Yes it’s true aliens have taken over my body. By aliens I mean motherhood, by motherhood I mean hormones. If you are not a mother but suspect your hormones are out of whack, keep reading.
I like to joke that aliens have taken over my body because there are many days when I feel this way. However, hormone imbalance (especially if you have it) is nothing to laugh about. If I don’t find the humor in the situation, I could easily lose my mind.
I debated for a long time whether to share my hormone hell online, but with all the research I’ve done and everything I’ve experienced within the medical industry, it seems like the right thing to do. And the research has become somewhat of an obsession. I think about how I don’t feel when I wake up in the morning, while working out, throughout the day and before I go to sleep (if sleeping is even possible).
Did you know it’s reported that over 80% of women experience symptoms of hormone imbalance often appearing in their early 30’s? What I have determined during my hormone journey is many, many women go undiagnosed because doctors (specifically PCPs and even OBGYNs) have limited knowledge of hormones. Women are often considered depressed and put on antidepressants.
MY JOURNEY… It all began when my oldest who is now 5 years old was 10 months. I realized that something was off. It’s difficult to explain but my symptoms could be summarized as the inability to lose the last 10 pounds of baby weight and my hair. My hair is something I am extremely sensitive about because it is super fine and fragile. Once the pregnancy hair fell out, my hair was growing at a snails pace. Lets just say when one hair falls out, it creates anxiety because I know how long it will take for that little sucker to come back.
Luckily because I have a background in fitness and nutrition (first career), I was realistic about the amount of time it would take to bounce back and feel normal after giving birth. But what is normal after having a baby? And do we ever really feel normal again? My OB had done her job drilling me about post-partum depression but that’s not what this was. I was way beyond the post-partum stage, in fact I breezed through the first 10 months.
I decided to see my OB for an annual check up and asked if my hormones could be off. She basically dismissed me and suggested I see my PCP (Personal Care Practitioner). I thought it was odd but went along with it and made an appointment. By the time I saw my PCP I was a mental wreck. The nurse came in to check my vitals and ask the basic questions. Why was are you here? What are your symptoms? The usual…
In the process of rattling off my ailments – Constant fatigue, my hair won’t grow, low libido, I can’t lose weight and I can’t sleep. I know my body and something is off. I just don’t feel like myself – I burst into to tears. It all sounded so trivial in the big scheme of LIFE and that nurse was trying hard not to look at me like I was crazy.
The doctor comes in and begins his assessment and I kid you not, he left the room 3 times! WTH?? Convinced he was going to his office and Googling “crazy woman just had baby, what should I do?”, it took all my energy not to bolt from the room. At the end of the appointment, he determines that I am depressed and wants to prescribe Lexapro.
Really, depression is my problem? Hell yes I’m depressed because I feel like crap.
Here’s the thing about Lexapro. withdrawal symptoms such as “electric shock” sensations (also known as “brain shivers” or “brain zaps”), dizziness, acute depressions and irritability, bladder control issues and a heightened sense of restless leg syndrome.
The side effects are not pleasant. Why would I start taking a drug that I would need to stop taking at the time it started working?
Known Side Effects of Lexapro Include:
- drowsiness, dizziness;
- sleep problems (insomnia);
- weight changes;
- decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm; or
- dry mouth, yawning, ringing in your ears.
I do not support antidepressants as a first solution based on what I learned in graduate school earning a MSS in Fitness Management. Doctors are not educated in nutrition and learn very little in med school about the correlation between poor diet, lack of exercise and chronic diseases. Don’t believe me? Read this article written by an MD that was published in the NY Times.
SSRI medications can be extremely helpful to many people, however it has become an epidemic in our country for this to be the first line of defensive for women’s issues like weight gain, fatigue, hormone imbalance and thyroid issues. At this point I had no knowledge of hormone imbalance and had done very little research on my own but I wasn’t convinced taking an antidepressant was the answer.
