Guest post by Nicole Jardim
Do you know what day of the month it is? More importantly, do you know what day of your menstrual cycle you’re on? If you’re like many teens, you are probably pretty mystified by your period and cycle in general, so you’re not alone if you don’t know.
I used to be that girl. At doctor’s appointments, when the inevitable question was asked, “When was your last period, Nicole?” I’d look like I was thinking really hard and say, “Oh, my period was March 9th” with so much confidence. Ha! Of course I was lying through my teeth because I had absolutely no idea! Little did I know then that not knowing those simple facts would be rather detrimental to my health later on.
Some of you are probably living in one stage or another of my “period story.” It all began in my teens (it usually does for most of us with PCOS), with really, really ferocious periods. My mom said, “You think this is bad Nicole? I used to be in bed for days at a time.” Ugh. So I just accepted that this must be my lot in life.
Then something strange happened. I stopped getting my period every month. Hmmm…that didn’t seem quite right, but a huge part of me was relieved that I didn’t have to deal with the period drama every month. The problem is, when your period stops, it doesn’t usually start again unless you figure out why and then begin to make some changes.
So off I went to the gynecologist where I was prescribed the birth control pill and sent on my way. I took it for 5 years. I got my “period” every month. It lasted for maybe two days, I had barely any cramps, no bloating, none of the she-monster mood swings….a girl’s dream come true right?
At first I thought so, but over time I noticed a whole lot of other issues cropping up: dry skin, eyes, hair and nails, chronic yeast infections, chronic urinary tract infections, chronic colds, IBS-like stomach problems, even a low sex drive. Oh and joint pain. Lots of joint pain. I was an old, sick lady in a 20 year old body. All of these symptoms were evidence that the pill was not the solution to my hormonal imbalance. However, it took me a little while to figure that out! While I was never diagnosed with PCOS, I was displaying many of the symptoms of it and the synthetic hormones in the pill were merely masking those symptoms.
Here are the top 5 questions I should have been asking myself and that you can begin to ask in order to figure out whether you have a hormonal imbalance:
- How often do you get your period? An ideal cycle should be anywhere from 25 to 35 days, but there shouldn’t be a lot of fluctuation in length. For instance, if you typically have a 29 day cycle, you shouldn’t be deviating from that length by more than 2-3 days each month. If your cycle is consistently longer than 35 days, you could have PCOS.
- How long is your period and what does it look like? Most periods are anywhere from 3-7 days, but 4-5 days is where you want it to be. It should start with a nice fresh saturated red color and look vibrant and healthy. You want it to resemble the color of cranberry juice and the consistency of maple syrup. Lots of food comparisons I know, but I want you to get a clear idea of what you should look for. If the blood is brown, this could indicate a hormonal imbalance or blood stagnation and I suggest using a hot water bottle on the days leading up to your period to bring blood flow to the pelvic area.
- How is your digestion? About 95% of the young ladies who come to me have some kind of digestive disorder – constipation, gas, bloating, diarrhea, stomach pain after eating, acid reflux and/or burping after meals. If you experience any of these symptoms a couple of times a week, it could mean that you have some gut issues happening. I highly recommend incorporating a good probiotic and digestive enzymes into your routine to help get your gut function back on track. Good digestion equals happy hormone production.
- Do you have hair loss on your head or hair growth on your face/chest? These are hallmark symptoms of PCOS, and if you are experiencing them, you might be producing too many androgens, or male sex hormones. Testosterone is the most well-known androgen. If you are eating too many sugary foods or refined carbohydrates, this causes your pancreas to make more insulin. If your insulin is consistently high, this causes your ovaries to produce more testosterone and less estrogen. So start to think about your diet and start a food journal so you can see what you’re eating each day.
- What’s your mood and energy like? I spent years feeling tired and unhappy almost all the time. If you consistently feel like you can’t get out of bed easily (even after 8 hours of sleep), or you can’t get through the day without sugar or caffeine, or perhaps your moods often fluctuate between happy and sad, this could be a sign of an imbalance of cortisol (your main stress hormone) and serotonin (a feel-good neurotransmitter). Women with PCOS have an increased rate of depression and anxiety, so check in with yourself to see how you feel each day.
One of the best ways to start getting clued in to what is going on in your body (and my favorite bio-hacking tip) is to start tracking your menstrual cycle. Download a period tracking app like Kindara, iPeriod, MyCycles Plus or Clue and add in your period days, along with any symptoms you experience on a daily basis.
Having this kind of data is like having a road map for the inner workings of your body. How awesome is that? I wish period apps existed when I was a teenager; it would have changed my life, and I bet using one will change yours too.
Nicole Jardim is a Young Women’s Hormonal Health Coach and creator of Fix Your Period, a series of programs that empower women to reclaim their hormonal health in a fun and sassy way. She runs a successful 1-on-1 and group coaching business and has helped thousands of women from all around the world who are struggling with PCOS, infertility, amenorrhea, PMS and much more.
Rather than treating problems or symptoms, Nicole treats women by addressing the root cause of what’s really going on in their bodies and minds. She passionately believes that the fundamentals to healing any hormonal imbalance lie in an approach that addresses the unique physiology of every woman. This is essential to reclaiming and maintaining feminine vitality at any age. Sign up here for her free 3-part video training series, Take Control of Your Period, Take Control of Your Life.