Periods, Recovery, & Gut Health

OMG SHE SAID THE P-WORD!!!

{Cue all the boys running away} Yeah sorry boys. We're talking about the periods today. 

So here's the ish... 

As I've mentioned before in previous updates on this blog and on my Instagram page, I was diagnosed with a gut issue called SIBO, which stands for small intestine bacterial overgrowth. I go more into what SIBO is a few posts back. 

My GI doctor put me on very strong antibiotics for a couple weeks that work solely in the small intestine to kill off the extra bacteria, and then a 3-month round of another lesser-strength antibiotic. He also told me to eat low-carb and follow the low FODMAP diet to avoid certain types of carbohydrates from fermenting in my gut, which just means more bacteria growth (the opposite of what we're trying to do here). 

If you're curious of what FODMAPs stands for >>> Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols.

I was not able to be super strict with the low-FODMAP diet this past semester because it was too challenging with the inability to control all meals in college. I did my best though, trying to consume a lot less carbohydrates than I used to prior to being diagnosed with SIBO, and I upped my fats to keep my calorie intake up. Being very restrictive of calories due to a health diagnosis is tempting but in cases like SIBO, not eating enough will be just as detrimental to your gut health and healing as eating all the fermentable foods they tell you to avoid.

My weight dropped again a little bit after being diagnosed with SIBO due to the relatively drastic change in diet, and unfortunately I lost my period again for about 4 months, which scared me honestly. Amenorrhea is a serious issue for many women, especially those who have dealt with or are dealing with eating disorders. 

I dealt with an anorexia-type eating disorder for a few years in high school and lost my period for almost all that time up until the middle of my sophomore year in college. I was on the "pill" (aka birth control...let's not get into the pill controversy here though lol) for about 1 year to help jumpstart my hormones to give me some kind of a period because periods are VITAL to women's health for so many reasons. For example, menstruation builds bone mass to prevent osteoporosis early on or later in life, helps with hormones, and makes reproduction possible!

As we all know (or should know) periods are a sign of good health and should not be embarrassing to talk about or ask questions about. I know it can seem uncomfortable at first, but periods are not a bad scary horrifying thing. It's the way God made women and it's pretty freaking cool if you begin learning about it. Learning about the menstruation cycle in my physiology class this semester made me even more in awe of the human body and the processes that God created it to go through. It's actually nuts. And complicated. And confusing. And just super duper amazing. 

 Anywoozles...

To be completely honest, when I didn't have a period for 3-4 years, I thought it was the greatest thing for most of that time because 1) You save a shoot-ton of money (HA!) and 2) No PMS madness and 3) No self-conscious freak-out moments thinking you're leaking and it went through the back of your pants or something. TMI? Sorry pals. 

It wasn't until mid-way through my recovery that I started really learning and realizing how unnatural and unhealthy it is to NOT have periods during this crucial developing stage I was/am in in my life. Once I started learning more about the cycle and how in order to have kids, I NEED TO GET MY FLIPPIN' PERIOD BACK, this ended up being my biggest motivator to recover from my eating disorder. I don't know God's plan for my life or if he even has a lovely man in store for me, but if one does come around that God wants me to marry, heck I want to have some babies for cryin' out loud!! Family is so important to me and if it's God's will, I would love to have my own someday.

If that's not the best reason to gain weight and recover from an eating disorder with amenorrhea, I'm not sure what is :)

Fast-forward to now. I was kinda thinking that my lack of period this past semester was due to solely my weight going down a little bit from this whole SIBO thing and bad digestion pain and what not. I was planning on maybe seeing a hormone specialist soon to help me out a bit with some wisdom and getting it back because I know I need my cycle for my bones and potential baby-making someday lol. Just bein' real.

Right after Christmas, I went on a study abroad trip to ITALY (holla!) with other nutrition major students at my school. I knew going into it that I'd be eating lots of dairy, cheese, gluten, sugar, and carbs, which are all major triggers for SIBO and my stomach pain. I really wanted to eat everything and not miss out, so I endured any digestion pain that came with all the fantastic homemade pastas, pizzas, gelato, bread, cheese, tiramisu, cookies, hot chocolate, and so on. 

To my surprise though, Aunt Flo came for a visit the day we left to come back to the U.S. 

SAY WHAT?!? 

I was seriously the MOST happy to see Aunt Flo! Shocked and thrilled at the same time. I know most people dread this time of the month, but when you've lost your period for so long and you know it's essential to so many aspects in our body's health, Aunt Flo is one to be greatly celebrated :)

As I was reflecting on her visit, it occurred to me that the big decrease in carbohydrates that my doctor told me to do for SIBO may have actually spurred on the amenorrhea. And I just had finished 2 weeks in Italy, enjoying all the carbs, gluten, sugar, and dairy, and BAM-A-LAMMA-DING-DONG look what happened?

Hmmmm.... 

I could be wrong because I'm no researcher or doctor or scientist, but my hypothesis is that the eating of more carbohydrates on this trip, along with a complete balanced diet of all the other components of a meal like fats and protein (and probably a little less stress) made my period come back because my body trusted me again. Oh man that is a good feeling. My body finally trusted me.

Moving forward, I'm not entirely sure what my diet will look like because I'm still healing from SIBO, but it just goes to show me that in order for me to have real, consistent periods, I think my body needs a truly healthy balance of ALL the food groups. Hopefully one day when the gut bacteria in my intestines is all balanced out again, I will be able to freely and comfortably eat and digest gluten, dairy, carbohydrates, and more without digestive discomfort. Because if there's anything in life I want right now...it's for a healthy body with a real healthy period (along with more Jesus of course). And in order for that healthy period to come, I think I need ALL the foods and not drastically cut out a certain food group. Plus that's no fun... amiright?