Testimonial – Female Hormones: Finding Balance

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FINDING HORMONAL BALANCE

When you hear the word hormone it often invokes images of once sweet, cuddly children who overnight turn into angry, irrational adolescents covered in acne. The truth is hormones affect every one of us long before we’re born and until the moment we cease to exist. They are like chemical text messages that run through your bloodstream and get delivered to your tissues and organs. “Yo uterus, it’s prostaglandin. I’ll totes LOL if you give this lady some wicked cramps.” The other thing about hormones is that they’re really powerful. Just call them The Donald of the body. Too much or too little can be a big problem. They affect growth and development, metabolism, sexual function, reproduction, and mood. In my house of 5 girls, hormones get a bum wrap for just about everything. I’ve been riding a pretty intense hormone roller coaster since puberty.

Confessions from a late bloomer

My girlfriends were all developed long before I even needed a training bra. My mother kept telling me that I would “become a woman” soon enough and I would be miserable and wish it had never happened. Try telling that to a 13 year old who’s only desire in life is to be in at least a B cup and carry Kotex around in her purse.  Well it did come and she was right…as usual. The excitement of “becoming a woman” dwindled quickly. At 15 I was diagnosed with ovarian cysts for which I was placed on birth control pills. That seemed to help clear up the cysts, but my problems were just beginning. At age 18, I was working 2 jobs to support myself and just starting out in radio. I was producing a morning show but also working nights at a bar. Living on my own, I ate terribly and sleep wasn’t even an option with that schedule. After months of intense pain I underwent laparoscopic surgery and was diagnosed with endometriosis. A condition in which cells from the lining of your uterus attach themselves to other organs. In my case they were growing on my bladder. My mother had a partial hysterectomy in her thirties from the same diagnosis.

There’s no cure for this disorder. My doctor’s solution was to send my 18 year old body into menopause. I would get what was back then still an experimental drug in the form of a pellet put into my belly every month for 6 months. After that treatment I would immediately begin the Depo Provera injection every 3 months. It was a dark and overwhelming time for me. No 18 year old should have hot flashes in line at the grocery store. After a year of this ordeal, the Depo injection was causing severe side effects. The doctor put me back onto the typical birth control pill. I stuck that out until I was 21 when the side effects were too much for me. Going off the pill sent me into a hormonal tailspin that lasted a few months. I vowed to never take hormones again.

Baby daze

It was only a couple of years later that I got pregnant with my first daughter. Here’s a little nifty tip to stick in your back pocket if you’re thinking about having children. Exclusive breastfeeding can suppress ovulation which in turn causes amenorrhea, the absence of menstrual bleeding. I didn’t have a cycle for at least the first 18 months of breastfeeding with all of my children. One might think that would be a cure all for endometriosis since if you’re not ovulating you’re not producing endometrial lining but unfortunately that wasn’t the case for me. As soon as my cycle returned so did the pain. By the time my twins were toddlers the pain was unmanageable and I was highly anemic from the two week cycles I was dealing with. I was advised to try a Mirena IUD. If I thought the Depo injection was a nightmare, the IUD was Nightmare on Elm Street. You’re supposed to keep them in for five years. I had mine removed after just a year. Baby number four set up shop soon after so it would be some time before I had to deal with having a cycle again.

Extreme measures

When my fourth daughter was a year old I started researching endometriosis. I was worried about it coming back with a vengeance. With good reason. I was scared that a hysterectomy would soon be my only option to get my life back. But as a person who typically tries to prevent surgery and find the root of a problem instead of just treating it, I hoped I would solve this issue. I decided to give a plant based diet a try. I read articles claiming that animal protein was causing the endometriosis. I was vegan for 5 months before my body gave out. At that point I didn’t care if the pain came back. It would be better than starving myself to death. I was so incredibly malnourished that I ended up with a three week case of pneumonia. Three rounds of antibiotics and a couple of cracked ribs were enough of a sign that I had to start eating meat again. I was still weak for months and began noticing that my hair was falling out. At the time I was till consuming moderate amounts of soy.

A few months later I became pregnant. I was very sick and worn out. At nine weeks I went in for an ultrasound and found out that the baby had died just a couple of days before. The miscarriage itself took two weeks to happen naturally. It ended up being very dramatic with me nearly dying in the hospital so we decided to end our fertility at that point. My hair continued to fall out and I had new problems to face.

Eat like a caveman?

