A Health Story: Fatigue, Food Allergies, Inability to Gain Weight

Me and AlyssaToday, I’m sharing the health story of my friend Alyssa. Alyssa is one of my oldest friends… we met nearly twenty years ago at church and we were 2 of just 16 in our graduating high school class. I’m so thankful for Alyssa’s friendship over the years.  She is one of the strongest women I know; her optimism and endurance in the midst of suffering is inspiring and truly displays a joy that only God can give.  

As we have both struggled with different health issues for many years, I’ve been grateful for someone to share ideas & recipes with as we try new diets and attempts at natural healing.  She’s the friend that introduced me to essential oils, which have been so life-changing for me. And, as I’ve become a mom, she is an even more valued resource.  Here’s her story:

Hi, I’m Alyssa. I’m married to my high school sweetheart and we have four kids, ages 9, 6, 5 and 2. When I’m not spending time with my family I enjoy DIY projects at home or working part-time at Board and Brush creative studio.  I’m also passionate about natural health and wellness.

Growing up, my family was close-knit, but my mom struggled with health problems her whole life – depression, gut issues and back problems.  While we did things together as a family, we were limited by her condition  I remember her being in bed a lot. She would try to have a good meal for us on the table every night, but I still ate a lot of junk and processed food when a home cooked meal wasn’t an option.  We weren’t aware of all the short and long-term effects that food has on the body.

In middle school, I started getting made fun of for being so thin, which really affected me.  I had always been slender and unable to put on much weight, but when others started noticing, it made me really insecure.  That continued well into high school.  In high school, I also remember being pretty tired and not having a ton of energy.  My sleep consisted of: going to bed late, getting up early for school, falling asleep on my bed doing homework and going to bed late again.

Fast forward several years after having my first few kids.. just a few sleep deprived nights… my exhaustion and fatigue were much worse.  Not taking care of myself the right way put me in a bad state.  I was having gut issues and I was frequently getting sick and littlest virus would keep me down for a week or two.  

My mom had passed away in 2008 after I had had my first child, from an accidental overdose (the combination of a pain patch on her back and a heating pad).  After that, I began to think about my health in a new light; I knew I needed to figure out what was going on with myself, but I had a bad taste from conventional doctors and medicine after everything that happened with my mom.  

I discovered I had a gluten intolerance via trial and error after a doctor misdiagnosed me with acid re-flux.  I saw a string of natural doctors trying to figure out what was now lack of energy, anxiety, thinning hair, continued inability to gain weight along with some gut issues.  I saw at least 5 different doctors who all saw I had a problem going on with the symptoms and various lab results, but were unable to figure out what it all meant or what the cause was. I started eating healthier, in addition to being gluten-free, and begun researching more about natural remedies.  

When anything came up with our family, from colds and ear infections to strep throat, I tried to find a natural remedy for it. When my oldest was five, she had 5 rounds of strep throat and antibiotics to go with them, but was still sick. I was so frustrated and felt helpless; I came across a remedy of cayenne + honey + garlic and made her try it.  To my surprise, it worked! I had been able to treat her strep naturally without the use of antibiotics and she’s never had strep again. It’s like her body needed just a little natural help to fight it off on it’s own.

I continued seeking out natural remedies for ailments and dabbled in essential oils, not seeing much impact from the ones I had bought from the grocery store.  I didn’t think much of it until I was introduced to Young Living essential oils at a class. I was educated on the difference between store-grade oils vs pure, therapeutic grade oils and how they could help enhance a natural lifestyle. My husband thought I was nuts for being so excited about oils, but he’s now completely on-board and embraced my “crunchy” tendencies of tackling pretty much anything naturally.

As for my health problems, I’m still continuing to sift through the details of understanding what’s going on with my body. I found that following an AIP diet helps with a lot of my gut issues.  When I eat something I shouldn’t, I can recognize it quickly. My blood work still shows off levels and indicates potential thyroid and hormone issues, but the doctor I was seeing was somewhat perplexed by it. I’m currently waiting to see a new functional medicine doctor that a friend with Hashimoto’s recommended. She’s seen drastic improvement with her health over the last 6 months, so I am hopeful for similar results. In the meantime, I take each day as it comes. I am super aware of what I eat, what I use on my body and the products I use in my home. The journey to health and wellness seems to be an ongoing one. It can be so discouraging at times but I know that God has me in this journey for a reason and I’m trusting in His plan.

