Food is Medicine: My Journey to Reproductive Health

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I always believed in the power of food as medicine.  It has the ability to make or break us; the power to be used as preventative medicine, or even as a tool to reverse adverse effects on our health.  I became a vegetarian in 2006 in an attempt to not only fuel my body with more plant based foods, but to save money, support sustainable farming practices, as well as animal and worker welfare initiatives.  For the longest time, this way of eating served me.  And then, I had Ziggy! 

I waited until he weaned from nursing, around 1 year postpartum, to begin taking birth control again. I had always done well on the pill, and figured it would be no different postpartum.  It turns out a lot changes hormonally after growing a human from scratch.  I was an emotional roller coaster, and experiencing a string of strange symptoms.  My skin was dry and itchy and my hair was falling out in clumps.  There were days that I was debilitatingly exhausted, which I chalked up to being a working mom who was building a business in the background.  

In December of 2015, I had a root canal, with an antibiotic to follow.  My existing symptoms worsened, and I began to experience chronic mouth sores, deep boils on my face, as well as extreme digestive discomfort.  It was time to see a doctor.  All of these symptoms had to be linked together in some way.

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My dermatologist recommended a topical cream for my dry, itchy skin.

My PCP tested my thyroid.  When the test came back normal, she recommended counseling, and also offered antidepressants as an option.  

An ER doctor prescribed me stool softeners for my digestive discomfort.

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No one seemed to think that any of my symptoms were related to one another.  So, in February, I decided to stop taking birth control, hoping that my symptoms would subside, or at least lessen.  But instead, another was added to the list...

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March passed, and then April, and my period never returned.  I went to see my widwife for my annual check up and expressed my concern.  She wasn't overly concerned about my missing cycle, as it can sometimes take a few months for a woman’s cycle to re-regulate after birth control..  

So, I didn’t stress about it, until May passed, and then June.  Still no period.  My midwife ordered a blood panel, to find that my estrogen was low.  

Low estrogen  no ovulation  no period.  

She, again, prescribed time, suggested that we retest my hormone levels in 6-8 weeks, and I waited.  While I waited, I thought about the possibility of our family being complete.  Maybe this was it? Just 3 of us.  Maybe another baby won’t be an option for us.  I’m not sure how I envisioned it, but it certainly had to be by choice.  I began to question the lifestyle changes I had made--maybe I should just go back to smoking a pack of cigarettes and decompressing with a half a bottle of wine again every other day--I seemed to be healthier when I was doing those things!  Wtf!

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August came, and I had my bloodwork run again only to find that my estrogen was moving in the wrong direction--it had lowered.  I was referred to an endocrinologist, and made the first available appointment in early October.

By this time, I was feverishly researching my symptoms.  Even though the doctors I had seen didn’t seem to see a connection with my symptoms, I was certain that there was.  I spent hours reading cited articles, blog posts, medical publications.  I watched YouTube videos and listened to stories of others that had similar symptoms.  There was one common link through most everything that I read:


Gluten.


The mouth sores, the dry, itchy skin, the boils.  The patches of hair falling out, the digestive discomfort.  The chronic fatigue, the ups and downs, the hormone imbalance.  All of it.  

 

For people who experience an intolerance to gluten (and no, you do not need to have celiac disease), ingestion leads to inflammation that damages the finger-like hairs called villi that line the intestine. The villi, and the microvilli that cover the villi like hairs, greatly increase surface area for absorption of nutrients. When damaged, they are no longer able to absorb nutrients, which creates a domino effect of other symptoms.   Fortunately, the intestine has incredible regenerative ability and in most cases, if you stop the inflammation, the villi will heal.

So, I cut it out.  

 

 

 

Six days later, my period returned for the first time in 7 months.  And, slowly but surely, my other symptoms began to dissipate.  The mouth ulcers stopped.  My skin cleared up.  My hair stopped falling out.  My skin regained moisture.  I had energy again.  I didn't have pain and bloating after eating, and my digestion re-regulated.  I was mind blown, and decided that now was a good time to commit to the Ultimate Reset, to help my intestines, and get my body shifted back to a state of healing.


When I saw the endocrinologist in October, I explained everything, and told her that I believe I had found the underlying cause to my issues.  She didn't seem convinced that gluten was the root of all of my symptoms, so ordered a full metabolic panel of bloodwork, as well as hormones.  

While I waited, I completed the 21 day elimination diet.  During the process, I lost 7 total inches, nearly 5 pounds, as well as the desire to eat sugar or processed foods. It brought me back into getting my daily dose of greens by way of a giant mid day salad, and hot tea at night. I no longer experience any digestive discomfort, brain fog, or chronic fatigue.

I regained appreciation for food as FUEL, which increased my energy, improved my sleep, and became a more pleasant, confident person. My pants fit again. I became a more patient mom, a more present wife and friend. I found that I am more motivated and creative in my business, not just going through the motions.  And, for the first time since this all began, my bloodwork showed that estrogen was back to a normal level.  The numbers indicated that I wasn’t only just having a cycles again, but that I was also ovulating.  Regulating everything continues to be a work in progress, but every day is a step closer.


Hell.  Yes.


So, what did I learn through all of this?  That all bodies are different.  That all bodies change.  That food IS in fact medicine.  That bringing it back to what we know is REAL food has the ability to heal.   

This wasn’t easy to share, but my hope is that if it helps just ONE person find their answer, it was worth putting out there to the world.  I was the person who needed the answer a few short months ago, and feel very blessed to have found it.  I am now proud to say that I am gluten free, vegan-ish, and officially a huge pain in the ass to feed.  And I have never felt better.

Here's the thing, guys. You have to do you. And YOU know your body better than anyone.  Without you, nothing else happens.  It may require work, and it may even require giving up things that you love (pizza and beer, OMG!)  but I promise it is worth every ounce of your energy. It's just about having the courage to start.

And, I am here to help when you are ready. 

 

xo sarah

 

 

 

 

 

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