I've had a number of women asking me the same question lately. How do I regulate my menstrual cycle now that I'm off the pill?
This is an excellent question and one that requires some patience. It can take months to regulate your cycle so being patient with your body is important.
Before we talk about what you can do to regulate your menstrual cycle, here are some of the things that the pill does that alters your natural cycle.
The most commonly used birth control pill contains estrogen to prevent ovulation and artificial progestogen which helps prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. This results in all of your natural menstrual hormones being reduced, and leading to an excess of artificial hormones circling in the body.
The pill also helps thicken cervical mucus which prevents sperm entering the uterus and fallopian tubes. This becomes a problem if you are off the pill and trying to get pregnant as it can take awhile to let the cervical mucus start to secrete normally again.
The pill also causes an increased production of sex hormone binding globulin in the liver, binding our hormones and making them unavailable. This means that a woman on the pill makes testosterone, but the testosterone is unavailable for its normal uses, like increasing sex drive.
Women on the pill have also been shown to have higher rates of depression. I know this from personal experience. I became extremely depressed when I was on the pill years ago, and within one week of coming off it I felt like a new human.
Adolescents are at an even higher risk for depression when on the pill, especially when taking progesterone only contraceptives. They are also at higher risk for osteopenia and reduced grey brain matter.
So how do you regulate your cycle after the pill?
First, be aware that the pill causes nutrient depletion. B vitamins (B12, B2, B6, folate), Vitamin C, Vitamin D and iron are the most likely to be depleted. I would recommend supplementing these nutrients as they are important for a healthy cycle. B vitamins are also extremely important in the healthy functioning of our nervous system, so make sure to supplement these, especially if you suffer from depression or mood disorders. Taking 1000mg of Vitamin C per day for several months can greatly increase progesterone levels (keep this in mind if you are TTC).
Have your iron levels tested. It is not advised to supplement with iron if you are not deficient. If you do suspect an iron deficiency (some signs are easy bruising, fatigue, shortness of breath) then try some herbs. Dandelion leaf and nettle are good for increasing iron. Blackstrap molasses, amaranth and sesame seeds are also great food sources of iron.
Having a little protein and fat at each meal is important in regulating the cycle. The protein is important for blood sugar balancing and the fat is important for hormone production. Healthy protein sources include nuts and seeds, tahini, chickpeas, quinoa, organic tofu and spinach. Healthy fats include olive oil, olives, avocados, cold water fish and nuts and seeds.
Seed cycling can be very beneficial. Using specific seeds at different times in your cycle can help your body's hormones to regulate themselves in the appropriate amounts.
Eat cruciferous vegetables regularly. Broccoli, kale, cauliflower and brussels sprouts can all help to bind excess hormones circulating in the body and remove them. They are incredibly important for the healthy functioning of the liver. Other things you can do for the liver that will help remove excess hormones/toxins? Eat grapefruit, apples, lemons, limes, bitter and pungent foods and drink 16oz of water first thing in the morning to help flush the toxins out that the liver has worked so hard to remove overnight.
The thyroid needs to be healthy for you to have a regular cycle. Iron, Copper, Zinc and Selenium are all important for this. Regularly eating sea vegetables (nori, dulse, kelp) will also help to support the thyroid, as will himalayan salt and coconut oil.
Working to support the adrenals with foods is of utmost importance. The adrenals decide if you are going to function as designed or if your normal functions need to be re-arranged to deal with stress. Schizandra and maca are both adrenal adaptogens, which means they balance the adrenal function. You can take these in a supplement or food form.
One of my favourite recommendations is a little supplement called Vitex (aka Chaste Tree Berry). Vitex can be extremely helpful in dealing with PMS, irregular cycles, PCOS, fertility, lactation, menopause and all around hormone balancing. It has a long history of use in herbal medicine and I have seen incredible results in cycle regulation with my clients.
