I’m a health coach and have eaten a vegetarian diet for over 25 years. In the last 4 years, I’ve included some seafood – maybe once or twice a week. I must be super healthy, right? Well, I’m here to tell you about the monster lurking beneath the surface. I’m here to tell you that appearances can be deceiving and even someone who doesn’t struggle with weight can be struggling with other health issues. I’m telling you this because this could be YOU too and I want you to know a) that you’re not alone, we are all on this health journey together b) you may be experiencing similar symptoms and not recognize them as something to be concerned about and c) to show you how seemingly random things happening in your body are intricately connected.
What’s this hidden monster that I’m getting ready to slay? You’ve probably heard of it….
Here’s the story:
(I plan on continuing to share this story with you on a regular basis as it unfolds).
In January I started taking classes at the School of Applied Functional Medicine. I’ve been super stoked about it and am learning a TON about what’s going on in our bodies and how it’s all connected and how to really discover and treat the root causes of what’s going on (I could go on all day about it). Through the program I had an opportunity to get a discount on a unique hormone test that is starting to become a new benchmark in the world of hormone tests. I jumped at the chance because I’m 51, post-menopausal and had a few annoying symptoms that I already I suspected were at least partially hormone driven.
- Not sleeping well.
- Falling asleep quickly, but then waking up in the wee hours and having a hard time falling back asleep
- Fatigue during the day.
- I was pretty much blaming this on the not sleeping well bit, but it often feels like all day, every day, especially in the afternoon
- Low libido.
- Enough said. Sigh.
- I’ve battled this on and off for years. It comes and goes, but seems to be more “on” than “off” lately.
So 4 times within 24 hours I peed on some special strips, let them dry and was fortunate enough to have visitors here who could take them back to the States and mail them in for me (I didn’t exactly announce that they were mailing my dried urine.. Thanks, Lisa D!! Xx). A few weeks later, I got my results back and then was fortunate enough to be one of the “example” patients on a call with fellow students, our teacher, Tracy Harrison, and Dr. Carrie Jones, Medical Director at Precision Analytical, makers of the DUTCH test. My luck got even better as mine was the 1st of the 3 test results that she went over (with the goal of teaching us how to read the results and their implications) so she spent quite a bit of time talking about the markers my test showed.
I’ll try to stay away from too many of the big scientific language and some of the detail while giving you enough to see how complicated this can be.
The biggest things that jumped out on my results were:
- very high levels of estrogen
- very low production of cortisol, but a high amount of free cortisol in my body
- high melatonin
- low testosterone
Classic signs of hypothyroidism.
Ok, you might think. Take some HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) drug to offset the estrogen and treat the hypothyroidism. But, not my style. There’s more to it, especially the WHY!
Why is my estrogen level high?
The test results showed that I’m not doing what’s called “Phase I methylating” the estrogens properly. What’s that mean? In simple terms, it means I’m not getting rid of estrogen out of my body effectively. That’s causing low energy, low libido. Hmmmm…that sounds familiar. Ok, let’s ask why again. Why am I not methylating estrogen properly? Common causes are a sluggish liver, blood sugar issues, stress. Ok good to know. Let’s stop there for a moment and talk about cortisol.
I said above that I wasn’t producing much and yet there was lots of free cortisol floating around in my body. On the surface that makes no sense. But what might be happening is that because I’m not getting rid of the cortisol properly, my brain may telling my adrenals that I have enough and not to produce any more. So why might I not be metabolizing cortisol properly? Sluggish thyroid, poor liver function, blood sugar issue, stress. Sounds familiar, huh?
Here I am, Ms. Health Coach Vegetarian, with markers telling me that there is enough inflammation going on in my body to create these internal, largely invisible problems that left unaddressed could create bigger and bigger problems as time goes on such as arthritis, chronic pain, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. That’s not part of my plan. What is part of my plan?
- Get more testing done. I’m headed to the doctor asap to get a host of blood work done to tell me more about what’s going on. What’s my blood sugar doing, what’s my iron like, my zinc, my magnesium. All information that will help me to understand the interplay going on that’s creating this environment and what my body needs to get back on track and repair itself.
- Get myself on an anti-inflammatory diet, at a minimum. There may be more changes down the road, but for now, I’m eliminating paying much more attention to what I’m eating and making sure my macro-nutrients (Carbs, Fats, Proteins) are appropriately balanced. I’m using the MyFitnessPal app for this.
- Get some supplementation going to start supporting my system while I get more information. Note, I am planning to take this to support known existing weaknesses while I learn more. Then I can provide additional targeted support via changes in diet, lifestyle, whatever.
Note: Product links are to those that I am purchasing for informational purposes only; they are not a recommendations
As I sit here today I’m waiting for the doctor’s appointment and waiting for supplements to arrive so I can start taking them. I’m discussing what’s going on with my accountability partner in my program, who’s been a huge help (she’s got more of a functional medicine background than I have – xo Lisa J!). Other issues that could be triggers for this inflammation could be food sensitivities, dysbiosis (an imbalance of bacteria) in my gut, stress and diet. We’ll know more after I get these first test results. And I’m going to keep you all in the loop with what I’m learning and how I plan to slay this monster, what works and what doesn’t. I encourage you to follow along, share this story, ask questions, and get curious about what might be going on with you!
Feel free to comment below.