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WTF is Up with My Cycle?

Hacking Your Hormones

WTF is Up with My Cycle?

A Review of Davinia Taylor's, Hack Your Hormones

Oh the irony of periods! We can’t wait for them to start, but they can quickly become the bane of our lives! 

Once upon a time, starting your period was the mark of becoming a woman.  The women in your family deemed it something to celebrate, something to educate you about and something to tell your neighbours about. Even Bob, from down the road, knew that you had “started” and that Aunt Flow would be a monthly visitor.  There was an air of mortification wrapped up in excitement and curiosity about how your body would adapt and how you would feel sort of different now that you had become a “woman”.  For us below 60 somethings, our experience was very different to those women who woke up one day and thought they were bleeding to death, and this just highlights how far we have evolved when it comes to talking about our periods.  However, there is still a stigma that shrouds something that is vital for human survival; it’s not dinner party convo and it’s certainly not something that we want our dads to know about.  Why though?  I am a mother to a 7 year old boy and I have made damn sure that he knows about periods.  I want him to know how my period impacts my body and how, as I near closer to my 40s and perimenopause, how utterly rubbish I can feel sometimes.  If he decides to marry a girl, I want him to be a sensitive and well-informed partner in the future. 

Enough with the Shame Already...

A woman’s menstrual cycle is one of the reasons we have the measurement of time: 

In The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, feminist author Barbara G. Walker posits that calendars themselves originated with women’s tracking of their cycles: “It has been shown that calendar consciousness developed first in women, because of their natural menstrual body calendar, correlated with observations of the moon’s phases. Chinese women established a lunar calendar 3000 years ago, dividing the celestial sphere into 28 stellar ‘mansions’ through which the moon passed. Among the Maya of Central America, every woman knew the great Maya calendar had first been based on her menstrual cycles.” 

Whilst this is amazing and should make us feel like rockstars, I mean, according to Dr Babs, we invented time, there is no denying that bleeding every 28 days or so and experiencing all the symptoms that pertain to our cycle is tough.  The excitement we once felt to have “started” has been re-framed, and in my house is referred to as “The Curse”.

Get Your Hack On...

After reading Hack Your Hormones, WTF is up with my Cycle? I have been able to understand why I now associate this biological magic with something that makes me feel like I am being punished for being an arsehole in a previous life.  DT brilliantly highlights the hormones that you need to tune into and to take control of so that you can find your inner Goddess again and avoid the dread.   

Your Need to Know Hormones

  • Oestrogen is a female sex hormone that controls our reproductive system, including the menstrual cycle. When it’s out of whack, you can feel awful.  Too much equals ‘hello rage and heavy period’; too little equals ‘hello sore boobs, and “where the hell is my period?”’
  • Progesterone is the other sex hormone which gets us ready for pregnancy and stabilises irregular menstrual cycles. When it’s too low, say hello to bloating, anxiety, irritability, night sweats, poor sleep, irregular cycles and issues with fertility. 
  • Testosterone regulates our energy and libido. Too little and you feel utterly deflated and lethargic.  Too much can cause acne, skin problems, increased body hair, problems with sleeping and PCOS. 
  • Pregnenolone is the starter hormone for loads of hormones like oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol.  Low levels can indicate perimenopause. Luckily, you can buy this in supplement form over the counter  without a prescription. 
  • Follicle stimulating hormone causes our ovaries to release oestrogen.
  • Luteinising hormone stimulates progesterone release. 
  • The Thyroid gland is also worth a signpost here as it helps to control our menstrual cycle.  Too little of the thyroid hormone equals Hypothyroidism which can cause heavy bleeding.  Too much of the thyroid hormone equals Hyperthyroidism which can lead to light, or even absent periods. 
  • Cortisol gradually increases with age (great!), which can put extra pressure on our adrenal glands, causing adrenal fatigue. Symptoms can include: heavy bleeding, mood swings, headaches and increased PMS. 

DT highlights some need to know information to support you in getting the most bespoke and individual help you need:

A Note on Perimenopause and the Menopause

Listen up ladies, this is no mean feat so if you think this you, it’s time to love yourself hard!  Thank God we’re talking about this more - long may it continue! Suicide rates are on the up in women who have reached the perimenopause stage.  Unfortunately, our GPs are not trained in the specific art of the female and most lack the knowledge to accurately diagnose perimenopause. It’s not because they are not really clever, absolute life savers and utterly brilliant, it’s because most scientific research has been conducted on men.  Big Pharma has a massive role to play here!  Most medical training is funded by Big Pharma, which means doctors are hard wired to prescribe their inefficiently tested drugs, often wrongly.   You can learn more about the scary realities of Big Pharma in the ‘Big or Bad Pharma? Blog.  


