Doctor appointment and my progress

I saw a fertility doctor in June who got a fire under my butt about my health. I honestly did not know the effects of estrogen dominance other than my cycle was always wonky. But that appointment was truly a turning point in my life. I am so grateful that I found how beneficial a starch-based diet is for anyone with excess estrogen in her body. I went for a follow up visit not long ago and this is where I am now.

My blood pressure was still elevated, but not as much. I know that a lot of it has to do with the stress of dealing with fertility issues and the guilt associated with losing two pregnancies while trying to move forward. I was also a little nervous about talking to my doctor about the diet I’m using since not all medical professionals appreciate the value of a very low fat, whole food, starch-based diet. Plus we were getting the results of my husband’s semen analysis so there was another thing to stress about. I know that my everyday blood pressure is fine. I can feel when it rises. I feel the thumping of my pulse and the tightness in my chest. I know when it goes up before a doctor visit. I work in a grocery store that has a blood pressure machine and think I’m going to start checking it, just to see. I also might buy a monitor for home use. I checked them out at Walgreens yesterday. Not right away, but a good investment in my health for sure.

My weight has dropped quite a bit. In the time between visits I lost 19.4 lbs at Weight Watchers, including losing over 5% of my starting weight. I am thrilled with that. One thing the doctor said in the initial visit was that even if the excess fat was not specifically causing adverse effects on my fertility it was still a good idea to lose as much weight as possible to have the healthiest pregnancy and least complicated delivery possible. As I have been learning about the health effects of obesity I can completely agree with that point. Excess adipose tissue takes up valuable space that the placenta and fetus need to grow into. I am crushing my organs with the fat built up in my chest and abdominal cavities. The best thing I can do for myself and my future child(ren) is lose as much of the extra weight as possible BEFORE I conceive. I also have been reading about the negative effects of toxic buildup released from fat cells as pregnant women burn through their fat stores. Knowing this I feel that much more strongly that I need to lose as much weight, specifically fat, as possible before I get pregnant. The good news is that as I lose weight and reduce the overall estrogen load on my body I will have a much easier time conceiving. I am completely optimistic about this process and know that I will be able to finally conceive a healthy baby that I carry to term and deliver without complications or interventions.

I told my doctor what I’m doing and why. I told her that I am walking everyday (about 20-25 minutes in the morning and 30-45 when I get home from work, longer on off days) and eating in a way to increase insulin sensitivity naturally. I also am making sure I get a lot of fiber to help reduce the estrogen currently in my system. She said that it is absolutely a healthy way to eat and that I am doing everything right. She also said that she wishes all her patients would do what I did. I love that she sees how seriously I take this process and that she sees the positive results as proof of increasing health. It was a great visit in terms of my progress.

I have been taking the Provera (progesterone) following the directions on the bottle. The directions are to take one pill a day for 10 days each month. Given those directions I have been taking the medication on the same day of the month, every month. I was not entirely sure that was correct since it could have been on the same day of my cycle. But she confirmed that I am taking it correctly and that soon I should start to regulate when I get my period which will give us a better idea of where ovulation should be.

We also talked about M’s test results and what we are going to do going forward. He just started Chantix to quit smoking cigarettes (he’s been smoking for over 2 decades). He also is starting a new job with regular hours on Monday so we’ll have much more financial stability. With that stability we hope to buy a second car since now he drives a motorcycle as his primary means of transportation. With both of those changes she said the best thing to do is give it 3-4 months then do another test and come back to see where we are before we start Clomid to induce ovulation. I am hoping that in the next 4 months I can lose enough weigh to be below 300 lbs. I am feeling confident about that as well.

I have been only weighing myself at WW and the doctor, but that left me with days at a time when I had no idea what was happening. So last week we bought a scale. Since Monday morning I have lost 2.8 lbs. I am still going to use my WW weight as my official weight until I stop, which will be when my prepaid time is up, next month. But I am so excited to weigh myself every morning and see the scale continuing to go down. I know I am doing the best thing for myself by following Dr. McDougall’s recommendations. I even bought his book specifically for women. I am in chapter 5 now and know for sure that I am finally supporting my body in the healthiest way possible.


PCOS part 2

Several months later I had the opportunity to go back to an old job. It meant moving again, this time away from my mom. We ended up where we still are today renting from my in-laws. It’s good to still be with family. I finally have decent insurance again and am working my way through my medical issues, one at a time. Last year I tried to build up some savings specifically for health purposes. I found a doctor that could also be my woman’s health doctor so I thought I was good. Not so much. Turns out, this doctor didn’t listen to anything I said. She also was complete unsympathetic when I told her about the miscarriages then told me about her own pregnancies. And when I lost 25 lbs between visits her response was that the first 25 was the easy part. Um, what?! I was not impressed. So I stopped going to her.