I shared my concern about taking Lexapro because we wanted to try for our second baby within 3 months. The doctor insisted the drug would not be a problem; I said I needed to think about it. A few days later, I called and requested a scrip. At this point I was desperate to feel like myself and if this was my ticket there, I had to try it.
The prescription was filled and brought home as I continued to struggle with the idea of taking a SSR before getting pregnant. That nagging feeling continued so as most people do, I went online and found story after story of the side effects that people had experienced from Lexapro, specifically the weaning process. Many made claims that it caused them to GAIN weight, caused fatigue and made them more depressed. Awesome!
Of course there was no way I could put this in my body and risk feeling worse, so the pills were thrown out and we moved forward with the baby plan. A few months later I was preggors and my focus was on growing a healthy baby and raising a toddler.
My youngest daughter turned 3 this August and over the past two years I have seen a total of 6 doctors and taken a million rounds of blood work in hopes of diagnosing my ongoing symptoms. Not to mention the file folder containing every lab result since 2010 that accompanies to me each appointment. It’s my “proof” that says – See something is WRONG with me. I can prove it!!
So what exactly are my symptoms?
- Inability to lose weight with diet and exercise
- Thinning Hair on the scalp
- Low Libido
- Mood Swings
- Crying for no reason
- Bloating in stomach/Fluid Retention
After the experience with my PCP, I decided to take a more holistic approach and found an saliva samples to measure hormone levels.
Guess what? There was definitely something going on with my hormones.
- Low Vitamin D
- High Estrogen
- Low Progesterone
- Low Testosterone
- Low Cortisol
- High TSH
- Low Iron
Let’s talk about those aliens hormones. Hormones regulate your metabolism, sleep cycle, mood, energy, stress, menstrual cycle and reproduction. The most important glands are the ovaries, adrenals, pancreas, thyroid and pituitary. Any imbalance has the power to significantly alter the body. This is why we feel “off”. FYI, you don’t need to be premenopausal to experience an imbalance.
When you feel something is off, pay attention to the symptoms. Understanding and tracking your symptoms is the first step to finding relief. Hormone imbalance can take many forms or just a few. Take a look at this list of common symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Do any seem familiar?
Be persistent. If your doctor(s) are not providing relief or solutions, do not give up! It took 6 doctors which included two PCP’s, an endocrinologist and three holistic practitioners to diagnose and find appropriate treatment.
Understand what “normal” ranges really mean. Be prepared for your doctor to conduct standard lab tests and tell you the results are great, everything is NORMAL. Hormones can be measured but normal ranges are not fixed. What does it mean if hormone levels are high or low? Proper levels vary with age, menstrual cycle and time of day the tests are taken. Also, one size fits all does not apply when it relates to hormones.
Consider Integrative Medicine. With the exception of endocrinologist and integrative medical practitioners/physicians, hormones are only briefly covered in medical school. Most doctors do NOT acknowledge PMS, chronic fatigue and rarely treat hair loss.
Integrative medicine emphasizes the relationship between doctor and patient, the natural healing options of the body and the importance of assessing all aspects of an individual’s life to attain optimal health and healing. (Read that sentence 3 times). Assessing ALL ASPECTS of your life is key. This means rather than prescribing a pill and sending you out the door, integrative physicians will get to the core of your symptoms. Finding out the why is equally if not more important than the treatment.
Research, research, research. The book It’s Your Hormones, saved my sanity and really helped me understand why general practitioners were only diagnosing me with depression rather than solving my issues. I educated myself through websites and persisted until I found an integrative physician who was willing to listen to me and work together to find the appropriate treatments.
Helpful Links & Resources
- The Hormone Help Center
- Dr. John Lee’s Hormone Balance Made Simple
- Test Your Hormone
- Women to Women
- Understanding Thyroid Levels
- Hormone Levels
My hormone journey is not over and I’ll continue to share updates. If you have any questions about my experience, feel free to contact me.
Have you experienced similar symptoms? Have you found relief?