You might have been to the docs because you feel completely out of sync and walked away with a pocket full of antidepressants.  Grrrr!!! If this is you, it really is so important that you understand what is going on with your body and that you have the knowledge and language to communicate all of your symptoms. The likelihood is, you are not depressed, you just need to take control.  Your symptoms of depression may be because of your depleting hormone levels (stuff you can’t see), so answer this:  if you lost a leg, an arm or an eye, your entire world would change, would it not? Perimenopause is no different and needs to be taken seriously. 

HRT

It can change your life, but if you are not prescribed the right stuff, it can perpetuate the misery.  

Things you need to know: 

  1. It does not cause breast cancer.  The research suggests that women over 70, who started HRT at this age, may be at a greater risk.  If you start HRT before this, you’re golden. 
  2. There are two types - Bio-identical and Body-identical.  The NHS provides a standardised version of the  latter, and this is HRT made up of Oestrodial - the oestrogen we produce in our fertile years.  However, this may not be right for you - not everyone is the same in their fertile years.  Bio-identical HRT is derived from plant sources and has the same chemical hormones that our body has.  They are custom made for each person; however, sometimes the hormone doses are not approved for women; therefore, they are not available on the NHS, so you have to pay. Of course the good stuff always comes with a price tag!  

The Pill

The combined pill contains artificial oestrogen and progesterone which mimics pregnancy, masking any genuine hormone imbalances. Research shows that girls who take the pill are more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression and have an increased risk of cervical and breast cancer if they have been taking it for more than 10 years. 

The pill interferes with the body's stress responses and the body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins and minerals.  It can also impact fertility and increase the risk of blood clots. I spent years on the pill and I experienced years of irregular smear results, resulting in colposcopy after colposcopy. Low and behold, the minute I came off the pill to start a family, my smear results were normal.  I also experienced an ectopic pregnancy before the birth of my boy and ended up trying to get pregnant with one fallopian tube - luckily this didn’t cause me any issues, but you can’t tell me that the problems I faced weren’t connected to the years I spent on the pill. 

Testing

Unfortunately, if you’re a 30 something, it might be too late to test for your optimal hormonal baselines, but if you’re a parent to a daughter who has started their period, it might be worth suggesting that she takes the DUTCH test. This will provide her with her hormonal baselines and give her the information she needs if she experiences hormonal imbalances in the future, or as she knocks on the door of perimenopause later in life. 

For the rest of us, who are a bit longer in the tooth, it is so important to monitor and track our symptoms related to our cycle because everyone’s experience is so different.   

Whilst this all seems a bit daunting and one more thing for us to think about, fear not! Hack your Hormones, WTF is up with My Cycle? provides some brilliant ways to overcome the usual suspect symptoms. PMT, moodiness, cramping, bloating, headaches, fatigue, cravings and fury are all down to our hormone levels dropping, but there are some amazing natural ways to combat this misery.  In order to do this successfully, DT highlights what we can expect, how our hormones fluctuate throughout our cycle and what we can do to support our depleting levels with some simple tweaks.

Your Cycle

Days 1-14 - Menstrual and Follicular phase: 

This is when you bleed.  Your oestrogen and progesterone are low, so you will probably hate your partner, have zero tolerance for any ineptitude and want to spend the next few days with your face in the biscuit tin. DT highlights that this is the time to rest and restore. You should drink plenty of chamomile tea and water;  replenish your serotonin with fermented foods like kimchi and good sourdough bread; replenish your iron with nutrient dense red meats and seafood and a few squares of good quality dark chocolate will sort your magnesium levels right out. 

Even though your body is screaming out for all the ‘crap’ food, it really is the worst thing you can give it, and it will only perpetuate the hell! Intermittent fasting during this phase is so powerful,  and whilst your innate urge will be to feed your body, fuelling it with MCT Powder and Bovine Collagen instead will make you feel more energised and alive.  The amino acids and good fats in MCT and collagen are processed in a completely different way to calories that don’t benefit you nutritionally, meaning you won’t hold on to them and they won’t literally weigh you down. 

Fuel Your Body the Right Way

At Willpowders we know that fat is fuel, and during this phase, it’s what you’re going to need!  DT shares her typical menu during this phase and explains how to do it right: 

  • She starts her morning with an electrolyte drink - Willpowders ElectroTide is the perfect salty remedy.  
  • She follows up with coffee and Bovine Collagen and MCT (all the good amino acids and fats that will stave off the crave).
  • Around lunch time, she drinks bone broth and Kombucha.

