Guest post by Amrit-Sadhana Khalsa Boyd
Note from Andrea: Consult your physician before taking any herbal supplements, including adaptogenic herbs. Ok, I feel better, now. Carry on, Amrit-Sadhana....
About 8 years ago my body started freaking out.
I had been on the pill for about 8 months. I was having erratic mood swings, my breasts were swollen and achey, I was having breakthrough bleeding between cycles, and I was depressed with no sex drive. None of the women in my family had ever been able to take synthetic hormones and I was beginning to realize that my body was shouting a big “NO” at me.
I went to my gynecologist to check out my other options. The list was not exactly ideal, but I ended up settling on the right one for me. I thought that was going to be it. I figured that as soon as I stopped taking the pill, there would be a month or so adjustment period and then my body would be back to normal.
This was not the case. I had acne (and I’ve never had acne before in my life), my periods were still erratic, my depression deepened, my cravings were out of control and I felt like a crazy woman.
I spoke with a naturopathic doctor who informed me that it can take up to a year, A YEAR, for your body to fully purge the hormones from the pill. After about 6 months of yeast infections, gut issues and a stressed out body, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and do some research.
This is what I found and what worked for me:
First things first: Vaginal health! I had to get rid of the chronic yeast infections. My naturopath/gynecologist at the time prescribed Caprylic Acid (yes, this is in coconut oil and MCT oil, but for this purpose you would need to find it in supplement form. You need it to pack a punch).
She explained that when you have a chronic vaginal yeast infection the candida is also living in your bowels so you need to get rid of it there first for it to heal elsewhere. I will warn you, these pills taste absolutely horrible! If you go this route, make sure you take them with food and A LOT of water.
I also upped my pro-biotic intake. With probiotics, it is really important to find one with lots of strains. I always find it most effective when taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Garden of Life makes some really good probiotics and they have one that is targeted specifically towards vaginal health.
Next was cutting out sugar, caffeine, most dairy (still ate sheep and goat dairy and allowed ghee) and gluten. This also made a big difference. Your entire body and so many of its functions are affected by your gut health so if you’re gut isn’t happy nothing will be. These diet changes helped to reset the ecosystem in my gut so that my body could heal from the affects of the pill. I am a strong believer in listening to your body. If a little voice is telling you to cut something out for a while, try it and see what happens.
After a few months, I noticed some impactful changes on my body.
I could feel my hormones starting to settle, my stress levels lowered, my periods came more regularly and less painfully, and my sex drive was almost back to normal (woo hoo!).
Even with all these changes, I could tell things still weren’t completely aligned. I was still fairly depressed and dealing with some gut issues. I started doing a bit more digging to see what other herbs or adaptogens I could add to my diet to support my body.
Luckily, I found that adaptogenic herbs can work wonders for supporting hormone balancing.
Here is a list of herbs and adaptogens that can help to balance your hormones:
Ashwagandha works with the endocrine system to help to balance hormones. It has a long list of benefits including but not limited to adrenal support, fertility, mood boosting and sexual vitality. You can purchase this adaptogen in capsule form, as a tincture or in powder form. I love to add it into my chai or coffee in the morning. (Check out my favorite recipe for adaptogenic super chai tea at the end of this post!)
Maca root is another really wonderful adaptogen that can easily be added to smoothies and lattes and has been found to balance hormones. Not only can maca balance your hormones and re-ignite your fire (hello!), but it is also a natural source of caffeine-free energy. Once introduced as a regular part of my diet, I noticed I wasn’t reaching for those afternoon pick-me ups as often, which in turn was better for my hormones.
Chaste tree berries can play a big role in hormones balance. It has been found to relieve PMS symptoms, heal acne, treat endometriosis and improve fertility. In my experience, I have mostly found chaste berries combined with other herbs either in female balance tinctures or capsule form.
Raspberry leaf tea, Don Quai and Wild Yam are often found in women's hormone-balancing supplements, and for good reason. I like to sip on a cup of raspberry leaf tea in the evening as it helps to strengthen the uterine lining. (Note that raspberry tea leaf is not recommended during pregnancy, so consult your physician.)
If you’re not one for taking a bunch of pills or powders, there is a really wonderful supplement by Vitanica named FemRebalance. I took this fairly consistently through my hormone balancing process and it made a big difference. If I ran out or forgot to take it for a while, some of my symptoms would return. It has many of the ingredients listed above.
Last but not lease, can we talk about stress?!
Stress is one of the biggest obstacles in a life of trying to balance your hormones. Taking the pill already puts stress on your body, then you take that bandaid away and your body is wondering what the heck happened.
Then you add in the stress of life, a relationship, job, family stuff, etc and you literally feel like you can’t breath anymore. This is when your adrenals get depleted and when you body needs them the most.
It may seem a bit out there but my spiritual practice of yoga and meditation saved me. (I grew up in a yogic household so this was second nature to me.) It brought me back to my body each day. It gave me a space to check in with myself, my mind and my body. Most importantly, it kept my stress at bay so that I could continue to focus on the positives in my life and healing my body.
In the end it took a lot of self-work to balance my hormones. It took intuition, fighting against western doctors wanting to put me back on the pill, and doing my own research.
What you put in your body is important, but how you treat your body is equally important.
When my life would get stressful, my symptoms would come back. To this day I make sure to take care of my stress levels so that my hormones stay in harmony with the rest of my body. I am in no-way a doctor or nutritionist, but I found that accessing the healing power of foods, herbs and self-care did the trick. It’s not a quick fix. It takes time and patience, but your body will thank you.
Amrit-Sadhana became conscious of the power of food and self care in her early teens. Living abroad and experiencing how other cultures utilize food and gifts from the earth to heal their bodies and minds deepened her knowledge and stoked a passion for living a fuller, happier and more connected life. Traveling and experiencing the culinary world of other cultures has greatly influenced her love for cooking and creativity in the kitchen.
If you are a latte drinker, check out Amrit-Sadhana's recipe for adaptogen-packed toasted dandelion masala chai latte:
-1 cup strongly brewed toasted dandelion tea
-1/2 cup homemade nut milk
-1 T grass-fed vanilla ghee (can be made vegan with coconut butter)
-1 T MCT oil
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp group ginger
-1/4 tsp ground cardamom
-1/2 tsp organic ashwagandha*
-1/2 tsp pine pollen*
-1 date (if you wish it to be sweet)
Blend everything together in your high speed blender and enjoy!