Recently, it’s come to my attention that many people who know me, either on social media or in person, don’t know my health story, what I’ve been through and why I became a Nutritionist.
As a Little Kid
Ever since I was a little kid, my mom was always feeding my brother and I healthy foods. We always had tons of home cooked meals and healthy snacks. Then when we were old enough to compare our food to other kids at school, my brother and I noticed that our food was different than all the other kids. We had the “brown bread” (whole wheat) and apples while all the other kids had plain white bread and dunkaroos. I felt so left out when all the other kids had cookie crisp for breakfast and dunkaroos or oreos at lunch. Little did I know that my mom was just trying to keep us healthy when we just wanted to eat like all the other kids. As a kid you never want to be the “odd one out” or feel different, so when we went to the grocery store, we would pester my mom and throw tantrums until she gave in and bought us the white bread and dunkaroos against her own instincts.
Once we had the “treats” in the house, I went wild. I became addicted to cookies, dairy and frankly just anything sweet and sugary. Every day I would come from school and eat cookies as my afternoon snack while my mom was at work. All day I would think about coming home and eating cookies. Don’t even get me started on when I discovered Nutella. I would eat it by the spoonful. Eventually, I gained some weight and then shortly after I started noticing a slue of other health problems. My hair started thinning, I was nauseous and sick all the time and I always had stomach aches. I ended up missing a lot of school due to nausea. After my mom took me to doctors, specialists and natural practitioners, I ended taking some pretty gross tasting natural herbal remedies that I refused to take unless I had Doritos to wash it down. This whole time, my sweet mom was trying to do everything she could to help get me better. Nowadays I definitely sympathize with all the trouble I put her through when all she was trying to do was to be the best mom she possibly could (which she did).
Changing My Diet
Fast forward about a year and I decided to cut out meat from my diet at the age of 12-13. That’s a whole other story in and of itself, so I won’t get into that here. This would have been back in 2007 when veganism and vegetarianism weren’t really popular. There were a few Yves “faux meat” vegan products in the grocery store but not as much as the abundance there is today. When I first announced that I was no longer eating meat at the dinner table, my family assumed it would be a short-lived stage. As it turned out, this “stage” ended up going on about 12 years. The first week of being vegetarian was no walk in the park. It became increasingly difficult for my mom to make two separate dinners for the family, so in turn, she told me I had to learn to cook to make meals for myself and to help her in the kitchen. Looking back, this was one of the best decisions. When I started helping my mom in the kitchen and cooking for myself, a whole new world opened up for me. At the time, I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it, but I certainly do now.
In the first couple months of becoming vegetarian, I was a growing teenager, I played sports after school, joined the running team at school and was a fairly active teen. Needless to say, I ended up losing weight. When I first became vegetarian, I also didn’t know how to combine macronutrients or ensure that my vegetarian sources of protein were combined to make them complete sources of protein. Little did I know that only animal sources of protein are considered complete proteins and contain all essential amino acids, whereas plant-based options are incomplete and need to be combined together to make complete proteins. My diet tended to lean towards high carb, with moderate protein and small amounts of fat. Although many people praise a vegan/vegetarian diet, if you’re not educated, it’s not always the healthiest option. I had major blood sugar issues, skin issues, major PMS cramps, I would often get dizzy, and I had also developed acid reflux. I was put on medication for my acid reflux but when that didn’t help, I was just told to sleep with my head elevated or to sleep sitting up.
My Hospital Experience
One major issue that also caused me to miss a lot of school were cramps. I had the worst period cramps to the point where I would be doubled over, crying and nauseated from the blinding pain. I had no idea if this was normal but my mom ensured me that many women get really painful cramps. After missing so much school, my mom knew something was wrong. One particular day I was in so much pain I couldn’t stand it and my mom made the executive decision to take me to the hospital.
Once we arrived at the hospital, I under-exaggerated my pain and told the administrator that my pain was only a 7 on a scale of 10 when in reality it was more like a 12. She told us to sit down and wait until someone from emerge would come and get us. From this point forward I only remember bits and pieces. I remember telling my mom that I lied and my pain was much worse than it was, she told the administrator and they got someone in to see me right away. They hooked me up to an IV and ordered an ultrasound. While waiting for the ultrasound, I was getting sick because the pain was so excruciating. Once the ultrasound arrived, they determined that I had a cyst on my left ovary that was twisting my ovary and had ruptured. At this point I needed emergency surgery.
I remember the doctors and nurses asking me if I wanted more information on what was happening and I did not want to know. I was already afraid that someone was going to cut me open for reasons I didn’t even fully understand at the age of 14. I didn’t want to know any details until after the surgery or else I think I would have been too afraid going into the surgery. Luckily my mom was there so they explained everything to her and rushed me into the surgery. Once out of surgery, I got the full story, they removed the ruptured cyst and fluid as well as my left ovary that was now dead because the cyst had twisted it and cut off circulation.
The Magic Pill
Right after the surgery, the surgeon and my doctor put me on birth control pill right away to help manage the pain and the cysts. It took a few tries to get a pill that didn’t cause me to have mood swings. I was not a nice person on some brands that I was taking, you can ask my family and friends… Once we found one that seemed to have little to no side effects, I stayed on it for quite some time.
I did try coming off the pill my first year of University because there were studies coming out at the time indicating that the birth control pill may cause infertility. Once I came off I ended up having another “episode” of excruciating pain. I have a whole story about this and being accused of not having anything wrong with me. That’s another long story so I’ll save it for another post, but believe me, being accused of lying when you’re in pain is very terrifying and upsetting.
After doing some research online, we thought it might be more cysts that are rupturing and causing pain but my doctor assured me I did not fit the picture of PCOS. So, I went back on the birth control pill.
Since then I would have these painful episodes about 2-3 times a year, even on the pill. Sure, I would get painful cramps but nothing compared to the blinding pain I would get a few times a year. Period cramps are terrible, don’t get me wrong, but there’s nothing like uncontrollable stabbing pain, to the point where I would always threaten to just remove my uterus.
I honestly didn’t know much about the pill until I went to The Institute of Holistic Nutrition where I learned so much information on the pill, how it can deplete you of major nutrients such as B2, B6, B12, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E and minerals such as magnesium, selenium, and zinc. The pill also clots your blood, can cause depression, hair loss, infertility, increases inflammation, disrupts your microbiome, lowers thyroid and testosterone levels and more. After having another painful episode, I made the decision to start supplementing to balance my hormones with the ultimate goal to come off the pill once and for all at the age of 23. I saw many natural practitioners, read a lot of books, blogs and listened to a lot of podcasts. While still on the pill, I did work behind the scenes. I had a strict supplement protocol, focused on balancing my blood sugar levels, as well as getting enough protein and fats. I knew that if I wanted to balance my hormones, I needed to get more protein and healthy fat, so I did make the decision to start eating fish again after about 12 years of being a vegetarian. It was extremely tough for me to wrap my head around and still is sometimes.
Coming Off the Pill & Healing
After about a year of supplementing and eating a balanced diet, I finally came off the pill at the age of 24. I don’t regret what I’ve been through because now I have the tools to educate other women on hormones, health, diet and supplementation. I tell myself that I’ve been through this for a reason and I’m stronger because of it. I constantly have to remind myself “I am exactly where I am supposed to be”.
I needed to tell my story, not only as healing for myself, but also to help other women who might be going through the same thing. You are the only person that knows how your body feels. Your body is smart, it will send off alarm bells when something is wrong. You just have to listen, pay attention and advocate for your own health.