Tea ~ Jasmine Pearls
Do you struggle with any of these or know someone who does? Read on.
Fatigue, chronic illness or gets sick easily, food sensitivities or stomach cramps after eating, migraines, miscarriages or unexplained infertility, preeclampsia, pregnancy complications, birth defects, anemia, low red blood cell count, insomnia, joint pain, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, gallbladder problems, liver problems, brain fog or memory loss, allergic reactions frequently requiring anti-histamines, lip and tongue tie, anxiety, depression, ocd, ad(h)d, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, thyroid issues, addiction, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis or any number of autoimmune diseases, mental illness, psychological, behavioral or neurological problems. Even strange things that make people think you are crazy.
*Disclaimer* I’m not a doctor or medical professional. All I can tell you is from experience and research. Please seek a practitioner for diagnosis, but I am happy to answer questions about my experience! Sorry this is so long, it’s a lot of information and these are just the highlights.
Having stomach cramps for 4 hours after you eat really sucks. Having them and not knowing why and with continually more and more foods obviously sucks more. This started happening about 3 months after my second son was born. This started happening about 3 months after my first son was born too. First with eggs, and then with butter on a sweet potato. It didn’t stop there. After months of this in 2014, with doctors scratching their heads, even after I threw up on the el in Chicago and almost fainted while hitting my son’s 5 month old noggin on the handrail and was traveling by myself after a particularly fatty breakfast with my brother, he suggested maybe it was my gallbladder (Click here to read more on that). By the time I saw the doctor in the ER, my symptoms were gone and she wanted to send me home. I insisted on an ultrasound which showed possible issues with the gallbladder, but I would need to have a HIDA scan done (where they inject a radioactive isotope to see how things are moving with a special scanner) to know for sure. I had no classic symptoms other than stomach cramps after I ate. But, the surgeon recommended we take it out. We did, and I felt great afterwards. No other issues. Until 3 months after I had my second child. Except now I don’t have a gallbladder. And I have 2 littles under the age of 3. Now what?
I was already grieving the loss of my first child’s infant stages with illness and surgery and was so looking forward to enjoying my 2nd baby instead of the blur to just get through the days and nights without an attack. Fear of eating the wrong thing. Fear of lying on the floor or in bed unable to move with no one else home. (This was a stage where my husband was also traveling more for work. A LOT more.) Asking my toddler to bring me my phone so I could call someone. Anyone who would come watch my littles while I wait for this attack to pass. An attack comes on within 10 minutes. I have the most incredible parents, friends and neighbors. You know who you are. And to those who have been fervently praying for me. Thank you from the bottom of this momma’s heart!
We struggled to get pregnant for 1.5-2 years (click here to read more on that). I struggled with extreme fatigue during that whole time. I stopped taking birth control pills in 2010 because I was sure it was making me crazy. I was right and my husband agrees. It made me feel foggy and like my personality was completely subdued. I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome in 2013, shortly before I got pregnant with Zeke. I gave up gluten at that time because I learned that 80% of women with PCOS have a gluten intolerance. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis shortly before I got pregnant with Wesley in fall 2015. I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome this fall, in the midst of all of my other health woes. I’m deficient in iron, vitamin d even though I play sand volleyball doubles all summer long, b vitamins, my thyroid hormones are out of whack (tsh, free t3, reverse t3, free t4), elevated thyroid antibodies, low progesterone, to name a few. I feel my best when I’m pregnant and these things go into remission during that time, but clearly that is not a long term plan unless I decide to take up surrogacy as a hobby. I’ve been taking supplements in these areas for months/years. I see an amazing practitioner of functional medicine and we’ve made a good team the last 1.5 years. What’s the deal, man? What are we missing? We are treating the thyroid, the iron, the female hormones, etc. I saw a GI surgeon who was both elderly and very overweight who handed me a box of pills in our consultation which involved no tests other than a brief abdominal exam and said you have IBS and the only way to treat it is with medication. “So I can’t help it at all with diet or anything else?” He said no. You’re fired. Peace out.
Over a year ago, I had read about instances of Epstein Barr Virus and underlying infection as being a cause for your body going haywire with auto immune disease. This is the virus that causes mono. I had mono when I was 7 when no one else around me had it. 95% of adults have EBV. Just about everyone gets it in infancy or childhood. Many show no signs or symptoms. I asked to be tested. My PCP wasn’t sure why, but we did it anyway. My numbers were through the roof and she was shocked! There are 4 stages, I was positive for all 4 of them – past infection, past exposure, recent exposure and recovering infection. 2 of them in particular should have been below 18. Mine were 189 and 435. Ok, so let’s treat the virus. We did that for about a month, but I was still dealing with digestion issues.
My practitioner recommended we look at genetics to see if I had any predispositions to being unable to absorb certain vitamins and nutrients. Drumroll please…
I have a genetic mutation that prevents me from absorbing and converting B vitamins efficiently! This process is called methylation. The gene is called MTHFR or methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. 30-50% of the population has this mutation and it is hereditary.
Ok, what does that mean? Turns out that B vitamins are essential to live.
