 16/8 method taught me that a fasting window was a game changer for my stomach and skin.
Thankfully, I can be much more relaxed with it now. I try to maintain a solid 12 hour fasting window between dinner & breakfast to give my body time to really digest. But allowing my stomach to properly function helped to really make sure my blood sugar was stable and my gut could heal which meant I could test the waters with new foods that I’d been avoiding for years. Game changer!
I Created Better Sleep Habits
I think we all know sleep is necessarily. We love it. But until you’re in a space where your body is screaming for it, sleep seems like something we can just skimp on. We can’t. It doesn’t work. It will bite you in the ass. Trust me.
With as much as I travel, I’ve found the biggest part of my ability to create better sleeps habits is having a night time routine. Creating internal cues that help me to unwind means my cortisol levels are more in check and I was able to fall asleep more quickly. Better sleep also meant that my body was less stressed and able to naturally balance my hormones. Sleep is queen.
I Limited My Caffeine
My best friends & instagram family would be the first to say that I love a good cup of coffee. However, caffeine + hormones are NOT a happy combo. Caffeine naturally triggers cortisol aka your stress hormone. Depending on how your body processes caffeine, if you’re a slow or fast metabolizer, this will impact you differently. But if you’re struggling to find balance with your hormones naturally, ingesting a liquid that is primed to trigger your awake (and boost your cortisol) isn’t helping your body create the calm it needs.
My solution to this was to drink only 1 cup of caffeinated coffee per day. And if you follow me on insta, you’ll know I drink A LOT of decaf. But establishing a one cup before noon rule, I was able to help my body find the calm it needed & also make sure I was getting good sleep.
I Managed My Stress
Last but not least, I had to find the outlet that worked for me with my stress. I found two: journaling and working out. My workouts have changed quite a bit. Currently, it’s running and bodyweight workouts. But finding a space where I felt safe and like nothing else was required of me was major. Additionally, I had to realize that my body had become addicted to stress (read: Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself). The chaos of my job had created an emotional response that my body was constantly looking to create. Once I was able to acknowledge it, I could finally create a new path for myself. And without the intense stress, my hormones were able to balance naturally.
Now before I leave with you all this knowledge and hopefully motivation to start your own holistic journey, I need to say one thing. This shit take times. It really does. There were a lot of little things I did that built up over time. It’s why I keep creating content around this because I forget. And I want to make sure you have ALL the info. I’ll be doing a deep dive into my diet soon with all the things I removed and where they like to sneak in. So give yourself some grace.
You can do this. Whether you’re looking to have a baby or just want clear skin, you are not alone in this journey. I promise you. But give yourself and your body the time to heal. And know I’m sending you all the love and positive vibes. Until next time. Xoxo, Savvy
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