This January I made a point of finding a new doctor. I didn’t get to see her for a few months. I was still cloaked in the dark mist of my depression. By this point my younger sister had met someone, moved to Europe, gotten married, and was pregnant. I wanted to be pregnant so badly. It caused a little problem, actually, because she didn’t want to talk to me about anything and hurt me so she cut me out of everything. The mist closed in tighter. By the time I got to the doctor I was in so much emotional pain that I am honestly surprised I didn’t actually do anything physical. I cried through the entire appointment. But I told the truth. Dr. N put me on an antidepressant right away and gave me a referral to the behavioral health department. I can honestly say that after a few months of medicine and therapy I am seeing the world clearly again. The mist has retreated to the horizon of my mind. I know it’s still there, out in the distance, but I can see the world around me. I can feel love and friendship again. I am able to feel happy for the first time in years! I didn’t realize how far down I was but I am so glad I’m not there now!

Along with taking care of my health I of course wanted to see about my fertility as well. I got a referral for a specialist who I saw in June. She gave me a thorough exam and ordered some tests. We talked about my current conditions as well as the realistic options for the future. Dr. D is the first doctor I’ve seen since the first doctor diagnosed me who actually knew about PCOS. She explained to me the higher risks of diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and more that come along with the hormonal dysfunction. It was enough to feel like a bucket of ice water had been dumped on me. I felt the immediate need to research everything to heal myself. One problem – there is no standard treatment for PCOS!

I started reading blogs and buying books from people who have medical training. I found one nurse with a book that I connected with – sort of. She recommends a whole-foods, plant-based diet and daily exercise. Sounds good! The problem I had when reading her book was her writing itself. I would have been happier just reading the first page to follow that lifestyle change! So I told my husband that I needed to stop eating meat. I googled meal plans for this kind of diet and found several links to the Forks over Knives website. I saw their movie on Netflix recently so we watched it. I had been vegan before so most of it was nothing new. The biggest difference for me is the switch to whole foods. And that is not an easy switch. I went out and bought beans, grains, nuts and seeds. After a week of cooking whole foods I realized that trying to cook this way when I don’t get home until around 8 pm everyday was not realistic. So I took the money I had been saving for an activity monitor and bought an electric rice cooker/food steamer and a stove top pressure cooker.

The first night I knew I made the right choice! I came home to delicious smelling rice cooked to perfection. It took about 30 minutes in all for the beans to cook. I made a quick sauce and we had forbidden rice (black rice) and adzuki beans with broccoli. It was so good! The rice was sweet and almost flowery. The beans were incredible. The broccoli was added toward the end of the steaming by my husband who promptly forgot about it. It was totally over cooked. But, with the sauce and all stirred together, it was amazing even the next day for lunch. It feels good to have the proper tools to prepare foods that support my body.

I have also gone back to the best resources I used when I was vegan before. I am constantly stalking and for inspiration and health information. Both have so much science based information that is broken down into real world tips and tricks. I am actually amazed that more people don’t follow their advice. I also saw that Dr. McDougall wrote a new book about starch and its vital role in the human diet. I bought a copy and am working my way through it – when I have time to read. I am curious to see the results of following his program since I have PCOS. My body doesn’t work properly at anything so will adding more starch help regulate it? Have I been stressing my system even more by eating so much meat and dairy? It is quite possible.

I spent the 4th of July weekend with my mom. She is vegetarian, but relies heavily on eggs and dairy for her meals. When I said I wouldn’t even eat eggs she questioned why as though I were insulting her for not wanting a hard-boiled egg. I explained that with my hormonal imbalance it is important to add as few from the environment as possible to let the medications work on fixing the issues. That was enough to appease her for the moment, but all weekend she was offering me foods that I just told her I do not want to eat. I found myself in a stress pattern that caused cravings for snack type foods that I don’t eat at home. I ate a lot of tortilla chips and vegan ice cream. While I wouldn’t normally eat that kind of stuff in that quantity I am glad I had that experience and can recognize what caused the cravings. I was not actually hungry. But the stress of the party I wasn’t expecting to host along with the abundance of easy to eat foods put me into that habit. As soon as we got home I knew I was back to my normal place with food being just part of the scenery unless I actually need some nourishment.

