Apologies for the lack of new posts recently – life’s been a bit crazy lately, with little time left for blogging! Although I have a couple of posts I really want to write & share soon, I thought it was about time for an update on my health…
A few months ago, in reaction to an extremely stressful time at work, I got an ear infection. Let me tell you, friends, ear infections are the worst. The only pain was terrible and nothing seemed to help. I tried home remedies – living clay, essential oils and loading up on all kinds of vitamins – without any luck. I visited the doctor twice to no avail and, in my desperation, I opted to take antibiotics. Unfortunately, as expected, they made me super sick, gave me a rash & didn’t help at all. Finally, a visit to the ENT to insert a sponge helped get steroids directly into my ear and multiple visits to the chiropractor drained the fluid eventually.
Our trip to Europe provided some reprieve from the stress this summer; the break gave me a renewed mind and optimistic perspective. But as the hours at work picked back up, all of my post-vacation resolutions – talking the dog for nightly walks, spending more time with friends and family, cooking meals, even shopping for groceries – got neglected quickly as there just weren’t enough hours in the day. As my work-life balance suffered, the stress creeped back in and, therefore, back into having it’s effect on my immune system.
One day in early August, I woke up with hives all over the back of my legs. I thought it was odd and attempted to find what the cause could be; but, nothing in my routine, diet or hygiene/beauty products had changed. Figuring the hives would go away soon and it had to be a fluke, I just dealt with the itching. But they lasted, spreading and progressively getting worse and worse. After a week, I made an appointment with my naturopath doctor. Asking questions about every aspect of my life, sleeping habits and diet, she got the full picture of my health. She suggested that while I could be experiencing an allergic reaction, she was pretty positive that stress was the cause. Hoping to learn more about what was going on with my body, she prescribed a blood test and hormone panel. In the meantime, I would stay away from gluten and really focus on my nutrition to lessen the inflammatory response my body was having. After four long weeks, my hives finally subsided; the stress was still there, but I think that a better focus on my diet and a supplement I got from my chiropractor finally helped my body stop overreacting.
The CDC states that emotional stress causes 80-85% of all illness. It makes sense – stress suppresses our immune function, so, long-term it gets even worse. This month, I’ve been sick twice – a bad cold and then food poisoning for the third time this year… ugh! But I returned to my doctor last week and the results were in: stress is the culprit. Even after all my time at the pool this summer and daily Vitamin D supplements, I was still deficient and need to increase my intake. I’m anemic, so will be taking a liquid iron supplement to give me more energy. And although I drink lots of water and even add Himalyan pink sea salt, my electrolyte levels were still low – I foresee lots of coconut water (NOT sugary gatorade) in my future!
Most importantly, my DHEA levels were extremely low. Although known for overuse by athletes, the presence of DHEA in our body is essential. Most people in their twenties are producing more DHEA this decade of their lives than any other. DHEA is a steroid hormone secreted by your adrenal glands; during times of stress, your adrenals are pumping so much cortisol that they produce very little DHEA. But that has massive effects as DHEA is the precursor to estrogen, progesterone & testosterone. As a result, my hormones are totally out of whack. So, instead of “doping” up on unnatural DHEA, I’ll be taking a custom supplement designed by my doctor to provide the building blocks to hormone development, bringing the levels back up. I’ll also be on a high-protein diet of 60-80 grams per day to balance my blood sugar – prolonged high-cortisol response causes problems there too. So, if anyone has some good ideas for high-protein snacks (especially low-budget options), please share!
While the news was not good, I am thankfully at a point where I can step in to make these changes now and get my body back in balance before things get more serious. It will take many months to recover, but I am committed to focus on my health – this body is the only one I get. In the meantime, I would appreciate any & all stress-management recommendations! I am rejecting the identity of illness that I’ve had my whole life; I am so hopeful that healing is near and I will choose joy & faith.
Meditating on this verse lately: “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:4-5