The events of the next year were life changing. I had a new lease on life. Sometimes a near death experience can be just the motivation you need to get out of a rut. (Don’t try that at home folks.) I started taking ballet again after many years out of it. I worked out more regularly. Was committed to losing baby weight I’d been carrying around for years. Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t having success and my body was falling apart. My once thick and luxurious hair was now falling out more than usual. How did I go from looking like one of those women in a shampoo commercial to seeing my hair looking like a dead ferret in the bathtub after every shower? I was bordering on needing a wig to cover the bald spots. My cycles weren’t doing much better. They were heavy and coming every three weeks. Then, to make matters worse…I found a knot in my breast. What? Hadn’t I just survived almost hemorrhaging to death? Now breast cancer was going to take me out? I tried not to freak out.

My gynecologist did a basic blood workup and some rudimentary hormone panels. Everything looked normal except that I was still incredibly anemic seven months after the miscarriage and blood loss. She checked my thyroid hoping that would explain the hair loss. It was normal. Next up, my first mammogram. I was 34. The same age two of my close friends were diagnosed with breast cancer. They’d had babies and breastfed, too. That’s what they tell us will prevent us from getting it. They both passed away leaving sweet babies behind. Scared doesn’t cover what I was feeling. I had to wait several weeks to be seen at the radiologist.

The day finally came. There are so many things that flash through your mind while you’re sitting in that waiting room, about to have your breast smashed between two cold metal plates. I was so relieved to find out it was fibrocystic breast disease. Many women in my family have had this. Time to hug my 4 babies that mean everything in life to me. My battle wasn’t over though. What about the hair loss and the weird cycles? I still couldn’t get any answers.

Figuring it out

A couple of months later my life changed drastically when I found out about the Paleo diet from a friend I took ballet with. It made complete sense to me and I decided to give it a go. The weight loss was immediate and the changes in my body were fantastic except for one thing. Three letters we women (and you men) love to hear: P.M.S. It was getting worse every month. It used to be an issue of mood swings for a couple of days. Now it was a full blown week of misery before my week of misery. Plus I was still losing my hair! Every other aspect of my life was thriving from this diet. What was wrong with me?

I decided to go to someone who could tell me if I was doing this whole Paleo thing wrong and submitted a question to Robb Wolf’s podcast. He answered my question a couple of weeks later on the show offering a few ideas about what he thought could be happening. The mention of a hormone imbalance really clicked for me. Specifically estrogen dominance. I did a little research and wow, was I stunned when I answered yes to so many of the symptoms on the checklist:

Craving for sweets

Mood swings (PMS)

Depression

Tender breasts

Water retention, edema (swelling, bloating)

Fatigue, no energy

Nervous

Irritable

Anxious

Fibrocystic breasts, Breast swelling

Uterine fibroids

Weight gain in hips and thighs

Bleeding changes

Heavy or irregular menses

Headaches

Loss of sex drive (libido)

Low thyroid – cold hands and feet

One of Robb’s suggestions was acupuncture. I’d had success with that for morning sickness with my pregnancies so I started going weekly. I think it’s made a big difference. Besides, we all need to relax. I’m a type A mom of four. Slowing down is generally not an option in my life. Being stuck under needles for 20 minutes is good for something. I continued to research and found in a previous podcast that Robb mentioned supplements that could help estrogen issues. DIM (diindolylmethane) found in cruciferous vegetables and Calcium D-glucarate which is naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables. Instead of taking two different things I found both in one product at my health food store. I saw results almost immediately. I began taking it mid-cycle and instead of the week of P.M.S it was only a 3 or 4 days. The next month it was less and by the next month it was almost non-existent. My cycles evened out as well. Even better? My hair stopped falling out. In fact it started growing back in! Thick baby hairs all over my head!! My stylist and esthetician have both noticed amazing changes in my hair and skin. Most importantly my husband and kids can tolerate me for those 2 weeks out of the month now.

So what caused this hormone imbalance? Honestly, I don’t know. Did I consume too much soy? Exposure to plastics? My terrible diet growing up? Maybe it’s always been a problem. It’s obvious that my hormone issues go way back. What I realized is that eating a Paleo diet wasn’t causing my P.M.S. to get worse. It was magnifying what was wrong with my body. I was eating super clean and right for my body for the first time in my life. But this problem needed to be addressed. Finally all of the other obstacles were out of the way and I could see it so clearly. I’m so grateful to have my life back and hopefully I can prevent my daughters from having to travel down this road.

