The Beauty of our Menstrual Cycle
“I am delighted to introduce you to our guest Vivien Allred and share her wisdom and knowledge of hormonal health with you all. Vivien is a Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist who is passionate about women’s health. She helps women regulate their hormones and digestive issues to achieve PMS free periods, clearer skin and bloat free bellies. Vivien work is deep, she woks with women to understand and uncover the root causes of symptoms, to overcome them in a natural way! Vivien is also a host of Hormones in Harmony Podcast where she discusses all things relating to female hormones, nutrition, natural medicine and how to live a non-toxic lifestyle. If you want to learn more about conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, fertility challenges, thyroid issues, PMS and acne, then this is the podcast for you!” – Yelena
I am obsessed with the beauty of our female menstrual cycle. Every month our hormones go through a shift. Rising and falling. Creating a wonderful symphony. That is, when we are in hormonal balance.
When things are out of whack, out of range, too high or low, then this can throw off the entire symphony, leading to a whole range of issues. Imagine an orchestra playing a song, but one of the instruments is out of tune or isn’t in time with the others. The result isn’t going to be great, and that’s the same with our hormones.
PMS, heavy bleeding, lack of ovulation, tender breasts, low progesterone, high androgen (male hormone) levels and infertility are just some of the indicators of hormonal imbalance. Many women actually ‘brush off’ or mask symptoms like hair loss, increased body hair,
acne, weight gain, headaches and water retention. But, we need to realise that these are messages from our body, telling us that something is ‘out of whack’! Instead of applying more makeup, exercising harder, restricting calories and reaching for the latest supplement or product, we need to LISTEN to our bodies cry for help and begin to address the root causes.
Related: Common indicators of hormonal imbalance & How to address them naturally
Sometimes the ‘fix’ could be something like a simple nutrient deficiency. However, the majority of the time hormonal imbalances are complex and multi-factorial. Hormonal imbalances are often linked to adrenal stress, poor gut health, thyroid issues and even
environmental toxicity. Endocrine disrupting chemicals found in many conventional skincare and beauty products and can interfere with our own hormone production.
It is important to know, that if you are using hormonal birth control like the pill, IUD or injection, then your own natural hormone production has actually been shut down, and your body is running on synthetic hormones. These drugs work by suppressing ovulation
so that you don’t release an egg each month. Although, they can be very effective, they can often lead to negative symptoms either during or after stopping them.
Related: Important things I wish I knew before taking the Birth Control Pill
Your monthly bleed is actually a report card of your health. It tells how well you have taken care of your body for the 1-3 months prior. Believe it or not, we should experience PMS free cycles, no debilitating cramps or blood clots and it should be fairly regular each month! Despite what we have been conditioned to believe, periods are a wonderful thing. The PMS symptoms that women can deal with are common, but not normal. I believe that a healthy body is a fertile body, therefore if you are dealing with period problems or your cycles have stopped completely, then that is a clear sign from your body that something needs to be addressed.
The role of our menstrual cycle is to ultimately prepare for pregnancy and reproduction. Even if we don’t want or plan to have children, the female body is designed for motherhood. On average, women have a 21-35 day cycle, and it is ‘normal’ if this is typical for you, and you aren’t also dealing with hormonal symptoms.
During the first half of our cycle we are meant to be in an oestrogen dominant state, whereas during the second half, we should be progesterone dominant. Oestrogen’s job is to grow the uterine lining, whereas progesterone thins it out and maintains it until our
hormones drop and we shed the lining as a ‘period’. We can only produce the wonderful hormone progesterone, after ovulation occurs. Once we release an egg, the ‘sac’ that is left behind (known as the corpus luteum), becomes a temporary gland that produces progesterone. If we do not ovulate or our corpus luteum isn’t strong enough, we can experience hormonal imbalances and fertility issues.
Despite what you may have been taught, women are actually only fertile 6 days each month. We have been scared into believing that we can get pregnant every day of the month, but this is not true. Technically, women are only fertile 12-48 hours during ovulation, but sperm can live within the female body for around 5 days, making your ‘fertile window’ a total of 6 days.
Related: PMS Driving you insane? You May be Lacking this Crucial Hormone…
You can monitor your menstrual cycle and ovulation by tracking your basal body temperature (BBT) every morning for the entire month. When you see your temperature rise by 0.5-1.0 degree, this is a sign that you have ovulated. Fertility monitoring gadgets like the Daysy Fertility Monitor, Ovusense, Temp Drop and Natural Cycles make this process a whole lot easier and allow you to track your ‘fertile window’. Our cervical mucus (discharge) often becomes more stretchy, slippery and like the texture of egg-whites during ovulation and more creamy, lotion-like at other parts of our cycle, when we aren’t fertile. This information can be used to both prevent and support conception.
Related: Effective, Non-Hormonal Alternatives To The Birth Control Pill
Many women suffer with hormonal acne breakouts. Mainly around the time of ovulation (mid cycle) and during the week leading up to your period (luteal phase), as hormones reach their highest peak during this time. When levels of oestrogen or androgens (male hormones) spike too high, or they cannot be broken down and excreted properly because of a sluggish liver or bowel. This can create inflammation and increased sebum production within the skin, both of which are precursors to acne. Progesterone is needed to balance these two acne-causing hormones, therefore if we aren’t cycling or ovulating, we are at risk of experiencing breakouts.
In part 2 of this post, I will be sharing simple and practical ways to naturally improve your hormonal health, overcome PMS and achieve clear skin all month long, by using food and lifestyle as medicine.