Holistic health coach, Emily Buttner, knows first-hand what it’s like to struggle with hormonal imbalances- the bloating, pain, acne. From a young age, she was exposed to birth control pills which lead to a long journey of highs and lows. Following the struggle, Emily founded Golden Wellness where she mentors and educates women on how to obtain optimal hormonal balance. Through her work, she speaks about an array of topics from nourishment and stress management, all the way to movement and sleep hygiene.
We connected with Emily on her personal journey on getting off the pill, and how we, too, can align our menstrual cycle to become more productive.
Glow Botanica: We'd love to hear your story of transitioning off of the pill.
Emily Buttner: I was on the birth control pill for a little over five years, and I decided it was time to come off as the pill was starting to completely tank my health. I had recurring debilitating headaches, I was suffering from depression and moodiness, I was getting eczema on my hands, and I was feeling nauseous often. I talked to my doctor about transitioning off and she told me to stop cold turkey and that it would clear out of my system in about two weeks. That answer didn't quite sit well with me, so when I got home I took matters into my own hands and decided to do some reading on my own. I was reading books and researching a ton in the months after I stopped taking the pill. At first, my symptoms were pretty severe. I will say, I did feel as if a very distinct fog had been lifted as soon as I stopped, and I felt more like myself than I had in years, which was so telling. But, my first few periods post-pill were absolutely awful, and I struggled with recurring yeast infections and acne. From the reading I was doing, I started implementing principles of aligning with my cycle right away, and that helped tremendously in helping to bring my hormones back into more of a balance. I was shocked and excited at how quickly my body responded to simply living my life in accordance with my cycle. I knew I was onto something.
Glow Botanica: Let's discuss PMS. Why does PMS happen and what can we do to relieve PMS symptoms naturally?
EB: PMS or premenstrual syndrome, is a condition that describes a collection of various symptoms that can occur for women in their luteal phases (the approximate two week window before your period starts.) PMS has become so mainstream and common that we have come to accept it as completely normal and a natural part of being a woman, even though this could not be farther from the truth. We have to remember that just because something is common, doesn't mean it's normal. PMS occurs when there is an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone, usually that estrogen is higher than progesterone levels. In our luteal phases, progesterone is supposed to be our dominant hormone, and progesterone helps us to feel calm, cozy, and at ease. It is anti stress and anti anxiety and helps with sleep. When progesterone levels are low, we tend to feel the opposite, which is where the classic PMS symptoms come in; headaches, bloating, moodiness, spotting before our period, cramping, insomnia, breast tenderness, etc. In order to begin mitigating these symptoms, we want to support estrogen detoxification and support progesterone production. One of the biggest tips is to keep blood sugar balanced in the luteal phase, by eating 30 minutes after waking up, and approximately every 3-4 hours after that. So many PMS symptoms can be alleviated by simply eating enough and balancing blood sugar in the luteal phase. We also want to make sure that we are taking steps to actively reduce stress, adding in liver support, simplifying our schedules, and taking time for self care and emotional expression in the luteal phase.
Glow Botanica: What causes irregular periods and period delays?
EB: Stress is the number one issue causing issues with period regularity. When it comes to our cycles, we tend to think of our period as "being late" but our period actually isn't late. Once we have ovulated, our luteal phases are usually a set amount of time no matter what. If our ovulation is late, that will cause our period to start later than usual. If the body is under large amounts of stress, whether this is from emotional sources, or something physical like overexercising or being undernourished, the body will put a pause on ovulation, and this is simply a survival strategy. Reproduction is one of the first biological processes to be put on hold when there is excessive stress being experienced. It's essentially your body looking out for you, saying "this isn't the best time to reproduce and support a new life" so it puts the pause on ovulation. Irregular cycles can be because of stress, but can also be caused by other hormonal conditions such as PCOS for example.
Glow Botanica: Could you explain the different phases of the menstrual cycle and how long each one lasts? How do our hormones influence our menstrual cycle (or each phase)?
EB: There are four phases within the menstrual cycle: the menstrual phase (your period), the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase, and the luteal phase. The menstrual phase is approximately 3-7 days in length, and during this phase, hormones drop to their lowest levels, which is initially what triggers the endometrial lining to begin shedding. Around day 3-4 estrogen levels start to very slowly rise again. Next, we have the follicular phase. Estrogen levels are continuing to rise here and the eggs are maturing within the follicles. Rising estrogen is helping to rebuild the endometrial lining again. This phase is approximately 7-9 days in length. After that we have the ovulatory phase - the star of the show. Estrogen and testosterone peak during this phase. The ovulatory phase is a shorter, 3-6 day phase where the egg is released from the follicle to begin traveling down the fallopian tube for potential fertilization. Lastly, we have our luteal phase. This phase is a 11-14 day phase where progesterone becomes our dominant hormone here, helping to nourish our uterine lining for a potential pregnancy, and raising our metabolic rate slightly. If no fertilization occurs, then the cycle begins again when our periods start. The hormones that are at play during each phase of our cycles have a great impact on our energy, productivity, nourishment needs, communication, and creativity. Aligning with our cycle phases helps us to be more connected to our bodies and take advantage of the power of working with our cycles. Keep in mind that every woman's cycle is slightly different, and phase lengths can vary. These lengths are just an approximation. We also promote healthy hormone balance when we align with our cycle phases. Here is a brief breakdown of what that looks like:
Menstrual phase: our energy levels are lowest, and we tend to feel the most mellow, yet clear minded in this phase. It's a perfect phase for slowing down, focusing on self care, and re-evaluating aspects of your life.
