My Review of the Woman Code Protocol: PCOS, Liver Cleansing, and Hormone Balancing
Updated: Oct 23, 2017
So, you might be asking yourself, what the hell is the Woman Code?
Woman Code was written by an IIN Holistic Health Coach named Alisa Vitti. This amazing woman has devoted her life to showing women how to maintain health and vitality with a food-based program to rebalance their hormones.
After struggling with undiagnosed PCOS for years, Alisa approached countless doctors and hormone specialists in the hopes of understanding what was going on with her body. She was plagued with weight gain, acne, irregular periods, and more. Yet after being told repeatedly that nothing could be done except take hormonal birth control, she decided to take matters into her own hands of dig into the scientific literature about the female endocrine system. By committing herself to healing her body, Alissa discovered that she was experiencing the symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). After a formal diagnosis, Alissa set out to create a protocol that could heal her system and rebalance her hormones. Eventually, she could heal herself through food and lifestyle changes. Relieved and reborn, she made it her mission to empower other women to be able to do the same.
“Whether you are suffering from irregular periods, fertility issues, depression, or lack of sex drive, Alisa Vitti says that meds and antidepressants aren’t the only solutions. Groundbreaking and informative, Woman Code educates women about hormone health in a way that’s relevant and easy to understand. And the five-step protocol can markedly improve health and overall quality of life.”
I have been diagnosed with PCOS and after trying the birth control route and experiencing TERRIBLE side effects, I decided to give Woman Code a try!
My day-to-day experience and review of the 4-Day Woman Code Cleanse
Real talk: I haven’t had a period in two years. While not needing to purchase tampons, go through the cramps and bloating, or deal with having your uterus fall out once a month (Hi, I’m dramatic) might seem like every girl’s dream, for me it is terrifying. I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) about two years ago which is characterized by at least two of the following:
Absence of menstruation (check)
Abnormal weight gain (check)
Cystic acne (chin, neck, jaw) (check)
Oily skin (check)
Hair loss (check)
Cysts on ovaries (double check…get it? Cuz we have two ovaries?)
Abnormal hair growth
Since this diagnosis, establishing hormonal balance and regaining a monthly cycle has been a constant concern for me. I will admit that I fluctuate between periods of being totally immersed in resolving this issue and times of being completely dismissive about the reality of having PCOS. Yet I have finally reached a point where I am sick of not knowing what is going on inside my body so I have resolved to devote my time, resources, finances, and energy to getting my period back and resolving my PCOS. After hearing about the book Woman Code by Alissa Vitti and accounts of women who have restored their hormone imbalance by following her protocol, I decided to dive in the only way I know how: HEAD FIRST BABY.
The book begins by going into a great description of how your hormonal system works with regard to your cycle along with ways to reduce symptoms and improve your energy throughout the month. She also speaks about how our energy levels, libido, emotions, and self-care requirements fluctuate throughout the month, even though most women expect their bodies to function on an even keel all month. Ultimately, this expectation is harmful to our health because it negates the natural ebb and flow that our bodies experience every month! Through the Woman Code protocol, Alissa teaches you how to harness your body’s natural rhythm so you can work WITH your body instead of against it!
About a third of the way through the book, Alissa describes a 4 Day Liver Cleanse that is intended to clean your system of built up estrogen and toxins that may be disrupting hormonal balance in your body. She describes the delicate balance among your hormones and how a liver congested by environmental toxins (household cleaners, toxic makeup, body products), food toxins (pesticides, herbicides), and excess hormones (cortisol, estrogen) essentially wreak havoc on your body and result in issues with PCOS, fibroids, cysts, heavy periods, PMS, etc. After arriving at the section outlining the cleanse in the book, I decided I had nothing to lose and embarked on a four-day journey to cleanse my liver and begin the process of healing my hormones. Here is my day-to-day experience and review of the 4-Day Woman Code Cleanse.