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga and walking in nature are also all beneficial and help us connect deeper to ourselves. Connecting to the beauty of our cycle rather than feeling ashamed about it is important to allow the process to happen as it should. Our cycle is a beautiful reminder that us women are special human beings with a monthly cycle that gives us different gifts at different times such as self-reflection and creativity.
It is also good to note that a "regular menstrual cycle" can be anywhere from 21 to 42 days in length and be considered "normal". Your cycle does not have to be 28 days to be considered "regular".
Also important to note, if you are trying to conceive it is advised that you wait 6 months after going off the pill to allow the body's hormones to balance out to ensure a successful pregnancy.
If you are considering going ON the pill (especially if it is to help a non-sexual issue) I would advise you to do your research. There are a lot of natural ways to bring the body back into balance without the use of artificial hormones.
Love and light, xo
If you're like a lot of women, you've used at least 10 personal care items on your body before you leave the house in the morning. Shampoo, anti-perspirant, face wash, lotion, foundation and mascara are just a few of the items us women slather ourselves with every day.
I'm also willing to guess that the items you're using are chock full of chemicals, are expensive and probably don't even do what you want them to do. Does your acne cream really get rid of your acne? Does your eye serum really banish under eye bags? I'm guessing the answer is not really.
Do you ever look at the products you buy? The ingredients lists are long and full of names that are barely pronounceable. Quite often the word "natural" is splashed across the front to make it seem like you're being really good to your body and the environment by using something that's "natural". When it comes to labelling the word "natural" means nothing. Most often "natural" labelled products have just as many chemicals as ones without the phoney advertising.
So why would you want to use products that DON'T have all those nasty chemicals? What does it even matter?
Most chemicals out there disrupt our hormones. When we disrupt our hormones, we disrupt the entire body, because our hormones are working throughout our body synergistically. Infertility, period pain, heavy bleeding, digestive disorders, energy fluctuations, mood fluctuations, neurological issues, thyroid issues, cancer, central nervous system depression and kidney issues are just some of the problems that can arise as a result of using chemicals on a day to day basis. Our hormones are disrupted and everything else in our body is disrupted too.
Let's take sulfates. Sulfates are used in most foaming/lathering products. They are hormone disruptors, skin irritants and are suspected to be carcinogenic and mutate our genes. Sodium benzoate is another chemical to watch out for. If you mix it with vitamin C or ascorbic acid, it forms a carcinogen. If you have vitamin C in your body (which you do) you will form a carcinogen from the sodium benzoate.
Alcohols are often used in skincare products. They are made from a petroleum derivative and not only dry out and irritate the skin, but also cause free radical damage, premature aging and brown spots. Fragrances are also used quite frequently and can cause nausea, dizziness, headaches, allergic reactions, central nervous system disruption and hormone disruption.
There are so many chemicals out there being put in our products that it is frightening. Is it any wonder why so many people have cancer? Infertility? Nervous system disorders? We need to really think about what we are putting on our body as much as we think about what we put in it.
We also need to stop thinking about just ourselves and start thinking about one another more. The products that we use are flushed down the drain and end up in our water supply. So inadvertently I am getting those chemicals that you are using, and so are the animals and the plants.
Something else to point out is the way women have been conditioned since childhood to believe that beauty looks like a face full of makeup and that your hair should smell like a tropical rainforest. Over and over we are told we need to use all these products to make us desirable, pretty and worthy of love and attention. So many women are terrified to leave the house without makeup. I look at it as a sort of disorder. I know I have absolutely been conditioned to this disordered way of thinking about myself and how I'm worth more if I use a ton of products to make me "better". Heck, I even had a short stint of time where I worked for a "natural" skincare company and was made to feel/made myself feel like I needed all these products to be the best version of me. When the best version of me is just ME. Without all the covering up.
Over the years I have changed my skin/hair/body care regime drastically. I've learned that most items you find on the shelves at the drugstore are full of chemicals that are doing scary things to our bodies. Parabens, sodium laurel sulphates, DHEA and Proplyene Glycol are all hormone disruptors that should be avoided at all cost (for a really good list and good information on chemicals in beauty products click here).
