Lots of new developments and learnings have occurred for me over the last three weeks and I cannot wait to share these updates with you all! In this post I will talk about my most recent learnings from my new doctor, an acupuncture specialist as well as my new healing protocol, which is focused less on my gut/physical state and more on my mental state and managing stress and anxiety.
If you read my last update blog on my hormone balance healing journey then you know that I was having symptoms related to my menstruation cycle and my integrative doctor and I came to the conclusion that I had low progesterone and so he had me start using a natural progesterone cream made of wild yams to help balance my hormone levels. It didn’t work. So, that leads me to now.
My holistic doctor, Dr. Vinh Ngo of SmartMed SF referred me to one of his professional colleagues, Dr. Chady Wonson, who specializes in women’s hormones, acupuncture and herbal medicine, naturopathy, nutrition and chiropractic practices. At first I said no, that I wasn’t going to pay out of pocket for a second doctor (plus a therapist), but that was me being stubborn. My health is worth more to me than anything. And I was so sick of feeling hopeless and living in misery. I eventually came to my senses and booked an appointment.
The intake session was mind blowing. I had never put a lot of stock into Chinese medicine, simply because I didn’t know a ton about it. And also because I lumped it into voodoo hippie bullshit category of things I don’t have patience for in my life. Boy did I turn a new leaf pretty fast after meeting Dr. Wonson. That woman is incredibly intuitive and I am so down with Buddha right now it’s unreal. And I mean no disrespect. Honestly.
Dr. Wonson first had me do some flexibility tests: touching my toes, turning my neck left and right, twisting my spine, etc. I was in a high stress/anxious state that day (like most days) and I could barely turn my head fully to the side. She could literally feel the tension in the back of my neck/head.
Soon enough she had me lay down on the table and began prodding and poking my belly. From just doing that she said, “Feel these tight spots in your upper abdomen? Signs of a disfunctioning liver and gallbladder,” meaning that my body is not properly breaking down fats, proteins and carbs — the THREE MAJOR energy/calories sources. Basically, all food. Shoot me, right? This is also preventing me from absorbing nutrients/minerals, so what happens is that I basically ingest all of these things, but immediately eliminate that (through urine) without absorbing anything. And I have sluggish digestion/bowel movements because everything basically gets stuck in my liver, like trying to leave New York City the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
But wait. It gets better. She massaged some pressure points in my feet/ankles and legs, all the while feeling for the strength of my pulse. As she did this — about 6-8 minutes total — she kept feeling the back of my neck/head and little by little the tension melted away. I was baffled. After that she put some infrared lights on my stomach and feet/ankles, left the room for about 15/20 minutes, came back and checked my tense spots again. All gone. My anxiety dropped from about a 8-9 on a 10 point scale to about a 3-4 and I felt like — at a minimum — ten thousand bucks (let’s not get overly confident here). This was her way of gauging how well I would respond to treatment (such as acupuncture and heat lamps, etc.) Turns out, I respond very well.
She also knew that I was of Irish heritage because of my cold hands and feet. Apparently Irish women are highly susceptible to anemia (Iron deficiency). Now, I was diagnose with anemia in college — at the height of my running career where iron deficiencies are common — but I had not told her that prior. One other big takeaway for me was that I left more certain than every that most of my problems stem from my spinal fusion in 2012. Dr. Wonson said that yes, the antibiotics and steroids killed my gut, which I already suspected, but she also said that remaining scar tissue could be interfering with the receptors in my body and sending wrong or no signals at all.
While I was eager to get started, Dr. Wonson wanted to do some additional testing. She asked that I start measuring my basal body temperature and that I do a 24 hour urine test, which is exactly what it sounds like: you pee into a giant plastic jug for 24 hours straight then mail your urine to the diagnostic lab. This test would give us deeper insights into how my hormones and body (organs, etc.) are functioning, and would also let us what specific mineral/nutrient deficiencies I have so we can treat that.
As for tracking body basal temperature, this is directly linked to the female menstruation cycle and gives you insight into your fertility and is especially helpful if you are trying to conceive. (I am not – but this was going to let Dr. Wonson know if my hormones are wonky). It can also be used inversely as a natural contraception method, if you don’t want to be on synthetic birth control.