Preparation Day: Preparing my mind, body, and meals
I’m not going to beat around the bush, I was SO nervous to start this cleanse. Once I arrived at the cleanse outlined in the book, I became fixated on all the things I could not eat while embarking on this journey, and to be honest it stirred up a lot of my past eating disorder subtleties such as the notorious “deprivation mindset”. For those of you that have had a run-in with disordered eating, you know what I’m talking about. To those who have not struggled with a form of disordered eating, I can liken the experience to having an addiction, but with food. If in the past you lived in a cycle of deprivation and bingeing removing a beloved food from your diet for even four days, as required by this cleanse, #triggers you and makes you irrationally fixate on life without variety or access to your favorite foods. It seems silly, and to be honest, it is but once you have lived your life ingrained in these bad habits, the ability to see how little sense they make becomes very challenging. Therefore, establishing a healthy mindset going into the cleanse was absolutely essential. I took the entire weekend to set my intention for what I wanted to accomplish with the 4-day Woman Code cleanse and journaled about my goals for re-establishing a line of communication with my body and re-balancing my hormones. The day before the cleanse I prepared all my meals ahead of time, knowing that I would have very little energy or motivation to cook when I was full into the cleanse. In the book, Alissa does a fantastic job of outlining each day of the cleanse, what, when and how much you will eat, and additional rituals you should perform. After my meals were prepared and I had all the required supplements and green juices, I was motivated and prepared to take the first day of the cleanse head on!
Below is a snippet of my journaling and experience from each day on the cleanse:
“Ok, ok, I see you Woman Code Cleanse. The protocol makes sense and is definitely supported by scientific evidence of human biochemistry and metabolism. So I don’t feel completely “woo-woo” and “witchy” doing this… I’m over not knowing what’s going on in my body and the idea of being an infertile Mertel is freaking me out! Breakfast wasn’t that bad, kind of made my stomach hurt, but I am a strong independent woman and I can do this!!!!”
::one hour later::
“OMG I’M SO HUNGRY. What I wouldn’t give for some oatmeal and peanut butter! Focus Tristan, focus. Remember why you are doing this. You need to actually finish something for once in your life! You always attempt cleanses and give up halfway through, but not this time. Oh no woman, stay with me! We are going to finish this.”
Needless to say, I made it through the day unscathed although my ego was a bit bruised by the fact that I struggled so much when I anticipated the cleanse being relatively easy. I was pretty hungry for most of the day as the portion sizes for the cleanse are relatively sparse. Yea, sparse is putting it kindly. I went to bed around 9pm because I was just that tired and slept in until 8am. I’m normally more of a 10:30 pm-6:30am type of gal so sleeping that much was a good sign for me.
It felt good to be able to give my body what it needed: REST.
“Hmm interesting, I’m not ravenous for food and my body definitely feels less bloated and much tighter. My mind is pretty foggy and I have a slight headache, which is to be expected. Drawing on some serious Queen Bey and RhiRhi woman power right now to make myself eat yesterday’s breakfast again. Why am I such a snob when it comes to eating the same meals twice? Come on Tristan, get it together and woman up. You can do this.”
::begrudgingly consumes prescribed breakfast::
“Ok well that wasn’t so bad, take your supplements and try to be productive.”
::Spends the next 2 hours watching One Mississippi (if you like dry-sarcasm and Tig Notoro I highly recommend)::
“Oh man, my brain does not want to work today…or yesterday…or probably tomorrow. Focus on your mantra!! I want to establish communication with my body, I want to re-balance my hormones, I want to honor my femininity.”
The second day of the cleanse was a bit harder than the first. I was much more tired and I could tell my self-control was waning. The cleanse outlines portion sizes that you are to follow, but by dinner time on the second day all I wanted was another serving of dinner. So I caved and had a small extra serving of dinner and I am SO glad that I did because day three was a doozy!