 

You can find more from Kendall Kendrick at her blog http://primalbalance.blogspot.com/

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  1. Darla
    November 28, 2011 at 6:02 am

    So grateful for this blog. I was diagnosed with endo in December 2010 and put on depo a week later. 3 months after but on birth control as well. I too had severe side effects and swore off both of them. I’ve been on a mission to find something natural to help my symptoms. I to lose my hair but haven’t noticed whether it’s become worse over the years. I do feel run down and get sick a lot more than I use it, which my doctor is still trying to figure out. I can relate to a week before my cycle being just as bad as the week of. I have often considered going in and telling my doctor to give me a hysterectomy, but know that isn’t easy to deal with either. I started doing the paleo diet about 3 weeks ago and am now looking forward to the results after reading this article!!!
    Thanks so much!!!!!

  2. olesya
    November 28, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Hi,

    Very encouraging story, thanks alot for sharing.

    would you be able to give a name of the supplement that has both DIm and calcium d’glucorate in it ?

    thanks

  3. Kristen
    November 28, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Kendall, did you take the dosage as prescribed on the bottle, or did you increase it to help balance out your hormones? Rob has mentioned on past podcasts that women who are estrogen dominant might need to take more diindolylmethane and Calcium D-glucarate. I believe I am estrogen dominant, but am unsure what dosage of DIM-D to take.

  4. Kate @ Fit for Real Life
    November 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story! As a woman who wonders about a lot of this stuff (no babies yet, but maybe babies someday) and who can’t really listen to what her non-Paleo friends talk about b/c it’s just SO off-base with what I know is right, that your story really resonated with me.

  5. Holly J.
    November 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this! I was diagnosed with endo while in high school. I was lucky that my son’s birth helped a lot of my symptoms (and going low-carb, and eventually paleo/primal at the same time). However, for the last few years I keep having similar symptoms to the ones you’ve described. (My boyfriend insists he can build an entire Cousin It from 1 week of my hair that has fallen out.) I’m going to look into the supplements and accupuncture. Again – Thanks!

  6. Lisa C.
    November 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I also would be interested in the name of the supplement you took.

    Thank you for the motivating story!

  7. Emmy
    November 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I googled and found this that has both DIM and calcium d-glucarate.

    DIM Detox – Diindolylmethane
    by Pure Encapsulations
    60 Vegetable Capsules

  8. Kendall
    November 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Hi everyone! Thanks for your replies. It’s nice to know that others can relate and I’m not the only one with this experience. The supplement I use is called Breast-D by Pure Essence Labs. It also contains vitamin D, lycopene, and green tea.

  9. Rosie
    November 29, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Great, inspiring story! I have never felt good about birth control pills because you are pumping hormones into your body! Just so unnatural, and most likely the imbalance to the body that you were experiencing. I tried them once when I was 19 for a ocuple months and felt crabby, low libido and sick all the time. I am now 25 and feel the healthiest I’ve ever been just being healthy, not taking any medicine for anything and allowing my body to live naturally. When women go through menopause it can be excruciating-but it makes me wonder how mnay of them were on b/c?? Could it be the bodies way of adjusting back?? Not sure..but worth some reearch.

    Very inspiring story!

    -Rosie

  10. Jenny
    November 30, 2011 at 10:11 am

    This is helpful, but how do you know if you’re estrogen-dominant? I have some of those symptoms, but I also suffer from hirsuitism. Doc has me on Yaz (I’ve been on it for 10+ years). I haven’t had a period since I’ve been on the pill. All hormonal bloodwork comes back normal, even before I went on the pill. I know there’s something wrong but is it dangerous to take the estrogen-reducing pills if that’s not what your problem is?

  11. Shawna
    December 14, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Terrific information. This gives me some hope that I can actually feel better. You said that Robb addressed this in a podcast. Which podcast was it?

  12. LeahinAustin
    December 28, 2011 at 8:23 am

    More info on her blog if you’re interested:
    http://www.primal-balance.com/2011/11/hormone-imbalance-resources.html

  13. Md. Clark
    January 2, 2012 at 6:44 am

    My brother recommended I would possibly like this web site. He used to be totally right. This publish actually made my day. You can not consider simply how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

  14. sam
    March 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Wow…so good to not feel alone. The docs scared me off when I was 21 and wanted to induce menopause for my endo. I got off birth control and just focused on my health but it was not until now that I’m doing paleo at 30 yrs old.

  15. Diane
    August 24, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Thank you for posting your testimony! I am having some female problems right now and had a ultrasound that should tumor on the uterus, cyst and a few of them on the cervical and a cyst on a overy! I will be seeing my GYN on Monday. I have lots of hormonal problems and believe estrogen is on the high side!!

    I chose the Paleo diet due to my whole family health issue!! I now have some relief on whether to do surgery which is what I know this Dr will want to do!!!

