Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Health Journey: Part 1

My family has always been health-oriented. When my mom became a Christian, God convicted her about some of her unhealthy eating habits, and when my parents got married, my dad eventually started eating healthy, too. They were on the path to better health before I was born, and for as long as I can remember we've been that weird, healthy family with strange things in our pantry, fridge and medicine cabinet. We've probably eaten more salads than any other one kind of food, except maybe my dad's homemade bread

Although I was perfectly happy to skip out on the horrible doctor's visits that my friends described, I wasn't very happy with most of the other healthy aspects of our life. Why did we have to have rice cakes with almond butter for snacks, instead of a PB&J, which was so much cooler? (Don't worry, we eat peanut butter now, it's just unsweetened, non-homogenized, 100% organic and truly natural.) I was a bit embarrassed by our healthiness, and while I ate the healthy stuff Mom served at home, I'd happily drink a soft drink when I got the chance, or down 2 or 3 slices of white-bread pizza at a party, much to my mom's dismay. How did I go from that child, to crazy health-nut in my own right? This is the story of how my personal health journey began.

Warning: Feminine health is discussed in a way that might be too TMI for some. I'll be as tactful as possible, but I also want to be open and clear about my issues, because I want other ladies who might struggle with the same sorts of problems know that there is hope for natural healing! If you want the short version, here it is: I started researching health because of my suffering with female hormone imbalances. ;)

When I was around 14, I began having severe pain associated with the beginning of my monthly cycle. My cycles had begun at 11 and 1/2, which is considered a little early, a telltale sign of possible issues. After some Google searches (I was too embarrassed to talk to my parents much about it) I discovered that my list of symptoms fit primary dysmenorrhea. The symptoms include: severe cramps affecting the back, stomach and legs, headaches, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, dizziness and fainting. I experienced all of those.

If I was fortunate, it would happen on a day where I could curl up in bed and just suffer. Sometimes, it would sneak up on me and I would get caught out somewhere, like shopping, at a baseball game, or at the state fair (Yep, those are actual examples that happened to me, the fair was TWICE, two years in a row - while not just with my family, but friends too!!). If I wasn't able to lay down, the symptoms would continue to worsen. If I was laying down, I could usually avoid vomiting and fainting, but when I was stuck in a situation where I tried to pretend I was fine, my body would eventually betray me. I fainted in public twice, but I eventually started to learn that a faint was coming on when my face broke out in a cold sweat and I could feel the blood drain from my face, so I could sit down before I actually blacked out. In the back of my misery-fogged brain, I was always wondering: is this normal? Am I supposed to be suffering like this every month?

Being part of such a health freak family, I didn't think I should have any health issues. My last doctor visit was when I was 2-years-old, and my family hadn't been going to regular medical doctors since. My parents were mostly into the herbal realm of "alternative medicine" and I tried some capsules that my mom gave me one day after she noticed my misery, but they didn't give me much relief, and I wasn't very faithful in taking them. I became so desperate that I considered begging my parents to take me to a doctor. But before I did, I tried to figure out what exactly a doctor would be likely to do and prescribe.

According to everything I could find on the internet, there were only two medical possibilities (besides a hysterectomy, which I didn't consider even for a millisecond). NSAID's (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen, or a contraceptive like the Pill. Since my pain was so severe, I was pretty sure that just an NSAID wouldn't work (and I already knew my parents would say they weren't healthy), so I did more research on contraceptives. Besides the acknowledged possible side effects that sounded almost as bad as my symptoms, I discovered the possibility of struggling with infertility after long-term use of contraceptives. After researching into how contraceptives would actually affect my hormones, and finding that they would basically just be "turning off" my reproductive system, I realized that, just like my parents had always said, medical treatments often only cover up the problem, instead of fixing the real issue.

I was happy to be certain that my pain was NOT a part of normal and healthy menstruation - not just "the way my body works" but a problem. I had discovered that it was a hormone imbalance, and I had a convenient medical label to remind myself that I was actually sick. I decided I wasn't interested in covering up my illness with an unnatural medical solution, so I threw out the idea of requesting that my parents take me to a doctor. I turned back to the herbs my mom suggested with vigor, and determined to look up everything in "the herb book."

"The herb book" is Dr. Christopher's "School of Natural Healing" and it is an incredible resource. I looked up "dysmenorrhea" and there were 37 pages of herbs and formulas just for that, besides plenty of other herbs and formulas for general hormone health. I chose to start with the two main formulas, containing a very large amount of herbs between them, and got up the nerve to ask mom if we could order some bulk herbs specially for the formulas I had chosen. I mixed them myself, with some guidance from my dad who has more experience with herbal remedies than I, then powdered them and added them to my green Superfood drink every day. I began see immediate results in a decrease of symptoms! 
I was thrilled, and I've taken responsibility and control of my own journey to health since then. I'm not going to say that I'll never consult a medical doctor (never say never, you know!) but I will say that a little bit of care and knowledge of your own body goes a long way, and since that day almost 10 years ago when I decided not to beg my parents to put me on birth control, I've grown to feel confident and fearless about what I can do naturally to take care of my health. I believe God has provided everything we need in nature. Herbs aren't really medicine - they're food, with important nutrients that we need to be healthy, and we just need to use them! It's freeing and exciting to feel confident of how to take care of my own body!

Some other protocol that I credit with aiding my complete healing of dysmenorrhea include Oil Pulling, the Maker's Diet and the GAPS Diet. Oil pulling helps detox your entire body, and the Maker's Diet and GAPS Diet both restrict grains and sugar, which helped me a lot as well. I noticed marked improvement from the herbal formulas, but I think following those diets and using oil pulling over the last 2 years is what has helped finish off the process. My monthly experience is now even LESS painful than I imagined "normal" would be! I'm so excited and relieved to be free of that terrible hindrance to my life, and to know that it has been accomplished by healing, rather than covering up the problem! I'm so thankful God used that illness to start me on the path to natural health.

Obviously, I am not a medical doctor, and none of this is medical advice, I'm just sharing what worked for me! If you're suffering with the same issues and interested in taking control over your own health, I'd be happy to talk, and share more of the articles/information I found during my own research, to help you on your journey. Feel free to send me an email, or comment below!

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  1. Thank you so much for this blog post! I struggle a lot with painful PMS, though not as severely as you've described... I used to just push through taking a variety of painkillers, ranging from Ponstan (that was fantastic, but had concerning side effects/related issues), Nurofen, and Paracetamol. But now I want to take a more natural approach to dealing with my PMS.
    Could you give a simple outline of the specific herbs you take? Your testimony sounds so inspiring... I can't wait to achieve painfree cycles! Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Francesca! I'm glad my story is encouraging to you! I would be happy to give you a simple outline here, or if you don't mind emailing me, I have a more detailed Word document already typed up for a couple of friends who asked me about the herbs I used. I would be happy to send that to you, my email address is in my blogger profile!

      Here's the list of herbs that I used: Golden seal root, Blessed Thistle (or Holy Thistle), Cayenne, Cramp bark, Ginger root, Red raspberry leaves, Squaw vine, Uva ursi, Black Cohosh, Sarsaparilla, Ginseng, Licorice. They are in two different formulas, I took both as a powder, but you can make tea, get empty capsules to take them in, or make a glycerine extract. I buy most of my herbs from and they also have a "Moon Ease" tea which is awesome for that time of the month!