I woke up STARVING. My body was screaming at me for some extra food but I stuck to my guns and drank a whole liter of water before breakfast. I started to learn little tricks to be able to make it through the day such as lots of hot tea, and LOTS of water. Adding extra approved veggies to my lunch also helped to fill the bottomless void that is my stomach. Plus, today I had something extra exciting to look forward to at lunch time…AVOCADO!!
Honestly, I was surprised how good my energy was on the third day despite being ravenous. I owe this to the meditation I started doing in the mornings to center myself for the day and remain focused on the end goal: cleansing my body of excess estrogen and toxins so that my hormones have a fighting chance at rebalancing themselves!
I was also able to be productive throughout the morning and didn’t hit a slump until around 3pm. I just kept repeating to myself “one more day, just one more day”
I’m not going to lie, Day 4 was hard. I had followed the protocol to a T and I was started to get anxious about all the work that was piling up while I was performing the cleanse and avoiding anything stressful…i.e. WORK! I also noticed my mind was quite foggy on the final day, so I did some yoga and went for a walk. Unfortunately, I think that this was “pushing too far” even though it was all low intensity because my hunger was through the roof the entire day. In trying to stick to the protocol, I only ate at the designated times and stuck to the prescribed portions (which were quite scanty). I started to berate myself for not following instructions close enough as keeping my life low-stress while on the cleanse. I felt like I had failed somehow because I was having adverse reactions such as a headache, upset stomach, fatigue, weakness, and brain fog. Then I realized that these are the typical symptoms of detox! So, I refocused my attention and broke the cleanse with dinner on the final day by having an extra serving of protein. It felt good to have not only completed the cleanse, but also tap into my body more and listen to my intuition. Alissa describes how getting in touch with your body on a deeper level and learning to listen to what it needs is an important step in regaining a normal period, so it felt good that I was heading down the path of intuition.
My Review of the 4-Day Liver Cleanse
Having completed the cleanse and being back to “normal” life, I am so happy that I embarked on this journey to heal my PCOS with the first step being the 4-day liver cleanse!
Those four days gave me a chance to really tap into the signals my body was sending me regarding hunger, fatigue, joy, and sadness. I must admit that I was hungry the entire time I was on the cleanse. Yet learning to acknowledge my hunger and soothe the pangs with rest and relaxation was so empowering. I have always been more of a dangerous “hangry” person, so learning that hunger is not an emergency was so valuable for me! Taking life slowly also allowed me to really LISTEN to every thought, feeling, emotion, and need that my body was expressing. It was so amazing to experience this open dialogue and can respond accordingly!
My main critique of the cleanse references the accessibility and explanation of the cleanse.
As for the accessibility, I am not sure how a busy mom with multiple kids or someone with an insane work schedule would be able to complete this cleanse. I am fortunate enough to be self-employed which allows me a little bit of wiggle room with how I schedule my life and work obligations. I could get ahead on work the weekend before the cleanse so I could truly relax and let my body do its thing. Yet by the end of day 3 I was starting to get anxious about obligations for the following week that I had not even started on yet. If someone with a less flexible schedule or more obligations were to try to embark on this cleanse, I feel like they would almost need to go on a mini-cleanse “vacay” to ensure they can rest.
As for the explanation of the cleanse, I personally had enough nutrition and biochemistry background to be able to understand why I was eating, drinking, and supplementing with the prescribed foods during the cleanse. However, there is no explanation in the book about why you are eating these foods in this particular portion size. I feel a little bit of background on this would have been helpful in making each phase of the cleanse more meaningful!
Despite these critiques, I would still highly recommend not only the Woman Code protocol but also the 4-day Liver Cleanse to any woman who is struggling with hormone imbalance, menstrual dysfunction, or PCOS. This experience has taught me so much about listening to my body and honoring its needs! If you are curious about anything addressed in this article or if you have performed the 4-day liver cleanse, comment below and let’s start some dialogue about healing our bodies and achieving hormonal balance!