This is definitely a learning process for me. My goal with this blog is to document my progress as I work to claim health and vitality for the first time in my adult life. There is no cure for PCOS. I don’t know if my emotional issues with food will ever fully heal, either. But every day, every meal, I am choosing the most health promoting foods I can. At this point, I am hopeful that these changes will positively affect me. That’s the best I can do for now.

This was the second in a two part series about my struggle with PCOS and how I ended up where I am today. See part one here.

PCOS – a life sentence

I got married in 2007. We decided to try for a baby right away and we were so excited to start building our family. After a few months off the pill I knew something was wrong. My cycle was very irregular with extended periods that left me miserable. I tried fertility diets, herbs, and supplements. We were in such a state of transit that there was not much stable in our lives. For the first several years of our relationship we moved more times than I can remember. Some places we just stayed at but never quite moved into; other places we thought we’d found a home but had to leave. Most of the moves also meant a complete change in financial stability. It was incredibly stressful.

Eventually we found ourselves living in a 4-season army-style tent behind my grandma’s house. We were there long enough we finally got some low-income assistance. That meant my first doctor visit in a few years. The doctor I saw referred me to a fertility specialist who would take the insurance I had – three hours away. But when you are desperate you take what you can get. So off we went. She diagnosed me with PCOS. I have a close friend who was diagnosed with this in high school so I had at least heard of it. Her recommendation was to lose weight, take a drug for type II diabetes, and check back. The medicine made me feel weird. It was very rough on my stomach. After a few months I didn’t see any changes other than the constant discomfort so I stopped taking it. We also never made it back to the doctor.

We ended up moving in with my mom who lived in a completely different direction. There we were no longer eligible for the same insurance so I basically had to start over in terms of my health. The good news is that I finally found a job, made real friends, and had the emotional support of my mom. Within a few months I noticed I was very sensitive to smells, my period was late, my body felt different, and I was nauseated all the time. I felt this way for several weeks, but every at-home test came back negative. I went to the doctor and requested a blood test. I asked what else would cause those symptoms. She said there was nothing she could think of. The blood test was inconclusive. My hCG levels were elevated, but not enough to diagnose a pregnancy. Shortly after, it all came out. I knew in my heart that I had already lost that baby. I was devastated. I stayed in bed for a few days.

Finally I got up and tried to put the pieces back together. I tried to add in as many nutrient dense foods as possible and found myself starting at website after website promoting the Paleo diet. I bought a book, gave it a try, lost about 30 pounds, and missed another cycle combined with nausea. This time I was tracking my BBT (basal body temperature). I saw that my temperature was elevated, so I took an at-home test. Negative. After about four weeks of the temperature staying steady, it started to slowly decrease. I was crushed. I knew it was coming – I even told one of my friends that I knew another miscarriage was coming – but I was absolutely broken when the bleeding finally started. It happened Christmas Eve Day 2012. I was at work cutting hair. One person called in sick so we were already short staffed. It was also right before everyone sees family so we were beyond busy. Between haircuts I had to go into the backroom to cry for a few minutes before I could continue. I went through pad after pad. When I came home I lay in bed crying for hours. My husband had no idea how to help me. I was so lost.

I remember the darkness that entered my heart that day. It felt like a black swirling mist that only let me see what was directly around me. Everything else was hidden, damp, terrifying. I felt so isolated. It was like being lost in a dense fog at night. I couldn’t see anything beyond the pain, couldn’t feel anything beyond the dark. For a while I threw myself harder into Paleo everything. I did a sugar detox even though I was already following the guidelines for the strictest level. Then I tried the autoimmune protocol. I still had “symptoms” that this was supposed to cure! But, of course, it didn’t. As I write these words, with the distance of a few years, I think I was really trying to find something I could control. I was still fat and had just lost two pregnancies within 6 months of each other. Maybe I was also trying to punish myself for not being able to carry the babies to term. I am still not sure. But I know that no matter what I did it didn’t fix it. And I was truly miserable.

Finally I gave up on Paleo. I gained a lot of weight after that. I’m sure some of that was also punishment. I truly felt like a failure at everything. I also grew to hate every single day that I had to go to work. Both miscarriages started there. Having to be reminded of the pain and anguish every time I clocked in was like rubbing salt in a fresh wound. I was so not okay for so long.

This is the first in a two-post series about my struggle with PCOS, infertility, diet, and how I eventually found whole-food, plant-based nutrition.