Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Pursuit of Health - No more PCO (for now?)!

Apart from a bout of pneumonia when I was very young, and picking up the annual cold or spatter of gastro, I have always had a rock-solid constitution and have never suffered chronic or acute health woes.

It''s a shame that I've almost always been a bit chunky - having a bit of a gut when you're young promotes rude or judgemental comments from adults (who usually think they're being funny and that the jokes will go over your head), and over-reactions from parents. Having a muffin-top in your teenage years soon develops into self-consciousness and ridicule. Kids can be very cruel.

Society, and the medical industry, say it loud and proud - being overweight is unhealthy.


I was a champion in the 'throwing' events at school, and was a competitive swimmer - until one of my teachers made a comment about the fact that I wore a towel around my waist to 'cover up' (I just thought my towel was pretty and wanted to show it off). I walked up to 3km from the bus stop to my farm almost every day, with a couple of musical instruments and a heavy bag of books in tow.

(Men who don't like to read about women's issues might want to skip this next bit)

The first real health battle of my adult life is/was my PCO - a reproductive situation which appeared as incomplete ovulation and resulting lack of menstruation.

Given recent events, it would seem that this issue may have stemmed from my pursuit of weight loss.

Just over two months ago, I finished my Yasmin-driven menstrual cycle. I stopped taking my pill, and waited to see if nature would take its course. I have been trialling this method of 'testing' every three months or so for the past year.

What made this trial different? I was back to my original weight (more fat than before, though), and I was enjoying sweet potatoes and fruit regularly. Stress was diminishing as the teaching year tapered away to nothing, and the weather was showing signs of pending loveliness.

Three weeks after I stopped taking Yasmin, my period arrived. With the severity of the cramps and the brevity of menstruation, this clearly was not the doing of the pill. This was back to my high school suffering. Four weeks after that, I had another one. Crampy death pain hell.


So kids, what to make of this?

Was it the sudden drop of 5kg of body fat in January '09 that threw my body for a loop, and stopped it recovering until that fat has been restored? I have read many times that a girl's weight during puberty sets the normality level for her reproductive system, and swings this way or that in weight or body composition can confuse said system...

Was it the fact that I cut carbs to 20g per day, except for Christmas '09 and much of '10? Was running on ketones insufficient to adequately feed all systems in my body?

Was I failing to meet my caloric needs? We can scrub this one since during my carnivore experiments I ate far beyond my caloric needs, although the ketone question may come back into play here.

Was it the combination of drugs - BCP and another nerve-repairer like DepTran? This is possible if the problem started pre-2009 but was masked by the pill - but then why weren't other 'tests' successful?

The only way to know is to try self-experimentation and to gather the experiences of others with PCO, but this would not be enough to establish a cause. The medical profession still has no idea what causes PCO. I would have been quick to blame environmental factors in the past, but the return of ovulation defies this hypothesis.

Nevertheless, I wanted to put this bit of intimate detail into the blogosphere since the PCO post is the most visited of my posts, and since my situation is reversed, I want to let fellow sufferers know that there is hope!

Additionally, although PCOS is related in some way to insulin resistance, and shows some improvement when treated with a low-carb diet, there's a chance that non-PCOS PCO could actually be caused or impacted upon by a low-carb diet. I would be interested to hear from others who try or have tried tweaking their diets and what results they've seen.

But first, I will be trying the harder of the possible 'causes' of PCO to see whether my periods cease - lose fat. Since I'm eating paleo foods at least 90% of the time (including sweet potato, but not normal potato, rice, or dark chocolate), it's easy for me to stick to my new 'normal' eating plan. I don't think about it much, but I fast all day on work days since I'm not usually hungry and don't have time to futz in the kitchen or sit in the staffroom and watch colleagues eat garbage whilst they talk about Weight Watchers..! I eat something (often mashed sweet potato and butter) when I get home, and then have dinner with the beau. Ultimately, I'm trying to ignore food until hunger kicks in, and this will be made easier when fruit season finishes! I haven't been eating enough meat either, with this hot weather keeping me away from my usual home in the kitchen. I'm sure you will have heard about the manic weather in Australia of late - massive flooding, cyclones, heat waves... Good times! The hot weather is also partly to blame for the lack of posts - the computer room is usually the hottest place in this house, and the laptop is too hot to have on one's lap too long. The other reason for the quiet period was because I was waiting for my, er, period so that I could write this post!

With this year's school play about to begin rehearsals, I need time flexibility. Fasting works elegantly for me, and now that the house is no longer a giant sauna I will be capitalising on the fast by working out before dinner. Rather than paying for my belly dancing and circuit classes, I'll be looking for shorter, harder workouts like the Tabata training I played with last year, though my fatty misery meant I didn't enjoy the experiences, thus becoming unsustainable. I'm in a better state of mind now, though you couldn't pay me to get on the scales! I received a big discount on some Zumba classes across town, so that will become my 'play' time. I know that exercise is not enough to cause fat loss, but I'm hoping that physical stimulation will signal to my brain that it should crave healthy food and discourage over-eating since excess with be-labour my digestive process and slow me down!

