I recently listened to a podcast that totally flipped my world upside down. I had been listening to Jess Lively's All Star series when I came across her interview with Alisa Vitti, and I was completely enraptured by everything she had to say. Alisa is the founder of Flo Living and author of WomanCode, both of which seek to educate women on the importance of our hormones and how we can learn to optimize them and heal our hormonal imbalances (that lead to issues such as PMS, cramps, unexplained infertility, PCOS, low libido, irregular cycles, endometriosis, and more) through what we eat and how we fuel our bodies. It's crazy to me, and honestly so sad, that the majority of Western medicine doctors know so little on nutrition and natural forms of healing, and instead are mostly focused on solely addressing symptoms through drugs and prescriptions, without ever helping us get to the root of the problem. So many women, including myself, visit their gynecologist or PCP with presenting hormonal symptoms such as acne, irregular or difficult periods, fatigue, painful ovulation, unexplained weight gain, etc., and a majority of the time we're met with the "solution" of going on birth control, or some other form of medication. All of which are typically great at curbing the symptoms, but as Alisa says, that's like the equivalent of putting a band-aid over the "check engine" light on your car and hoping for the best. It never actually addresses the underlying, sometimes more serious, issue.
This is something I've been aware of and frustrated about for awhile now - a "health"care system that is actually much more focused on sick care, and not on actually creating healthy bodies and habits in the first place. It makes so much sense to me that we are given everything we need in nature to nurture and heal our bodies and that when our bodies send us distress signals in whatever form that may be, while it's easiest to pop a pill and move on with your day, I'd so much rather be in tune with what my body is trying to tell me so I can heal my symptoms from the inside out. That thought is super empowering and exciting to me, I literally can't stop thinking about what it will look like to take control of my health and my life in that way.
The reason this personally struck a chord for me was because I had started to notice several different symptoms of hormonal imbalances in my own life (I didn't know to classify them as that at the time, since I wasn't aware how much hormones regulate pretty much every part of our bodies) and knew I probably needed to make some changes in my diet/lifestyle. So I've started to implement things I've learned through reading WomanCode and am really excited to monitor the results, and hopefully eventually share the success I've had with healing those issues on my own. I'd love to be able to use this blog as a place to periodically document the choices I'm making, and share any helpful health tips I come across as I continue down this journey.
A couple disclaimers: I am NOT a health professional so nothing I say should be taken as hard and fast advice. I would highly recommend reading WomanCode if this topic is of interest to you - it's filled with tons of education on our bodies and nutrition and also has lots of practical steps for optimizing your diet and lifestyle for your best hormonal health. I can only share my journey and what's worked for me, with the hopes that some steps and tips I share might also help you. Also, I am not anti-Western medicine. I don't think we need to run off into the forest and live solely off the land (though lately I have considered it once or twice haha). I do think it's incredibly important to educate ourselves on how we take care of our bodies, and I want to encourage every woman - and man - to listen to their gut when it comes to paying attention to physical symptoms in their bodies and taking medical advice from doctors. Just because they went to medical school, they might not have the perfect answer for you and what you need. I personally believe Functional Medicine is an ideal way to approach our healthcare needs and concerns and I'm encouraged that these types of doctors exist!
To wrap up this post, I wanted to share at least a few of the changes I've started to make in my own life, with a few helpful tips that have made these changes not only bearable, but much easier!
- I've started eliminating as much caffeine, refined sugar, dairy, and gluten from my diet as possible. All of this sounds horrible, I know. There's no one who loves cheesy bread and pasta more than me. But once I started learning how dairy and gluten and sugar affects my body and have started to see the positive effects of cutting them out (a flatter stomach for one, and other positive results that I won't list here - you're welcome boys), it makes it much easier to stick with it. I plan to go into this more in the future since those are all huge shifts, but for now I'm keeping it general. Helpful tip: I can't get enough of Minimalist Baker's healthy and simple recipes that are for the most part all vegan, and also incredibly delicious. I love her smoothie recipes and how every dish seems like something I can actually tackle, while also feeling good about what I'm putting in my body.
- I buy/eat all organic and non-GMO products whenever possible. Food and products that have added added chemicals and hormones are endocrine disruptors that make it harder for our bodies to maintain healthy levels of hormones, and can be contributors to much more serious health problems down the road. Helpful tip: Shopping at stores like Whole Foods, Mothers, Sprouts, or whatever your local health food stores are, makes it much easier to ensure you're choosing organic and healthy foods and products with every purchase. The Healthy Living app is also an awesome tool that lets you scan tons of products with your phone for health ratings if reading every label starts to feel tedious.
- I've been swapping out my skincare, bath, body and household cleaning products with healthy and more natural alternatives. This can feel overwhelming when you start learning about the different endocrine-disrupting chemicals you need to avoid that are basically found in everything you own (cue multiple almost-panic attacks on my end). But I'm trying to have grace for myself and just make one small change at a time if possible, until buying healthy products becomes the norm. Helpful tips: For starters, I put this list of chemicals to avoid in a note in my phone, since there's no way I'd ever memorize those crazy names, and reference that list when I'm purchasing something new. Next, I've become obsessed with Thrive Market. It's an online health store that sells organic and natural products and food at wholesale prices!! It's incredible. They have so many things, a monthly membership is only $5/month, which you literally make back in savings from one item, no joke, and their packages arrive super fast too. You get a 30 day free trial period when you sign up as well, and there are always special discounts and offers that pop up. It's the best.
Thanks for sticking with me through this lengthy post. I wanted to share the background to the shifts I'm making in my life and introduce this health journey that I hope to keep walking through, hopefully encouraging you and learning from one another as I go. My heart is for everyone to live healthy, full, and wonderful lives, in order to give this world the very best version of ourselves as possible. We owe that to our self and to one another, and I hope you feel inspired to make at least one small healthy change in your life today. You and your body deserve the very best.