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Welcome back! I kind of say that to you, but also to myself since it’s been a little bit since I last wrote. A lot has been going on! Let me fill you in…
Since my last blog I have been to the Integrative Health Doctor (you may recall my mentioning I would be going in an earlier blog). I wanted to share about my experience there in case anyone out there may be curious as to what an Integrative medicine doctor is, or what exactly happens during these appointments. If you’re anything like me, before making an appointment or jumping into something, you will do a ton of research. And that’s what I did. I had been looking at the nearest clinic who had an integrative doctor that would be able to: A. accept my insurance and B. give me some answers or at least a direction to go as to why (despite trying my hardest to take care of myself) I feel like crud. Not gonna lie, I looked at the clinic’s website and read my doctor’s profile about 100 times before I made the appointment. And then finally, I just did it.
Once the day finally came for my appointment, I was a little nervous. I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Would she really LISTEN to me? Would she take my opinion and my values into consideration or would she just assume because she’s got the medical degree she knows what’s best for me? Sure the website says they take an hour for the appointment, but is that hour spent by me waiting in her office followed by some cold lab-work and 10 minutes of conversation with her? Long story short, I had no real clue what to expect.
The appointment started off as any normal appointment would go. I checked in. I waited for a little bit in the lobby, and then was called back by a nurse. That’s where the similarity pretty much ended. Once I got into her office, I was amazed at how cozy it felt. (I’ve included pictures because my description of it wouldn’t do it justice). After taking my vitals, the nurse (who was super cheerful and empathetic by the way) offered me some tea in a mug while I waited for my doctor. And who am I to turn down tea?! So of course I happily accepted and sipped as I waited.
Once the doctor came in, she said “I had a no show this morning, would you mind if we take 90 minutes instead of 60 so we can really be thorough?” Ummmm, what? You mean you actually are going to sit in here for a full 90 minutes and examine me and talk with me?!?! WOW. This was something I can honestly say I wasn’t used to. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my primary doctor. She’s wonderful. She’s caring and compassionate, she’s friendly and really knows her stuff. BUT, that said, she has a very allotted amount of time she can spend with me and is expected to have an answer for some pretty complex problems in 10-15 minutes. And quite honestly, a lot of medical professionals are not trained in holistic approaches- they aren’t trained to know what kind of supplements interact with each other, or how meditation changes your body, or how the stresses of life can impact you…that is, they aren’t trained unless they’ve specifically sought that sort of training out, such as an integrative health professional. So even though I love my primary, we don’t have the amount of time needed together and so I tend to not get “answers” for issues…we are often doing triage of what’s going on and treating “what we have time for”. This is what led me to seek out an integrated professional, to get a more holistic view of my symptoms rather than treating one thing at a time which just hasn’t worked for me. I digress…
So, when this integrative doctor said she wanted to be thorough, SHE MEANT IT. We reviewed EVERYTHING. No stone in my history went un-turned. She looked at my previous lab-work from years ago, we talked about my periods- everything from when I started getting them to how often I get them and what I experience during them. We talked about my anxiety, and how therapy is going and what I do to take care of myself. We talked about my childhood and any traumatic experiences I’ve had in my lifetime and what kind of stresses had I been experiencing (past and present). EVERYTHING. And then she had some ideas for me….this is where it gets interesting so buckle up.
(Disclaimer: This is advice specific to me, if you believe you are experiencing similar symptoms to me- go see your doctor….never just randomly start taking a supplement or regimen based on something you’ve read works for someone else- we are all individuals. What works for me and is good for me, may not be what’s good for you!)
- Adrenal Fatigue/Insufficiency– during my appointment, prior to my labs, she said she suspected I was experiencing this based on my symptoms, and her examination of me (something to do with my pupil response time…interesting). My labs later confirmed that indeed I am experiencing this. Funny enough, when the nurse took my vitals at the beginning of the appointment my blood pressure was 97/58. In case you aren’t aware, that’s a fairly low blood pressure. And I didn’t think much of it at the time cause my blood pressure is always pretty low. Apparently, after I’m done some of my own research, this can be a sign of adrenal insufficiency. Well, now I know. The other thing that tipped her off in my labs was my cortisol level. It was low. Now initially when I saw my cortisol levels were low I was excited. I thought “Yes! I’m awesome! This means my body isn’t over-stressed!” Oh contrare. My body has spent so long being stressed out that my adrenal glands pretty much said “screw you Jenn, we quit”. Not a good thing. So, while my adrenal glands obviously haven’t quit completely, our relationship is not in good standing right now and I need to make right what I’ve done wrong. Have you ever worked a job where you are so overworked that you just get burnt out and you get so tired and fatigued that you just end up with nothing left to give? That’s the way I understand adrenal insufficiency. Your glands have been so over worked for so long that they’re like “I CAN’T! PLEASE, NO MORE I HAVE NOTHING LEFT TO GIVE!!!!”. What was her advice for this? In addition to the new clean diet prescribed by the dietitian she had me see, she wanted me to begin taking a few supplements, namely for the adrenal fatigue Ashgwandha and Selenium.