Mission: Retain reproductive health. Encourage my body to physically reflect the healthy state it is in. Continue to relax my attitude toward my excess chub. Eat really well. Continue to use this blog as a feeder into the primal community, since clearly my experiences are not unique.

Finally, I recently began to doubt whether I really wanted to be a teacher, given the prospect of teaching a subject I'm not that interested in, and not getting much support for the programs I have started and continue to run alone for very little monetary and time compensation.

Today was day four with students back at school.

I knew by the middle of day one that I was where I was meant to be.

I was born to be a teacher, I love students, I love my subjects, I love my relatively short but intense work day, and I love the fact that I can give extra experiences to my students by means of running plays and so on even if I don't get that much in return! Let's face it, I'm a giver.

For myself, I have my dancing, cooking, jewellery-making, reading, and entertainment pursuits. This blog helps me to get my ideas in order and keep my recipes at hand, but it's really here for the rest of you, whether you have fellow health-seekers in your social circle or only online. I am pleasantly surprised by positive comments, and shake off the negative ones, but could quite happily run this blog without a comment section since I write it like a book, not as a beacon of attention. I consider comments as the commenter's book, sharing ideas as much with fellow readers as with me. Read and write on, lovely visitors - your experiences and perspectives have just as much a chance of inspiring someone to health success as my posts. :)


Oh hey, ten litres of awesome coconut oil, sup? (Let's just ignore for the moment that I actually ordered ten 1L containers, and that nui have ignored all my emails requesting empty containers to 'decant' the oil into, since it was bought to give to friends & family... Nui = crapness. Their oil's okay, but they won't be getting any more of my money.)

Bacon & veggie frittata!!

The leftovers

Homemade beef burgers cooked on the BBQ, and summery salad.

I made sushi! Rice is for lame-o's.

Typical dinner - hunk of meat (chicken), mashed sweet potato, assorted green veg. Yum!

See above, though with tomato instead of sweet potato. Obviously was too hot to be boiling things that night!
Happy February!


G said...

Hey Primal Hotness and Belly Dancer Extraordinairre!!

Do you have an email coz I'm a ding dong and can't locate it.

The frittata looks absolutely mouthwatering!

I'm glad you and Melissa at Hunt Gather Love are posting about contraceptive hormone h*ll... There is no doubt in my mind that non-bioidentical hormones potently shut down our endogenous reproductive systems. I hear about them all the time! Of course, this is the goal and purpose: halt/stop/control ovulation. Unfortunately the long standing condequences can be very severe for those who are sensitive.

Hoorah for your mense!! Congrats!! (cramps and all)

I had a Mirena IUD placed and after 3yrs had nearly every symptoms of pre-menopause except hot flashes! When I had it pulled, the symptoms exploded by 10-20x believe it or not -- unbelievable fatigue, ankle edema, sob, acne galore, horrible mood, etc -- and lasted about 2.5-3yrs. Hormones are stored in fat tissues. Not worth it at all.

I can advise some good hormone books that have enormously helped me:
Uzzi Reiss MD -- Hormone health, good explanation of the basics and treatment
Dr. John Lee MD -- progesterone

From my understanding, PCOS is characterized typically by high DHT/ testosterone/ DHEA, low estrogen (but not nec b/c of effects of xeno-estrogens; sometimes high estrogen known as 'estrogen dominance') and LOW LOW PROGESTERONE (hence thin uterine linings and lack of menses/anovulation). Have you heard of Jackie Warner, a trainer her in the US? SHe had low P also and her book does a good job at addressing adrenal fatigue and brining up P naturally. See below.

DO you think you have poopy adrenals? Again I am pretty certain that a fallout of exposure to potent fake hormones is adverse effects on the adrenal glands, the secondary source of our sex hormones... FYI ketotic diets and mental stress also deplete adrenal function over time. I got into trouble in these areas as well -- but again all can be reversed and improved!

The above protocols include for PCOS:

½ of women’s testosterone is from the peripheral conversion of DHEA to testosterone (ie adrenals)

High androgens : (women = DHEA + testosterone)
Seen in adrenal stress (high DHEA)

Also seen in insulin resistance

Also polycystic ovarian syndrome
Obtain ovarian ultrasound to rule out polycystoc ovarial syndrome

If ultrasound normal consider adrenal stress or fatigue

Consider : Saw palmetto, metformin, progesterone cream 2% if progesterone is low, cruciferous vegetables, calcium-d-glucorate for detoxification, chaste tree berries, vit b6,magnesium,licorice, inorganic sulphate to optimize detoxification

Low androgens : seen in menopause

Seen in adrenal fatigue

Hope that helps -- my sister and I follow your blog and love it. Please don't hesitate to keep in touch!!