    Thank you…D

  16. Erin
    October 3, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Kendall, I know you wrote this almost a year ago, but I just found it! I am so happy for you to have figured it out. My story is very similar to yours, thank you for sharing. I sat here nodding my head at your every word. I wish all the GYN doctors in the world could grasp this.

    Thanks…erin

  17. michelle
    October 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    what brand has both dim and calcium d glucarate?

  18. Jeannine
    November 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Hello,

    I just ordered the pills you recommended online. I always figured I was Estrogen dominant.. been on numerous birth control pills since 13, I’m now 31. Diagnosed with Endometriosis this year Feb 2012. Really don’t know whats wrong with me. Migraines, bloating, fatigue, depression, ridiculously hard time losing even 1 lb, no libido whatsoever, etc etc. I’ve started Intermittent Fasting because I saw results when I tried it last year. I will also try more of a Paleo style diet as much as I possibly can
    (prefer high protein/low carb). I’m hoping this combo pill Breast D works. I will post again, in hopes that if it helps..I will be helping others decide to implement this as well. Cheers.

  19. Sandra
    January 29, 2013 at 7:02 am

    I have been experiencing problems too. Especially acne, hair loss, pms and my thyroid started acting up again.
    I was told me going low carb too quick had caused it, so now I am trying to be in the 100 range instead of 50 (I wasn’t trying to lose weight). I have been taking DIM for over a month, and it helped my skin and PMS a lot already! Just my hair is falling out badly still. I am a little confused now….and unsure whether my carb intake has something to do with it or not…:(

  20. Tonie
    February 24, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    I am not able to draw a good conclusion about a Paleo diet from reading this article, but then again I am objective. I haven’t pledged my allegiance to a particular diet as yet, so I can see all sides.

    It sounds like you started getting really bad PMS after you went on the Paleo diet, and took some supplements, DIM and Calcium D glucarate, to solve the problem. It sounds to me from reading your story that the Paleo diet caused or exacerbated your hormonal imbalance, and the supplements resolved the problem, not the Paleo diet.

    If I were you I would go off the Paleo diet if it causes you to have to take supplements to stave off your PMS. Because I don’t see the connection that allowed you to surmise that the Paleo diet wasn’t causing your PMS. How do you know it was magnifying what was already going on in your body?

    Also, you don’t mention anything about your Endometriosis. Did it go away on the Paleo diet? Do you still have it?

    Soy is terrible for you. Only fermented soy has some health benefits. So after reading the article I feel that I am very happy you are feeling better, but I don’t see any information that tells me the Paleo diet is what improved your condition. It sounds like you were not eating a healthy diet, and even Vegans and Vegetarians can have a very unhealthy diet. So maybe you improved from the Paleo diet eliminating some really bad things you were consuming too much of, but not necessarily from adding in all the Paleo animal products. Diets are so confusing. LOL

    • Kendall
      May 14, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      The Paleo diet shed light on problems that had been there all along. Because the other health issues I was having were covering it up. Once all of those cleared up after a few months of eating Paleo only the estrogen dominance remained. I only took the supplements for a few months and have been off of them for long over a year with no return of symptoms. I ate a poor diet the first part of my adulthood which I said in the article but after having children 12 years ago I began searching for health. The vegan diet I ate was exactly what any healthy vegan is prescribed. Now that I’m a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner student graduating in just a few weeks, I see the benefit of balancing bodies with supplements at times when food has done all it can. Over 2 years of eating Paleo I have zero health problems and I feel amazing. I’m really grateful for all of the emails and messages I receive about my story helping others. And no my endometriosis never returned. I have a very healthy cycle for the first time ever in my life with no pain.

  21. Jeanne
    April 14, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Your testimony is amazing. I am sad that you had to go through so much pain, but I am glad you found the solution. I completed a detox two years ago, but when I was done I went back to my old eating habits. I wish that I had discovered this diet. My symptoms of pre-diabetes have been returning, along with other thyroid related symptoms. But, without any insurance, I am on my own. So I started following a similar diet to Paleo, and I am feeling much better with also losing 5 pounds so far. I am seriously thinking about switching to the Paleo diet. All I need to do is give up my love for dairy products!
    Also, since most women are estrogen dominant, I have learned through my research that using a natual progesterone cream can help. So I have been using that for a decade now, and I rarely have PMS symptoms unless I am indulging in high carbs or junk food.
    So many diseases are preventable through diet changes. I proved that to myself with my detox, but also it is proven through these testimonials. Thank you againnfor sharing your story.