What I've learned from being a nutritionist is that most of our problems start and can be fixed with what what we put inside our body. Do you have dry skin? You probably need some Essential Fatty Acids and vitamin A in your diet. Dandruff? Try taking some vitamin B6, zinc and eat more protein.
I'm like any woman out there. I do like to wash my face in the morning and at night, I wash my hair, I brush my teeth, I use deodorant, I sometimes wear makeup. But I have really conditioned myself to be as minimalist in the beauty department as possible, use only the purest products and focus on loving who I am without all the extra stuff on top. The last part is key. To acknowledge that my purest self is the most beautiful.
I want you to also be more minimalistic about what you use, be smart about what you buy and be informed. Always read labels. Go for the least amount of ingredients, and only ingredients that truly are natural. Only buy what you really need and try to be eco-conscious about what your product is packaged in.
Because I do use some products and have done a lot of research and trial and error on what is good and what is not good, I want to share a few of my favourite beauty products with you. So below is a list of some of the things I use (and no, I am not endorsed by any of these companies. I just truly love what they do). Oh and by the way, they are also all cruelty-free and Canadian!
How To Green Up Your Beauty Regime:
Deodorant: K'pure Get Closer. This stuff works wonders. I've tried a lot of natural deodorants and this one seems to actually keep you from being smelly. If you are buying "anti-perspirant" from the store, know that it has aluminum in it which is a nervous system disruptor. Make sure you always buy a natural deodorant.
Face Cleanser: Have you heard of oil cleansing? It has changed my life. I swear by it. Basically you are using oil to clean your skin. For those of us with oily skin you might think this would create more issues but it doesn't! I love Nadine Artemis who is the creator of Living Libations. I use her
Best Skin Ever face cleanser and it cleanses my face but ALSO moisturizes! I no longer need moisturizer after washing because it doesn't dry my skin out, it nourishes it.
Face Scrub: This one is so simple. Oats! I make a shaggy oat flour (put oats in a food processor and pulse a little bit) to scrub my skin. It makes my skin really soft and clean, is super cheap and all natural. All I do is put some oat flour in my palm, get it a little wet and gently scrub my skin. Rinse and voila! Beautiful skin. I do this for my face but also as an all over body scrub.
Shampoo: I love Carina Organics. Love love love them. Their shampoo is the ONLY shampoo I have ever found that makes my hair clean! No buildup, no grease, clean ingredients and it smells really good. I use the Sweet Pea Extra Gentle Shampoo.
Body Wash: I love using the Carina Organics Baby Shampoo and Body Wash for my children but also for myself. My daughter has long, thick hair and it cleans it better than any shampoo could ever do. It is really gentle and I love using it for the whole family. Their baby lotion is really good too (for anyone, not just babies).
Makeup Remover: Coconut oil! Rub coconut oil on your makeup, wipe it off with a kleenex and watch the makeup come off.
Makeup: I have recently found Elate Cosmetics and so far I am loving their products. I am currently using the loose powder and concealer. I don't wear makeup very often but when I do feel like throwing some on this is what I use.
Perfume: Perfume is full of chemicals and gives me an almost instant headache. I only use essential oils when I want to smell a little different. I just dab a little lavender on my wrists but you can use any essential oil (some need to be mixed in a carrier oil first though so do some reading on this).
Toothpaste: I have always been someone who avoids using fluoridated toothpaste. Contrary to popular belief, fluoride deficiency is not what causes tooth decay. Flouride actually damages gums, disrupts collagen production and accumulates in the body which lowers IQ, causes early puberty and forms deposits in the brain which are related to Alzheimer's. Flouride is not the only issue with conventional toothpaste. There are a LOT of things you want to avoid, like triclosan (which is a registered pesticide) and propylene glycol (which is used to de-ice planes) among others. So naturally you would switch to a natural toothpaste right?