Like Alyssa, I know that so many of us are still in the thick of it- trying to figure out what’s causing issues and doing all we can to address the symptoms in the meantime.  I hope to someday share the answers Alyssa has discovered and the healing that she’s found.  I’m always comforted to know I’m not the only one still looking for answers, even though it is such a frustrating & discouraging place to be.

If you want to share your story, I would love to feature it on my blog to encourage others- please reach out to me at healthyhopefulblog(at)gmail.com. 

A Story On Antidepressant Withdrawal

Let's Talk WithdrawalMy good friend, Megan, has been such a blessing to our family during this newborn stage. She brought us several meals, is always eager to hold the baby even when she’s crying, change her diaper and rock her to sleep. When they say “it takes a village,” she is the kind of community and generousity you want in your life. 

Anyway, I have been wanting to share more personal stories of health on this blog. As anyone who has been through chronic pain or unexplained illness or battled continuously against health issues knows, it’s crucial to hear that you are not alone. It is so encouraging to know others in a similar spot and be able to work through it together, even virtually. 

Megan recently shared her health story on a podcast interview.  Once I heard it, I knew I had to share it with you.  While this story is specifically focused on her experience taking antidepressants, I related to it in so many ways- being so desperate to feel better and believing the doctors knew best, trusting that the pills they were giving me would be safe and healing, only to end up worse.
Megan’s story is full of the range of emotions that any of us go through when dealing with chronic pain or an unexplained illness: one day hopeful and the next filled with hopelessness.  If you are in that place and looking for some encouragement today, or if you are on or considering taking antidepressants, you must listen to Megan’s story.  Here’s a summary of what they discuss (from James Moore at Let’s Talk Withdrawal):

  • How Megan had sleep difficulties and how her doctor prescribed an antidepressant for insomnia
  • That Megan didn’t even know what she was taking was an antidepressant
  • After 2 years, Megan started to think about coming off her medication. Her doctor at the time advised her to withdraw over 2 weeks after Megan had been taking the antidepressant for 2 years
  • How Megan found the increase in suicidal thinking the most frightening effect of withdrawal but that she did not realise at the time that this was caused by stopping the drug
  • How no one understood that what Megan was experiencing was caused by antidepressant withdrawal
  • How doctors prescribed more medication to try and counter the symptoms of withdrawal
  • How Megan had to go back on her antidepressant and double the dose to remove the withdrawal effects
  • That the prospect of starting a family led Megan to consider stopping again and she then found an entire community of others who were struggling with the drugs themselves
  • How, having realised that her initial attempt to stop was too fast, Megan then decided to change to a different anti anxiety medication
  • How Megan planned to take four months to withdraw but still found this too fast and she experienced a wide range withdrawal effects
  • How a doctor prescribed an additional three medications on top of the antidepressant and anti anxiety medication
  • How those withdrawal effects forced Megan to go back up to 20mg of her antidepressant, meaning that Megan felt trapped
  • How the website survivingantidepressants.org was a major resource that Megan used to help her maker her tapering plan
  • That Megan used a compounding pharmacy to help her taper but it was expensive
  • How sometimes withdrawal effects can recur years after someone has stopped an antidepressant
  • How people should be very careful to recognize that suicidal thinking can arise from starting, changing dose or stopping an antidepressant

Listen to it at Let’s Talk Withdrawal or on iTunes.

I’m so proud of Megan for being so vulnerable in sharing her story and for her persistence to trust God in finding healing someday.  I hope you will also be encouraged by her outlook and reminded of how important it is to always do your own research before taking pharmaceuticals- they all have side effects.

“You’re Not Sick; You’re Thirsty”

Is it possible that the majority of illness originate from something as simple as dehydration?  Could we be treating ourselves with medicine when we should just be drinking more water?  I recently read Your Body’s Many Cries for Water by F. Batmanghelidj, MD, which explores this possibility.

Water

Our body is made up of 75% water, and in particular, our brain tissue is 85% water. Adequate hydration is essential to our bodies and brains functioning properly to stay healthy.  But many of us are suffering from chronic dehydration because we live in a society where coffee, tea, alcohol and manufactured beverages like soda have become acceptable thirst-quenchers.  While many of these contain water, they also contain dehydrating agents that only make our body’s more thirsty.  And, sodas, in particular, are addictive (both the caffeine and sugar), taking away our natural thirst for water, even when it’s plentiful and available.