  22. Renee
    June 25, 2013 at 8:45 am

    I have the opposite problem- high levels of testosterone, darker hairs on my jawline and under belly button, and definitely hormonal acne. I am 5’3, 113 pounds, 27 years old and lead a mostly healthy, active life. Acne has now been a problem of mine for 10 years. I have just started looking into the paleo diet. My doctor (endocrinologist) has me taking birth control right now to try to balance my hormones. Besides diet, do you know of a supplement or any other tips for this? THANK YOU!! It’s been rough journey of prescriptions and false hope and going about it naturally makes me stay optomistic.

    • Stephanie j
      July 12, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      Renee: did ur hormones ever balance back out, my doctor just put me on the nuva ring to see if mine would balance out steph Leigh 19 @ gmail.com

  23. Gina
    September 4, 2013 at 2:47 am

    OMG! I am having the exact same problem as you had! I can’t tell you how relieved and happy I am I found this testimonal! I was doing paleo for about a year with no weight loss. I decreased carb (keto) and got really strict with the paleo about two months ago. Many issues I had improved physically, but my PMS and mood swings along with swollen Thyroids got much worse. I got panic-attacks, anxiety, and cysts in my breast as well. I scared so much believing the low carbs caused the troubles I increased carbs again, although I finally started slowly loosing weight. I figured I have estrogen dominance but still didn’t understand why some symptomes improved while others got way worse.I visited a naturopath who gave me tinctures balancing progesteron and helping liver, but PMS was bad again and is now lasting for 2 weeks with delayed period. I was so confused in the last two months not understanding what is happening to me. I got myself in an out of keto because of the confusion. I started doing short yoga and some basic meditation daily recently and I think I feel better. I will also look for an acupuncturist today. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING THIS!

    • Steph
      February 16, 2014 at 12:57 am

      I do low carb/keto/intermittent fasting most days of the weeks for few months now. Not sure if it’s coincidence, but my period only happens every two months n now stop (4 months). Got mood swings n fatigue as well..

      • Amy Kubal
        February 16, 2014 at 5:19 am

        Steph,it really sounds like the low/carb/IF/keto protocol is not what’s best for your body. If things aren’t working the way they should and you’re not feeling good then it’s time to look at trying something else. If you’d like some help figuring it all out, I would love to assist you.

  24. lynsey
    September 27, 2013 at 4:34 am

    I am currently seeing a naturopath for hormone imbalance. I have acne melasma and my hair has gone thin too. But i understand my body and i understand exactly whats going on from research etc. The DIM helps your body get rid of excess estrogen, but if you hair is still thinning you probably have low progesterone.. so using natural progesterone cream with the DIM would probably help a lot. This is what i am on currently, I had very low progesterone.. after starting the cream my libido came back for the first time in months!

  25. lynsey
    September 27, 2013 at 4:35 am

    also some herbs that will help with hormone balance are saw palmetto, angus castus aka vitex, and maca root.

  26. Heather
    February 1, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Thank you for this incredibly helpful article.

  27. melissa
    June 26, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    I just stumbled across this blog and I’m grateful that I did. I just turned 30,and have been in and out of my gp since I was 18 complaining about pains and cramps and my hair falling. I have been told I have pcos then I was told I didn’t and recently I was told I did have it and it may actually be endo but have to wait till October for my specialist appt since it’s not in my gps’ realm of diagnosing. Needless to say I’m not a happy camper and the pain I have tolerated has been unbearable where I have cried to my mother to remove my uterus. I recently got the depo shot and no side affects yet I actually found that I feel normal and somewhat balanced. I like the author dread the week before my period because I’m an emotional mess and I couldnt and cant control it and thay is scary and my boyfriend at the time thought I was a crazy person…not the girl he met a year ago. Anyways with all that said I’m grateful that I finally found someone or many of you who understand and grasp the “crazy”

  28. Tara
    August 6, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Thank you for this blog. I have had many of the same issues. My problems began much like yours with cysts and being put on birth control by the age of 15 to attempt to control them. I have had horrible reactions to all of the birth control’s that doctors have put me on to include hemorrhaging, vomiting, weight gain, extremely painful periods, acne, hair loss and most recently the development of melasma. The birth control roller coaster has done its damage. I am now 31 and to this day have never had a “normal” cycle. I have the paragard IUD now and the cramps are much better but still the PMS, swelling/bloating, nausea and mood swings are out of control. I never know when my period will start. It makes me feel crazy and the Drs seem to see all of these symptoms as just tough PMS. It is nice to know that I am not the only one.

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