The problem with natural toothpaste is that there are unwanted things in it too such as carageenan (which can cause bowel cancer) and xylitol (hard to absorb and can cause gastrointestinal discomfort- it also has had no conclusive evidence that it actually is beneficial for the teeth and gums) among other things.
So what do you do then? I have recently discovered Nadine Artemis' book Holistic Dental Care which is really an incredible read. It changed my way of looking at oral care and now I try to follow her 8 step approach. I do use her clay toothpaste because I really enjoy it and I make a gum cleanser out of coconut oil and clove oil. You can find her oral care products here, but I highly suggest you read her book first to get a true understanding of how to use her products. If you don't want to buy any, you can use baking soda, salt and coconut oil mixed together to clean your teeth and a mix of essential oils to keep your gums healthy.
So there you have it! Those are my top used beauty products. I hope I was able to shed some light on your beauty regime and that you start to change your products over to clean, green and cruelty-free products (or go au-naturale!).
Love and light, xo
We've all been there. You get your period and the cramps follow. First they are just minor but they build until you are popping pills, plugging in your heating pad and calling in sick to work.
Sometimes it's manageable, but sometimes the pain is so intense that you lay on your bed crying.
Does this happen every month for you?
Well it doesn't have to. You can go through your cycle without worrying that you are going to have to go through the cramping, headache and backache pain again.
Period and pain do not have to be in the same sentence. It is not a requirement that you feel like hell when you menstruate. This is just something we are made to believe.
Here's how to have a pain free period:
1. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods
Anti-inflammatory foods are natural pain killers. Rather than popping an Advil when you are in pain, try to consume as many anti-inflammatory foods as possible throughout your cycle.
What are anti-inflammatory foods? Berries, cruciferous vegetables (bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, kale), leafy green vegetables and beets are just a few. Try to consume a wide variety daily.
Foods to avoid? Red meat and saturated fats. Why? They contain arachidonic acid which actually makes pain and causes inflammation. Also avoid refined and artificial sugars, as these also cause inflammation.
2. Seed Cycle.
Plant based omega 3's and omega 6's are also pain killers as they help lower inflammation. These can be found in seeds and used throughout the cycle to balance hormones and reduce pain.
The vitamins, nutrients and oils in seeds help support your body's creation, release and metabolism of hormones. The lignans in seeds help bind excess estrogen, and the omega 3's help keep the hormones in balance. Hormones that are out of whack are probably going to lead to some uncomfortable periods.
To learn how to seed cycle click here
3. Take Magnesium.
Ever wonder why you crave chocolate right around the time you menstruate? It's because chocolate is rich in magnesium and your body is deficient in it.
How else do you know you are deficient in magnesium? Headaches, excessive body odour, nausea, muscle spasms and constipation are all signs of a magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium is incredibly important for helping the nerves and muscles maintain their function and is a natural muscle relaxant. A deficiency in magnesium is common among women, and can be caused by stress, sweating, caffeine and sugar intake.
Eating magnesium rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, apricots, asparagus, avocados, beans, sprouts, berries, almonds, whole grains and bananas are a good start in getting more magnesium into your body. But the soil our food is grown in has been depleted of many nutrients, including magnesium, and therefore the food we eat doesn't contain magnesium in high enough levels as we need.
Supplementing with magnesium is often recommended, especially if you are suffering from painful periods. The most absorbable form is magnesium glycinate. If you are often constipated, try magnesium citrate as it can have more of a laxative affect. Take magnesium throughout your cycle and increase around the time when you menstruate.
Magnesium baths are also a good way to relax and absorb magnesium, as our skin absorbs things through it very easily. Use magnesium bath salts to help with cramping or as part of a routine in case of deficiency.
4.Balance your hormones.
If your hormones are out of whack then you probably are going to experience pain with your periods. Balancing your hormones out is the best way to eliminate the pain, but it does take time.
