A little bitty bit of controversy for you.
Do you think I should lose 13-15 pounds?
Was this my idea? Absolutely not.
Yet, I might just try to do it. Why in the world would I do that?
I have a condition called PCOS: which is just a fancy way of saying my hormones are are not perfectly in balance. Causes a slew of symptoms and I had to take fertility drugs in order to have my first two children.
Any girl who has ever experienced these kind of symptoms will tell you. It makes them feel broken. I would do almost anything health-wise, in the natural world, to heal my symptoms, and of course, heal the root of the problem (hormone imbalance).
My Mother has been diagnosed with, fought with, and then conquered breast cancer. Her mother had the same struggle and passed away with cancer. As well as many other members in my family history. In other words, it runs in the genes (phew, I almost wrote jeans! Ha, ha!). Sorry. Ahem.
Breast cancer, from what I understand, is a major hormone imbalance. I have been told, repeatedly, by health professionals, that if I do not heal my PCOS that it will turn into other diseases such as diabetes, and cancer. I have seen what these diseases do to wonderful people's lives. I would like, very much, to prevent these debilitating health problems from entering my life.
So. Back to doing whatever I can, naturally (without prescription drugs), to heal myself.
I was not going to talk about this on my blog. Ever. It's personal. I may not hit *publish*. But there have been so many women who have approached me and asked for help in healing their hormones.
Changing my diet to be an oil free vegan was step 1. It made a huge difference.
1) My hair on my head grows very well and is almost out of control! (Love it!)
2) Regular cycles for the last 7-9 months, for the first time in my life.
3) Fingernails are long and pretty -- never happened before in my adult life.
4) My skin is looking far better and is easier to maintain than it has been my entire adult and adolescent life.
5) I lost 20+ pounds, which is the number one way to treat PCOS (Weight loss and having a very healthy weight in general)
Wow. Yes, my healing has come a long way.
But there's this little thing called, perfectionism. I've got it. And I know I am not perfectly healed.
How do I know?
There's also this little thing inside me that says, I would really like to have another baby.
Don't ask me why.
When I'm pounding my head against a wall because Megan and Samuel pretend like I don't exist..."Samuel, would you please pick up your clothes from the floor? Megan, come here, please." And....nothing. No response. Moms are just pests anyway.
I ask myself the same question. Ashlee, why do you want more of this?
It's the little moments. The ones where I hold on tight to Megan and press my cheek against her little chubby baby fat ones. The ones where Samuel is doing math, relentlessly, and asking me what 120 and 120 make altogether. The moments where Essie is cheerfully helping me with dinner and making jokes all along the way.
I have had certain other physical signs that my body needs more healing. On Saturday my cycle started and I was C-R-A-N-K-Y. I was exhausted, and had terrible cramps. Totally useless to Paul and anyone around me.
Like the hungry knowledge seeker that I am (pretty much desperate, actually, to find some answers), I did some Google searches, read a bunch of internet sites.
First of all, the internet can be so confusing. Almost all of the websites out there contain false information regarding what kind of diet a person with PCOS should have. This is how I got lost, originally, in trying out a low carbohydrate diet. Not to mention the fact that my OB/GYN told me that the way to heal PCOS is by eating low carb.
Tried that. Crash, and burn! It did not heal me, and I ended up desperately wanting carbs.
So this is my experience. Low carbohydrate diets do not heal PCOS. I am not a doctor, physician, dietitian, nutritionist, or any type of medical personnel. I am not a professional from Google. I am the actual person with a hormone imbalance. This is my experience.
It's hard to argue with results. (See above, numbers 1-5). These results never occurred on low carb. Not even close.
What I did find on the internet was a fertility website that recommended an herbal supplement called, Vitex, or, Chaste Berry Tree.
See my fingernails? They may not be long to you, but for me, it is revolutionary.
I wasn't scared to try it because my mom had recommended it to me before. She had us try herbal supplements as kids, all growing up, and for us they really did make a difference in our health. A lot of people are scared of supplements, and think they might be witch doctor-ish. I am not. I believe in the power of plants. See numbers 1-5, above.
