Natural Healing: My Personal Journey with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
I am very excited to finally announce that after 4 years of missed periods, my body is finally healing and I started cycling again, 100% naturally. This is sort of a continuation from my first HA post Recovering From Myself-- My Battle with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, but I feel it's important to write about the process of recovery and how I was able to do it, naturally.
Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is a very complex endocrine disorder that involves a problem with the hypothalamus, the center of the brain that controls reproduction. Hypothalamic amenorrhea basically is when ovulation stops caused by a failure in the hypothalamus to signal to the ovaries. Throughout all the research I've done on this condition, it was hard to find other women's personal stories, which was the one thing I was dying to find. Personally, I needed to know that there were other people with my same condition who were able to successfully get their periods back and eventually get pregnant on their own. For all the other women who have the same condition, goals, and struggles as I do, I want to share my story and share some of the things I did that helped me.
After seeing four different doctors, getting an MRI, having several ultrasounds done, and spending thousands of dollars in medical bills, doctors still didn't completely understand why my periods vanished or why my hormones flatlined. Many doctors told me that the only way I could have a period again was by taking oral contraceptives and the only way I would be able to get pregnant in the future, was by getting fertility treatments. However, I was able to listen to my body, find my healing process, and was able to say goodbye to hormonal contraceptives forever. I've had three periods since the first one came, so I finally feel comfortable sharing that my body has finally began to heal itself from all the physical and emotional stress it has gone through in the past. Between obsessive exercising, disordered eating, and some emotional trauma, my body was not healthy enough to have a period/get pregnant, but now, it is, and it's a very accomplishing feeling. (P.S. my goal is not to get pregnant right now).
Throughout this journey, my health had to become my number one priority. I have always been health and body conscious, but I had to let go of the obsessive working out and calorie counting habits I had made for myself over the years. Although it was an extremely challenging battle with myself, I had to realize that my health was more important than how thin I wanted to be. Was it more important to be 5-10 pounds lighter today, or have the option to get pregnant in my future?
During this healing process, the main goal is to eliminate any stress that your body is holding; whether it's mental stress, physical stress, or emotional stress. Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is a stress induced disorder so the most important thing to do is eliminate stress.
1. Accupuncture & Herbs help drastically- I was shocked to see how fast my body reacted to acupuncture and herbs. Going to an acupuncturist that specializes in fertility is my biggest recommendation. Finding a good acupuncturist is hard, some are better than others. If you happen to be in the Denver metro area, Accupuncture Denver is an incredible place to go. They are very personal, they set up an entire lifestyle plan personally for me and I got my first period only 3 weeks after taking their herbs. I honestly believe acupuncture changed my life; it is an incredible practice and has a lot of evidence based research behind it.
2. Avoid cold foods- According to Chinese medicine, cold water and cold foods are blood restricters. Choosing cooked foods over smoothies, raw foods, and salads, is recommended. I also recommend wearing socks all the time to keep your feet warm and taking warm showers instead of cold.
3. Yoga over cardio- Yoga is a great mindful practice that keeps your body and mind in shape. Cardio causes a physical stress to the body, although it is a positive stress, it still releases hormones in the body that can reduce the production of leptin. Leptin is a key hormone in this endocrine disorder, which cannot be given orally. It is important to keep leptin hormones regulated, which is normally low in many women with HA. Anaerobic exercises are a good option to keep your bones strong. Osteoporosis is at a higher risk for women with Amenorrhea, so keeping your bones strong is essential.
4. Mindful Meditation- I've been using the app "Head Space" to help me meditate 10 minutes everyday. Meditation helps relieve stress, enhances happiness, and increases self awareness.
5. Avoid drinking alcohol- period.
6. Exchange Coffee for Tea- Because of the high amounts of caffeine in coffee, it is good to avoid drinking it. Caffeine in general is something to avoid to keep stress levels low.
7. Try not to focus too much about what your body isn't doing and more on what it is- my body was slowly progressing everyday, but it required a lot of patience. Focusing on the positives versus the negative was a good practice for me. For all things, not just my period.
8. Supplement- Some supplements that were recommended to me were:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin B6 & B12
- Multi-vitamin (Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin A, E, K, etc.)
- Selenium- this can also be supplemented by eating Brazil nuts. They have high amounts of selenium in them.
- NAC- an antioxidant that helps regulate cycles
- Vitamin D3
9. Keep a healthy & balanced diet- making sure my diet was healthy during this entire process was probably the most important thing I did. Eating a variety of different foods is always good for your body. It's important to not go on any "extreme diet" that could potentially cause stress to your body: fasting, cleansing, and detoxes are not recommended. Completely eliminating carbohydrates, like a paleo diet, is also not recommended. Avoiding simple carbohydrates is different that avoiding carbohydrates in general. Eating whole grains and lots of veggies is important. But it is important to avoid foods with a lot of hormones in them like red meat, chicken, and dairy products.
I am overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude that my body has positively reacted to all the changes I've made. This year has been entirely focused on healing myself from this condition that began when I was sixteen. Being able to set aside an entire year to focus on myself has brought so much to my attention and I am grateful that I was able to fix this condition at the age of twenty. This has been a long, spiritual, journey for personal growth, but to see positive feedback is an incredible feeling. I think having a condition that affects your ability to get pregnant, which is an essential part of being a woman, will change you to be in-tune with yourself in all aspects. But to learn that I could heal my own problems by changing my lifestyle choices was an incredible lesson for me and I am very grateful.
be kind & love yourself