I get asked a lot of questions about my health. It has evolved over the years from "what the heck is wrong with you, you look fine?" into "what kind of doctors are treating you and what testing did you have?" Well we're about to get into it ALL.
In short, I'm a hot mess. In case you happen to be one of those people who feels better by reading about the weird misfortunes of others, this post is gonna do great things for your confidence!
Historically speaking, I think it's worth mentioning that I wasn't one of those sickly kids, always sniffling and missing school. I was on antibiotics one time for pneumonia? What I'm trying to say is: I wasn't doomed from the start.
Somewhere in my late 20s, I began to find myself unable to bounce back from anything. I was exhausted, depressed, and sick to my stomach constantly. I had seen several GI doctors, who had no answers for me besides IBS and sent me packing with acid reducers, and a Prozac prescription. When I was 28, I remember eating some pasta and I was doubled over on my bathroom floor for hours. I knew there was something seriously wrong.
After my wedding in 2013 (I was 30), my health issues had culminated to a daily struggle that I was unable to manage. My symptoms at that time were: night sweats, insomnia, chronic exhaustion, joint pain, chest pains, severe GI issues of varying kinds, poor digestion, hot flashes, feeling jittery, complete inability to concentrate, depression, lack of motivation, muscle weakness, lightheadedness.
I was just like everyone else. I had no clue what holistic doctors or alternative medicine was. So I sought out conventional answers. Fortunately, my mom was very anti-drug and that was instilled in me.
The Mad Genius Chiropractor That Changed Things
In 2013, I also started having terrible back issues when I was working as a claims examiner. I started seeing a Chiropractor (Dr. Morgano at Circle of Wellness) who was concerned his interventions weren't helping, so I agreed to an extensive blood test. I now call it the best + worst decision I ever made.
*Tests completed: comprehensive blood work, Biohealth 401H stool test, 24 hour saliva adrenal panel
The test revealed: severe adrenal disfunction, hypothyroidism, elevated lymphocytes (white blood cells) which he referred to as a viral pattern, multiple vitamin deficiencies, hypoglycemia, food allergies, HPA axis miscommunication, viral pattern, parasitic infection.
At the time, this was just a nice cluster of what the heck are you talking about.
I worked with him a for two years while we tried to fix my gut, adrenals, and thyroid. During this time I changed EVERYTHING about my lifestyle. My life took a complete 180 and I was mega disciplined with my supplements and diet. I quit my stressful job to work for myself and reduced all stress, yet I wasn't getting anywhere. WHY?
With growing concern that I might have a damaged pituitary from my car accident, people starting pointing me toward Mayo Clinic. My cousin had recently went to there for some mystery problems and had great success.
I knew they wouldn't have answers for me (too conventional)— but I went anyway to appease my family.
For four days, I had almost every organ in my body examined, MRI'd, or ultrasounded to hopefully pinpoint exactly what is the central cause. I had so much blood taken I can't believe I am still alive (gag city). It seems with every test, they would always find something wrong, but it was totally unrelated to what I was there for.
No pituitary/brain damage. No Celiac, although they found multiple polyps in my stomach indicating gluten + NSAID irritation. They didn't recognize any of the issues my chiropractor pointed out on my bloodwork. I wasn't surprised.
BUT they discovered I have a congenital heart defect: a bicuspid aortic valve. So, in hindsight, the entire trip was worth it because that's life threatening and needs to be monitored yearly.
When I was at my lowest point with all this bad news and getting ready to head to Mayo Clinic, it was discovered I have a uterine anomaly — two uteruses, to be exact. You can read all about my infertility story here.
I took a break and devoted about 6 months to figuring out that whole mess and what it meant for my future.
GI Doctor PitStop
I had done alot of research on my particular set of stomach symptoms and I suspected SIBO. It was a rarely talked about condition in 2015, and hardly anyone was testing for it. I happened to get a good doctor and I was able to get the test covered under insurance.
I was diagnosed with SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) via Lactulose Breath Test. They gave me a prescription for Xiflaxan, which was a new treatment and after my own research, I didn't take it. More on that later.
Random Wellness Doctor
I met with a new wellness doctor, but he seemed to think everything would be solved by prescribing me WP Thyroid. I never went back.
The Really Expensive Holistic Doctor in California
After bouncing around to a few different holistic practitioners in my area, I wasn't getting the sense any of them knew what to do with me. I started searching for more experienced practitioners online and settled on Dr. Kalish with The Kalish Institute.
He has with 25 years of experience, and had recently completed a study with Mayo Clinic using The Kalish Method and it showed significant improvement in GI symptoms and overall health of participants. Sounds great, right?
Starting in 2015, I worked with him for 1.5 years. I might low key mention it was $400/ hr to talk on the PHONE. Add to that all his supplements and tests.
*Tests completed: Organic acids urine profile, Biohealth 401H stool test, adrenal profile
The testing revealed: really sluggish liver, really messed up hormones (but that required MORE testing), impaired detox ability, intestinal bacterial overgrowth. We started with a liver detox, moved on to hormonal/adrenal supplements (DHEA, Pregnenolone, Licorice Root) and ended up with SIBO treatment.
None of this worked. I wasted thousands. Once again, the question was WHY wasn't this working?
When may dad had his heart attack in Aug 2016, I stopped caring about myself and focused on him. No more supplements. No more testing.
In early 2017, I ended up in the ER with a complete crash. Dehydration, body convulsing, low electrolytes, lightheadedness. The next 2 months were awful —I couldn't balance my blood sugar, it was so low I was on the verge of passing out every half hour.
I knew I needed to find a new doctor. I was scared.
