Tag: Mono

My Journey Through Health and Healing: Candida Overgrowth

One of the big things I’ve learned so far on my journey is that the ability to pay attention to what you’re feeling and experiencing, in both your mind and body, can not be overstated in its importance. I am grateful for the advancement of medicine and doctors, both of which continue to help so many, but those things should not be used as an excuse to tune out everything your body is telling you on a daily basis. I believe this deeply and have seen example after example to prove this true along my own health journey.

I’m also a big proponent of doing your own research and educating yourself as much as possible on what is or could potentially be going on, especially if you are seeing doctor after doctor with little results, as was my case. Naturally curious by nature, my need to know more and understand as much as I could as to what was happening to my body was only exacerbated by the lack of willingness I found in many of the physicians I saw, to get to the root cause of my problems.

We’ve likely all participated in the “Google symptom search” where the worse case scenarios appear and try to convince us that we’re on our way out. You know that’s going to happen so acknowledge it and dig deeper; in my experience, that is where the gold mine of information lies. Not necessarily among the top 3 search results or even on the first page, but somewhere among the thousands of other websites and forums that are out there. If you truly want answers and are willing to put in the time to find them, you will be amazed by how much you can learn.

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This “Candida Handout” provided by my naturopath was very helpful for breaking down and reminding me which foods I could eat and which foods I needed to stay away from for the ensuing months.

After the initial hour and a half consultation with my naturopath, a follow up “Report of Findings” visit was next (this was all included in the initial $250 consult fee I referenced in my last post). Through my own research, reading and familiarity with the symptoms I was experiencing, I had a sneaking suspicion that I might be dealing with an intestinal candida overgrowth. After discussing this with my naturopath, I decided, through her recommendation, to do a stool test which would measure the levels of bacteria in my gut, as well as the yeast levels and check for parasites. (Comprehensive Parasitology, stool, x3 via Doctor’s Data).

The test was very easy to conduct (albeit a little gross) and my results came back within a couple of weeks. It showed that I had some out of wack gut bacteria – not enough of the beneficial bacteria and too much of the commensal or imbalanced, ones. The test also showed that out of “none”, “few”, “moderate” and “many”, I had a moderate amount of excessive yeast found in my gut. To be clear, we all have a small amount of yeast in our gut. That’s normal. The problem occurs when an overgrowth happens. Like with most things, there are usually multiple contributing factors. My immune system had already been weakened considerably by the mono and resulting issues that required the use of steroids and other medications.

By the time my naturopath gave me a Candida diet handout, I was, thankfully, already familiar with the sort of outline I would need to follow should my suspicions be confirmed. Unfortunately, candida feeds on sugar, which means adherence to a strictly sugar free diet is necessary to kill it. This includes doing away with not only refined sugars, but also taking out high sugar fruits and vegetables and limiting the low sugar ones. Along with this, I removed all cheeses and other “moldy” or mold susceptible foods such as mushrooms, peanuts (and peanut butter), as well as any yeast containing foods. Having already been gluten free for some time by this point, this last item was fairly easy to avoid since I was largely already doing so. It also meant no ice cream! I’m sure glad I got my fix earlier in the summer but realized how much worse I had probably been making my symptoms without even knowing it.

An arsenal of strategically chosen supplements was a critical part of the mission to help restore the balance in my body.

I adhered strictly to the supplement and dietary recommendations my naturopath had given me for the next two months. By the time I retested for the candida and made an appointment to see my naturopath again, I had been on the diet for around 4 months, twice as long as was necessary. My stomach issues had largely (although not completely) resolved and I was feeling so much better in so many ways. Mercifully, my test results reflected that. The candida no longer appeared to be an issue and the bacteria in my gut were at healthy levels again.

Now the fun part: re-introducing some of the foods I loved (oh how I missed the aforementioned cheese, peanut butter and mushrooms and looked forward to adding them back into my diet – not at the same time… or together, ewww!). This was done one food at a time. I successfully reintroduced everything, except the sugar. By this time I had read and learned about the havoc our gross over-consumption of sugar reeks on our bodies and I wasn’t sure I wanted to fully reintroduce it again. I’ve already been sugar free for this long, I thought, what’s a little longer.