Follicular phase: our energy begins to rise again, and we are open to new experiences and creative ideas. It's the best phase for trying out new things and starting a new creative project.
Ovulatory phase: we typically experience our highest energy levels during this phase, and we are naturally bold, magnetic, and confident as we are primed to attract a mate (whether this is your intention or not!). It's a wonderful phase for connecting with friends and socializing, having important conversations, and taking up space.
Luteal phase: our energy slowly wanes the further we move into this phase, and we tend to gravitate towards wanting more alone time. Since our energy is softer, it's best to focus on our needs, and not overdo it by committing to too much. Simplifying is best here.
Glow Botanica: What common period problems do you see in your clients, and how can they eliminate them?
EB: The most common period problems I see in my clients are painful periods, hypothyroidism, severe PMS symptoms, and irregular and/or missing periods. Eliminating these problems isn't a quick or easy fix, since it usually takes a long time to develop these symptoms and conditions. It's going to look different for everyone since I take a very bio individual approach in my practice, but most of my clients always benefit from first implementing the foundations of wellness; nourishment, sleep, stress reduction, reducing toxin exposure, and understanding their bodies through cycle education. Each of my clients receives bio individual protocols specific to their lifestyles that help them to begin mitigating symptoms and then ultimating healing. We work on eating and cooking habits to promote the best nourishment, we spend a lot of time learning about our menstrual cycle and the phases, and the biology behind this, as well as tracking your cycle so you can interpret your phase lengths, thyroid function, and luteal phase health. We work on habits to help reduce stress, as well as ways to bring more joy into our life (yes, this helps with hormone balance!) We cover a lot in our three months together, and all of my clients walk away empowered and confident with knowledge of how to continue to live a life that promotes healthy, balanced hormones so they can continue to experience wonderful cycles and pleasant periods. The thing about when we support our hormone health is that this work also affects all areas of life. So not only do your hormone symptoms disappear, but my clients often walk away feeling better in all areas of their life, it's a really beautiful thing.
Glow Botanica: Female hormonal imbalances and painful periods can impact mood and energy, which could influence productivity levels, the work day, and personal life in general. Do you have any advice for clients looking to increase productivity?
EB: Oh yes, it can be so incredibly hard to get through the day especially if you are experiencing intense enough symptoms that it interferes with your day. My take on this is to understand that your body sometimes communicates to you via symptoms, and symptoms that are severe enough to affect your life is your body screaming out for you to notice that something is off. Usually this is an indicator that something in your life isn't working well for you and you need to make a shift in order to see healing. For this reason, I wouldn't focus on ways to increase productivity, but rather, focus on ways to simplify and slow down so the body has space to begin healing and implementing healing protocols. Life does have to continue however - mothers still have to care for their kids, we may still have to show up for work despite this, so some quick tips to help feel relief in the moment would be to make sure that you are eating consistently during the day, about every 3-4 hours to keep blood sugar balanced. This can help with headaches, cramps, and energy. Next, using herbs such as turmeric, chamomile, or ginger can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Last, I would focus on getting more sleep than usual to help give the body the appropriate rest it needs to begin healing as well as provide adequate energy during the day. Don't be afraid to say no to anything extraneous that isn't lighting you up as well during a time when you're experiencing issues with your cycle. It takes a lot of focus and energy to heal, and you come first during a healing period.
Glow Botanica: When is it a good idea for a woman to consider seeing a hormone health coach?
EB: Because we get such little education from the start about our cycle health and how to live in a way that supports your hormone health, I would suggest seeing one as a part of your regular wellness routine, to begin supporting your body before issues even start. We often wait until we get to a point where our symptoms or conditions interfere with our life before we make a move, but I think hormone health coaches can be part of your normal wellness routine, and serve as a preventative measure. It's never too early to work with someone in my opinion. But, if you are experiencing any negative symptoms, or even just want to learn about your menstrual cycle, that's also a great time to seek out a coach.
Glow Botanica: Where can our customers and readers find you?
EB: You can find me on Instagram @golden.wellness, and at my website at www.goldenwellness.co. You can also email me as well with any questions you may have at firstname.lastname@example.org, I love chatting over email!