I drove to Sprouts, (used to be Sunflower Market?) and grabbed a Vitex elixir made by Gaia herbs. Pictured above. It contains mostly Chaste Berry Tree, but also other things like Red Raspberry Leaf, etc. Basically a really good mixture of hormone supporting supplements.
I followed the directions, and poured some drops into my water bottle. Drank it.
IT'S HARD TO ARGUE WITH RESULTS.
Within minutes, I was an entirely different person. I could feel the cloud of darkness over my brain lift, and my negative thinking turned from anger and confusion and frustration to relief. My cramps disappeared in minutes. I felt my entire body relax so completely that I thought I might fall asleep, right there in my car. I told Paul, "It's a good thing you are driving us home because I don't think I'd make it. This stuff should be illegal I feel so good."
How Vitex Works
Our current understanding of vitex is that it has a supporting and regulating effect upon the pituitary gland. The pituitary is known as the “master gland” because it controls many vital bodily functions such as sending chemical signals to the ovaries, telling them how much hormones to make. This communication is known as the hormonal feedback loop.
Vitex has been shown in studies to:
Vitex is one of the best fertility herbs available to us when it comes to balancing hormones and regulating the menstrual cycle.
Inhibit follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH): Vitex increases the secretion of luteinising hormone (LH), which in turn increases progesterone.
Lengthens a short luteal phase: Studies have shown vitex to be affective at lengthening the luteal phase. While it does not contain any hormones itself, it does help the body to increase its own production of luteinizing hormone (promoting ovulation to occur) which in turns boosts progesterone levels during the luteal phase of the cycle.
Increased progesterone levels: Vitex has been shown to stimulate the formation of the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum is responsible for the secretion of progesterone. In a study of 45 women, 86% responded positively with normalized or significantly improved progesterone levels.
Reduces advancement of mild endometriosis: Vitex is used in Germany by gynecologists to treat mild endometriosis and prevent it from advancing.
May help prevent miscarriage: Vitex has a beneficial impact on progesterone levels. If miscarriages are due to low progesterone, vitex may help to normalize or increase progesterone levels. Vitex may be considered safe to use during pregnancy, but make sure to consult with a healthcare practitioner when using this herb during pregnancy. Also make sure to read our ‘Use During Pregnancy’ section below.
Relieves PMS: Clinical research has shown that vitex may be very beneficial for PMS symptoms, especially depression, headaches, rashes, acne, allergies and sensitivity of the breasts. In one study improvement of PMS by the first month was experienced by 32% of the women. By the third month 84% of the women experienced improvement of their PMS.
Lack of menstruation (amenorrhea): In a study of 15 women with amenorrhea, 65% had resumed a menstrual cycle by the sixth month of use. Progesterone levels also increased.
Irregular menstruation: Vitex has been shown to help balance both an absent menstrual cycle as well as aid a menstrual cycle that is heavy or too frequent.
Uterine cysts: Vitex has been found to be helpful at reducing cysts that are growing within the smooth muscle layer of the uterus.
Stabilization of menstruation after stopping birth-control pills: After discontinuing estrogen-containing birth control pills, vitex taken for several months has been shown to help stabilize the cycle and induce ovulation more quickly.
Helps stimulate milk production in new mothers: For over 2,000 years vitex has been used to help stimulate mother’s milk. Begin using vitex right after birth and continue for 10 days or more as needed.
Acne: Several studies have shown an improvement in the skin with the use of vitex. Along with appropriate diet changes vitex may help acne.
Vitex can help basically any issues that one experiences that disappear once pregnancy begins and returns after breastfeeding ends.
Here's the clincher.
Vitex won't work if you have a junky diet. Back to step 1. Start there. If you do purchase vitex, and take it, I strongly recommend you read the entire publication, here. It's a good read.
Vitex generally works for most women, but there are some cases where it may have no effect. Women who have less than ideal lifestyle habits will probably not experience the full effects of vitex. For those who have low energy reserves, weak immune systems, eat mostly processed foods, have been on antibiotics or steroids for a while – changes in diet and lifestyle are necessary prior to beginning the use of vitex. Without making these changes in addition to using vitex, you may not experience results.