This diet was a big adjustment and so much more difficult for me personally, than going gluten free – but I did it, I learned a lot and by choice have continued to stick with it. I’ll be sharing more soon on why I’ve chosen to denormalize sugar, along with some helpful information and advice if you’d like to do the same.

Next week (the last in the 5 part series documenting my recent health journey) – My Journey Through Health and Healing: Adrenal Fatigue 

My Journey Through Health and Healing: Finding a Naturopath

In spite of the new challenges my allergies and the onset of asthma (that I covered last week) presented, summer came, the tests and doctors visits slowed down and it felt good to get outside. I was still having a lot of GI problems and was growing frustrated with the symptomatic treatment I was receiving from doctors. No one seemed to think that my sudden outbreak of symptoms and issues were related. To me it was a no-brainer. I was being treated and medicated for each symptom on its own but what about the cause??

Per the recommendation of the allergist, I bought a HEPA air filter and some allergen proof mattress and pillow covers that spring… I was doing my best to cover my bases!

Summer time meant warm weather up here in the Mid-West and ICE CREAM. Like ice cream every day. At least, multiple times a week. I might have an ice cream addiction, okay? Well, it’s not that bad but it’s a personal favorite and finding little enjoyment in much else during that period, I indulged in it.

Around this time, my mother told me about a conversation she had had with a doctor who had recently partnered with a business that my parents co-founded, called Bonvera. She had told him about myself and everything I had been dealing with. He had started a revolutionary clinic in Wichita, Kansas called Prairie Health and Wellness that offers a monthly membership and takes a multi-faceted approach to health and healing. It was too bad I didn’t live closer to his clinic, he had told my mom, there were a number of tests he would have run right off the bat that a typical doctor most likely wouldn’t.

One of the doctors in his practice is a licensed naturopath, something I hadn’t even considered up until that point. After deciding that moving to Kansas for a short time was just not practical, I decided to look into the possibility of seeing a naturopath. I honestly didn’t know much about them and had certainly never been to one before; I didn’t even know if there were any remotely close to where I live.

Lo and behold a quick Google search revealed not one but many naturopath’s in the state of Ohio and several with-in a 90 mile radius. I quickly educated myself as I narrowed down the results to one who I hoped would be a good fit for my situation. Not all self proclaimed naturopath’s have actually had formal training, I learned. There are only 7 accredited naturopathic medical programs in the United States and only 22 states currently recognize licensed naturopaths. I noticed that Ohio was not yet one of them.

What does this mean? It simply means that even if your ND (Naturopathic Doctor) has had formal training (which was important to me), if they are practicing in a state that does not recognize that training, they have some restrictions placed on them. They are more than qualified to practice medicine but they will not be able to accept insurance and they will also not be able to write prescriptions, if they are needed. They can however, still order a large variety of home based test kits depending on what your situation calls for. Overall, I’ve come to think of it more along the lines of a consultation.

Initially, I was a little taken back by the fact that my visits would all be out of pocket and the initial consultation costs were around $250. But honestly, what did I have to lose? I had already spent thousands of dollars (after insurance) on doctors and tests that, in the long run, did not seem to be doing anything for me. I felt like if anything, I was being pushed along on a sideways trajectory. I wanted up and out. I wanted answers. I wanted to feel better again, and if this had any potential to be the answer to my prayers, I wasn’t going to let another couple hundred dollars deter me. What is your health, sanity and quality of life worth? I couldn’t put a price on it.

I began taking more notice of the foods I was eating. I felt like crap already and didn’t need junk food to drag me down further. I found comfort and enjoyment in healthy, nourishing snacks that not only tasted good but didn’t make my body feel worse.

I finally settled on Dr. Maleigha Watts of Toledo Naturopathic. Dr. Watts has a very professional website that clearly states her views on medicine and her belief in the use of both traditional and non traditional methods depending on what the situation calls for. She isn’t against using medications if they are necessary. She also offers free 20 minute phone consultations with potential patients so you can both get a feel and assess if you’d be a good fit for each other. Many of the other naturopath’s that I looked into offered something similar. After my initial consultation with Dr. Watts I had no doubt.

