Everyone has a health story – a series of personal health issues, uncomfortable to terrifying symptoms, ill loved ones, sick children or maybe the death of a family member. I have lost loved ones to autoimmune diseases, my immediate family member has vitiligo, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis after I had my first baby, but my story really starts with my little sister. As she got close to 4th grade she was having difficulties learning in school and she would stop talking mid-sentence and then forgot what she was talking about. My mom also noticed staring spells and suspected she may be having petit mal seizures. She was diagnosed with epilepsy and even though medicine was the best option we had at the time, my mom did everything she knew to support her nutritionally as well, believing that food is medicine. Through that I learned from a very early age that healthy eating is extremely important. We ate what she knew to be healthy: whole grains, low fat dairy, veggies, nuts, organic animal protein and lots of fruit. As early as 6th grade I entered into the Science Fair with food science projects. (Fun side note: a boy in my 7th grade science class, remembered my science project 12 years later when we started dating and he is now my husband!) My health was fine as far as I knew until I reached puberty and menstrual cramps would keep me home from school and sports. But that’s just “normal” right? All girls have problems around their period.
In college my dorm diet became heavy in wheat and dairy. I gained at least 15 pounds despite running daily. My digestive system was going crazy, and I remember intentionally not eating dinner if I had an evening test because my stomach would be too painful and loud in a quiet classroom. I got mono my sophomore year and was having headaches weekly. My junior year cedar fever knocked me out with allergy induced asthma, and I suffered from a chronic cough, laryngitis and eczema. Meanwhile, my sister was having brain surgery to hopefully stop her seizures (ahh!). My senior year I was under high stress and alternating between constipation and diarrhea. I was in the ER for the second time with upper abdominal pain and at age 22 had to have a colonoscopy and endoscopy. The GI doctor saw nothing wrong and simply diagnosed me with IBS while giving me an antispasm medication for my intestines which made me very sleepy. Again, all this was “normal” right?
After I graduated I took a job with Whole Foods and adopted the popular diet of the culture: vegan. I took out dairy, eggs and meat from my diet and felt great! My periods improved, my headaches minimized, I lost weight and had awesome energy. In hindsight, I realize how high carb I began eating, which eventually caught up to me. After a while I began to struggle with digestive pain again, headaches and dizziness. I had trouble concentrating and learning new things. Two weeks before I found functional medicine I got vertigo while driving on the highway and was told by a doctor to drink Gatorade and gain some weight. I was incredibly blessed to join the Austin UltraHealth team and learn from Amy Myers MD. Her approach to patient care as a medical doctor blew me away and she gave me the incredible opportunity to help my patients by getting to the root of their issues.
Finally, I seriously questioned what is “normal” and began to seek alternative options. With a functional approach I found out I had a gluten sensitivity (among other foods), a parasite, candida overgrowth and needed more protein and less carbs! I used herbs for my parasite, my gynecologist treated my yeast with an antifungal (YAY for open-minded doctors), and I transformed my “healthy” diet into a diet personalized to my needs. This cleared up my brain fog, removed my eczema, stopped my digestive pain, eliminated my seasonal allergies and headaches. This is finally normal!
My health is an ongoing adventure but functional medicine has empowered me to ask questions and don’t take “it’s normal” for an answer. It’s shown me how to listen to my body and explore options when things don’t seem right.
Just like any good news I want to share what I’ve learned in my own health and what I see with my patients so you and the people that you love don’t have to suffer from annoying or terrifying symptoms.
Noteworthy: The brain surgery was a success for my sister! We are so blessed by her healing from seizures after many years. I wish we knew about functional medicine beforehand to see if that could have helped her instead of the extreme surgery. Later on we did learn that some of her lingering symptoms we thought were side effects of her medications were actually caused by gluten and dairy. She is currently gluten and dairy free and free of stomach pain and hives!