• Let’s Talk About Hormones, Adaptogens + My Story

    lets talk female hormones
    Let’s Talk About Hormones, Adaptogens + My Story
    Photography by Vanessa Joy

    HORMONES. Let’s do this, friends.

    For the past 26 years of my life, no one has been talking about hormones. Why is this?

    Up until a few months ago, talking about hormones was basically like talking about bowel movements to most people. I personally am an open book (perhaps even too open). But there is really no such thing as TMI in my world. When we as a community don’t speak openly about things, it just makes us bottle even more things inside. And that doesn’t do anyone any good. I want to talk about things no one else is talking about and I want to talk about them with YOU.

    So here it goes friends. Let’s chat a bit about hormones and a bit about my story with my hormones.

    You learned from my body image story that I definitely have fluctuated with weight in my life. I have weighed a bit more than I do now and I have also weighed a bit less. But for the past 5 years or so I have been around this size (give or take a few lbs ya know). And for the first time in my entire life, I am finally comfortable and to be honest, loving my body.

    I love my body for its oddly proportioned limbs to torso. I love my little nose and the freckles I get when I have had too much sun. I love that my legs are basically the same length as Jord’s. I have learned to love the flipping weird shaped feet I have and how my fingers are naturally crooked. I have learned to love and embrace the good, the bad and the weird.

    But with all of this body love and positivity I am spreading and embracing, there is one thing that isn’t right.

    I do not have my menstrual cycle. After going off birth control last April (yes, 13 months ago), I have not had a period. I was on and off the pill for pretty much 8 years of my life. It is one of those things I wish I could go back in time and listen to my mom and NOT go on it but I can’t sit here and blame myself, or even blame my doctor who claimed it would make all my horrible menstrual cramps and other symptoms go away.

    Today there is much more awareness and information about being on the pill and its negative impacts it can have on our bodies. I am not going to get into that here because I believe it is a personal choice and I obviously am by no means a doctor. But I am very happy that more and more people are switching off the pill to regulate their cycles naturally.

    When I went off the pill, I didn’t really notice I didn’t get a period until about June. Then I began going to acupuncture thinking that would do the trick, but after 3 months of going 1x a week I wasn’t seeing any results. No hormonal symptoms or anything.

    It sounds silly but from September until about January I just kind of went along with the whole no period things. Didn’t really think about it much and just hoped it would come on its own. Then by the end of January I started to get pretty nervous and upset about my lack of menstrual cycle and started to do some research on it to see what I can do and who else is dealing with similar issues.

    First up, start eating meat (which you can read more about here). Even though my blood work and levels were where they needed to be not eating meat, I felt I needed more nutrients from eating meat and animal protein. In fact when I got blood work last summer my estrogen and all the typical hormone levels we tested for were where they should be. But I strongly felt and still feel that eating meat is positively impacting my own body and hopefully helping in some way (I only eat hormone free, grass-fed, etc.)

    Then I began reading more about herbs and different adaptogens that can help regulate hormones. I read Alisa Vitti’s book, Woman Code, and absorbed that info like a sponge. It took a few reads to understand but I highly recommend it. I quickly became infatuated with the female body and how different our hormones are than men. I still read that book and reference it weekly and talk about hormones with anyone that will listen. I went to Alisa’s event here in NYC and basically cried when I met her because of how much that book changed my life and perspective on my body. It taught me that a) I am not alone b) I knew nothing about my body c) I will find a way to regulate my hormones again and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    After dabbling with a few adaptogens and super-herbs, there are a few I incorporate into my life daily.

    Maca

    Maca root was the first adaptogen I started to take. I bought the capsules, powder and also discovered REBBL around the same time. REBBL is a brand you are likely familiar with now from the blog but they make a handful of super-herb elixirs and proteins with different adaptogens and more. I love their Dark Chocolate Protein, which has a blend of maca, ashwagandha and reishi mushrooms in it. Maca is used to enhance vitality, stamina and energy. It also helps to support a healthy libido and balance hormones. REBBL also has Maca Mocha and Maca Cold-Brew that have maca root in it too. They also source their maca root through a direct relationship with the growers. I have noticed a difference in energy levels for sure since incorporating maca into my diet and also have noticed hormonal symptoms and differences (at least for me). I use both the capsule and powder.

