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goodbye hormonal b/c, hello Whole 30 2.0


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Since I went Paleo in January, I've been looking to get off or lessen the medications I take on a daily basis. I'm hypothryoid due to Hashimoto's Disease and have accepted that I likely will never be able to get off of thyroid hormones but I was anxious to stop taking the birth control pill I've been on. When I did the calculation, I realized that I've been on the pill for something like 15 years. Yikes!

Anyway, after a great discussion with my boyfriend of 4 years, and a thorough review of the Whole9 birth control blog entry I decided I was going to start using a non-hormonal method immediately.

I've got the Today's sponge for now and an appointment to be measured for a cervical cap.

My doctor actually kind of laughed at me---called me "Old School". It wasn't mean spirited or anything, but I did feel like I was in an episode of "Welcome Back Kotter" or something. Kudos if you get that reference. ;)

Anyway, even though I've been bloated this week with sore boobs and had a past week of serious bitchiness, I'm excited to be among the menstruating women of the world again. The pill I was on (Lo Estrin Fe 24) made my period so light that I rarely bled at all really. This was convenient but never really did sit totally well with me despite my gyno saying not to worry.

I've been through a lot of hormonal ups and downs in this Paleo journey--and now that I am reading It Starts With Food I see even more how messed up I have been. I know I am introducing yet another balancing act into the picture but I feel confident that I'm making steady improvements. When I decided to go Paleo, I promised myself I would give it at least 1 full year of real effort and although I may be more complicated than most, I truly feel it may just take that long to really understand how MY BODY needs to be fed.

On the bright side, today I woke up without an alarm. I'm on day 4. That was nice!

Anyway, please excuse the rant, just thought I'd share. I'd like to welcome anyone who has experience or tips coming off b/c while being Paleo to chime in. Hearing other's experience is always helpful!

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Welcome to the tent! I've been off for 9 years. What helped me was trying to understand my fertility cycle and being at peace with my bleeding. After years of tampons and cups, I started using washable pads. I love it! It was one of those things I had never considered until I gave it a try.

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YAY Juni!

Your post is so inspiring and we need more women just like you spreading the word! I have gone through my own hormonal battles but thanks to paleo and w30 I'm a properly functioning human being...such an awesome feeling!

A few suggestions:

  • make sure you are eating adequate fat. This will help balance and regulate hormonal function. Get a good mix too. (Coconut, olive oil, animal fat from grass-fed sources, avocado, hazelnuts)
  • When my boobs hurt, for me it is an indicator of a B6 deficiency. Red meat is rich in b vitamins. So when this happens it usually means I haven't had enough red meat lately and Im running low on the Bs. So maybe try to increase your consumption of red meat before your next cycle. Stick to the best quality you can.
  • be patient. It took me a good 6 months for my hormones to balance and figure out how to function on their own

Good luck and keep us posted on how things go!

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Thanks Ladies!

Megan-that's very interesting about the B vitamins. I've been taking a multi-B supplement but I'll try the beef thing. I actually just made a batch of grass fed beef bolognaise sauce that I eat over raw zuccinni sliced super thin. I'll have that for dinner!

If I've learned anything, it's that I have to constantly remind myself to be patient. My intention for this second Whole30 is to slay my Sugar Dragon. I think I've struggled to become truly fat adapted because I would have a bunch of dried fruit about once a week on my last go round. I need to power through and starve this thing out so I've ruled out dried fruit this time around.

I do believe that I am getting enough fat, and have been using the guidelines (more often than not going over the amount). I feel that I am craving more fat than usual and I've been allowing myself to adjust according to hunger.

I quit my pills in the middle of the pack so I am hoping that the symptoms I am experiencing right now are indicators that I should start bleeding again on schedule. I know that may not happen but I am keeping my fingers crossed and continuing to just put on foot in front of the other in the healthiest way possible. :)

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I echo what Arabella said - get to learn your cycle and fertility! I've been off BC for over 3 years now after being on it for 10+, even despite endometriosis and the pain that goes along with it. Typically with endo, the quick 'fix' is BC to manage pain. But I threw in the towel with BC and didn't look back - I now manage it through food/bio-identical hormones instead!

I'll defer to the others for nutritional advice, but want to chime in with a tip. The BEST thing I ever did for myself when going off BC was read Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Wexler. Don't let the name of the book fool you - there's a whole section on how to avoid getting pregnant without hormones. When I went off BC, I read it and learned SO much about how my cycle works, how to tell when I was/wasn't fertile, and how I could tell if my cycles were normal or not. After being on BC for so long, it's amazing how much we forget how the body is actually supposed to work! You may be surprised how much differently you may feel and how much more you notice your body's changes throughout your cycle. It's kind of fascinating!