I scheduled my first appointment with Dr. Watts and was amazed when she spent an hour and a half during my first visit asking various questions about my physical and mental health history, dating back to childhood. She is usually scheduled out a month or more in advance for the initial consultations – it’s worth the wait, trust me. The best part? She listened. I mean truly, sincerely listened to what I had to say and to the concerns that I had. Dr. Watts has a beautiful way of making you feel at ease and in every appointment since the first, I walk away feeling refreshed and reinvigorated with a renewed sense of direction and understanding. I left that very first appointment on a high, both physically and emotionally, already so very grateful for what would become a game changer on my journey towards health and healing.

To learn more about naturopathic medicine and find a licensed naturopath near you, click here.

Next week: My Journey Through Health and Healing: Candida Overgrowth

My Journey Through Health and Healing: Allergies and Asthma

Last week I talked about the beginning stages of my bout with mono. I don’t remember much from the weeks following my ER visit, except that I rested a lot and wasn’t well enough to make my evening trip to the barn to see my horse, who lives a mile down the road, for over 6 weeks. The fact that I was living with the family I work for was an incredible blessing. Most of my work being conducted on the computer, I was able to still keep up with some of the business I had been doing before I got sick. In reality though, even sitting at my desk was tiring and more time was spent on the office couch with my laptop nearby, resting and working in increments. A kind and understanding employer is not a luxury everyone has and I’m grateful, as I would have almost certainly lost my job in any other circumstance.

After weeks on the couch, a “new do” and some makeup goes a long way towards making one feel normal… on the outside at least. (February 2017)

Time passed in a haze. I remember going back to the barn at some point and trying to spend some time with my horse. As I groomed him and his hair landed on my arms I broke out in a rash. This was unexpected. I knew I was allergic to many animals and it had gotten a bit worse with age, but in the past, so long as I kept the hair out of my eyes and away from my face, I was okay. I have always loved animals and have surrounded myself with them throughout my life. Cats, dogs, horses, rabbits, even a painted turtle. This reaction was different, I had never broken out upon simple contact before. My body was clearly on high alert.

Around this time (spring 2017) I realized I was having a hard time breathing. Actually, when I started to think about it, I had started having shortness of breath and other asthma like symptoms not long after my ER visit in January. I had asthma as a very young child but it had not been an issue for years. To compound things, I was still dealing with fatigue and my heart palpitations were persisting as were the GI symptoms that had been plaguing me since Christmas time. It was frightening. I was experiencing so many unfamiliar sensations and I was overwhelmed.

By this time I had had a number of doctors visits. One visit in particular set my blood on fire. The doctor was an older gentleman who has been practicing in the small town I live for a very long time. He took a brief look at the litany of tests I had undergone as I tried to explain all of the things I had already been through that year as well as the symptoms I was still experiencing, including the palpitations. I had written down some questions and as I started on the first one, he took the paper out of my hand, scanning it quickly while muttering under his breath.

Hypochondriac,” he mumbled as he looked up at me. Embarrassed, I tried to explain my situation again, this time flustered and without my paper of questions he continued to withhold. He proceeded to flip over the paper I had brought along and drew out a diagram to illustrate what anxiety looked like and offered his opinion on why “most girls my age had it”. By this time I was mortified. If you’d have experienced what I have in the past few months you’d have anxiety too, I thought. I didn’t want pills and I realized very quickly that nothing I could say or do would help him understand.

I went home upset and not long after, received a $230 bill from his office, which I unsuccessfully tried my best to reverse. I resigned myself to the fact that this one would have to be chalked up to experience… after I wrote a very honest review on Google! My point in telling this story: There is always a way to make your voice heard. Keep searching.