Back To The GI Doctor
At the height of my frustration, I had a random consultation with a new wellness doctor in town. More information was coming out about SIBO, and she told me I SHOULD take the antibiotic I was prescribed a year ago and it would make me better.
I thought this was some sort of sign that I needed to follow.
The meds has JUST expired, so I went back to the GI doctor to get it renewed. They had to consult with me and review my test results. When the nurse looked it over she said, "Oh, you have methane dominant SIBO, the antibiotic won't even help you."
I burst into tears. This was my last hope for my stomach. Then, I was angry. WAIT. "Why was I prescribed this a year ago then?" I asked in complete confusion. "They must have looked at the test wrong," she said.
All that did was remind me why I was done with conventional doctors.
Hair Mineral Analysis
I had done alot of research about hair mineral analysis and how it really solved many people's issues. I had it done and it showed really bad potassium to sodium ratios and super high magnesium. No detectable levels of heavy metals, which was good news.
Nothing life changing.
Integrative Doctor Takes A Shot
I gathered up my accordion file full of tests, my entire medical history, and went in to my appointment with a new Integrative doctor. The good news was that he actually took insurance (integrative often are covered).
Unfortunately, he was just two years into the holistic world and still feeling his way around. He did more and more testing to try to find anything that might have been missed. Finally in my desperation, I asked a vial panel to see if I had some sort of infection —hopefully not Lyme.
*Tests completed: 24 hr iodine, extensive blood panel, thyroid panel with antibodies, anti-diuretic hormone blood test (to check for Diabetes Insipidous "water diabetes" because I was peeing constantly at night), and viral panel
The testing revealed: low testosterone, low T3, low iodine, non-existent anti-diuretic hormone (he concluded I had Diabetes Insipidous), and SEVERAL co-infections along with a hefty amount of Epstein Barr antibodies. He said the Lyme was inconclusive and needed further tests.
Oh, the blood test also revealed I am APOE 3/4 genotype —genetically dispositioned to have Alzheimers and heart disease. Yay.
He put me on iodine supplements. He suggested testosterone or T3 pills, but something didn't sit right with me so I didn't do it.
He also prescribed an Desmopressin for the Diabetes Insipidous, which I REALLY didn't want to take after reading the warnings.
So I went to a kidney specialist who did a 24 hour urine test and said I did NOT have Diabetes Insipidous. He said the blood testing for it can be very inaccurate. It was clear to me this doctor meant well, but was too inexperienced for a case like mine.
Once I read up on Epstein Barr, everything started to come together. Remember my mad genius Chiropractor who started me down this whole path? Well, he told me I had a "viral pattern" in my blood, but no one ever got to the bottom of it. And I had elevated white blood cells for YEARS on my yearly physicals, which my PCP wrote off as "a cold."
Back To Mad Genius Chiropractor
I needed advice. Through this entire journey, I had always kept in touch with my chiropractor. I would go in and update him on all that was happening and we'd exchange our latest research and he'd show me his new gadgets.
I showed him my tests, and just pleaded with him for a name of someone who could help me with Epstein Barr.
He goes, “Epstein Barr is a total nightmare.” I always appreciated his bluntness.
“For anything viral, you got to go to Andy." Andy (Dr. Kong) was someone he had gone to school with and worked with for years. He was very into acupuncture, chinese medicine, and had great success in his practice since the 90s.
Chinese Medicine Doctor
I went for my first consultation and he took one look at my accordion folder of tests and said: no more testing for you. It was music to my freaking ears.
He was going to attack my situation with acupuncture, supplements, and diet. The difference was that he was going to treat EVERYTHING at once, not isolate something like adrenals, or gut, or thyroid. He used the analogy: "You need a conductor. Someone who is going to make sure not just the violin sounds good, but everything sounds good. Because if just one instrument is in tune, the music sounds terrible."
I went on a program of acupuncture 3x a week for 15 weeks. We started anti-virals and immune boosting things to deal with the EBV. He supported my adrenals as well as my liver.
At the end of 3 months, we retested my blood, my meridians, and symptoms. I was much improved. I knew my hormones were really out of balance, so we did a month long saliva test to see what the issues were. That's what we're currently working on fixing.
Two months in, they found an abscess in my root canal and I had the tooth extracted after much research discussing how they can contribute to chronic health issues and fatigue.
It's currently August of 2018. I had my tooth out one week ago today, and I truly think this was something that's been holding me back from healing— for more on that read my root canal post.
It's been a long, desperate, hopeless, and confusing road for many years. But I am hopeful for the future.
Advice for your Health Journey
Find an EXPERIENCED acupuncturist or chinese medicine doctor. They can do incredible things for pain management and overall energy balance of the body no matter what your issue.
CHECK FOR VIRAL INFECTIONS sooner than later— Lyme, Epstein Barr, etc. You won’t be able to heal no matter what if you’ve got this underlying.
Interview your doctor before you start shoveling out money. The fact that they’re holistic isn’t enough! Make sure they've dealt with patients who have your SPECIFIC issues. Don't be a guinea pig. It's a costly venture in more ways than one.
Always get copies of all your tests or x-rays, scan them into your computer and have them ready to go. This will save you alot of money in retesting, also help your new doctor get an accurate picture.
Don't fall into trendy diets. Do an elimination diet and live a whole foods lifestyle as much as possible. Try to give up inflammatory foods like industrial oils, gluten, dairy, refined sugar, and soy.
Have patience for the healing process. It can take years to regain your health—however, know when to walk away from a doctor you don't think is heading in the right direction.
As always, send me any questions you might have— I'm here to help.
Wondering who's the mysterious wordy genius behind these posts? Follow this little rabbit trail to read more About Me! The use of the term genius is open to interpretation.