Nutrient Dense

  • Late afternoon, she adds a little bit of MCT oil in her afternoon coffee, plus some L-Theanine to avoid insomnia and the jitters. This is paired with a protein shake with unprocessed nut butter and nootropics. 
  • When dinner arrives, she lives her best life, choosing from: sourdough sandwiches; homemade chicken or veg soup with bone broth; organic roast dinners; a posh full English breakfast with sourdough, avocado, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.
  • For pud, she chows down on some homemade chocolate and avocado mousse, sweetened with stevia. 
  • To roll on that gorgeous sleepy serotonin some more, DT often snacks on Olive Oil crisps, a cheese board with sourdough crackers, a bit of homemade chicken liver pate and a final glug of the old Kombucha. 


By pushing back her eating window, she is guaranteed a good night’s sleep and won’t wake up bloaty and lethargic. 

3 Willpowders Collagen supplements

Days 14-24 - Luteal Phase

At this point, your female hormones are at their highest and you’re likely feeling your best.  DT advises to support your liver function and detox pathways with anti-inflammatory foods like veggies, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, turmeric, oily fish, nutrient rich meat, eggs and dairy. 

DT sticks with her morning routine of ElectroTide and coffee with Bovine Collagen and MCT Powder.  She continues to drink Kombucha and bone broth, finished off with some MCT Oil; however, dinner is a much less carby affair.  Cutting your sourdough in half will do the trick.  For snacks, it’s all about the unprocessed nut butter on an apple and cheese on sourdough crackers, finished off with a chamomile tea to support your sleep. 


Days 24- 28 - premenstrual phase:

Oestrogen and progesterone are dropping during this phase, so it’s really important to avoid foods that increase cramping like caffeine and booze.  Pack yourself high with serotonin inducing foods like leafy green, turkey, chicken, red meat, bananas and cherries.  DT highlights that this phase is when we all turn into sugar scavengers, so looking after your gut with all the good stuff is so important to avoid those blood sugar spikes which induce snacking hell. 

During this phase stick with your morning ElectroTide, but swap out the coffee for chamomile tea with some MCT powder and Bovine Collagen.  For breakfast, live it large and whip yourself a posh full English up with a side of sourdough.  Try to include avocado, smoked salmon and eggs. Around lunch time, DT has a protein shake with bone broth powder, unprocessed nut butter, bananas and milk or coconut milk. For dinner and snacks, it’s back to the aforementioned day 1-14 menu. 

To support you and your cycle further, DT highlights some amazing supplements and hacks:

  • Exposure to daylight is critical - not only will it support your sleep, but also increase your vitamin D levels. See the ‘Why Can’t I Sleep? ’ Blog for further sleepy hacks.  With the hectic lives we lead, we often don’t get enough sunlight, so red light therapy is a great way to support our thyroid function and support inflammation reduction. 
  • EPA’s and fatty acids promote serotonin production and they calm down our cortisol response, which helps to alleviate PMT. Omega 3 rich food and supplements have been scientifically proven to reduce depression, anxiety, bloating, headaches and sore boobs. You can find a list of high in omega 3 foods in the ‘Why Can’t I Stop Eating?’ Blog. 
  • All the B vitamins will boost your progesterone levels. Give WillPowders Progesterone Boost a whirl to support with that pesky PMT. 
  •  If you have PMT, sore boobs, cellulite and are feeling moody, you likely need an oestrogen detox. DIM is an excellent supplement to support with a detox - you can learn more about it in Where is this Rage Coming From?’  If you think you may be oestrogen dominant, Calcium D-glucarate supplements can support your liver in getting shut of the rubbish oestrogen that makes us feel utterly grim. WillPowders Oestrogen Detox is a great way to support your liver function and help you to dispel the despair. 
  • NAC (N-Acetylcysteine) is great for cravings as it regulates Glutamate (an amino acid - the thing our body cries out for) around our system. 
  • Chlorophyll is amazing for regulating your blood sugar, decreasing your insulin spikes and getting rid of cravings. 
  •  Half a teaspoon of L-Glutamine  under your tongue should keep those sugar cravings at bay. 

Take Control

Now, I know that’s a lot to take in, but you deserve the time and the knowledge to get to know yourself.  Hack your Hormones provides a guide to exactly this, so it’s definitely worth a read! Not only will it provide you with the power to take control, it will allow you to track your symptoms, resulting in hard evidence that will allow you to avoid a prescription for antidepressants.

Disclaimer

Our blogs are written with love in the hope that they go some way in helping you feel like the rockstar you are, and whilst we do our due diligence, research like maniacs and fact check our stuff, we know everyone’s journey is different. They are intended to educate and empower you, not usurp medical advice. We would never advise you to stop, adjust, or modify any prescription medication without the direct supervision of your healthcare practitioner, but don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about your new found knowledge, brought to you by the marvels of nature because they don't know everything!