Along with those doctors visits came a slew of tests. I think I had 5 complete blood work ups total during 2017 for various reasons. I underwent a chest x-ray, an EKG and an echo-cardiogram which showed some unexplained irregular heart beats and minor regurgitation in one of my heart valves, an apparently common occurrence but not the cause of the palpitations I was experiencing. I also had allergy testing done which confirmed I was highly allergic to many of the things I love most (animals and outdoors). Around this time I underwent a pulmonary functioning test which showed some obstruction in my lungs. I was initially put on a low dose of Flovent which was soon raised to a higher dosage of 110mcg 2 puffs twice a day along with 10mg of Singular and an Allegra, both taken once a day. It was costing me $250 a month for the inhalers alone. (I did finally learn of a way to order them through a Canadian pharmacy, which brought the price down significantly to a more reasonable $65/month.)

With new diagnoses and new medications I entered summer, feeling unsettled and anxious despite all of the “answers” I had been give.

Next week: My Journey Through Health and Healing: Finding a Naturopath 

My Journey Through Health and Healing: Mononucleosis

One of my goals for this blog is to help others find their voice and if nothing else, know they are not alone – whether you can relate to my struggles, or are dealing with something completely different. Over the next month I want to share with you all an abbreviated version of my own journey which put me on this path a year and a half ago. Until I got sick, beyond your standard cold or flu, and started sharing snippets of what I was going through in conversation with others, I never really realized how many people are suffering in silence or how completely autoimmune diseases can and do make their presence felt in the lives of so many every single day.

I’m not looking for sympathy, I’ve learned to embrace my journey and I’m grateful for it. I simply hope that by sharing what I’ve gone through, others might be able to carve their own path to healing more quickly, or at the very least, with a better sense of direction. The next few blogs will be a general outline of my recent health journey. Included will be the major turning points; at a later date I may expound even more on some of the things that I have tried and that have (or have not) helped me. Today, a look back at how it all began…

I began showing symptoms of Mono around the end of December, 2016. I had done quite a bit of work related traveling in October and with the standard incubation period of mono being around 6 weeks, I suspect I may have picked it up around that time. Contrary to popular belief, there are other ways of contracting it aside from kissing. Or, perhaps it had been laying dormant for years and a combination of events had unknowingly kicked it into high gear. There’s really no way to know for sure. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started feeling unwell but looking back, things began to unravel on my trip home to visit my family over Christmas.

Everything was status quo when the steering wheel on my car began to lock up. I was able to navigate over a lane and pulled to a quick stop in the median between the highway and an on ramp as my wheel stiffened even more. Thankfully, with cars zooming past me at an uncomfortably close proximity, I wasn’t far from home and my rescue party was able to come and help me. Although there was snow on the ground, it was a mild mid-west winter day so the lack of heat while I waited wasn’t too much of a concern at the time. A parts store was a little ways down the road and after a couple of trips we were able to find the problem and fix my vehicle. Though I hadn’t dressed for an adventure on the side of the road, my soaked feet didn’t really bother me and I finished the drive home in my car albeit wet, hungry and with my nerves on edge but grateful for the quick fix.

It became quickly apparent to me that I was coming down with a stomach virus of some sorts. Restroom visits were frequent and I hesitated eating many of the festive holiday foods that I loved so much. As my trip home came to a close, we decided to shop some of the post holiday sales before I headed back to Ohio. The nausea kicked in full force on the way, and I kept my eyes clamped shut until we arrived, willing myself not to be sick all over the back seat. I made it through the shopping trip but it was rough.

After talking with my mom, we both agreed that I probably had a blood sugar issue (I had had isolated episodes of nausea and dizziness in the past and on a day to day basis, always needed to eat almost immediately upon waking) so I made an appointment to see my doctor once I returned to Ohio. As the weeks went on, the nausea and stomach issues remained, hitting hard early in the day and trailing off towards evening. I didn’t know what to make of it but I pushed through –what else was there to do? I certainly couldn’t put my life on hold because my tummy hurt. I had big plans going into the New Year and didn’t have time for whatever this was.

A loving reminder as I stumbled through those first couple of months, trying to figure out what was happening to me and why. Thanks Gram.

