ALISA VITTI is a holistic health coach and best-selling author of WomanCode, a food-based program that promotes eating in tune with your hormone cycle as a way to better health and well-being. She is also the founder and CEO of FLOLiving.com, a virtual health center that provides women with support for hormonal and reproductive health. Her TED talk, ‘Loving Your Lady Parts As The Path To Success, Power, and Global Change’ brilliantly encapsulates her ethos and research. LadyClever had a chance to dig a little deeper into her perspective on the benefits of living by your hormones.
Why do women generally seem to view their hormones as the enemy?
I think we have been conditioned to view our hormones as a liability. We have a cultural bias that they are unpredictable, mysterious, and problematic, but mostly that is due on a lot of misinformation. Women are not taught how their bodies work or how to care for them properly. They then suffer from hormone imbalance-related issues. I want to see a woman who has PMS know exactly what to do and take action. But their doctor most often tells them that nothing can be done to cure this problem and they are then put on the Pill. They end up suffering in this continual fashion. The thing is, their hormones are not even to blame.
Why is it so unacceptable to discuss the impact of hormones on women’s day-to-day life experiences? Exactly how much do our hormones truly impact?
It is hard for me to understand, because I love knowing how my hormones are impacting my reality. It’s a big source of leverage to know how my hormones are changing week to week. Women’s brains change approximately 25% over the month due on our hormonal function and the changing concentrations of our hormones. It’s the ultimate hack to optimize your experience as a woman and make the most of your life via leveraging your hormone cycles. I think so much about our experience physically as women is taboo, but if you investigate the reasoning behind this it falls apart.
In WomanCode, I outline the four different phases of the menstrual cycle and break down the hormonal concentrations that are present in each of these four stages — the ratios of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and other hormones. These ratios actually change our neurochemistry. I teach how to leverage that from a functional standpoint to alleviate symptoms you are dealing with throughout the month. Then, once you are well and hormonally-balanced, I teach how to use your hormones as a way for you to live more successfully. It’s my version of Leaning In.”
A male professional athlete knows to do a lot of strength training in the morning when his testosterone levels are highest. Men are already taking advantage of their hormone cycles. When I teach this, women see a value to their hormonal selves they’d never been shown before.
Are most women’s hormones really predictable or do many women suffer imbalanced cycles?
If you are experiencing irregularity in your cycle, PCOS, fibroids, PMS, endometriosis, problems that plague over 40 million American women (a conservative number, considering it only counts confirmed diagnoses) or thyroid imbalance, which impacts one out of every two women, then your hormones will not be predictable.
There is an epidemic of menstrual and reproductive health issues today due to two key factors. Firstly, women are eating incorrectly for their hormones — diets that leave them deficient in the key micronutrients needed to make adequate levels of hormones needed for optimal function. Secondly, women today are exposed to more xenoestrogenic toxins in a 30-day period than our grandmothers’ generation was exposed to over the course of their entire lives. These two factors combined leave us extremely vulnerable to all sorts of health problems as they both undermine and disrupt endocrine function.
(DEFINE IT: Xenoestrogenic toxins are a class of chemicals, synthetic and naturally-occurring, called endocrine disruptors, which interfere with the way the body naturally regulates hormone functions by mimicking estrogen. This increases the overall levels of estrogen in the body, resulting in estrogen dominance, which can cause a slew of conditions like cancer, obesity and infertility.)
When these hormones are balanced, though, they can make you feel fantastic. Most women feel their PMS week is a wasted week, but as long as you have enough progesterone and you have a balance with the estrogen, then you’ll feel great and you will get so much accomplished. You only experience PMS when estrogen is too high and progesterone is too low and that imbalance does make you anxious, moody, and depressed. The right levels of hormones will make you feel good and make you feel productive, but the wrong levels will make you feel the opposite.
Why do women come to follow the WomanCode and FLOLiving protocol?
Women are coming to us because they are suffering. They are not able to fully engage with their lives, because their hormonal issues have become all-encompassing and they can’t see through them. When you are bleeding half the month, or have pain to the point of passing out, when your sex drive is gone and you are only in your early 30s, all of these things can really motivate a woman to find out what is going on.
A woman can come to us with cysts on her ovaries and see those cysts dissolve in three months. A woman who has had many rounds of IVF can come to us and see the reversal of premature reproductive aging and then get pregnant naturally. All of these issues are correctable. I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) 17 years ago and told I would be obese, diabetic, infertile, and get cancer. Eight months ago I conceived naturally at the older age of 37.
Over the past 12 years working with thousands of women in 36 countries, I have watched women use our protocol and shrink fibroids, halt the recurrence of endometriosis, reverse PCOS, and get off of the Pill and Prozac for PMS.
What is your perspective on the majority of women with hormonal imbalance issues using the birth control pill or other synthetic hormones as treatment?
Many women use hormonal contraceptives as hormone replacement therapy for menstrual issues now the way menopausal women were using synthetic HRT 20 years ago, before it was deemed unsafe. Women are being over-prescribed this treatment without understanding the long-term consequences and at younger and younger ages, in fact.
Hormonal contraceptives put your body into a state of suspended animation as far as your underlying hormonal imbalance is concerned. Research has shown that women with pre-existing hormonal imbalances who use the Pill actually exacerbate their condition long-term. This is due to the effects the Pill generates on the body — from disturbing the gut micro-biome, to depleting the body of B and other key vitamins crucial to hormonal health and fertility, to compromising the liver’s ability to metabolize toxic estrogen efficiently.