The Devil Is In The Hormones

Photo credit: David Cohen

Ever since my bipolar diagnosis, the heights and depths of my disorder and where I was on what day and which way I was swinging was pretty much all I’d ever focused on over the years. Everything was about supporting my body, my emotions, and my mind so that I could find a way to balance the raging storms of my mental health … absolutely everything. But if I knew then what I know now, I might have paid much more attention to the other stories my body had been telling me.

More particularly, I would have paid attention to my hormones.

Because now I know that while I was so heavily tuned into one aspect, I was also blithely unaware of the dance between my hormones and my brain chemicals and my way of being. And even though I was blind to all of that, they were all dancing together nonetheless – charged, rampant, frenetic – and wreaking more havoc with my state of being than I ever could’ve imagined.

So as much as my doctor so beautifully supports my mental health journey and everything we’re doing together to lift me to a place of healing and peace, he’s also (for so long now) been trying to coax me into paying attention to my hormones, and more specifically, to their imbalance.

But I ignored him every time, so seriously single-minded in my quest to balance my neurotransmitters. Until finally, one day I told him that I’d felt like a bad spell had broken, that my bipolar had stabilised, that I was in a good place mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, that finally I was ready to pay attention to my physical body. That’s when my doc saw the open window and flew right through it.

His most important ‘prescription’ for me at that time was Dr Sarah Gottfried’s book The Hormone Reset Diet. And I can’t tell you how empowering and life changing this book has been for me. My eyes suddenly opened to how deeply integral our hormones are, not just for our physical wellbeing (in both small ways and huge!) but for our mental wellbeing too. Depression, fatigue? Your hormones play that game too. Not just your brain chemicals.

And even though I was in a better space than I had been in years, I was still struggling with the dregs of fatigue and depression, sudden bouts of darkness whacking me from out of nowhere. And because I’d only ever attributed fatigue and depression to bipolar, I didn’t realise that my hormones were in on it as well.

I think hormones are vastly misunderstood and dismissed by so many of us, conveniently blamed for the actions of wild teenagers and the misogynistic idea of ‘emotional women’. But hormones, when they’re imbalanced, can seriously fuck with you and add to depression, fatigue, brain fog, and feeling old before your time.

What I loved most about Dr Sarah Gottfried’s book was how much she educated me about my body. How much she taught me about what certain foods were adding to the whole picture. Like how, when certain hormone levels become too high or too low, they’re like ‘the dark lord of your body’, and how vegetables can be the one of best medicines when it comes to healing hormone imbalances.

I loved how she spoke about correcting hormonal misfires ‘with your fork’, about ‘cell to soul healing’, about working with the innate intelligence of our own bodies and learning to trust our own experiences with food again.

Her 21 day hormone reset wiped the slate clean for me. I started feeling cleaner, more energised, and more naturally uplifted than I had done in years. A year before, I’d embarked on a radical detox plan widely advertised as elevating energy levels, but that had only left me feeling depleted and even more fatigued. This reset was something entirely different.

I started sleeping better, waking up easier, functioning better, filling my being and my life more completely and with more vitality than I had done in a long time. Eating for my hormones had done more for me than eating for my brain chemicals. Maybe it’s because this book is not just about bodies, it’s about women’s bodies, and not just about eliminating a toxic food group every three days, but about adding healing foods too.

Before I first started the 21 day hormone reset, I was in another slump, I was in bed most days, so fatigued I couldn’t keep my back up straight or my eyelids open. But just a few days into the programme and my eyes would sweep open in the morning, gulping in the sunlight, connecting to a heart fluttering in excitement about the day to come … and feeling like this was ‘gold’.

It was a treasure. And I was slowly, slowly, more and more, coming back to me. I finally started feeling like I was coming into my own healing.

Read more about finding balance as we heal.