So what is it? Your basal body temperature (BBT) is the temperature at which your body rests, which is typically lower than your “normal” temperature. The general range is 96-97 point something degrees F versus 98.6 degrees F. You take your temperature immediately upon waking in the morning, before you get out of bed, sit up or do anything. By taking your BBT each morning throughout your cycle you can detect the natural rise in your basal body temperature that occurs just after ovulation. This increase in your BBT is a result of the hormone progesterone, or the “warming hormone”. So, if something is off with my progesterone or estrogen levels, we would be able to know based on my body temperatures.
The above image is my own basal body temperature tracking chart, which includes about 3 weeks of data so far. Your temps are supposed to be higher in your luteal phase when progesterone is dominant then drop right before menstruation, but a variety of daily factors impact your BBT like sleep patterns, stress, diet, etc.
To do this, I just use a regular digital thermometer that I got at Walgreen’s and record the information in a free app I found (it’s called Eggy). It’s not the best, and I am considering an alternative way to collect the information but it’s doing the job for now. There are also now smart thermometers and watches/devices that automatically take your BBT every morning for you and sync with your smartphone. Some popular brands are Ava (a watch you wear to bed that syncs to your smartphone) and Lady Comp (a little monitoring device with a thermometer attached that can give you customized data and even lets you know when it’s safe to have sex without the risk of getting pregnant). In a perfect world, I would get one of these but they are quite expensive (in the $300-500 dollar range). Perhaps I’ll wait until Christmas (nudge, nudge, win, wink family, friends and fiance).
My test results came back a few weeks later so I went to visit Dr. Wonson for a follow up appointment. The conclusion? Just as she had suspected! My liver is trash. I had mentioned to her that I have bad insomnia and can’t sleep through the night and she immediately chuckled (not in a rude or obnoxious way), and asked “what time?” I said consistently between 1-3 am. Well, turns out, in ancient Chinese medicine, that is the hour of the liver, when my poor organ is basically so overloaded and stressed that it’s unable to properly go through its normal detox cycles, which is why I wake up feeling like someone sat a 20 pound rock on my stomach. Jokes on me, I guess. Similarly, I sometimes will wake up between 11:30 AM and 12:30 PM which is the hour of the gallbladder (11-1 AM).
More good news. I also have a calcium deficiency, low chloride levels and my pH balance is out of whack. Dr. Wonson said that since I take magnesium regularly, that could be interfering with my body’s ability to properly absorb calcium, and since women are typically lower in calcium to begin with, that only compounds the problem.
In order to determine my treatment protocol moving forward, she asked me to bring in my supplements I am currently taking (all 15 of them).
The first image below are the supplements recommended to me by my integrative doctor, then the rest are one I was taking on my own:
Prepare for your mind to be blown. She laid the contents of my sad satchel of supplements out on the table and put them aside and asked me to lay down on her exam table, which is actually quite comfortable. She rummaged through her herbal supplement stock and came back with a handful of bottles. She placed a few of them on top of my stomach and stuck two between my skin and the waist of my jeans. She then asked me to press my pinky and thumbs together on each hand and to resist her as she tried to pull my fingers apart. It was easy peasy at first. She kept tinkering with the various supplements and checking my pulse.
Then, she grabbed all of my supplements and placed them on and in between my legs/stomach. She then prompted me to resist her, and I kid you not, I physically COULD NOT keep my fingers and thumb pressed together. She ripped those bad boys right apart. Completely insane.
Her response was that my body is so overloaded and confused by the amount of supplements I am taking that it has no idea what do to, my liver is stressed out and so everything shuts down and gets clogged up. And as a result, despite the fact that I am ingesting the right nutrients, I actually end up nutrient deficient because everything passes right through. The solution was to put me on three different supplements that I take before and after my meals each day and to discontinue all of my other supplements for one week. These were largely all digestive enzymes, with various herbal supplements. The brand is Loomis Enzymes. I take one right before my meals (the Loomis VSCLR) and then two post meals (Loomis FT and SLP) and then take the SLP again just before bed.
I’ll do this for a week then report back on how I am feeling during my next visit. Her approach is to make minor adjustments each week to see how my body responds vs throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. I appreciate that, however it can get quite pricey with weekly visits. I am hopeful that things will improve and will keep you all posted on my journey.