By Rachel Clark | Guest Blogger
Puberty had never been quite normal for me. I didn’t get my period until I was almost 15, my 12-year-old molars still haven’t completely come in (I’m currently 20), and I went from being stick thin to putting on 8-10lbs in one month at the age of 16.
That weird period of weight gain was the start of my health getting much, much worse. My face bloated up, I was constantly nauseous and constipated, and I missed a couple of months worth of periods. I was also prone to huge mood swings, despite my generally happy, levelheaded personality.
What really ticked me off to knowing something was wrong was when I started developing painful, cystic acne at the age of 18. The summer before I left for college, the skin on my face, back, and chest was constantly inflamed and bumpy. I cried, as in bawled, almost every day.
I went to college and my freshman year was an extreme roller coaster of health issues and emotions. During the second semester in January, the ovarian region on my stomach began to throb nonstop for a week. I spent all of my free time lying in bed, only getting up to eat, go to the bathroom (which was unusually often), and drag myself to class.
I felt tired, teary, and just overall sick for the next few months. Then in March, I doubled over to what was the worst pain of my life. My roommate and neighbor freaked out and debated taking me to the hospital, wondering if it was something like appendicitis. After a horrifying 10 minutes, the pain subsided to a dull ache, occasionally interrupted by shooting pain. Having medically savvy parents and me being a pre-nursing student, I knew the dull pain was not due to something acute like appendicitis. I took pain reliever round the clock for over a week, and was told by a physician’s assistant a few weeks later that my pain over the past few months had been due to ovarian cysts.
Despite continual stomach pain, daily crying, and painful acne, I finished my freshman year. I still look back and wonder how I did it, remembering the horrible feelings of pain and hopelessness I felt so often when waking up each morning.
After I returned home for the summer, I went and saw a Napro physician in my hometown of Houston, TX. She drew labs, performed a transvaginal ultrasound, and diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, commonly known as PCOS.
I still remember the doctor sitting in front of me and showing me the ultrasound picture. “Do you see those pearl looking dots? Those are all the cysts on your ovaries. They have made your ovaries very swollen, 3x the size they should be, to be specific.”
PCOS, I learned, is caused by your body making too much male hormone (testosterone) and not enough female hormones (progesterone and or estrogen.) In my case, my body makes almost no progesterone and only a little estrogen, and WAY too much testosterone.
This extreme imbalance of my hormones is why I suffer from symptoms like acne, mood swings, and ovarian cysts. The pain that I felt in January and March of my freshman year were from cysts getting too big and eventually rupturing (which was cause for the excruciating pain.) When an ovarian cyst swells and ruptures, it pushes on your bladder, making you urinate frequently. It can also cause fever and an overall flu-like feeling because of all the ruptured fluid, which causes inflammation in your abdominal cavity (my stomach was so swollen I could have passed for being newly pregnant.)
And the weight gain and my puffy bloated face? Because hormones pretty much affect every aspect of your body, I had insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, to put simply, is when your cells cannot properly breakdown and digest sugars, like from sweets and starchy food/carbohydrates. This leads to weight gain and being easily bloated.
While I was grateful for this wealth of information, I was also very overwhelmed and eager to know what I had to do to “fix it.” Most healthcare providers will prescribe birth control. Birth control, though, essentially just puts a band-aid on the problem. The root cause of PCOS is a hormone imbalance, and all birth control does is stop your period to stop your hormones from working. This does not help anyone get better and usually just complicates health problems even more when a woman gets married and wants to have children. Since birth control puts the brakes on your hormone production, when a woman wants to get pregnant, her hormones at best are still imbalanced and need treatment, and at worst even more unbalanced and untreatable from the birth control’s effects.
Napro, however, seeks to help and heal women by prescribing natural treatments to balance out and correct the hormone levels.
If you or someone you know suffers from irregular or painful periods, abnormal acne, mood swings, stomach problems or most commonly, “I just feel tired all the time,” you very well may have a hormone disorder. You may not even have PCOS, you may have endometriosis (which is a topic for another day) or you might just lack or produce a little too much of a hormone (like thyroid, cortisol, etc.)
Hormonal diseases are horrifically under diagnosed in the healthcare field. I am still shocked when I hear from my friends or other women that they experience a lack of periods or extreme pain during them, abnormal weight gain, adult acne, the list goes on. This is because most doctors will default to putting women on birth control, and often people go on silently suffering for years, never understanding why they suffer from these unpleasant and sometimes debilitating health problems.
While this may sound cliché, you owe it to yourself to feel healthy and happy. Life is hard enough as is, and the last thing any young girl, college student, mom, or any woman needs is an overbearing, constant lack of good health.
Please, please, do not hesitate to a) shoot me an email or b) find a Napro Physician in your area. I know too well what it is like to be in pain all the time. I know what it is like to not know why you cry so much, and hate feeling sad and not like yourself. I know what it is like to feel the painful and swollen acne and crave having normal skin. I know what it is like to sit at a table with your friends and desperately wish you could have pizza and ice cream without feeling sick or gain weight. Trust me, I know.
I have learned in the worst of times, you can always choose joy in the suffering. And I know that all trials, including my own, are just part of the cross God has given me so I can get to Heaven.
Resources: I would love to hear from you and help any way I can!
Napro Physicians in Your Area:
P.S. You are enough.