    Ashwagandha

    I have learned that high coristol levels can also negatively impact our hormones. AKA having high stress levels, which is something that I am SO guilty of. I have been a stress ball for as long as I can remember. In high school I used to get stress pains in my stomach and was stressed about getting into college. Then in college I was stressed about finding the perfect internship and job. Once I had a job I was stressed about making more money then I was fired from my job and the stress levels went through the roof. It wasn’t until about 6 months ago I really felt stress free for the first time in likely ten years. Needless to say, stress has definitely had an impact on my hormones. I turned to Ashwagandha (I use supplements) because it is a powerhouse of an adaptogen. It helps balance stress levels and enhance relaxation. It is important for enhancing vitality for all ages too. REBBL includes it in a variety of their beverages like Vanilla Spice Protein and Ashwagandha Chai.

    Vitex/Chaste Berry

    Vitex is the most recent addition to my adapotegen/super-herb line up. I read about this in Alisa Vittis’ book and also when I was reading about low progesterone levels (mine was on lower side). Vitex has been used to support hormone production and balance. It does need to be taken consistently for at least six months some say to really see benefits. I am on month three so time will tell. I take the capsule form but they have drops too you can add to water.

    These are the top three I focus on daily, but I am continuing to do research and learn more about what else I can do to help. Obviously don’t want to overload my body!

    Finding products like REBBL that are made with the ingredients and super-herbs to support my body needs is a dream come true. It is amazing to see that companies out there want us to fuel our bodies with ingredients and adaptogens and they make it easier and more delicious for us. When I am traveling or know I won’t remember to take a supplement, being able to grab an Ashwagandha Chai or Reishi Chocolate from REBBL is a game changer. When I want the extra boost of turmeric, I drink their Golden Milk or Lemon Tart. All the flavors are flipping delicious, they taste indulgent and we are getting a nutritional boost.

    lets talk female hormones
    Photography by Vanessa Joy
    lets talk female hormones
    Photography by Vanessa Joy

    I have been consistently taking Maca, Ashwagandha and Vitex since about February and while I still have not seen my period come back, I have had more hormonal symptoms than I have in the last 10 months prior. Think cramps, breast tenderness, PMS, migraines, etc. Granted those are not fun symptoms but it is telling me that something is brewing in there.

    I also started going back to acupuncture in early April and was able to dive into my story a bit more with my acupuncturist (a different one than who I was seeing in the summer). It was really reassuring to hear that she did not feel I was too thin or needed to gain weight to get my period back, even though I have gained a healthy few pounds recently. I learned I was taking care of my body better than I ever had before by incorporating meat into my diet, taking my herb daily, stabilizing my blood sugar levels (Alisa Vitti talks about this), drinking bone broth and also taking my stress levels down and managing my cortisol levels. That is the most challenging for me, I know my cortisol levels are likely still high but running a business solo can obviously be stressful despite how amazing it is.

    I have learned my pulse and color of my tongue (sounds funny, I know) is strong and the fact that I have had recent headaches, cramping, PMS-ing and other hormonal symptoms is a good sign. Next up I am trying to tell my body how it is a safe haven for my menstrual cycle and reciting positive affirmations daily about loving my body. I am priding myself for taking necessary steps towards feeling like a woman again.

    It is scary to think about how many females out there do not have a period or a regular cycle and don’t worry about it. I have been there and now I shake my head looking back at how nieve I was thinking that being on the pill and having a period was actually real. Meanwhile having a period when on birth control is fake and not your actual period. I wish this was something that doctors spoke of when prescribing birth control to patients as a “solution”. I have still been offered various drugs to try and fix my lack of period and have been told it is “nothing to worry about”. Meanwhile I am over here having a straight up panic attack. At least the ashwagandha is calming me, ha!

    There is a grey area between having PCOS and AH and I am in that area. My blood work comes back as okay and just progesterone is low. My ultrasounds show no sign of present cysts. Next time would be looking at my thyroid a bit deeper.

    I am hopeful that I can figure out what is happening in my body and that I will regain my menstrual cycle back. I want to spread my story with each of you and learn from and lean on one another. I wish I had more solutions to share with you about what to do but I can at least share this and what I am doing now that will hopefully pay off in the end.

    I am by no means an expert in this field but I am grateful, scared and excited to share a bit of this journey with you guys. And please do not take what I say as medical advice, this is my story and I am only sharing what things have worked for ME and what I have done so far. Don’t go drinking REBBL or taking super-herbs as medicine without doing your own research.

    I’d love to hear if any of you have struggled with anything similar or if you have anything you recommend!

    xx, Rach

    Thank you REBBL for sponsoring this post. It means so much to me to work with brands that I love and who support rachLmansfield!

