I've been eating some version of a paleo or semi-paleo diet for about three years. I fall off the wagon sometimes or experiment with additions to or subtractions from my diet, but generally avoid gluten, dairy, added sugars, and any kind of chemical additive. I eat a lot of meat, eggs, fish, veggies, healthy fats, nuts and seeds, a bit of fruit, and sometimes grains like teff, millet, or rice. I try to only eat safe fish, grass-fed meat, and free range chicken.
When I first started I experienced dramatic health improvements (end of chronic fatigue, improvement of digestive symptoms, clearer skin, better athletic performance, end of brain fog and confusion, easier and more regular menses).
About two years ago I moved abroad, and struggled to maintain my dietary ethics because of financial restriction, inability to read/fully understand food labeling, unavailability of certain foods I was accustomed to, etc. I started to experience a resurgence of some problems - acne, erratic appetite, bouts of feeling extremely faint, constipation, bloating, terrible gas. These problems improved a year later when I moved back stateside and got back on track with my diet, but some of them have continued to improve and resurge over and over in a pattern I can't correlate to my diet.
Now I've been having problems with acne for several months, as well as some bouts of minor depression, and a really erratic appetite. Having been on some form of a restrictive diet for years, I'm not a stranger to dealing with issues of satiation/deprivation and so on, but I've found myself unable to get a handle on these cravings. I crave specific macronutrients and continue to feel terribly unsatisfied until I've consumed what I crave to what seems to be excess. I haven't had a dramatic change in my weight, but I seem to have accumulated more fat on my belly than normal.
And finally within the last few months I've started having really unpredictable menstrual cycles. Sometimes coming really early, sometimes having a regular period, stopping, and then having another lighter period again a week later.
To me this signifies some kind of hormonal problem. I'm not really sure where to start, and being generally skeptical about mainstream medical treatment, I'm not ready to dive blindly in to lots of doctors and testing.
Any advice about what kind of testing might be helpful, or any natural methods that might be beneficial?
Carly what you describe does sound hormone related.
Of course you may also have some GI issues. I had both.
I have dealt with a lot of hormone issues (low thyroid, dhea, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone). Getting help was a flipping nightmare and even my first so-called expert on hormone balancing was crappy. I finally have a good ND who knows what she is doing and is an expert in Bio-identical hormone replacement. I finally feel good after years and years of suffering.
My recommendation is to find and ND or MD who specialized in bio-identical hormones. This link will help you find a doctor who does this. http://foreverhealth.com
Saliva testing (or urine but almost none of the docs use it besides Johnathan Wright) is considered the best for testing hormone levels.
Labrix Labs does an excellent job.
I advise you to not use DiagnosTechs for hormone testing as they are not as reliable (but are less expensive so many practitioners use them. Waste of time and money in my experience).
Good luck to you.
I can't give you a complete answer here, because I'm still in the midst of figuring it out. However, a similar version of this happened to me- with the deterioration, acne, irregular period, gained back a bit of weight, along with occasional digestive issues. It got (irregularly) worse and worse, until I was diagnosed with essentially mild IBD. I think a still-leaky gut even after 8 months of Paleo, helped by my Hashimoto's, was triggered by stress into becoming full blown IBS. Shortly before figuring this out, I went to get my hormone levels tested, because of the acne, and was totally normal.
But I notice, as I'm being essentially an invalid and healing this, now that I know what it is, that my skin improves along with my digestion. Oh, also- I forgot to mention that I wasn't eating any starches, which I think does not help.
So, not exactly the same thing, but that's my two cents.
Maybe it is just because I am brand new to this discovery and am very zealous about it, but for regulating your cycle and improving PMS symptoms and acne, try Evening Primrose Oil. Supplement with a low dose (Robb Wolf recommends 15mg a day... hard to find a dose that low, so he says take one 30mg cap every other day). I'm just a few days in to using the oil topically but have been so impressed with the results. Somebody here explained that EPO is a gamma-lineolic acid and people with acne prone skin tend to be deficient.
As to the remainder of your question, I'll defer to the GI experts. Are you supplementing with anything?
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