As a woman who’s experienced recurrent pregnancy loss, thyroid imbalance, metabolic disease, and a 40th birthday, this story feels important to tell. This story is how I got what I wanted from Western healthcare and why it wasn’t what I thought it’d be. Before I dive right in and do this, let’s get something straight, I’m writing this because I’m proud of my strong body, the life it’s created, and it’s miraculousness. Here are some facts about my health journey as a white, healthy-ish person with no prior diagnosis.
When I showed up for the virtual doctor’s appointment I was feeling moderately optimistic. The previous interactions had confirmed the pregnancy and then, at a later date, the loss of. The appointment before was in person and labs were ordered. Recurrent pregnancy loss, thyroid, and blood lipid health were areas of interest and I was eager to jump right in knowing full well my doctor isn’t a Functional Medicine provider (whose name shall remain confidential). She did seem integrative enough to dig deeper.
Have you had your thyroid checked? What are you doing to address your blood sugar? Are you sure you’re ovulating? I had repressed a long list of questions I hoped I’d be asked at some point. After I’d sat through the bulk of my intake at my last in-person appointment and none of the questions were asked, I decided to take a little initiative.
Me: “Can you order a lab for TPO? I want to know if I have thyroid antibodies”
The doctor: “Why do you want a test for thyroid antibodies?”
Me: “Because I would like to rule out an autoimmune thyroid condition.”
The doctor: “Okay, we’ll do an autoimmune panel, if that’s what you want.”
Days later when my lab results came in I was confused, relieved but confused. I can read labs. I’ve studied functional blood chemistry. The lab results that were delivered had no thyroid antibodies listed and there was no thyroid peroxidase antibody (TPO) test, an important marker of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Other inflammatory markers for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Sjogren’s came back clear, which were not the concern.
As a healthcare provider myself, I have my own set of tools I rely on but my hope was that in outsourcing my care to a doctor, I’d get something more like a plan to outpace chronic disease, a starting point to support my body in repairing the gut, the thyroid, the adrenals, or all the above.
Here’s a little more to my backstory. I’ve put on approximately 20 lbs since having my daughter at the age of 39, 3 years ago. I’ve been diagnosed with postpartum depression. I’ve been prescribed an SSRI, (which I don’t take). I’ve had symptoms of an underperforming thyroid, lab work to back up those symptoms, and have been told that my thyroid is “normal”. I’ve been within a 5 point range of having the fasting blood sugar of a person who is pre-diabetic and I’ve been told that my blood sugar is “normal”. I’ve had 3 miscarriages since December 2019, and have been told it’s my age to blame.
No medical doctor advised that I make changes to my lifestyle or health in order to avoid chronic disease. I’ve been to the doctor 6 times in 2020. My hip to waist ratio at >.85 is out of range (hip to waist ratio is one of the simplest and most accurate predictors of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and certain types of infertility). My cholesterol numbers have been tested twice in the last three years and my HDL is decreasing, my LDL is increasing, and my triglycerides are increasing. This could be predictive of early heart disease, as pointed out by me. I know this not because my doctor told me. I’ve learned this on my own, through my studies of Functional Medicine.
I’ve been holding space for and supporting my patients in deeper inquiry around their health issues for over 10 years and then I had a kid, turned 40 and I’m practicing medicine on myself because my doctor either can’t or won’t. I don’t care to guess. The worst part of this is not that I’m now statistically more likely to have a cardiovascular accident, to become diabetic, or possibly to die earlier than other women in my demographic. The worst (and best) part of this is that now it’s clear how complacency isn’t just tolerated when it comes to people’s health, complacency is encouraged. This is what I saw when I was (not) treated for recurrent miscarriage by my doctor using a PPO insurance plan. Now I can’t unsee it.
When you know something is wrong and people are suffering as a result, you either have to act or live out of alignment. Acting for me is a two-part process 1) do the next right thing for my body and 2) educate others on how to do the same. It’s tricky because the worse we feel, the less motivated we are. It’s a cycle brilliantly designed to keep people eating fast food, conventionally farmed meat and dairy, conventionally grown produce, and spraying toxins on their yards, faces, homes, and kids. It’s institutionalized oppression and I can see how easy it’d be to not try. To not change. I’m a white affluent woman born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I could only imagine what it’s like to be in the system as a person who doesn’t have white skin, no health insurance, and no formal medical training, a person subject to systemic oppression. It would be damned near impossible, I’d imagine.
I haven’t done a legit detox since 2016 before I got pregnant, started breastfeeding, and then got pregnant again and again (or tried to anyway). There have been some of the best and hardest moments of my life within the past 4 years. Detoxing is necessary to unburden the liver and purge the toxic load each one of us carries around in the form of belly fat, cellular resistance, inflammation, and catabolic physiology (when tissues are degraded).
There’s a spiritual element that gets nourished through the process of letting go of certain behaviors. Committing to making your own food, exercise, breathwork, hydration, and less time on devices, you commit to waking up your potential. To paraphrase Glennon Doyle, not to be the wokest woke person who ever woke. We wake up so that we can feel. After all, loss of feeling is a kind of complacency.
I wish I had a happy ending for you. The story is that at the time this post published, my TPO lab still hadn’t been ordered. I set up another virtual appointment with the same practice to arm wrestle a nurse practitioner into prescribing to me a thyroid medication to get my levels high enough so that my body might hold a pregnancy, God willing, that should happen again. I’m now working with an acupuncturist to have a complete lab workup ordered that my insurance will pay for. Yes, that’s possible. It’s a crucial part of the work I do with my patients. The problem is that I can’t order labs for myself without paying out-of-pocket, which I’m commenced not to do. I’m a firm believer in health insurance paying for care.
After 10 years of leading folks through liver detox cleanses, blood sugar resets, and fortification programs I’m now seeing the real importance of detoxing. The importance of detoxing is that we witness each other waking up from complacency. We return to strength and health. We feel strong enough to state needs or desires and set boundaries. We upend destructive, habituated patterns and habits. We do this individually and collectively. The work we do impacts our own health but it also impacts the health of society. We also balance our blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol, and hormones.
I hope you’ll join me. Sign up below.