Step 1: First you need to clean up your liver. Our livers take a beating on the daily with the amount of chemicals we ingest, smear on our skin and breathe in. Not to mention the junk foods we do eat and the lack of liver supporting foods we don't eat.
Cruciferous vegetables, bitter foods, calcium d'glucarate foods and teas like milk thistle and dandelion help cleanse the liver of excess hormones (think estrogen). These should be eaten daily and in abundance, and saturated fats, alcohol, refined and artificial sugars should be eaten sparingly.
Step 2: Support the adrenals. Your adrenals make progesterone. When you're stressed, the adrenals grab progesterone to make cortisol. A surplus of cortisol is linked to many symptoms including fatigue, blood sugar problems, weigh gain, depression, mood swings and anxiety. Excess cortisol can also suppress thyroid function, put extra pressure on the liver, hinder sex hormones and inhibit digestive and intestinal function.
If you can support your adrenals by taking adaptogens such as maca root and schizandra, manage stress and take licorice root and ginseng teas, then you will be well on your way to balancing your hormones for pain free periods.
There you have it. Pain free periods.
If you can feed your hormones foods they love, consume anti-inflammatory foods regularly, seed cycle and supplement with magnesium you will be well on your way to having a pain free period.
Even doing one of the above mentioned might be your key to a healthier and happier cycle. So by the time your period rolls around you can embrace it with the love that it deserves. For it is a beautiful reminder that us women are special human beings with a monthly cycle that gives us different gifts at different times of the month, with the period marking our time to deepen our level of connection to the universe.
Love and light xo,
Do you know if your hormones are out of whack?
Fatigue, emotional ups and downs, trouble falling/staying asleep, PMS, sore breasts around your cycle, the need for caffeine to stay awake, overly oily/dry/acne prone skin, menopausal symptoms, irritability and infertility are all linked to hormones that are not in alignment.
Foods that cleanse and support the liver (cruciferous vegetables, bitter foods, etc.), maca root, deep belly breathing and morning lemon water are all good starts to getting your hormones in check (for more information on hormone balancing see here).
But I want to give you another tool to help your body come back and stay in alignment.
It's called seed cycling.
Seed cycling can help you balance your hormones so that your menstrual cycle can balance out, you can gain more energy, your skin can become smooth and conception can happen (if that is your goal).
And guess what? It's really easy. With seed cycling you will be rotating different seeds during your cycle to support optimal hormonal balance. The vitamins, nutrients and oils in seeds help support your body's creation, release and metabolism of hormones. The lignans in the seeds help bind excess estrogen and the omega 3's help keep the hormones in balance.
The seeds used in seed cycling are flax, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds. Flax seeds in particular have been shown to lengthen the luteal phase and result in a less likely chance that you will not ovulate. The zinc in pumpkin seeds helps the body release progesterone, as well as the zinc in sesame seeds. The selenium in sesame seeds also helps the body release progesterone. Try to seed cycle for about three months, or longer, for optimal results.
How To Balance Your Hormones With Seeds
During your Menstrual (when you menstruate) and Follicular Phase (the few days following menstruation) :
Consume 1Tbsp raw ground Flax Seeds and 1Tbsp raw ground Pumpkin Seeds daily
During your Ovulatory (just after the follicular phase when you release an egg) and Luteal Phase (the phase following ovulation):
Consume 1Tbsp raw ground Sesame Seeds and 1Tbsp raw ground Sunflower Seeds daily
Grind your seeds in a clean coffee grinder or mini food processor every morning, or if you are short on time, grind your seeds for a few days worth and store them in the fridge to keep them fresh. As with any food, it is best to buy your seeds organically. This lessens the chance that your hormones will be disrupted by hormone disrupting chemicals found on and in conventional foods.
An easy way to eat your seeds every day is to consume them at breakfast. Sprinkle them on your oatmeal, put them in your smoothies/smoothie bowls or on top of your yogurt. You can also sprinkle them on your salads or blend them into energy balls.
Love and light xo,