For most of my life I struggled with amenorrhea (lack of menstruation) and dysmenorrhea (painful periods).
These days, the school of thought concerning dietary principles for menstrual disorders is a plant-based one, often eating certain foods at different phases of your cycle.
For example, I was told to have 2 tablespoons of pumpkin or flaxseeds daily from the new moon to the full moon, and 2 tablespoons of sunflower or sesame seeds from the full moon to the new moon. I was also advised to take chaste tree berry, calcium, a multi-vitamin that included copper and folic acid, and homeopathic remedies hypophysinum (taken on day 1 at the new moon), folliculinum (day 8), oophorinum (day 15 at the full moon), and luteinum (day 21).
And because I was slightly hypothyroid, my doctor at the time also threw in a grain of Nature Throid (bio-identical thyroid hormone) for good measure to fire up my thyroid and get my pituitary gland to work its magic.
For over a year I looked out for Aunt Flo, but she never paid a visit. In the meantime, my depression and anxiety got much worse and I began having suicidal tendencies.
Whenever I start working with a new client that tells me they’ve done all this research on diets for endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and PCOS, they all say the same thing: eliminate red meat and saturated fats, eat lots of green veggies, nuts and seeds, fats such as avocados and olive oil, and some seafood and fish for omega 3 fatty acids (but for the most part, the diet should be plant-based).
True, you may feel good initially on this type of diet because you’ve eliminated processed foods and the major triggers – gluten, dairy, soy and sugar – but by no means does this type of diet eliminate the root cause of the problem, to begin with.
That’s because most menstrual disorders are a result of the body’s inability to properly manage copper, which has a strong heritable component.
Copper is an essential trace element and we need it for healthy blood vessel development, but when copper is in excess, we start to see things like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis, and tumors (uterine, breast). And what do tumors consist of? Yep, you guessed it, blood vessels.
Copper affects men and women, but it is especially damaging to women because we have higher levels of estrogen and bring life into the world. Copper rises with estrogen when a woman is pregnant and should naturally lower after the baby is born, but too often copper levels do not go back to normal. The baby is out of the womb, but copper is still feeding the blood vessels that were created to support the child, to begin with. This is how fibroid tumors begin to develop.
Tragic cases of postpartum depression that result in prolicide typically occur after multiple births because copper continues to rise with each birth. And depression, high anxiety, and panic disorder are all a result of too much copper.
When my mother was pregnant with me she was ill the entire time but was not with my older brother. She also had a hysterectomy after I was born due to fibroid tumors and has struggled with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue her entire life. What happens in the case of fibromyalgia is that copper keeps the nerves fired up and tires out the muscles while it significantly interrupts the body’s energy cycle (ATP).
If you think about it, copper is a conductor of energy and what happens when the good ole’ copper top starts to lose its charge? It slows down until it ceases to work anymore which explains why copper is so excitatory: it takes dopamine and pushes it all the way to adrenaline (norepinephrine), our fight and flight stress response hormone secreted by the adrenal glands.
Estrogen-sensitive cancers (uterine, breast) also run in my family. Interestingly, it is these types of cancers that are epigenetic in nature due to nutrient deficiencies and overloads passed down from generation to generation. And it’s no coincidence that many cancer patients often have an abundance of copper in their system.
Keep in mind that any exogenous (outside the body) source of estrogen and copper will increase copper inside the body. This includes synthetic and bio-identical hormones, birth control pills, and dietary sources such as chocolate (the higher the cacao content the more copper), nuts and seeds, and soy products.
My mother’s two pregnancies exacerbated a preexisting genetic tendency toward an inability to properly manage copper, and in essence, I was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Then it was passed onto me. I’ve never been pregnant, but my years as a vegan didn’t do me any justice either.
So it makes little sense that a plant-based diet is a healing diet for anyone (man or women) suffering from copper overload because vegan diets by their very nature are high copper diets – nuts and seeds, legumes, avocados, and soy and all its derivatives to name a few.
If you know of someone who struggles with a menstrual disorder, please share this post. If you have a struggle, please share your experience in the comments below. It is through sharing your story that we create community, eliminate guilt and shame, and bring about healing.
Mensah, Albert. Bowman, Judith. (2013). Hidden Copper Overload: What Women Should Know About Metal Toxicity – Depression & Postpartum.