    Thank you Vanessa Joy for the amazing photos! I highly recommend her as a photographer to anyone!

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    135 Comments

  • Reply Erin May 23, 2017 at 8:09 am

    Thank you for sharing your story! I went through the same thing this past year and hearing about others makes me feel less alone. I was on the pill for 10yrs and it took me 13months to finally get my period. I ignored it for the first 6months too. Then I panicked and exercised more because I thought that was “healthy” and was my way of dealing with anxiety. Obviously that didn’t help. Finally after a ton of research, I cut out all exercise other than yoga, added in meditation and acupuncture, and put on a few lbs by eating more healthy foods. I also added in maca, ashwagandha and started taking magnesium before bed. After 3months of the right changes, it happened! And I cried tears of joy in the bathroom at work. Keep doing what feels right for your body!

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 5:56 pm

      thank you so much for reading. you are not alone! i am so happy you are back in action!! xx

  • Reply Katie May 23, 2017 at 9:03 am

    I’m so happy that you shared this! I’ve never been on birth control (thankfully) but have always struggled with regular periods. At one point in my life I was just too thin, but even after getting over that hurtle things have been inconsistent. Thankfully I was able to get pregnant with my first child fairly easily but the whole 15 months I breastfed him my period didn’t return. When I was ready to get pregnant with my next child I found that a mixture of acupuncture and adding more fat into my diet helped my period to come back and some-what regulate it. These things take time – often a lot more than what we want. When you think about being on birth control for 8 years then a year off of it to get back to “normal” really isn’t that much time. I think what you’re doing is great and I’m so glad you’re shedding light on this topic – which isn’t discussed enough! Wishing you the best of luck.

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 5:55 pm

      thank you for reading! yeah tons of fats are in my diet! i hope the acu helps me too. my ovaries are basically asleep still! they need to wake the beep up. xx

      • Reply Lindsay January 29, 2018 at 12:39 pm

        Hi Rachel, On an insta story you mentioned licorice plus. I’m been trying to find which brand you use or if that’s something you still recommend? Thanks for sharing!
        Lindsay

  • Reply Emily May 23, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Thankful that more and more of my blogger friends are sharing their struggles and how they are proactively working to get their period back; you are definitely not alone Rachel. I’m excited to go along with you and read more about your journey. <3

  • Reply Silvia May 23, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Oh Rachel, maybe I shouldn’t have clicked the link in your email knowing that I’m at work because now I’m crying and I don’t even know if they are tears of relief or fear or a combination of about a hundred emotions, but I do want to say thank-you for writing this post and sharing your story. <3 I'm 35, have been vegetarian nearly half of my life and went vegan last year after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I LOVE my vegan life and it dramatically changed my relationship with food for the better (I suffered from anorexia when I was younger). I stopped taking the pill last December, after again, being on it for nearly half of my life, and I haven't gotten my period since. I went to my doctor and then a gynecologist, but I found neither consultation particularly comforting or helpful. I am freaking out inside because I would really like a baby (or two or three) and I am not getting any younger. I feel like something is really wrong with my body and I have not a clue what to do about it, which is both frustrating and frightening. I am going to start taking the adaptogens you discuss in this post…. maybe they will help. In any case, thank-you again Rachel. <3

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 5:54 pm

      awwwww! thank you for reading. i hope you find out wha works for you! xx

    • Reply Jill Brunak June 6, 2017 at 8:52 pm

      If having children is important to you, you might want to look into the herbalist Susun Weed. She is a true scientist and has a radio program on blogtalkradio.com I always recommend her to people wanting a baby. Best of luck to you!

  • Reply Dani May 23, 2017 at 10:27 am

    I am going through almost the exact same thing! I went off the pill last August and have yet to see my period since. I talked to a doctor who suggested I take a prescription to “force” my period back but I would much prefer it returns naturally. I’ve also given some of these supplements a go, including Maca, so hopefully things return to normal. Thanks for this post!

    • Reply Jackie May 23, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      My doctor suggested the exact same thing! He gave me a progesterone pill to take for a week and when I stop, he said I should get a period. I really do not want to take hormone pills. I wish it would come back naturally! Hoping yours does as well. I’m glad I’m not the only one!

      • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 6:00 pm

        tried that too! ugh, sending good vibes! xx

        • Reply Melina May 23, 2017 at 10:03 pm

          Just started natural progesterone cream, did the progesterone not work for you? Also what mg of each adaptogen are you using?