Anonymous said...

Great post! I am so happy to see people posting about these issues. I have my own health issues that are also something no one (doctors, nutritionists, etc.) seems to understand, and the conventional approaches don't work. So educated self-experimentation seems to be all we've got.

Kristin said...

I apologize in advance for my really long comment. :-)

I love your blog! I have been following it for a long time.

I am so happy for you that you got your cycle back! I found out last June that I have PCOS and adrenal fatigue. I know PCO is not the exact same thing as PCOS, but I have had similar problems. I stopped taking the pill after 8 or nine years and my period never returned. Almost a year went by, I gained 20+ pounds, and felt absolutely miserable. I have been primal/low carb for years and have always been incredibly active, so I couldn't understand why I just kept packing on the pounds. It got to where I didn't even recognize myself anymore, and everyday was a struggle to get through because I was so fatigued. My doc wanted me to start taking the pill again and start taking Metformin. I of course didn't want to do that. Instead, on the advice of a friend, in July I started seeing an acupuncturist that specializes in infertility. I have gone weekly for the past 7 months (crazy long time!!!) but I FINALLY started having my period a few months ago, and recently the weight has just started coming off without trying. I can't believe it is finally working and I am starting feel like myself again! The best part is my body is balancing itself, and I won't have to take pills the rest of my life. Yay! I had TERRIBLE cramps at first and I would literally think that my ovaries were going to explode, but each cycle they have gotten a little better. I'm sure yours will too!

I guess I just wanted to share my story and some thoughts of what I think helped the most for me (besides acupuncture and the herbs she gives me...). I'm sure you've heard this stuff before, but if not, maybe something can help at least a little. :)

1. REDUCE STRESS! This is the #1 thing my acupuncturist tells me to do. Last year I had my hormone levels checked throughout the day and my cortisol was through the roof! No wonder I gained so much weight. I started taking L-Theanine for my anxiety/stress and it is amazing- all natural amino acid, no side effects, and super cheap. Other supps like valerian give me panic attacks, but this stuff is great. I have been working on finding ways to add more relaxing "me" time into my life, and also not being so hard on myself if I don't get everything on my to do list done, etc. Sometimes it's hard, but it has helped me tremendously.

2. MORE SLEEP! I didn't realize how important this was until I finally forced myself to get to bed early and get more sleep than I thought I actually needed.

3. My acupuncturist made sure I ate a mostly alkaline diet. After going low carb years back it got to the point where I ate way too much meat and protein. For me personally, focusing on an alkaline diet (base of my meals non-starchy veggies, small amounts of protein, and plenty of good fats) has made a HUGE difference. I love that you play around with your diet to see what makes you feel the best. I don't know if I liked the alkaline thing at first, but now I feel so good and I eat way less because I am not nearly as hungry all the time for some reason. If you're every interested in it, you can find food charts online.

4. Omega-3 supplements. I started taking a supplement that was a super high dose of Omega 3, and that was a big turning point for me.

If you can, it might be good to find out if you have adrenal fatigue. There is an awesome book called "Adrenal Fatigue: The 20th Century Stress Syndrome" which is amazing, easy to read, and so so helpful. I took a few supplements to help with that, and I think that helped with my hormones as well.

I guess that's all. Glad to hear you're on the road to recovery and I hope you find out whatever your body needs! Thanks for always sharing your experiences with us!

G said...


Have you heard of DR. Kharazzian? Danny Roddy recommended to me and it is totally awesome read, discussing hormone balance, how to identify and how to correct, esp adrenal and metabolic dysfunction. Unfortunately he limits the female hormones.

Here is another great source:

Dr. G discusses the interplay between gonads (ovaries), adrenals, thyroid and the brain structures (hypothalamus, pituitary, etc).


Jezwyn said...

Hey commenters!

Glad that my post is valuable :)

I want to reiterate that I have PCO, not PCOS, and the difference is that when I was diagnosed my hormone levels were exactly where they should be, thus keeping me out of PCOS territory.

I have experiences hormonal upset before, when I was first put on the BCP, Levlin. Wowsers. I wasn't myself for the weeks leading up to my switch to Yasmin. I was on the verge of doing myself damage since every little thing that happened in my life would blow out of proportion. Horrible! Also, last year's DepTran exposure tangibly screwed with my leptin/grehlin balance.

PCO isn't necessarily tied to any kind of hormonal problem. You'd think there would have to be a hormone issue for anovulation to occur, but there are other possible explanations. I don't know which explanation is on the money for me, but I know it's not a hormone issue - at least, not a reproductive/adrenal hormone issue. I'd be interested to get my progesterone level checked again to see whether my 'normal' level is meant to be higher than the 'normal' level as interpreted by my doctor.

