FYI: Before we get into today’s post, please be aware that nothing I write here is meant to be mistaken for professional medical advice. I am just chronicling my own journey and providing resources so you can learn more about it, but before you begin any diet and lifestyle change, please make sure you’re consulting your doctor and/or practitioner of your choice! Okay. Onto the post:
Apparently, my detox issues keep my doctor up at night.
It’s been several weeks (and I’ve been through some serious, severe-ious protocols for detoxifying my body and getting my health back on track), so I figured I owed you all an update on my journey to heal my adult acne, amenorrhea, and other associated issues.
For those of you just jumping on board, here’s a brief recap:
- Stage 2 Adrenal Fatigue (Cortisol levels too low, causing fatigue, anxiety, and hormonal issues)
- Thyroid imbalance (High reverse T3 and low T3, the opposite of how it should be)
- Female hormone imbalance (out of whack levels of estrogen and progesterone)
- Fungal infection in gut (symptoms include thyroid, hormonal, and anxiety issue–go figure!)
- Anaplasmosis (tick bite? Not sure where this one came from…)
- Epstein-Barr Virus (apparently one of the most common human viruses, basically chronic mono)
- MTHFR homozygous C667t (the most potent form of a genetic polymorphism that makes it hard for my body to absorb and process folate–as well as make precursors to serotonin–contributes to anxiety, compulsive behavior, depression, acne, amenorrhea, and a whole host of other problems)
Okay. So that’s a lot of information. What the heck do we do with that?
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working with a functional medicine doctor who is very knowledgeable in thyroid and female hormonal issues, so he knows what he’s doing when it comes to fixing people like me. Unfortunately, my body seems particularly resistant to detoxification, which is the primary way we’re trying to treat and heal my issues.
We started by addressing the female hormones and the adrenal fatigue. That didn’t work out, so we switched tracks and did the test that revealed the MTHFR polymorphism (which you can read about here.)
We decided that this would be the next best thing to tackle, since my MTHFR problem has made it very difficult for my body to participate in a phenomenon known as “methylation,” which plays a large role in detoxification. All of the other things we would try could potentially be thwarted if my body were not properly detoxifying.
And so…methylation began.
And it was not pretty.
I mean….really not pretty.
(I warned you…)
What caused this horrific reaction? Not entirely sure, but I had begun taking a supplement called “quatrefolic methylfolate,” which is a more bioavailable form of folate that your typical folic acid supplement. My doctor also had me take a sublingual B12 supplement for a week before beginning the MTHFR supplement, as well as a B-complex vitamin, a probiotic, and cod liver oil.
The goal was to start small–one L-MTHF per day, working my way up to two pills, two times per day. To that, I say, “HA.”
After enduring the pain/shame/embarrassment of having to go out in public with my face covered in craters for about 2 weeks, I ended up on an antibiotic. Within a few days, my face cleared up.
Ten days of gut-destroying antibiotics later, I was back at baseline, with the same amount of annoying hormonal acne destroying my chin, cheeks, and jawline.
[Just an aside here: dealing with the destruction of my skin has been one of the most awful processes I’ve ever had to endure. Want to talk about body dysmorphia? The face I see in the mirror now is not the face I once had. The scars I bear were never a part of me before, and now they belong to this new person that I have become. As vain as it might seem, seeing my face in the mirror is one of the most difficult things I have to endure, because I no longer feel beautiful. It sounds so silly, as I type this out–but it’s how I feel, and coming to grips with this scar-ridden “me,” has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in my current journey of recovery.]
Throughout this whole process, I was eating a strict autoimmune diet, meaning that I wasn’t consuming vegetables from the nightshade family (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers), nuts/seeds, or eggs.
Now, for those of you out there who struggle with disordered eating, I don’t recommend restriction–but for my own particular health issue, I am at a place in my recovery where I can handle removing certain food groups for a period of time in a controlled elimination diet without it having adverse affects on my mental state or my progress. If anything, removing potentially reactive foods offers the opportunity to heal some of the issues I am dealing with.
The problem was that, after more than a month of eating this way, nothing changed. In fact, my joints–especially my fingers–which had started to become swollen when I first started the whole functional medicine journey a couple of months ago, seemed to get worse, which is the opposite of what should be happening when following an autoimmune protocol.
Another meeting with my doctor led to a conversation that I really wasn’t ready to have. This time, he wanted me to rule out food as a potential problem all together.
I’m not going to go into the details of the cleanse that I was asked to do because I don’t want to provide any triggers, but suffice it to say that we’ve “taken food off the table” as a main cause of my health problems at this point.*
(In fact, my doctor said, “Some people do this cleanse feel amazing almost immediately…and some don’t.” Guess that’s me.)
So what are the next steps?
Because I’m “so sensitive,” it looks like we’re going to be taking baby steps. We’ll keep up the MTHFR stuff, but we’re going to address the gut. In addition to some adaptogenic herbs and detox support, I’m going to be adding digestive enzymes, oregano oil, and something called Microb-x (the latter two supplements acting as antimicrobials to get rid of whatever’s plaguing my insides).
For now, I’m back to eating a mostly autoimmune diet (I might try to throw eggs and tomatoes back into the picture to see how I do) and dealing with minor breakouts and anxiety issues. (And of course the swollen joints and no period, but, hey, who’s counting?)
I won’t start the gut healing protocol until the mountains of supplements** arrive on my doorstep…but, as always, I’ll keep you updated.
Those of you who are working to heal chronic health issues, have you had to navigate the fine line between an elimination diet and a restrictive mindset? How have chronic health issues impacted your relationship with food, diet, and body image?
*I do not recommend that you attempt anything to “cleanse” or “detox” your body, especially if you a) struggle with any sort of disordered eating/body image issues and b) are not working with a doctor or coach. There is such a fine, fine line between doing any sort of elimination or detox protocol to understand how your foods are affecting you and to control weight. Please, if you are even considering any sort of cleanse or detox because the health gurus are pushing it as a miracle weight loss/clean out/health fix and you are a disordered eater/exerciser, please reconsider or, if you’re hellbent on doing something like this, make sure you have a doctor or healthcare practitioner working with you. If you are not at a mental or emotional place where you can handle the potential effects of any sort of restriction, even in the short term, I would urge you to find another way to address any of your health issues.
**Re: supplements: I don’t think we should be taking (most) supplements as a long-term strategy for health. As a short-term intervention for dealing with chronic issues like leaky gut, hormonal imbalances, and such, they’re the bee’s knees. But for the most part, we should seek as much nutrition as we can from food first. That said, there are some “supplements”+ like cod liver oil that are definitely good additions to your diet. And if you’re someone who needs additional support due to something like the MTHFR polymorphism, where you actually become nutrient deficient because of a bodily process (or lack thereof), then supplements are necessary. But we shouldn’t have to spend 1/3 of our monthly paychecks every month just to function, in my honest opinion…
+Technically cod liver oil is just a food, but we view it as a supplement in our highly medicated society. Sometimes I wish we knew how to adopt an entirely different language to talk about nutrition–for example, all of this BS about “superfoods.” It’s a marketing term, a packaging term, a selling term…I think any “real” food is a superfood in its own way. And while one food might boost your vitamin X or your hormone Y, it’s not about breaking foods down into package-able nutrients and selling them one-off for whatever your condition might be.