Drastic time of the months call for drastic measures. And for Chrisette Michele, her PCOS was cramping her lifestyle.
To meat or not to meat? Recently, Grammy-award winning singer Chrisette Michele opened up to Black Doctor about something that hits close to home for many women: menstrual cramps and the woes of the womb. Except for the 33-year-old singer, the situation was bigger than just a bad period you could suppress with a heating pad and more real than anything Advil could cure; because four years ago, Chrisette was diagnosed with PCOS- Polycistic Ovary Syndrome.
PCOS is a hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges. Affecting approximately 1 in 10 to 1 in 20 women of reproductive age in America alone, symptoms for PCOS include menstrual irregularity, excess facial and body hair, acne, obesity and of course, pain. According to Chrisette:
“My cramps were so bad every month that sometimes – this happened twice within a couple years span – I had to be rushed off of an airplane or an airplane had to land to rush me to the hospital because I was in that much pain."
Now that ain't fly. Prior to, and around the time of her diagnosis four years ago, Chrisette had also suffered from a string of other female hormonal issues that specifically impact and effect us- but rarely all at once.
Chrisette had fibroids, cysts and endometriosis, and for those who don't know the difference, here's a quick breakdown:
- Fibroids: Growths within the tissues of the uterus that can vary in shape, size, and location, as they can be found on the outside or deep within the uterine tissue. Fibroids are benign growths, which means they are not cancerous, and rarely require medical treatment.
- Cysts: Can become the most painful type of growth and can also be diagnosed as malignant. Generally, cysts develop on the ovaries as sac-like pouches that can either be solid or filled with fluid from the female reproductive system. Unlike fibroids, cysts do not cause menstrual bleeding—the greatest danger with cysts, aside from cancer, comes when they burst and release their contents into other body cavities, which can causes blood-poisoning or other illnesses.
- Endometriosis: Is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis can cause severe pain, especially during your period. Fertility problems also may develop.
For Chrisette, everyday movement had become somewhat of a burden.
"I decided there's no way this is normal. And so, so many of my sisters – by 'sisters' I just mean girls in the struggle – were like, 'You know what? That happens to me,' and I was like, 'You know what? I'm gonna talk to my doctor about this.'"
And that she did. At the time of Chrisette's PCOS diagnosis in 2011, she was in the midst of her vegan diet and new holistic lifestyle. She sought alternative forms of treatment for her pain, including: kinesiology, Reiki and good old fashion prayer:
"[I was] asking God to just open up doors and windows for me to see what I should be doing with my body."
At the time, Chrisette's doctor didn't think twice about making changes to her diet, with the exception of eliminating more sugar and salt. Chrisette even went on to transition onto a full "raw vegan" menu, such as peaches for breakfast and watermelon and raw greens for lunch. She also underwent surgery to remove one of her ovaries.
Yet, the pain didn't stop. And eventually after much discomfort, her doctor revisited Chrisette's lifestyle habits again, this time suggesting that "going green" had to go. According to the very same specialist (a fellow vegan themselves), Chrisette had to eat meat. The singer said,
“There's no way that you can be a vegan and have PCOS at the same time, and you DEFINITELY cannot be a raw vegan and have PCOS. [My doctor said] 'You need to be on a Paleo diet.'"
A Paleo diet is a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.
The news wasn't easy to digest. According to Chrisette, not only had veganism become a part of her new life after seeking a lifestyle change in her late 20's, it was her "thing" now, her shtick and the box she'd sort-of placed herself in, in front of fans. She felt the pressures to suppress her secret:
“I didn't want to tell PETA because I had just sat down with PETA and we were so excited. I wouldn't tell the record label because a part of me was vegan. A part of Chrisette Michele is the natural hair and the vegan.I started off the vegan journey needing healing and that was almost four-and-a-half years ago and I went on that juice feast because I was so exhausted and distraught with all that I had been through. I just needed to be cleansed."
These days, Chrisette's diet consists of sugar-free most things, bunless burgers and yes, meat. She recently testified that the changes have helped her stomach pains decrease drastically:
“I began to experience much less cramping, much lighter cycles and less drastic mood swings before and after my cycle. This is my first interview where I'm letting people know that I've decided the Paleo diet is kind of the way for me."
But not two persons, nor their diets, are the same. If you research the pros of a plant-based diet and/or going green to treat PCOS, you will stumble upon plenty of personal testimonies giving praise to veganism and other alternative forms of healthy dieting that include zero animal consumption. Although Chrisette didn't disclose why quitting being a raw-vegan worked for her specifically, one thing to consider is the broader anti-inflammatory options of going Paleo.
Many uncooked fruits and vegetables (most, not all) are acidic in nature and can cause roughage. Due to the severity of Chrisette's PCOS as well as her accompanying conditions, it's possible that she was prone to inflammation. One thing is for sure, that upon research of any diet or holistic treatment for PCOS, all can agree that not everyone will react the same to every diet. What may appear to be seemingly healthy might not be good for you.
I can recall once going on a 7-day fruits and veggie detox that had appeared to work for a few co-workers of mine as far as weight loss results. Needless to say, I didn't make it past the first day. As a woman who is prone to acid build-up and suffered from colitis years prior, the acidic levels in fruits and vegetables almost took me out by my third salad.
That's when I learned that diets are not simply "mind over matter" and a test to willpower. Your body does matter and not every "green" is for everybody. When considering making drastic alterations to your eating habits, it's best to consult a physician first, as well as pay attention to your body's response to these changes. More times than none, the act of weaning off certain foods versus completely cutting them off is far more ideal than anything in order to give your body time to adjust.
I can also appreciate Chrisette's honesty with her fears in going against the fad. The reality is, detox teas and trend diets are all the rage these days. Although many people experience success with them, it can often feel you're upsetting a cult when you go against the "grain"-- literally.
Here's to healthy dieting and doing it your way. Wishing Chrisette and everyone else continued health into the holidays and new year!