A blood test revealed nothing too amiss. My doctor prescribed me some pills for anxiety, which I was wary to begin after learning the possible side effects, and I was scheduled to see her again soon. Two evenings later, on January 18th, as I drove home from the barn, my first real anxiety attack hit, hard. I didn’t know what was happening and I couldn’t shake it. I had this horrible feeling that something was not right with my body.

As the night went on, it only got worse. My body felt like it was crumbling to pieces, I had no control. I couldn’t get a full breathe of air, my chest was painfully tight, I couldn’t stop the trembling and the palpitations were constant. I wracked my brain in search of a reasonable cause. The evening before I had gone out and had a few drinks with friends to celebrate my birthday, the only thing I had taken the following day was an Excedrin for a painful headache. It didn’t make sense.

I slept with my eyes open that night, terrified and unable to fall asleep. The next morning, with the palpitations continuing, I went into the ER and they ran a slew of tests. The doctor came in, smiling, and told me he had good news and bad news. The good news was they had discovered my problem – the bad news, I had a case of mononucleosis (more commonly referred to as “mono”). The palpitations? They couldn’t put a finger on it. Their advice? Go home, avoid any strenuous activity for a couple of months, drink lots of fluids and rest. Armed with that meager bit of information I went home, having no idea just how thoroughly mono, the Epstein Barr Virus and autoimmunity itself would weave its way around my life in the months to come.

Next week: My Journey Through Health and Healing: Allergies and Asthma 

…And Why Is It So Hard?

This week’s post includes some additional thoughts on last week’s topic, “What is ‘Healthy Eating’?”

On a podcast I was listening to the other day the guest made a very simple but valid point that resonated with me. Eating healthy, giving our bodies the nutritious fuel we need to live our lives, is not supposed to be a monumental task. Think about that for a second. Eating is not meant to be the daily ginormous physical and mental battle that is has become for so many. It really isn’t supposed to be this hard. So WHY is it and why do we guilt ourselves so badly about it??

If you asked most people what the first thing is that pops into their head when they hear the term “healthy eating” it’s likely not an energized sense of well-being. Maybe more along the lines of a guilty flashback to last night’s piece of chocolate cake. I think it’s something we’ve all experienced at least one time or another (if not all the time!). It might start with an internal groan followed by an excuse on why a “pass” is deserved (dare I say… again?) and maybe even a few tries at making yourself feel better about your current attempts to follow whatever you think or have been told equates to a healthy diet. And let’s be real, what’s considered “healthy” one day often changes by the next. Well, not quite that quickly, but you get my gist. Eating healthy can be time consuming, frustrating, expensive and downright overwhelming.

As to why, I think many cases could be made. The blessing of modern technology has brought with it an insane amount of added chemicals, hormones, preservatives and dyes that now make up a majority of the food in our grocery stores. We are bombarded with ads for these items everywhere we turn, from our local fast food favorites to commercials and ads on the television and internet. It’s literally in our face. All the time. And it is so easy. From the frozen dinners at the supermarket to the drive thru at McDonald’s, it’s not hard to see how these habits quickly creep into the lives of busy families and become a weekly staple. Then once they do, what happens? There are just as many ads enlightening us on how we can “redeem” ourselves. It can be quite the vicious cycle.

I can’t help but throw one more wrench in the works by adding another possible and all too common scenario as to why someone might be struggling with sticking to a chosen path. What about those that didn’t knowingly choose it? What if you HAD to eat – or not eat – a certain way due to health concerns? That doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to stick to. In some ways, it makes it even harder because unlike willingly choosing to try and eat a certain way, it wasn’t something you sought out. This is the perspective I come from. (Yet another topic for another time but one I think it’s important to cover sooner rather than later.)

Now I ask you, what if it wasn’t hard? What if when we feel we’ve slipped up or overindulged yet again, we didn’t beat ourselves over the head? What if we accepted it and moved on? This doesn’t mean you should be lackadaisical about it but there’s no sense in letting it ruin your day and everyone else’s. The age old adage “tomorrow is a new day” is wonderful, but you don’t need to wait until the following day. The next piece of food you put into your mouth has the potential to be a new beginning!

Speaking of eggplant… this curry was so good! (Recipe courtesy of the Rich Roll Meal Planner.)