My original question.
Would you lose 15 pounds if it would heal you?
The internet was so confusing, that I decided to email Dr. John McDougall to see what his opinion was on the matter.
We had a few exchange of emails throughout the evening, but the jist of his comments sum up to be this:
(He also provided me with this helpful link)
"It is unusual for PCOS to happen without overweight. Question the diagnosis.
At 5'6" you will likely end up at 120 or fewer pounds." Dr. John McDougall.
Holy Cow. Never, in my adult life, have I weighed less than 130 pounds. Never. I asked him how, as an oil free vegan, he suggest I lose an additional 13-15 pounds.
"The fats (including nuts, seeds, avocados) and oils keep the weight on regardless of how much exercise." Dr. John McDougall.
My Biggest Fear
My worst fear is that if I choose to eliminate ALL fat from my diet, along with continuing my new exercise program, that I will develop a disorder.
I have never had an eating disorder in my life, but all girls experience guilt related to eating.
I could possibly have to become so obsessed with diet and exercise, that I become impossible to be friends with. Who wants to go out to eat with a fat free vegan? What would I order at a restaurant? How would I travel?
These may be faithless questions.
I have to remember who I am, and what I have done. I have changed my diet. I have researched many books.
While my specialty may be a killer oil free cookie, it is not a killer fat free cookie. Instead of using nuts and seeds to create an awesome texture, I would be back to applesauce. Yippee. You can hear my enthusiasm.
No more cashew cheese.
Skip the avocado with my savory breakfast veggie scramble.
And, um, oil free, fat free dressings? Without using tofu or nuts, or tahini?
I'll have to work on that.
My Personal Conclusion
I can't try to lose weight. I never can focus on weight loss, or inevitably, it backfires. I refuse to go back to weighing myself every day. Booh.
I can try to eat healthier. Move in that direction. Less nutty cookies, more fat free desserts and meals. My Lasagna is fat free when made with just the mashed potatoes. Vegetable soup is another great one that I absolutely love.
Why not just plain oatmeal with brown sugar and almond milk? Gorge myself on fruit and vegetables. Stuff myself with them.
No starvation plans, here. Ever. I don't work that way.
I am continuing my exercise program. Moderate exercise on a regular basis is a powerful healer of many ailments.
I will continue to take my Vitex. Best results are seen if it is taken for at least 6 months.
I may try Maca powder in my Pumpkin Pie Smoothie.
I may try this fertility cleanse (minus the white tea, I only drink herbal tea).
But my most important conclusion is this: I refuse to let this hinder my life. I will not feel guilty if I eat something with fat in it every once in a while. I may try to look for more fat free meals, but I am not going to obsess over it.
I refuse to get so lost in diet and exercise that I become a lost soul.
I have other interests. I love to read. I like playing with my kids. I have to clean my house and do my job as wife and mother.
This will probably mean that the amount of fresh produce I am buying will go up again.
This will also mean that some of the recipes on this site, posted over the next few weeks, will be weight loss friendly. But don't worry. I never post foods that taste badly to me or my family. I aim to please. Even if it is fat free...
It means a return to simplicity. Beans and rice, salad and steamed vegetables. Tons of unrefined starches. Oatmeal. Potatoes. Quinoa. A lot of fruits and vegetables. Greens.
Paul asked me. What if you do all of this work, and you are not healed? What if, you reach 120 pounds, and your hormones are not balanced?
I don't know. I am not trying to reach 120 pounds. All I can focus on is incorporating healthier foods into my day.
And then move on. Be me. Be happy. Be a mom, and wife. Love the people around me. Enjoy this beautiful life. Because those are the things that matter most.
Is this totally psycho? What would you do, or what have you done to attain better health balance?
Have you had ailments that doctors try to tell you are "just normal?" Or that you just "have to live with?"
What kind of healing journeys have you been on? How did you find success?