          • Rachel May 25, 2017 at 5:56 pm

            i linked to the adaptogens i use in the post 🙂 i am trying the cream now but my acupuncturist said not to do it as it may impact the estrogen rising. but i think i need it.

        • Reply Rachel July 12, 2017 at 8:13 pm

          I also had challenges with my period after using the pill (and wanted to get pregnant). I took Vitex for a while, but it didn’t seem to work like I had hoped. My doctor then prescribed Metformin (a drug typically used to help those with diabetes) and it worked after one month!

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 5:54 pm

      ugh the worst! i will keep you updated! xx

  • Reply Ashley May 23, 2017 at 10:50 am

    I’m so happy to read this post today!!! I’ve been struggling for about 8 years with a ton of different autoimmune disorders – I’ve gone the regular medical way, integrative way, acupuncture…and I’m still a mess!

    HOWEVER – I stopped having a period for FOUR YEARS!! It never really was a big concern because of a lot of weight loss and having all the autoimmune disorders. I go for acupuncture weekly and at the beginning of April I told my acupuncturist that I keep feeling like I’m getting my period but never get it! So he opted to add a different treatment for the needles. He introduced me to the Homeopathic Body Restoration treatment with vials to identify and balance out any blocked hormones and endocrine disrupters. Every week it was different with some repeats, but after four weeks I started my period!! And the best part was it was as if it never stopped – completely normal and I felt great!!! It was definitely a bit bittersweet, but I felt so much better knowing that there wasn’t something else wrong with me!!

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 5:57 pm

      thank you so much for reading. i am SO looking into homeopathic body restoration. my acupuncturist hasn’t hurt of it but i’d love to learn more! xx

  • Reply Fern May 23, 2017 at 11:22 am

    So interesting!! In the past i have struggled with an eating disorder and as a result am currently struggling with the same thing – in an effort to solve this i am trying to put on weight (which is difficult and scary for me!) and relieving stress around food and exercise. I have heard about maca a lot recently but not entirely sure how to incorporate into my daily diet
    Would love to hear more on this topic and how you get on!! X

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 5:59 pm

      definitely putting on a few (healthy) lbs as been told to help. i have gained weight too in effort to help but everyone i know who needed to regulate did need to gain weight. i recommend ordering the capsules i linked to in the post! xx

  • Reply Jackie May 23, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    OMG I feel like I just read a story about my life! I’m having the exact same issues and taking a very similar approach to trying to fix them. I went off the pill back in December after being on it for almost 9 years. I had switched about a year before that to a new pill. I started having HORRIBLE side effects.. insomnia for an entire week every month with sever irritability/PMS followed by 3 weeks of a period off and on (while on the pill, so bizarre). I was also hearing/feeling my heart beat in my ears at night, which for me is not normal. My blood pressure and heart rate are completely normal. So I decided to stop taking the pill. I had a very heavy period right after and now nothing for almost 6 months. I went to the gynecologist a month ago and told him everything. He, of course, suggested going back on the pill. I told him no, that is not an option for me. I said I felt that there was a hormone imbalance and suggested tests. He basically laughed in my face saying it’s so hard to determine what’s normal and what’s not. I said I still wanted the tests done. Of course, they came back in the normal range. I forgot to mention, in the past year I’ve had the worst cystic acne on my chin, which I never had before. I know this can be a sign of hormone imbalance. I’ve cut out dairy, peanuts and now eggs trying to get to the bottom of my acne. I’ve been incorporating Maca and Ashwagandha into my diet, because like you, I am a ball of stress. I take zoloft for anxiety now, which I hope to get off of someday. It’s such a sigh of relief to know I’m not alone in this and other women are experiencing the same problems. Thank you so much for this post!!

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 5:59 pm

      UGH so sorry to hear this! definitely find a doctor that can work better for you, it is so important! xx

  • Reply Kellie May 23, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I also haven’t had a period in months and have been seriously considering going off the pill as of late, and it is so refreshing to hear someone else speak about their hormone struggles. Would you mind recommending the acupuncturist you’ve been using? I live in NYC and have not had any luck with the acupuncturists I’ve met with thus far. Thank you!

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 6:00 pm

      thank you so much for reading! i am going to keep mine private for now just because i want to solve the issues at hand first but stay posted 🙂

  • Reply Maria May 23, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Thank you for this post! I have been off of birth control since October and have yet to get my period. I started taking vitex every day starting last month so we will see what happens. It is nice to know I am not the only one struggling with this. I will definitely be reading the Woman Code!

