For as long as I can remember, I have felt like crap without knowing why. It started when I was born with severe adult-form eczema. Doctors told my mom that I would never outgrow it, that I would almost certainly develop asthma, and that there was nothing to do about it but manage symptoms with toxic cortisone cream. The eczema was painful and incredibly itchy. I was covered in patches of raw, cracked, oozing, and bleeding skin that made it hard to sleep at night. I spent my youth hiding my skin behind long layers and socks even through the summer for fear of bullying. It was a painful experience that is now mostly behind me.
When I was about five, my mom got to talking with another woman about my eczema while waiting in the deli line at the store. The woman suggested homeopathy which opened the door to natural healing.
My mom took me to see several naturally minded practitioners who helped start me down the path of balancing my body. I remember being chased around the house with liquid B complex and cod liver oil masquerading as an orange creamsicle. Refined sugar was out so instead of the marshmallows the other kindergartners got for being student of the week, I got raisins. And I'd bring carob chips to birthday parties instead of eating cake. The eczema finally started clearing up in high school but I continued to struggle with digestive problems, chronic fatigue, brain fog, depression, anxiety, debilitating menstrual cramps, allergies, generalized pains, and occasional eczema flare ups.
Since that fateful day in the deli line, I've seen many different health practitioners in an attempt to feel better. Among them include homeopaths, naturopaths, herbalists, acupuncturists, holistically minded MDs (and some very conventional MDs too), massage therapists, chiropractors, a life coach, psychologists, other mental health counselors, reiki practitioners, and shamanic healers. I participated in Native American sweat lodges and learned about the chakras and doshas of Ayurveda and the meridians of Chinese Medicine. I completed my bachelors degree in Wellness and Alternative Medicine, became licensed in massage therapy, and certified in meridian massage. While I benefited, sometimes greatly, from all of the various practitioners I saw in some way, my health struggles persisted.
Conventional doctors told me everything looked normal and dismissed my concerns. I knew something was going on that was not normal and felt continually let down, overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted by the never-ending search. Some of the modalities I tried, particularly life coaching and meridian massage, gave me deeper insight into emotional aspects of my health puzzle, but physical manifestations persisted. I knew there had to be a reason why it felt so hard to get through each day. And I knew feeling like crap was common but NOT normal. As much as I sometimes wanted to, I didn't give up looking for answers.
After learning about a functional health coaching program called Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® (FDN), I enrolled in the program to gain a deeper understanding of my body and to enable me to fulfill my passion for helping others do the same. I had been introduced to Functional Medicine in my undergraduate degree program and FDN seemed like my ticket to putting these principles into practice. Through functional lab testing, I discovered that my inner physiology was suffering.
My cortisol (a stress hormone) had plummeted, which explained my all-consuming and worsening fatigue. I had a nearly-off-the-charts case of methane-dominant small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO - a type of gut dysbiosis) that could explain a lifetime history of constipation and bloating, among other things. I uncovered a parasitic infection and other bacterial overgrowth that also correlated with digestive distress, mood, and fatigue issues. My hormones were out of whack, some too high, some too low. My sIgA (a measure of immune function) was very low, indicating chronic infection, and I was producing high levels of antibodies to gluten even though I had been mostly gluten free for many years. More recently I was diagnosed with a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome that is highly associated with chronic pain, fatigue, and gastrointestinal issues. All of that was going on underneath "normal" routine lab work. All of that was going on even though I "looked" healthy.
I literally cried tears of relief when I saw my test results. I finally had proof of not being crazy. I had been suspecting SIBO for awhile, but a former doctor declined to test for it saying there was, “such thing as too much information.”
Throughout life I have struggled with feeling broken and burdensome. I have never been sick enough to be taken seriously by the medical community, but never felt well enough to fully participate in life. I looked healthy on the outside and could hold it together in social situations (or often avoided them altogether) making my discomfort and fatigue invisible to others. Comments like, “but you look so healthy!” and “oh, you’re fine,” felt like jabs invalidating my experience. Fatigue and brain fog were crushing at times and the lack of answers wore on my psyche. At times I questioned my sanity and wondered if I just needed to “suck it up,” if I was just weak and innately incapable of handling life, or if it was somehow my fault that I didn’t feel well. I knew it was possible to feel better and this always gave me hope but I didn’t know how to get there.
This is why it's now my mission to help people uncover the reasons behind their symptoms. I know how isolating it can feel when your complaints aren't taken seriously. I know that looking normal doesn't mean feeling normal. And I know that even if routine lab results don't explain your symptoms, it doesn't mean nothing is wrong!
I am taking back my health with the Functional Medicine approach. The process is a journey and takes time and commitment but the end result of better health and a fuller life make it all the more worthwhile.