It has been a few weeks since this site has seen any capacity of my attention. Seemingly the first thing that drops on my priority list when my workload gets chaotic is updating my site. It’s not that I haven’t been writing, it was just for a book instead (ah!!). The Hormone Solutions was released today, May 28. Truthfully, writing a book and self-publishing was all-consuming.
In the chaos of the last few weeks I finished school and started the industry’s board-certification process. I also finished a functional medicine practitioner program specific to genetics and clinical applications. I’m getting outdoors a lot and my health is cautiously on the upswing. Migraines are 3-5 days a week instead of every single day. The hyperoxularia (explained in this post) seems to be my biggest restriction in regard to diet, and I get little rashes on my hands as the oxalates dump from my system. Nothing is as severe as it was at the beginning of the year, so it’s nice to be able to share some small victories.
why I’m in functional health care in the first place
Creating an independent study was the last step to earning my Master of Nutrition Therapy credentials. I spent months in advance thinking about what I’d research. I was set on gut health initially because of its complexity and the new research that emerges daily on the microbiome. Somewhere in late December, though, I thought about why I’m in functional health care in the first place: hormones.
The first time I gave a damn about my health was because of wildly painful periods. Something was wrong, and every doctor just wanted to put me on the pill. It wasn’t until I started seeing an acupuncturist that someone explained to me that painful periods weren’t normal. Common, yes. Normal, no.
Hormones are so much more than what makes women have a period. Hormones have everything to do with sleep, weight management, mood, mental health, skin issues, etc… All of which I’ve experienced first-hand. This book, The Hormone Solutions, made light and applicable healing information from my experience and research. It’s a guide for women in their teens, 20s, and 30s so they don’t have to suffer through years of horrible [insert any women-specific issue].
The following is an excerpt from the book about my own history with hormonal imbalance.
I’m the field of health care because I’ve been the unheard, minimized patient before. Any interest in preserving my health started with a period that was miserable. Gynecologists told me that my pain was normal, family physicians told me it was in my head, and endocrinologists told me there was nothing I could do. But finally, functional medicine treated me.
I got my period much later than most of my friends. It was normal for the first few cycles until my sophomore year of high school when I had my first ovarian cyst burst. I was in the middle of a swim team practice when I started to feel nauseous. I jumped out of the pool and promptly fainted on the deck. Once I came to, I began to vomit and writhe in the worst back pain of my life. I went to the hospital where the pain subsided within a few hours, and was discharged without knowing the cause.
Two months later, the same episode happened. I woke up in pain, fainted upon standing, vomited, and writhed in pain so severe this time that I wanted to die. This time at the hospital, they saw fluid on an ultrasound that led them to the conclusion I had an ovarian cyst burst. I was discharged with painkillers and a firm recommendation to start the pill.
Every few months for three years I had one of these episodes at the onset of my period. Eventually my parents stopped taking me to the hospital because we knew the pain would pass within a few hours of the cyst bursting. I started having panic attacks, afraid of passing out in public or while driving. I had a few concussions at this point from passing out without warning and was taking 4 liquid gel Advil every 4 hours during my period to manage pain. My digestion became so bad toward the end of high school that I was hardly eating and I looked like a bony, pale mess at my senior prom. My poor health led to the development of hypoglycemia, causing me to pass out even more frequently. I tried the pill short-term and felt worse.
Every gynecologist I saw was resolved to having me take the pill or removing my reproductive organs. Desperate for an alternative, I saw a doctor of functional medicine while going to college in Boston. This woman turned my life around within a few months of treatment that combined acupuncture, diet, and lifestyle modifications. She lit the fire of my curiosity about inflammation and its connection to dysfunction in my own body.
This doctor was able to pinpoint my largest sources of inflammation through a simple series of questions that no doctor had ever taken the time to ask me. My dairy- and gluten-heavy diet, inadequate sleep, and being in a toxic relationship were the big offenders. My ovarian cyst episodes disappeared just like the dairy and gluten in my diet and the now ex-boyfriend. I wasn’t great at the whole preventive health care thing yet, and I ended up losing my period.
I was actually relieved to lose my period after spending my teenage years anxious and in pain because of it. No periods meant an easy sex life and no chance of having an ovarian cyst come back. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been so relieved. Losing my period was a major sign of systemic hormonal dysfunction. I didn’t make that connection until my hair started to fall out, I wasn’t sleeping, I couldn’t think straight, and I fumbled for words constantly.
I was diagnosed with HPA-D (sometimes referred to as Adrenal Fatigue) at 19 and hypothyroidism at 21. Both conditions I thought were reserved for middle-aged people. Totally self-inflicted, I burned myself out once I felt the freedom of periods that weren't controlling my life. It would be a number of years before I figured out what the word "balance" means in my definition of optimal health.
My period came back in 2018, and I reversed my hypothyroidism despite what every conventional doctor told me wasn't possible. I didn’t take drugs, have surgeries, or conjure up a miracle. I prioritized my healing with proper supplementation, real food, adequate sleep, and cutting out self-induced stress. The only other time I've had a painful period was in late 2018 (a season of recovering from a vertebrae fracture, an appendectomy, and being so sick from mold toxicity that I was on a liquid medical food diet). Emotional, physical, and environmental stress once again did a number on the hormonal balance I had achieved. I learned my body's resilience again, and lessons of care I couldn't have learned in my graduate program about health.
A woman’s wellbeing is based on her unique biochemistry. No single diet, lifestyle, or supplement protocol is a panacea for everyone and everything. It is absolutely vital to be mindful of what makes you feel good in achieving your own definitions of health and wellbeing. This is how I’ve healed my own hormonal mayhem, and how I support women in my practice in getting their own hormones under control.
I hope you’ll read The Hormone Solutions. It comes in digital and print format, and I hope you find it useful enough to recommend it to the women in your life who need to know that their out-of-control hormones are reversible, not a life sentence.