Many people have simply never been shown how easy, fun and delicious it can be to make their own nutrient dense meals with minimal but high quality ingredients. Sure, you can get elaborate if you want but when I’m hungry, I want to eat now and anything that takes a great deal of time is just not going to happen unless I’ve planned for it in advance – which is another great habit to get into it… but more on that another time.

I recently made a personal commitment to start eating more plant based meals. I’m picking up vegetables in the grocery store I’ve never ever bought and in some cases, have never even heard of before, and – with the help of God and Google – have been incorporating them into my meals. Who knew that eggplant was so good? Laugh at me if you will and rest assured, you don’t need to get all crazy. My point is, I’m finding that it’s really not that hard. Or time consuming. It just takes a little effort and practice. I am by no means a lifelong cook. It’s a new passion and the more I try, the more my confidence grows. Yours can too.

Recipes are a much needed guide to begin with (for me at least) but after some practice, you just might find yourself becoming a little daring and attempting some of your own inventive concoctions. Next week will see the launch of a series of blog post explaining my own back story and what put me on this path.

What Is “Healthy Eating”?

This is a question I’ve asked myself over and over and over again. I use to think that “healthy eating” was a very specific rigid way of life. A way of life that made people groan when it was mentioned and grouped foods into “good foods” versus “bad foods”.  As my personal journey and knowledge has progressed, I’m realizing that could not be further from the truth. Not long ago someone redefined for me the way that we think and talk about food. They said that in reality there are foods – real, actual foods that deliver nutrients to our body – and there are non-foods, which are made up almost entirely of “things”, additives, etc. that are not natural and would be un-recognizable to anyone a few hundred years ago. One is not a good food and the other a bad, one is simply a food and the other isn’t.

That doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in these “non foods” once in a while. They are a big part of our society and it’s very hard to avoid them all the time, in fact, I’m sure you even have some favorites – I know I do – but recognize them for what they are… or are not. Maybe you disagree or perhaps you view it differently (in which case, please send me a message or comment and share, I’d love to hear your viewpoint) but it made sense to me and I hope it will to you also. There is no one size fits all shoe when it comes to a successful healthy diet or lifestyle. Our bodies are all very unique and so too are their needs.

One of the most beautiful things I have learned thus far is how to listen to my body. A certain way of eating or a certain way of living might be serving your best friend wonderfully, and it might look good too. But that doesn’t mean that it’s right for YOU. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. Give it a try and then pay attention. Really, truly listen to your body. Over the last year and a half I’ve had so many different tests done as I’ve tried to navigate my own health journey back to healing. They were all useful and served a purpose but in retrospect, some of them simply validated what my body was already telling me.

Don’t get trapped in the belief that you have to eat keto or paleo or gluten free or vegan or whatever you might believe or may have been told is the “right way” to eat healthy, because there are many. (Just to be clear, this isn’t a free ticket to indulge on a diet that consists of chocolate chip cookies and Coca-Cola. That’s not what I’m talking about here.)

What does healthy eating mean to me? To me, eating healthy means a protein shake every morning (not because I need more protein, but because I simply enjoy them and love starting my day off with a chocolate/peanut butter/banana flavor combo… soooo good!). To me, eating healthy usually involves a lunch that consists of yummy leftovers or a one pot hodgepodge that may or may not consist of leftovers, fresh veggies, beans, rice, and maybe some chicken. (By the way, some quick, easy recipes coming soon for these “hodgepodge” meals. I’m obsessed with them.) To me, eating healthy means snacks – lots of them – that make me want to keep moving, not lie down and take a nap. To me, eating healthy means eating mostly gluten and refined sugar free. To me, eating healthy means colorful vegetables. To me, eating healthy means finding foods that make my body feel good inside and out. To me, eating healthy means not beating myself up when I’m traveling and have had too many orders of sweet potato fries… a personal weakness. To me, eating healthy means finding the time to bake and doing so creatively (minus the gluten/refined sugar) without skimping on the taste OR the chocolate content. To me, eating healthy means listening and readjusting to my body’s ever changing needs.

What does eating healthy mean to you?