We tend to think that we are “thirsty” when our mouths become dry and we crave a drink.  But this is actually the last outward sign of dehydration – if you are feeling this, your body is screaming for water.  And as you age, your body begins to ignore “dry mouth” more and more, making dehydration easier. Our vital organs receive the water, nutrients and hormones they need to work only by enough water existing in the body to deliver those elements, so it’s obviously essential to our basic functioning.  Just in case you need a few more reasons to drink more water, here are some that really stood out to me:

  • Morning sickness during pregnancy is the main indicator of a baby and mother’s dehydration.  Water is essential to cell expansion during a baby’s first stage of life.
  • Chronic pain is a huge indicator of thirst.  For a while, painkillers may work for pain monitored by the central nervous system, but eventually the brain will become so dehydrated that it will register all pain until it gets enough water.  And, until it does, the pain will increase and the body will limit the mobility of those areas in order to “prevent the production of additional toxic waste” that water, if available, would wash out. If you are experiencing consistent back pain, leg pain or headaches, take note.
  • Dyspeptic (gastritis, heartburn, constipation) pain is an emergency thirst signal.  “Digestion of solid foods depends on the presence of copious amounts of water” and “water provides the only natural protection against the acid in the stomach.”  Antacids contain a lot of aluminum (so does your deodorant, by the way), which combined with brain cell dehydration are proven causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Stop popping those antacids and drink a couple glasses of water instead.
  • “Fully 75 percent of the weight of the upper part of the body is supported by the water volume that is stored in the disc core.”  While proper posture is helpful, adequate water is essential if you are experiencing back pain.  Exercises that stretch the back and help “vacuum” water back into the disc space will help both neck and back pain.  I personally find that laying on the bed with my head off the edge for a minute or so helps a great deal.  Of course, my chiropractor adjustments help tremendously as well.
  • Dehydration affects the regulation of body temperature.  Many migraines and headaches are caused by “heat stress” because of dehydration that may occur due to lack of drinking water, drinking alcohol, or an allergic reaction that releases histamines (blocking hydration).
  • Dehydration leads to stress in the body and causes hormones to go into crisis mode.  As a result, dehydration contributes to chronic fatigue syndrome and depression.
  • Using caffeine to override your body’s available energy will lower levels of stored energy, meaning that your hormones will not be able to react appropriately later and the brain has less energy to work from, leading to less focus and attention span.  This dehydration effect is exacerbated when elderly people with memory problems or children with learning disorders drink anything other than water, especially soda.
  • Adequate water and salt intake are essential to maintaining blood volume that prevents hypertension.  The body will do all it can to retain water and sodium (helps balance water in and out of cells), yet the current “treatments” for hypertension prescribe diuretics.  Water is the best diuretic – if you are drinking enough water, your body will respond and eventually flush out the toxic edema fluid rather than the water your body desperately needs.
  • Cholesterol is essential to the function of our cells because it helps our cells retain water.  In the state of dehydration, you will develop high cholesterol as its working in overdrive to prevent cell dehydration.
  • “The sensation of thirst and hunger are generated simultaneously to indicate the brain’s needs.” We cannot tell the difference, and thus often overeat when our body’s are really just crying out for water.  Then, dehydration causes our brain to crave more energy, thus causing us to crave sugar.  So, we overeat, eat unhealthy foods and gain weight simply by being dehydrated.
  • Asthma and allergies are indicators that the body has resorted to an increase in production of the neurotransmitter histamine, the sensor regulator of water metabolism and its distribution in the body.”
  • In some cases of chronic dehydration, our brain begins to inhibit insulin so the pancreas can provide water for food digestion – a crucial function to provide energy to the body.  Ultimately, this can cause insulin-independent diabetes, and instead of drinking more water & eating a balanced diet to get the body to behave normally again, people take chemical override medications to force the body to produce more insulin.
  • Salt is crucial to ensuring we have an “ocean” of water outside our cells, but the table salt we eat in most foods is a chemical and not mineral-rich.  Remove sodium preservatives and table salt from your diet and replace with unrefined sea salt to keep your body’s hydration in balance.

The simple way to prevent the damage from chronic dehydration is to drink enough water.  Your body needs a minimum of 8 glasses of water per day, more, especially, if you are drinking alcohol or caffeine.  If your urine is not colorless, you are not hydrated enough.  Drink water slowly, throughout the day.  I typically drink a glass of water before and after each meal, and then at least one in-between each meal as a rule of thumb.  If I am feeling sick, my allergies are flaring or my back pain returns, I immediately drink lots of water, and only water, until the symptoms pass. I have truly noticed a difference.

Are you drinking enough water?  If any of the above dehydration-related illnesses stuck out to you personally, you must read this book. It has very detailed chapters on each of the effects of dehydration and testimonials for how water has healed people.  Go read it (or borrow from me!) – it’s fascinating!