Anyway, I started taking my temperature every morning and noting my fertility indicators. Despite having some super irregular cycles the past few years, I now have a really good idea of when I need backup protection (I prefer a diaphragm) and when I don't. The most interesting thing I find, though, is seeing how different things affect my temps/cycle. For example, if I have a few drinks, my temperature is almost always high the next day. If I don't get enough sleep, it's often lower. And within a few days of starting my Whole30, I could totally tell my body was loving it because my temps were super consistent. I'm tempted to post my chart just so you can see! If you're going off BC and really want to see how your food is affecting you and actually watching your hormones sort themselves out, I can't rave enough about temping. It's like bringing your car to the mechanic, hooking it up to a computer, and getting a readout about what's working and what isn't. Only it's not a car - it's your body.

I hope the transition goes well and welcome to the world of menstruating women again! :D

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Karen-that is absolutely facsinating! I will definitely check out that book.

Like you said, it's been so long since I've had a regular cycle (and I was lucky enough to have relatively mild and very regular periods when I was not on the pill) that I hardly remember all the stuff that women go through around "that time".

Thank you so much for posting!

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One more thing to mention since you have Hashimoto's... BC can actually lower thyroid function a bit, so if you're going off it, you may want to keep an eye on your symptoms and/or keep a closer eye on your labs during the transition so you don't become hyper. If you feel different during this Whole30, the transition might be part of the story.

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Update-STILL haven't bled yet but not totally off schedule. On day 10 of my second Whole30, doing well but got the WORST cramps ever last night. Kept me up...Never used to get cramps really. I have them again this morning though not nearly as bad. I cannot believe how much I forgot about this part of being a woman!

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I sympathize! After going off the pill, it'll take a while for those ovaries to figure out what to do on their own - I hope it gets better! I know it did for me. Just think what it would have been like had your diet not been cleaned up!

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Hi Juni,

I am in the same boat. I went off hormonal birth control 2 months ago after being on for 10 years and also got the "old school" comment when getting fitted for a diaphram. I am also doing a second W30 to try to minimize the effects of my newly fluctuating hormones. The comments and advice here are really great. Since I got off the pill have been struggling with PMS for the first time in years (bloating, cramps, negative body image due to improperly fitting clothes). Does it get better? My cycle is not regular yet, the first one was 14 days, the second is going on 45 days (I'm not pregnant, I checked).

I was wondering about the development of food sensitivities due to hormone changes. I seem be reacting (bloating, GI distress) to "clean" foods that I didn't react to before (like eggs and tomatos). Is that normal?

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I went of off my BCPs a year ago (after 15 years on them!). The nicest way I can describe what has happened since then is "pure hell". Every stinking month I get such severe pain that nothing stops (I've tried midol, ibuprofen, tylenol, heating pads, putting my feet up...etc.). This is one of the reasons that I am doing the Whole30 in the first place. Hoping for a reduction in these awful symptoms. I have went from someone who NEVER missed work, to someone who misses at least a half of a day every month. I've been to my gyno several times and she can't find anything wrong. My Whole30 started during the roughest time of cycle and will end at the same point, so I am hoping that it will be a happy ending! If anyone has any remedies that I haven't tried, I'd love to hear them!

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I hope your symptoms subside on/after your Whole30! How has your diet been so far? I found diet can significantly impact period pain - in a good way and in a bad way! For me, eliminating gluten, dairy, and citrus made things more bearable.

Regardless, that kind of pain is NOT normal and isn't something to be brushed aside. If you don't get much relief from diet, there has to be some reason for it and you may have to keep pushing for answers. What kinds of things did your doctor rule out? Have you had your thyroid tested (TSH, free T3, free T4 - TSH alone isn't enough)? Have you had an ultrasound? Have you had your hormone levels tested? What else has your gyn ruled out or what tests has she done? Do you have a family history of any gynecological issues? Sorry for the 20 questions. :)

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The nicest way I can describe what has happened since then is "pure hell". Every stinking month I get such severe pain that nothing stops (I've tried midol, ibuprofen, tylenol, heating pads, putting my feet up...etc.). This is one of the reasons that I am doing the Whole30 in the first place.

Snicci - That's me - every month. I have endometriosis and feel like crap taking BC pills, so I've been experiencing my regular cycles for several years now. I have those types of cramps during my period and when I ovulate. But it's still better than the overall malaise that I feel when taking the pills.

I have found that the pain is handled much better when I take ibuprofen before it gets very bad. It's easy to feel that first twinge and skip the pain meds, then wait until the cramps are in full force. But, in my experience, if I take my pain meds when I feel that first twinge, I can make it through the first three days which are usually the worst.

I can't tell you how much to take, but based on the meds that I got from my OB/GYN many years ago - she prescribed me 800mg ibuprofen pills. My father just about had a heart attack when he heard how much I was taking. But she approved it and fortunately, my stomach seems to handle it. That's how much I need to make a dent in the pain.

I'm also hoping that getting rid of all the crap that I used to eat will mean that I'll have more tolerable periods down the road. Fingers crossed on this one!