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 6:00 pm

      ugh! so sorry to hear, i am sending all the good vibes your way! xx

  • Reply Megan shepherd May 23, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    This was such a great post! I went on and off birth control for a few years and now I’m off of it and battling some hormonal issues. I developed a bit of hormonal acne and my mental health was definitely affected. I too have started using maca! I love it, but haven’t been using it long enough to notice differences. I do wish I had never been on birthday control, I feel like it takes our bodies quite sometime to readjust to functioning correctly on their own!

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 6:11 pm

      thank you for reading! it takes time for sure! xx

  • Reply Nerea May 23, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    Thank you so much for this Rachel!! I am going through a very similar problem after going off birth control last August. My period went back to normal on it’s own until this February where it just decided to disappear. I have also re-incorporated meat and some of the adaptogens above. I also got my hormones tested and everything was normal so I understand where you are coming from. It makes me feel so much better knowing that other people are going through a similar journey because it is inspiring!

    Keep up the real-ness!!
    Much love,

    Nerea

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 6:11 pm

      ugh i am with you chica!! xx

  • Reply Blaire May 23, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Thank you for sharing! I have been struggling with the same issue since March of 2015, the last time I had a “regular” period. I too took a long time to do anything about it, thinking it was just a fluke and that it would come back naturally. About a year later (last summer) I started gaining weight even though I was working out harder than ever before and eating clean. Long story short, through my own research that took quite some time (and still ongoing) I self-diagnosed myself with metabolic damage/adrenal fatigue. I learned that I was not giving myself enough rest and not eating enough to recover from my workouts. Around last Fall, I started taking Standard Process’ Adrenal Complex, which is a combination of Licorice Root and Rehmannia rhizome, as well as a Vitamin B complex. FINALLY in December, I got my period! The first time in over a year and a half. Since then it has not been normal…I got it a couple of months and the not again, and finally got it the other day again. I’ve also recently started taking Standard Process’ Cod Liver Oil and Chaste Tree. And lastly, I’ve cut way back on working out. Instead of 5-6 intense workouts a week, I now only do 2-3 and the other days I take my dog on a long walk and focus on my diet and calorie intake (so as not to gain weight). I’m still a work in progress, but I am pleased that things are happening! I have been so worried that I would not be able to conceive a child in the coming years and now I’m hopeful that I will! Look into adrenal fatigue and thus Standard Process products. You may find them helpful as well!
    -Blaire

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 6:10 pm

      i am so happy to hear that!! xx

  • Reply Tayler May 23, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    I am so so glad I read this today. I haven’t had my period in almost 2 years, and I have done the same thing by just kind of going with it/ignoring it. I mean I’m not complaining about not having to deal with it ya know?! But I really have been secretly worrying that something may be wrong, but until reading this I had no idea there was stuff I could be doing myself to try and figure out my body. I am definitely going to take some of those adaptogens and other things to regulate my hormones. Thank you so much Rachel.

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 6:10 pm

      ugh i am with you girl! xx

  • Reply Nicole May 23, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Hey Rachel! I’m just a little confused about the sequence of events. Not to get too personal, but did you start the pill to regulate your period because you didn’t have it and then when you went off of it your period disappeared? I started the pill about 2 years ago, and it has helped me to get my period on a regular schedule (at the same time each month). Now I’m a little worried because you said going off of the pill made it disappear. I didn’t realize that it does this?! Why did going off the pill make your period disappear? Should I be worried that mine will disappear as well? Sorry that’s a lot of questions-just want to do what’s best for my body.
    Thank you!!

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      hi nicole – the post doesn’t say i went on it to regulate my period at first. i went on it because i had cramps (definitely re-read that part for clarity). the pill gives us an artificial “fake” period, so when on pill it is not a real period. i recommend going to see your doctor to ask these questions and finding someone that works for you. xx

  • Reply Kate May 23, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Hey! I am almost 17 and still haven’t gotten my period back (from 14). I had an eating disorder but even before that my period wasn’t regular. I would love and welcome suggestions! I am completely weight restored and I am vegan for ethical reasons. I eat tons of healthy fats and adaptogens.

    • Reply Rachel May 23, 2017 at 6:08 pm

      hi kate! definitely see a doctor about this. i do know that plant-based diet can negatively impact female hormones but i’d see an RD and doctor if you don’t get it soon! xx