Doctored – Healthcare or Sick Care?

I used to be sick… really sick, all the time. I’ve seen dozens of doctors throughout my life and popped too many prescription pills to remember, trying to get better. But y’all, for the first time ever, I feel great.  And I haven’t seen a doctor in years now, or taken medication.  Coincidence?  It certainly doesn’t seem that way to me…

Before I begin my summary/commentary of the documentary Doctored, I want to be clear that it (and this blog) is meant to inform and raise awareness, not offend.  This documentary is an exposé on the business of medicine and the harm it’s caused to many people, including me; it’s not an attack on the healthcare professionals who work with the best of intentions to heal and save people’s lives.  I sincerely hope you’ve had a very different experience from mine, but I know that many of you have not.  This documentary really helped me understand they why behind it all and I feel compelled to share it with those of you who are/have been as frustrated as me with the lack of answers.

Modern western medicine came about to get rid of “quacks” who were scamming people into dangerous treatments.  It was created to give regulation and science to the methods of healing people. Morris Fishbein, the American Medical Association’s Executive Director from 1924 to 1949 felt that only doctors should treat people, but he was also clear that “Medicine is a profession; it must never become a business or a trade, never the subservient tool of a governmental bureaucracy.”  Unfortunately, the healthcare industry is now a far cry from that.  

Medicine is sick care, not health care. 8 out of 10 people will die of a chronic illness.  These illnesses are treated with medication that may fix the symptoms but ultimately sustains the problem, rather than healing it. Let’s be honest: if drugs cured us, then we would stop spending money. According to the World Health Organization, the United States spends more on health care per capita ($8,608), and more on health care as percentage of its GDP (17.2%), than any other nation (according to 2011 figures, the most recent I could find).  Approximately 98% of the advertising revenue for medical journals in the United States is provided by pharmaceutical companies.  This seems like a slight conflict of interest to me.

“Medical school doesn’t teach doctors to address the root of the problem.  It teaches doctors to treat the problem.  It’s a practical science with practical aims… medicine is different from other sciences because more than being a science, it is first and foremost a business.”

– Dr. Cate Shanahan on her disillusionment with the industry of medicine and her desire & reason to become a doctor in Deep Nutrition

In my experience, the physicians that I have seen couldn’t figure out my problems.  Unfortunately, rather than trying to figure out why I was sick, they came up with ideas and prescribed medication to see if it worked.  But I got worse, not better.  And often, I was diagnosing myself.  Isn’t a doctor supposed to tell you what medication you need rather than you seeing a commercial, then going to the doctor to say you have the symptoms and need that pill?  When we are sick, we want the shortest route to the quickest fix.  And too often, so do our busy doctors.  The easy answer? Medicine.

Over the past year, I have seen dramatic healing by visiting my new chiropractor regularly.  I used to suffer from back and shoulder/neck/hip/foot/leg pain daily, (honestly, almost constantly).  Through regular adjustments and sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet, I have seen 95% improvement in my pain frequency and intensity.  It is simply remarkable and life changing.  What I have found incredible about fixing my spine is how much it also affects your overall nervous system and your brain, and thus the health of my body as a whole. Could the problem be that doctors just aren’t taking a hands-on (literally) approach with their patients anymore?  

Now, you’re considered a quack if you don’t prescribe drugs.  Doctors who try to help someone naturally, like chiropractors, are often considered quacks because they are trying to help their patients while avoiding the dangerous and potentially fatal side effects of medication.  Every year, 125,000 people die of properly prescribed drugs.  I am surprised that number isn’t higher, since I’ve personally known 3 people in the past 5 years fall victim to it. But pharmaceutical companies are never charged with murder.  Rather, the (vicious for us) profitable cycle continues.  I talk to people all the time who are on one medication for one issue and then on 3 more to combat the side effects of that medication. How many of you can relate?

Now time for the real controversy: the epidemic of cancer as the ultimate example of medicine as a business.  This documentary tells a couple of compelling stories about the governments efforts to fight possible cures for cancer (FDA vs Dr. Burzynski’s antineoplaston therapy) and promote chemotherapy/radiation (Utah prosecuted the parents of Parker Jensen for refusing to treat their young son with chemo after his tumor was surgically removed).  Think about it: if there was a cure for cancer, there would be lots of people without jobs.  That’s all I’ll say about that topic… please, watch it for yourself.