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Ciscospice, I have wondered if I might have Endo... when I research some of my stranger symptoms, I find that comes up a lot. I know that a diagnosis is hard to get and that even after that, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot that can be done about it, so I haven't pursued it. My cycle is pretty predictable, so I could easily start a ibuprofen regimen before the debilitating pain begins. I usually take up to 4 of the 200mg tablets, so I am with you on the 800mg!

Does your pain start in your back? Mine does. From my lower back all the way down to my lady parts and everything in between hurts. Then it moves to the front/cramps.

Karen, I've had an internal ultrasound (uterus and ovaries looked "fine/normal"). I've also had a colonoscopy that came back normal. I was treated with antibiotics for what they thought could have been an infection in my uterus, but that didn't seem to make a difference. Come to think of it, that infection was never confirmed... I have not had my hormone levels tested that I know of. They did do several blood draws and I'm not certain what they were all looking for. The bill for the colonoscopy is so much, that I gave up on going to the doctor until that's paid off!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another Update:

Finally got my period. Felt like it took forever but I would say I was about ten days beyond my old b/c cycle. Maybe this will go easier than I thought? It only lasted 3 days and the amount of blood was avergage (sorry if TMI). I was worried I was going to have a 10 day period with super heavy bleeding. Carb cravings were super strong and although I tried to eat extra sweet potato, I did go rogue and ate some chocolate and other non-gluten sweets...

Slight weepiness a few days ago. Intense libido fluctuations. A few pimples

I'm back on track now food wise and keeping my fingers crossed that this transition will continue to get easier.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I went off of BC about two years ago after being on for 13 years. Before doing so, I had issues with 20-day periods that could not be resolved by switching pill type, and terrible cramping. What absolutely saved me was acupuncture. If you can afford it (I can't now, as I have terrible health care) it was incredible! My periods got much lighter after stopping BC, I was also much less depressive. What I've done to mitigate the cramps is I take 500mg of magnesium every evening - I have heard of some people taking more during their period to help w/the cramps, but I haven't tried myself. The magnesium not only helps me have less issues with cramps, but it also helps me sleep deeper and dream more vividly, which I enjoy.

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  • 1 month later...

What an interesting thread. I got off my hormonal birth control about 1,5 years ago, because it played severe havoc with my mental health - especially the estrogen patches my gyno prescribed for my migraines - they gave me mood swings so violent I had to lock myself in our bathroom and cry into a towel, with my poor husband knocking on the other side. I've always been bothered by hormones (PCOS symptoms, but atypical so hard to diagnose, weird cysts etc), AND hormonal infertility runs in my family.

BUT, the good news is that I'm currently looking at my extremely healthy and cute 4 month old baby, and today I feel FINE (although, still waiting for my period to resume..talk to me then I guess..).

When I went off HB it WAS a bit hairy, but a few things helped me tremendously.

Fish oil - I ate it like it was going out of style. But krill products (better bio-availability). Acupuncture. The guy I'm seeing here in NYC is a life saver and I'll recommend him to anyone - he's a very kind, gentle, holistic-minded man who saved my butt.

Also, the book "IT's your ovaries, stupid" is a tremendous resource for any women wishing to understand her own fertility, her body, her complicated hormones and how they interact with external forces, such as phyto-estrogens, plastic, stress, sugar etc. It also really helps you talk to you doctor, because it's so incredibly detailed about WHICH hormonal tests you need to have taken at PRECISELY what time in your cycle. TUrns out that the average patient needs several tests over months to get an adequate picture of your hormonal health, something most docs are not too eager to do as it is pretty cumbersome etc. I can't recommend this book enough.

Sorry for the rant but hormones are ...well, close to my heart. They're tricky to get a handle on but it's so wonderful when you do. For me staying away from diet sodas and all kind of hormonal disruptors really helped. IF you want to know what's in that nice "natural looking" body lotion you just bought, get the book "No More Dirty Looks", to help clean out your bathroom closet. There is a LOT of crap in our cosmetics as well, and it works as hormonal/endochrine disruptors. IT sort of follow the Whole 30 perspective of cleaning out your fridge. And just like htere is so much lovely Whole 30 food, so there is now so much luxurious and affordable and efficient natural cosmetics and body care.

GOOD LUCK everybody. I'll look into magnesium, just wanted to throw out the above resources, which were extremely helpful to me (I got pregnant pretty much at first go and my levels have been well within the normal range since I went more natural and cleaned up my routine). I'm on the second day of Whole 30 and the awful headache has lifted - I think it was caffeine withdrawal!! I'm sipping coffee now and feel great - except my legs are kinda shaky? That is normal?

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I haven't heard of that ovary book - I'll have to check it out! I've read several and also feel they're near and dear to my heart. :) Glad to see I'm not alone.

Fingers crossed your body is good to you during your first period post-pregnancy. And congrats! :)

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