- Supplements– based on what I’ve got going on, she recommended I take some supplements to improve my overall health and to get me back on track to where I need to be. Some of these supplements will probably be longer term (I’m assuming), and some she mentioned will only need to be taken for a short time to help me “reset”. This was the recommendation:
- Ashgwandha: to help with the adrenal fatigue. It is an adaptogen, which means it’s taken to help the body respond to stress by assisting with regulating stress hormones and controlling blood sugars.
- Selenomethionine (aka Selenium): an essential amino acid, helps with thyroid functioning
- Magnesium: essential mineral needed in so many processes in your body. For me, this is to help reduce PMS symptoms, reduce anxiety, and help with insulin resistance.
- Probiotic: You’ve heard me say it before….our microbiome is so important to how we function! And thankfully this doctor agrees with me! Having enough of the good bacteria in my gut will make sure that I am able to absorb the nutrients I’m consuming, will reduce inflammation, and will help with digestion issues
- Others: she also wants me to take a good quality multi-vitamin and an iron supplement until my gut health gets to where it needs to be for me to
- Meditation- during the appointment, she asked if I meditate. And yes, of course I do. I mean, sure I could do it more I said…but yeah. I’m a therapist so yeah, I meditate. “Well how often would you say you meditate?” she asked. I answered uncertainly “ummm, well, maybe once or twice a week?”. Nope. Not enough. So I will leave here that I believe any amount of meditation is better then none….so if you aren’t practicing it daily, don’t beat yourself up…move forward being grateful for the time you do spend on yourself. That said, she gave me advice on meditation that has really stuck with me. As a therapist, I know how meditation effects the body. There has been study after study on how it changes your body chemistry, how it helps combat illnesses and helps people recover. It’s actually very amazing. And I know this. But what she said to me is a perspective that I have never thought of before. She said “think of meditation like medication and take it daily”. Those words ring in my ears. She’s right. It is like medication…the way it literally changes your brain chemistry and body is like any other medication. Now, I would say any meditation you are doing that is working for you is good. She had a suggestion for an app for me which I have been using. It’s called Insight Timer. I love this app. First of all it has a great variety of guided meditations and music. Second, it’s free! Who doesn’t love free?! Of course there are paid memberships and courses you can purchase on the app…but overall most everything is free. If you are looking for a good mobile app for meditation, I highly recommend it.
“Think of meditation like medication and take it everyday”
- Exercise– this was another thing I needed to get better with. Honestly, with this, she wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. I knew I needed to exercise more often…when I exercise regularly, I do feel 100 times better! Her recommendation was daily and I have been pretty good with sticking with this. Now we did have a discussion on what kind of exercise- brisk walking is okay. So I’ve been walking most days, and on the days I am not feeling up to walking (i.e. it’s raining or snowing outside and I’m a big baby), I do yoga. I love this website for yoga: www.doyogawithme.com. Again, free! It features full length yoga classes from real instructors as well as some breathing exercises. It offers everything from beginners to intermediate, and offers a HUGE variety of classes to fit a spectrum of needs. Of course, like Insight Timer app there are paid memberships and courses you can purchase if you wish to, but you can still get a lot out of this website even if you never spend a dime. I’ve been a user for years!
- Diet– For this, she had me meet with a Registered Dietitian. I journaled my last three days of eating and the dietitian reviewed it with me. I mentioned to the RD “what’s funny is I don’t eat much so why I’m overweight and can’t lose weight is beyond me”. To which she mentioned “actually it can be the opposite because your body needs calories to rev up your metabolism”. A little history on me, I had an eating disorder as a teenager. I’m not proud of it, but it’s a part of who I am. One thing she mentioned was that I’ve probably damaged my metabolism with years of restrictive dieting. It made sense. She recommended a cleaner diet with limited dairy and limited gluten (as both cause inflammation), lots of protein with grass-fed meats, and lots of cruciferous veggies. She also recommended using my hands as guidelines for how much I should be eating:
- Meat serving- the size of your palm
- Vegetables- the size of your two fists together
- Grains- the size of your palm
- Fruits- the size of one fist
- Fats- the size of your thumb
This has really helped me put into perspective each of my meals and how much of everything I really should be eating. She also loved my “eat the rainbow” of fruits and veggies and felt I was definitely on the right track with that. (a moment to toot my own horn…..TOOT TOOOT!) She also recommended a book “The Period Repair Manual” by Lara Briden
I did order this and I have gotten through the first chapter so far. Once I finish, I plan to write a book review to let you all know my thoughts and if I find it helpful. I will meet with the dietitian again and in the interim I am tracking my daily meals using My Fitness Pal so she can get a better comprehension of my macro and micro-nutrient intake and see where I can make improvements.
For now, that was all the suggestions I was given until I meet with both the RD and Doctor again in a month. I have been practicing these changes daily and I can honestly say, I have noticed a HUGE difference in how I feel.
I feel happier and less anxious, my last period was better then it has been in a long time, and I feel like I have much more energy. I’ve also dropped some weight- 10 pounds in the last two weeks actually. So my clothes fitting better has also been an added benefit to this journey.
If you are considering going to see an integrative health doctor, I highly recommend it. They have a deeper understanding of the vitamin/supplement world and alternative health practices. They also are typically given more time to meet with you, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but trust me, it made all the difference for me! So you have my permission- go for it!
Until next time,
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