The documentary ends with a commentary on how the health of a nation is in direct correlation to health of it’s soil.  Our minerals and nutrients come from the soil where are food is grown and animals graze; we need active and alive food to stay active and alive.  As I’ve mentioned before, GMOs and pesticide-ridden food are now pervasive in our grocery stores. In fact, since GMOs  were introduced, the instances of autoimmune diseases have increased 400%!  It’s more important than ever to pay extra special attention to your diet and where your food comes from as a cure for your health.

To close, Doctored emphasizes the hope that with more patients pushing for real answers, healthcare is, in many cases, becoming more patient-centered and doctors are now collaborating with holistic practitioners for alternative healing methods.

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

– Thomas Edison

My Health Journey

Strawberry PickingI’ve been battling intense allergies for the past two weeks, so I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last post.  I have to admit that I became a bit discouraged, starting to believe that this new healthy lifestyle wasn’t helping at all.  But I realized that I need to reflect a little and remember how far I really have come with my health. Since I haven’t shared my story with you yet, I thought this would be the perfect time…

For as long as I can remember, I have been sick or in pain most of the time.  While it’s never been anything super serious, I’ve definitely had a few debilitating days.  For the most part, it’s simply just kept me from enjoying life to the fullest.  Throughout my childhood, I got sick pretty often, mainly suffering from respiratory illnesses, and I’ve always had nearly constant back pain.  I moved to Austin at age 6 and developed allergies and asthma, often developing into a sinus infection, pneumonia, bronchitis, you name it, and then of course, taking lots of medicine. I always complained of back pain as a kid and my parents did everything they could to discover the cause: taking me to multiple doctors & specialists, having MRIs & xrays and doing physical therapy.  No one could figure it out. When I reached middle & high school, participation in sports only made it worse, and I started to have shoulder pain as well.  Doctors prescribed muscle relaxers, Advil or physical therapy to manage the pain.  Then, with the onset of puberty came acne (and other hormonal problems).  My dermatologist prescribed an antibiotic for the acne, which I proceeded to take for only the next 8 years.

In college, everything got even worse.  I was sick with bronchitis for the entire second semester of my Freshman year.  Then, winter of Sophomore year brought even more illness.  It started with my typical holiday seasonal allergies, developing into an apparent sinus infection compounded with bronchitis.  Over the course of a month and a half, I was prescribed 6 courses of antibiotics and 3 steroid packs.  Since I had a fever every day, the doctors also suggested Advil every 4-6 hours… for a whole month.  My back pain became so intense that one doctor even said I “probably” had ovarian cancer… I didn’t.  I saw 10 different doctors, trying to figure out what was actually wrong.  No one could diagnose me.  By March, my stomach became so inflamed from all those medications that I couldn’t keep any food down or sleep.  It eventually culminated in a trip to the ER and a week-long stay in the hospital for gastritis.

I was furious, depressed and hopeless…  I still didn’t have any answers and doctors were making me worse, not better.  This was my turning point.  As a last straw, I made an appointment to visit an “alternative doctor,” who immediately put me on probiotics to rebuild my immune system and my gut.  She gave me some vitamins and changed my diet from the bland, carb-heavy “sick diet” to lots of protein and vegetables.  Within a week, I was a different person, and continued to get better and better.  That experience made me realize that there had to be something to this alternative, holistic medicine thing.

Since that time, I’ve been healthier – staying away from fast food, eating more veggies and taking vitamins.  But, I still felt like my immune system just wasn’t performing up to par… it takes me awhile to get over being sick, I’ve suffered from hormonal issues (girls, you know) and I struggled with back pain daily.   After watching a couple of great documentaries and reading some surprising health articles, I realized that even this was not normal and that I didn’t have to live this way.  Providing even more motivation, after getting married a year ago, I inevitably began to think about my future children.  I certainly didn’t want my kids to be sick all the time, and, I was frightened by the epidemics of food allergies and autism in kids today, not to even mention the possible (again, epidemic) fertility problems I could face trying to get pregnant someday.  If you know me, you know I don’t accept “well, that’s just how things are” very easily.  I was going to find answers.

Now, I read books, watch lots of documentaries, and keep up with new research and articles.  I learn something new every day that I can put into practice immediately.  Now, my healing comes from food that I can buy from a local farmer, not from medication – it’s much more delicious and there’s no long list of terrible side effects! I know that it may take my body a while to recover from all the toxins I put in it for so many years, but I have complete confidence that it will rebuild itself.  God designed our bodies to heal themselves given the right nutrients. I’ve already seen a huge difference – pain and sickness are now in the minority in my life and I’m feeling better every day.  Plus, I’m giving my future children a real chance to be healthy, and that will be the most rewarding result of all.