Thanks for all the resources and info - I am familiar with most of them, but other readers may find even more value in your suggestions.

My email address is , but I love having the conversations open-forum style in the comments, since I know that few people can read as widely and deeply as I do, so experiences and resource pointers are great things to have for other readers.

Stay happy and healthy!

Kat Eden said...

I know exactly what you mean about 'not where you're meant to be'. It's not about whether or not you love (or even like) what you do I guess, but sometimes it's about what you'd love to be doing MORE, or what feels more right for you at this point in your life.

I just walked out of my personal training business of 11 years because it just hit me at the start of this year that it's not where I'm meant to be. I enjoy PT but it's not my ultimate dream or passion.

It's amazing how easy this decision made once I really looked at it from that point of view - not to mention how good I feel to be now doing exactly what I'd LOVE to be doing each day (despite the current income drop!)

Thanks for sharing such a personal post.

Jezwyn said...

Thanks Kat! I'm incredibly relieved to find that I am where I'm meant to be - the long break between teaching actual classes, petering out into report-writing and admin stuff, then the long holidays ending with the looming workload up ahead; it's easy to forget how wonderful teaching is behind all the stress of working as an education professional outside of the classroom! I've been bouncing out of every class as high as a kite :) I'm also happy that I am strong enough to prepare to quit and make a new career path if I was no longer inspired by teaching.

What is your new career? I hope it's bringing you lots of satisfaction. :) said...

Terrific post Jess. I am so glad that you are happy being back at teaching. Yeah for the return of your menses. Boo to the cramps, but hopefully they will improve as others mention. In your leisure activities, you missed singing. I get so much joy out of our choir practices, and doubly so when we perform. Glad to hear that your computer room has cooled off enough for you to continue posting. I missed that little window into your activities, and the terrific new recipes. Cheryl Y.

Anika said...

This was a great post, it gave me some food for thought about gaining weight on a primal diet (I just gained 4 lbs during a whole30), being okay with that, and still working towards health. All good things to be reminded of :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jez,

Congrats on the return of your cycle. A few years ago after breaking up with a boyfriend I took myself off Yasmin because I no longer needed a contraceptive. I remember actually rejoicing about getting pms and all crampy with my periods, because this was the way my body naturally felt before the pill (while on the pill I felt like I had mild pms 24/7, it really affected my mood). When the need for contraception arose again, I spoke with my doctor about my reluctance to go back on the pill because of it's mood effects on me (had trialed a few, each effecting me to a degree). She suggested a Nuva ring, which you can google to get more info but it's basically a local treatment that has much lower doses of hormones, and it doesn't have systemic effects for most people. This has been a good compromise for me, I still feel 'normal' while using it!

Also, I saw your comment about nui=crapness. I've been ordering oils from New Directions for years, usually buy coconut oil in 5L lots, and last time they sent them in 1L bottles which is much easier to use (saves me melting it and pouring into jars ect). I find ND to be much cheaper than other sites as well. A link if you're interested:;UserGUID%3D48B4BC08-FCB0-6E85-3DC9-C0A8D502DC66;SessionID%3D46cce41b371fdd39f084795e1b60bc1f&Quantity=1&ChangeObjectID=215936&x=84&y=5

Hope these suggestions are useful!


Anonymous said...


Just wanted to comment that I think you're moving in a good direction, and one I hope to emulate. Doc Harris had a recent post on his blog entitled Therapy vs Life, which I think is a good salvo against the food/health neuroticism out there, even (and maybe especially?) in the paleo community. Anyway, your attitude towards yourself and life seem very much in line with that. Thanks for the informative blog.


Kat Eden said...

Hi Jez ... I don't know if I'd even really say it's a career yet; more of a dream! I'm pursuing my passion, which is to empower driven women. I'm really working hard on my writing as well as chasing up some skills as a presenter. Basically I'm just roaming the city with my laptop and lots of ideas - it's exciting though, and a little bit scary! I don't know if you got my email; I actually contacted you asking if you wanted to be part of the launch post of new nutrition/motivation blog for women? It hasn't started yet, but I've gathered a list of incredible and inspiring women who have all given a tip for the launch post!

Anyway, whether or not you'd like to be part of that thanks for your blog - I'm really glad I came across it; I enjoy the honesty.

JP said...

it's good to hear from you! I'm looking forward to read more post of yours! The food looks good!

Jezwyn said...

Thanks for all the comments! :)

Kat, I didn't get your email, but it sounds interesting! Could you send it again and let me know via here or Twitter your email address so I can make sure it doesn't end up in the junk folder?

Margareth said...

your low carb "sushi" impressed me, must make that someday! ;)