To say I have an irregular period would be a massive understatement. It would be more accurate to say it's practically missing. Ever since I had an eating disorder from ages 15-18, I've been going months between periods — how many months, there's no predicting. Sometimes it's three, sometimes it's four, sometimes it's five... and once, it was a year and a half. Blood tests and ultrasounds always came out normal, but obviously, something was off.
It seemed like a blessing not to have to deal with my period often, but the problem is, an irregular or absent period points toward underlying hormonal problems, Alisa Vitti, functional nutritionist, author of WomanCode, and creator of the MyFLO period app and FLOliving.com, tells Bustle. Even if you're not unhappy about the menstrual symptoms, chances are you're dealing with other consequences of imbalanced hormones that you're not even aware of.
"Not menstruating regularly, depending on why you are not, can lead to a variety of issues," says Vitti. "If it's due to low estrogen, that can compromise bone and cardiovascular health. If it's due to insulin resistance, that can lead to diabetes. If it's due to excess estrogen/low progesterone, that can lead to inflammation-based problems and cancer risk as the lining builds up but menstruation is not triggered. If it's due to elevated FSH, it can be a pituitary tumor. If it's due to adrenal hyperplasia, it can lead to more endocrine problems."
Bootsy's chaste tree berry-based Hormone Balancing Elixir aims to help prevent issues like these. Chaste tree berry, which grows in the Mediterranean and Central Asia, affects the pituitary gland's production of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and decreases the production of excess prolactin, which in turn balances progesterone and estrogen levels, Bootsy founder Siena Dixon tells Bustle. The result of this is that it can lead to healthier hormone production and consequently ease period-related symptoms. Research has shown that it helps reduce PMS, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and menstrual pain, and compounds in it can combat menstrual irregularity.
When Dixon discovered chaste tree berry, she was in a similar situation to me, except in addition to only getting her period around twice a year, her periods were extremely painful. "I began taking chaste tree berry and started seeing positive changes within a month, gaining a regular cycle after three months of use," she says. "I've now had a regular 29-day cycle for over two years, and my PMS and period pain no longer interfere with my life."
Chaste tree berry is good for reducing PMS symptoms and breast pain during the luteal phase, says Vitti. However, she says, there's no evidence that it helps with a missing period unless the problem stems from elevated prolactin levels (which I don't have).
The product comes in a four-ounce bottle for $49.95. Each day, you drink a glass of water with 10-20 drops of the elixir. It has a very mild taste that's neither particularly yummy nor unpleasant. According to Dixon, it will take around three months to start seeing your period become more regular, but it will only take a month or so to see PMS and period pain relief.
Because I'm horrible at sticking to routines like this, I used the solution very sporadically at first. I first got it in December and used it every few days (whenever I remembered) in January. While I can't say if it was due to that, I did get my period in early February. (I hadn't since late November.) After that, I was traveling nonstop as usual and neglected it for a few months, and I didn't get my period again until early April.
Once I was able to be in the same place for a while again starting in May, I got more serious about getting my period on a regular schedule and started taking the hormone-balancing elixir almost daily. I made it through June without a period, and then, something odd happened: I got my period for just a couple days in July. It was like it was trying to peek through just a bit and let me know it was there. But a month later in August, it returned full-throttle. And by full-throttle, I mean about five days of having to wipe at least three times every time I used the bathroom because the blood would not stop coming out. It was like the great purge in my vagina.
While I can't say for sure that the elixir allowed me to get two periods just a month apart — something that rarely happens to me — it at least didn't hurt.
Still, Vitti cautions against the view that one product alone can regulate your period. "To restore the cycle as a whole, you must address the endocrine system as a whole by supporting blood sugar, cortisol, gut health, estrogen metabolism, and key micronutrient levels for optimal hormone function," she says. "I think the biggest hurdle we face as women in regards to our menstrual health is shifting from the 'take the (magic) pill' conditioned mindset for our period problems and moving to an acknowledgement that our hormonal system requires a lifestyle to support it to be healthy and symptom-free."