Ever since I first got my period, I don’t remember a month I actually knew when it would come. It was never regular and always a surprise, so I never thought much of it, as all the tests came back normal. Throughout the years, I had some months off, but never like this… 3 and a half years of absolutely nothing…and no one knew what was wrong. I realized I had to take things into my own hands and figure it out. When you want something done right, do it yourself, no?
There can be so many reasons for losing your period, from being underweight and poor nutrition, to chronic inflammation, stress, PCOS, other genetic issues, and too much exercise. Most women dismiss it as something “every woman goes through at some point”, and don’t understand how serious this actually is. Amenorrhea, aka, the loss of period, is always a symptom of something else going on in the body. Our system goes to fight-or-flight mode and shuts down our reproductive organs first, in order to protect itself. Not only can amenorrhea cause fertility problems, it can also create havoc in our bone density, as normal estrogen levels are needed for adequate calcium absorption. This could lead to osteoporosis and other bone related problems.
Our bodies are incredible machines. They know how to repair themselves when we get hurt, protect themselves from unwanted bacteria and viruses, and fight inflammation by creating new fighting cells. In addition to that, our bodies also send us hints and signals when something is wrong. Unfortunately, we are not very good at paying attention to them until we reach a point when we can’t ignore it anymore. Don’t we all go through phases of intense physical and mental stress, not taking a rest until we completely burn out? Same thing happens with your cycle. Irregularity, skipping and losing it are serious signs of disbalance, and dealing with it spot on is the only way to go.
My first real loss occurred when I was 18 years old, and I was studying hard to get into Law School (in Croatia we have a different college system where directly after high school, we start attending a certain University, so no undergrad and grad ). I figured it was because of all the stress, but also because the only thing I was doing in life was studying and dancing. My whole life I’ve been a dancer, and I’ve gone to many, many dance competitions, filmed music videos, starred in musicals, etc…so my life was revolving around school and dance, making it easy to overtrain, under eat, and stress out. I had my first boyfriend at the time, and normally, my first thought was pregnancy, so I got really scared which caused extra stress on top of everything. Luckily, a trip to my gynecologist showed no bun in the oven, but my estrogen and progesterone levels were pretty low. She asked me about my current life routine, and after briefing her on everything that had been going on, she told me this came as no surprise, as my body was in complete survival mode. After prescribing me some progesterone pills, she sent me on my way and told me to reach out after 2 months.
I…didn’t really react to the pills so well.
In the week after my visit, I got accepted into my desired college, my dance competitions were done for the season, and I went on my summer vacation with my parents. This should have made me the happiest person in the world, right?
I felt completely numb, depressed and sad…and on top of everything, still no sign of my period. At the time, I still didn’t make the pill-to-symptom connection, but after a month of feeling this way (and no period!), I decided to stop taking the medication, as it was the only real thing that changed in my life that could have caused my issues. That was the day I decided I would never take something like this again. And guess what, I got my period the day after!
Ever since that moment, I’ve had on and off months, usually all connected to stress and lots of work & exhaustion. When I moved to Spain, I needed some time to adjust, so I didn’t have my cycle for the first couple of months at all! By that time, I had already realized this was the way my body worked, and I didn’t think much of it. My only problem was the fact they were always pretty painful, sometimes even causing extreme nausea, fainting & high fever; meaning, the pain would always come as a surprise, since I could never rely on a certain date in the month. I was following a paleo diet, because of my celiac disease, and my body was rejecting most of the grains. Living in the south of Spain meant thriving on incredible fresh fish and tons of vegetables and healthy fat. I absolutely loved it, and felt like paleo was the right choice for me.
All that changed for me the moment I moved to the US almost 4 years ago. Trying to continue with paleo, I was still eating loads of fish, meat, vegetables and healthy fat. Unfortunately, the high price of fish made me eat more meat, but I didn’t feel like anything was wrong, so I continued on preparing my meals the usual way. After the first couple of months of no period, I thought it was just my body adjusting (once again) to change of scenery, climate, stress from moving to another part of the world, etc… Another couple of months passed, and still nothing was happening, so I went and did some tests, which all came back completely fine. “It’s normal in today’s hectic life”, the doctor said. Ok, I thought, I’ll be patient.
My husband and I had some major life changes after that point, and were both under a terrible amount of stress, so losing weight was an unwanted consequence. I came down to an unhealthy weight, and this time, it was pretty logical why my period was nowhere to be seen. I really set an intention to gain some weight back, and I did, after which I tested my body fat (an athletic and lean, but healthy 19%), and all my bloodwork came back normal. 6 more months went by, and still nothing changed. By that point, I was getting really worried, as my life was finally catching a good rhythm, I was looking healthy, full of energy and fit. The only problem I had was poor sleeping habits, but everything else was really, truly fine. Or so I thought.
I decided to try acupuncture, and went to one of the best practitioners in Seattle, Ying in Ava Acupuncture. He really worked on me and helped me get my circulation back on point, but unfortunately, even after 3 months, still no cycle. That was when I said, Enough, I will figure this out on my own, just like I did with my celiac disease. I started researching like crazy, using every possible herb and spice to work on my hormones, as no matter what the tests said, something obviously wasn’t in balance! I scrutinized my every move, and tried to figure out what variable I could change…and then I decided to do something I’d never done in my life — go plant-based. I realized the only major thing that changed in my diet was including more meat and eggs than I did before, and knowing the food industry in the US, and all the hormones and toxins being put in animal products, I decided to make an experiment.
No high expectations, no high hopes, just testing it out.
After one month, I woke up, did my morning workout, and guess who came to visit :)
I don’t think I’ve EVER been so happy to feel cramps! I was so shocked, I started crying. When I calmed down, I started analyzing what else changed for me throughout this month of being plant-based. I was finally sleeping through the night, and even if I were to wake up, I would fall asleep again; I was not bloated before going to bed; I had more energy than usual; my nails were stronger again…all of that in one month. Another month passed…and I got it again!
That was when I was 100% positive my diet change was the key.
That was when I realized how awful the meat industry is in the US.
That was when I decided I would never eat meat again.
That was when I discovered that no matter how clean my diet was…I was still poisoning myself.
The biggest reason why I’m writing this long, elaborate blog post, is because I want to help you girls. I want you to know you’re not alone in this, and advise you to go plant-based, and get rid of all the hormones, antibiotics and toxins being put in animal products, which conflict with your own, making your bodies fight their own cells…making you sick for no real reason whatsoever. I know this is a sad and hard truth…but if things don’t change in the near future, this will only get worse. One thing I am definitely sure about, is that I will stay plant-based for as long as it takes, keeping my body from getting inflamed and living as healthy as I can.