When Dr. Barnard asked me if I would be interested in putting together recipes and menus for his next book, my answer was going to be “YES!” no matter what…
Then as he started to tell me about the book and what kind of special recipes he would need for it, I found myself tearing up. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” I said, “for writing this book.”
Admittedly periods and menstrual pain aren’t topics that get discussed very often,which is a shame. I could have gotten help (and relief) a lot sooner, and known I wasn’t alone in my suffering IF periods and PMS hadn’t been such a “taboo” topic in my household, church, school, etc. (I am glad there are so many activists for women changing the erroneous stigma!)
Point is, I told Dr. Barnard that this was a very important topic to me--a very personal topic.
MY PERIOD / PMS NIGHTMARE:
I suffered from debilitating menstrual cramps for years. I missed school and work every month. A few times the pain was so bad that I stole my college roommate’s prescription pain medication.
At the time, my OB/GYN wanted to put me on artificial hormones. At 21/22 years of age, this terrified me. I stressed concern about going on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) at such a young age, but he (my doctor) pointed out that I had tried a number of birth controls with no improvements.
Note: I had been on birth control since age 16 trying to “fix” my irregular cycle and reduce the cramping. My periods would 'disappear' for months, only to then come back and last 10 or more days. My periods were very heavy and very painful. (My periods were also so heavy that I needed to use both a tampon and a pad AND take a change of clothes with me to work or school.)
I tried HRT for one cycle, and it didn't seem to help. My PMS symptoms like acne and bloating seemed to get worse and I felt 'unstable' (my emotional reactions did not seem proportionate to the situation at hand; I went from angry outbursts to crying).
For the next year, I tried different types of hormone birth control. I also tried to eat healthier (e.g., make food myself instead of ordering pizza) and started to exercise 5 times per week. Nothing helped. The pain kept getting worse. I couldn’t imagine continuing life in that kind of pain, so I started thinking about a hysterectomy and where would I need to go to find a doctor that would do it...
During this time, I'd met my now-husband. Before we married, the question of children came up and I told him I wasn’t sure I could have them. Mostly, I could not imagine how painful my periods would be if I stopped taking birth control. I also told him that I wanted to get a hysterectomy if we ever had good insurance and I could find a doctor willing to do it. He thought that seemed extreme but he'd also seen the terrible pain I was in and how long and heavy my periods were.
The following year after we married, I went vegan. My period was probably the furthest thing from my mind at the time, but it was one of the first improvements I noticed. Specifically, by the second month, I didn’t need to call out of work or take prescription pain medication.
A few months later, as I progressed toward a more “plant-based” vegan diet (e.g., I stopped living off of fries, pasta, and Boca burgers), my periods became lighter. This continued until eventually, my periods were so light I barely noticed them. They also only lasted 3-4 days. Quite the change! The reduced "flow" also eliminated my cramping and the other sensitivity I had in that area. I was thrilled.
Then, a few years later, my husband and I were sent to the Caribbean for work. I wasn’t able to get my birth control on the island, or, as it turned out, any birth control since I was not a resident. My insurance back in America also wouldn’t let me buy more than one month at a time (we could not afford the out-of-pocket cost) so taking several months’ worth with me at a time wasn’t a possibility. I had briefly considered trying to have a friend pick my prescription up and mail it to me, but mail was horrendously expensive (and unreliable) to/from the island.
Ultimately, I decided to go off birth control (not that I had much of a choice). I told myself this was probably for the best. After all, I had been on birth control for over a decade… I’m sure my body could use a break… Yet I was also terrified. I was terrified my periods would be irregular again. I was terrified I would have cramping. I was terrified I would be in pain and without any ability to get pain medication that was stronger than aspirin.
A month went by and I was fine. Nothing had changed. Then another month. Then another month. For the next 6-7 years, my period remained relatively consistent and pain-free, even without birth control. There were a few times my period seemed a bit more "intense" but those instances always correlated to when my diet was less ideal, such as when I was traveling and eating out a lot.
In total transparency, I have since gone back on/off birth control for the last two years, though this is due to my adrenal fatigue, which I have from excessive stress and working too much. (I wrote about it here.)
With Dr. Barnard’s help, I have been helping myself heal by focusing on the diet he promotes in his new book, Your Body in Balance. While I would prefer not to have ever had adrenal fatigue (or the stressful events leading to it), the timing was pretty epic! I was literally putting together recipes and menus for YBB that also had the potential to heal me.
Suffice it to say this book (and the topics within it) are very personal to me. I am so glad Dr. Barnard has written this book and that I was able to be part of it. This book primarily helps women, but there are chapters helpful for men as well. If you are a woman suffering from anything that is related to hormones, I strongly encourage you to read this book and begin to heal from the inside out.
The official release date is February 4, 2020.
I’m also super excited to share a few of the recipes from YBB with you tomorrow!! Stay tuned :)