“Referred to as vitamin B complex, the eight B vitamins — B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12 — play an important role in keeping our bodies running like well-oiled machines. These essential nutrients help convert our food into fuel, allowing us to stay energized throughout the day.” Dailyburn.com
They help your body to naturally detox and reduce inflammation by repairing your cells and making new ones and providing energy in your cells. When you can’t do that efficiently, your health starts to snowball until the problems become bigger and bigger. If you can’t detox, you have a hard time producing things like dopamine and serotonin to feel good, putting you at risk for depression and anxiety. A buildup of toxins and inflammation may start a chain reaction similar to this:
Vitamin B Deficiency
Toxin Build-up and Inflammation
Immune System Weakness
Auto Immune Response
Food Sensitivities or Allergic Reactions
Stomach Cramps, joint pain, sleep problems, miscarriages/infertility, refer to the list at the top of this post!
All we see are a list of seemingly unrelated symptoms at the bottom of this list or the outside layer of the onion. How can these food sensitivities just be popping up out of nowhere and with no rhyme or reason. I could eat eggs one day and be fine and eat them another and have stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, etc. I’ve been tested for food allergies and actually have very few. We need to dig beneath the surface and look at the body as a whole. Find a physician of functional medicine who will do this with you. All of these things I’ve written about in this post and previous posts all stem back to this gene mutation. You can take a test at home, but it is recommended you see a practitioner trained in this area.
But that’s not all. The combination of the gene mutation and the Epstein Barr Virus were a perfect storm for me. You can have these mutations and it not really impact your life much. Or, you could have them and they can become life threatening. There is usually a trigger that makes it become a problem. For me, that was EBV. At one point in October, I told my husband that I thought I might die. I’ve never said this before in my life! An article published just today about EBV triggering Hashimoto’s and Grave’s Disease (both thyroid auto immune disorders) had this to say:
“But why is it difficult to eradicate viruses? Viruses live and replicate inside the cells, and they actually insert their own genetic material into our DNA. Most active viral infections will eventually result in the death of the host cell, although cells in which the virus is in a dormant state usually function normally. But the only way to eradicate the virus is by killing the infected cell. The alternative is to do things to prevent the virus from replicating.”
My mind was blown when I read this. Why aren’t people talking about this?! So the virus is active in me, but I can’t detox the dead cells and can’t make new ones. I’m fighting an uphill battle of malnourishment. We need to come at this from both sides. The article describes some therapies to help with Epstein Barr. With methylation problems, it is recommended you take a methylated B Complex vitamin. If you have this mutation, you cannot convert folic acid and it actually can make you sicker. As many know, this is an important vitamin during pregnancy to prevent birth defects and genetic abnormalities. Folic acid is often fortified in things like cereals and pastas, so it is best to stay away from fortified foods like this and your multi-vitamin likely contains folic acid. Avoid taking antacids as they block B12 absorption. The list goes on. And use caution with drinking alcohol and smoking as they often impede the methylation process and may put you at risk for any number of diseases, stroke, cancer, etc., later on.
Dec. 30, 2016 – “Friends, just being transparent here. You think you want what the outside of this body looks like. You don’t. It costs something. I weighed 137 lbs when I woke up this morning. (I’m 6’0” tall and 6 months post partum, having gained 60 lbs in my first pregnancy and 50 lbs with my second pregnancy, and gave birth to 8#12oz & 10#10oz babies) And I’m still nursing. Clothes that fit me fine pre-pregnancy now fall off. I feel incredibly insecure about what people think when they look at me. “You lost that baby weight fast!” “Do you even eat?” “Wish I could look like that after having a baby!” This is not healthy. This is malnourished. It’s terrifying. You have no idea what this has been like or what my family has gone through. Nothing good comes from comparing yourself to someone else or someone else’s journey. Truly.
Sorry to leave you hanging while we figure out what’s going on. Still processing everything and we think we have found the root cause of why I’ve been so sick since the beginning of September. Keep praying and encouraging and I’ll have a blog post update in hopefully a week or two. Know that I feel the best I have felt in months and my digestion has drastically improved.”
I am feeling much better with regard to digestion. I feel a great amount of fatigue currently, but apparently this can be normal as my body recovers and detoxes. It’s a wait and see game with dosages of vitamins. I’m also taking naltrexone to reduce my antibodies – related to the EBV infection because they are also attacking my thyroid and stomach simultaneously with the autoimmune piece of the puzzle. I’m hoping to see this snowball into my other symptoms with Hashimoto’s, PCOS and others. Only time will tell. I now know that I did not need my gallbladder removed. And that post partum for me is a time of depletion, detox and restoration. I’ve just been unable to restore my own body. My problem is not “solved,” and POOF I will be all better now. It is something I have to maintain for the rest of my life. Some days will be good days, great even! Other days will just be “hanging in there,” as I’ve said I have been for the last 4 months. It is truly a miracle that I’ve had not just 1, but 2 healthy babies without a miscarriage or major birth defects. I praise God everyday for those huge blessings and I pray for the strength and perseverance to enjoy them moving forward. I also pray that this helps someone else because I will wonder the rest of my days if my grandmother would still be with us had this one small change of taking methylated b vitamin complex helped her instead of losing her battle with Alzheimer’s at age 70, as she was forgetful for as long as I’d known her.
Be encouraged! Cheers to improved health in 2017!