I just got off the phone with a patient (I will call her Joy), and I am reminded why I love the field of Naturopathic Medicine once again! Initially, Joy came to see me in 2012 (at 25 years old) for back pain that was caused by persistent muscle spasm. She experienced “ridiculous pain” every day. Other symptoms she had included bipolar disorder, and some gastrointestinal symptoms. After taking a thorough history, we surmised that both her back pain and mood symptoms had begun five years previously while she was going through some stressful times in college. She also started using birth control pills around that time – and had been on them ever since.
She had tried every approach that conventional medicine could offer for the back pain, including physical therapy, massage, myofascial release, and pharmaceutical therapies. She was eating a fairly common diet of mostly processed foods, heavy in both gluten and dairy, and she had a sweet tooth.
We talked about the importance of amino acid balance for neurotransmitter production in relation to her mood difficulties. We also talked about how processed foods contribute to inflammation and blood sugar imbalances, and how that could be an underlying cause of the symptoms she was experiencing. I mentioned that the birth control pills may be a contributing factor too – as they alter hormonal function, are inflammatory, and are toxic, but she was not prepared to go off of the pill. She wanted to see if we could make any progress in other ways first.
We did make headway on mood – and thankfully she improved following a few months of diet change and nutritional supplementation. We tested her blood for food sensitivities, both IgA and IgG, and eliminated foods to which she was reacting. She also started a daily regimen of amino acid supplementation, freeze dried greens and fruits, a multivitamin, and a probiotic.
After six months, the patient felt discouraged because her back pain persisted, and she continued to have some challenges with mood. We agreed that the next step was to eliminate her oral contraceptives. After she discontinued the birth control pill, her back pain improved almost immediately. Unfortunately, she had to deal with some uncomfortable side effects such as dandruff and acne – but they soon cleared up. We connected briefly on the phone for follow-up, and she was continuing to improve, however she had not had her menstrual cycle return in the four months she had been off the pill.
The next time I saw Joy our discussion took an unexpected turn. She had just come from a visit with an OB/GYN, and had been told that she would never get pregnant without medical intervention, if at all. She was devastated. The doctor’s reasoning was that Joy’s ovaries didn’t show any sign of ovulation on ultrasound, and that she had not menstruated for 6 months. This doctor had no suggestions for supporting normal, healthy physiology. There was no talk of nutrition, either in the way of diet or supplements. To him, it was cut and dried. She was not fertile.
I felt it was too soon to make that diagnosis. I recommended a detoxification focused on estrogen, along with a low carb (to sensitize estrogen receptors) high phytonutrient (lots of veggies and fruit) diet, and some herbs that help to regulate hormonal function. Soon after starting this protocol, Joy had a period. She discontinued the detoxification supplements after one month, but continued with a low carb diet, and herbs to regulate hormones. That was ten months ago.
Today, I spoke to her and she is pregnant. No pharmaceuticals. Just her powerful body. What incredible news! I am so thrilled for Joy and her husband! It is true, that if we identify and eliminate obstacles to healing, the body can heal itself. It is also true that nature provides herbs that support our physiology in a safe and effective way. II am so grateful to have to opportunity to share this knowledge with others. Aren’t we incredible?!
Vitex Agnus castus – a powerful herb for hormonal regulation