endometriosis

Hormonal Birth Control Solves Everything Right? Wrong.

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Hi, my name is Jess, I have two children, whom I gave birth to at age 17 and 19. This saved me in ways I could write a book about. I also had one miscarriage. Members of my family have a history of gynecological problems and some of them struggle with fertility. I also was at high risk for hormonal problems due to my strong family history. What I did not know, was just how limited doctors’ understanding of menstrual and hormone problems was. For every problem I presented with, hormonal birth control and painkillers were the answer. When those didn’t work, surgery. I had 10 operations in the span of a few years, until finally and out of desperation, I had a total hysterectomy in my twenties. I cannot help but wonder if the Depo Provera prescribed to me after the birth of my second child was somehow the root of my illnesses and all of the other prescriptions for hormonal birth control added and worsened my pain. It seems like I was in vicious cycle. Here is my story.

Hormonal Birth Control, Pain, and the Long List of ER Visits and Unsuccessful Surgeries

Depo Provera: The Beginning of My Pain

At my 6-week post birth check-up for my 2nd child, the doctor I  recommended that I go on the Depo Provera shot to prevent any further pregnancies. So, I did. In September 2013, after two more shots of the Depo Provera, I started having “a period” that lasted 7 months! After multiple doctors’ visits, lots of medications and tests, I was referred to my first specialist, a gynecologist.

Operation 1. In April 2014, at 20 years old, I had my first gynecological surgery: a hysteroscopy, along with a D&C and a Mirena inserted to stop the “period” I was having. The Mirena was also for birth control.

The Mirena Chronicles: More Pain and Ruptured Cyst

For the next 8 months, I had extremely irregular periods, unusual pain, and contemplated having the Mirena removed. The specialist recommended that I keep it in and see if it settles. Intercourse was painful, and after, I was guaranteed to wake up bleeding the next day. My pain became unbearable and after I had an ultrasound, they found I had a cyst on my left ovary. I was given prescription pain relief and was told they would do another ultrasound in 4-6 weeks. That didn’t happen because the pain was slowly getting worse. After two more visits to the emergency department with more pain medication, I was still told that we needed to take a wait and see approach. My health was declining. I lost 7 kilograms in 3 weeks from feeling so unwell.

Then one day I collapsed with severe sudden pain. I went to the hospital straight away when another ultrasound revealed the cyst on my ovary had ruptured. I was told I needed to undergo surgery.

Operation 2. I had a laparoscopy, so they could clean out the mess from the ruptured cyst.

Irregular Bleeding, Another Cyst, Endometriosis, and Still, Mirena is the Solution

A couple months went by and my pain once again returned. I still was having irregular bleeding and was still guaranteed to be bleeding after having intercourse. It was like déjà vu. Unfortunately, I was back on pain killers and an ultrasound revealed another ovarian cyst. The pain was often unbearable. Off to the emergency department again. Multiple pain medications didn’t seem to be working and I was told I need to deal with it as there was nothing they could really do. I thought “Are you serious?!?! Why the hell won’t you help me?!?!” I was a mess.

At every hospital visit, I got the “Oh you are on a lot of bad medication; you shouldn’t take so much.” So I would ask “can you please do something? I don’t want to keep shoveling pills down my throat!!”. However, every time the answer seemed to be “here are some more medications for your pain because we can see you’re in a lot of pain and your vital signs are showing you are in a lot of pain”. This wasn’t providing any sort of solution to fix my pain and being told to suck it up and get over it, by one doctor, didn’t help either. I couldn’t help but feel depressed and severely anxious every time I needed to go to the emergency department. I was in so much pain I didn’t know what to do. When did I become a person who needed multiply prescription medicines to control the pain enough that I could function semi-normally? At one point, I weighed only 48 kilograms. I had lost 10 kilograms. I could barely eat. Every day I tried to stay positive, but it was so hard being consumed in pain 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Operation 3. I had another laparoscopy on the 1st of May 2015, where I had the cyst removed from my left ovary. This is when they told me I had some endometriosis. They inserted another Mirena as a treatment option. It seems as though, birth control and pain killers are the only answers that they have.

Rinse and Repeat and Repeat and Repeat: More Hormonal Birth Control and More Surgeries

By September 2015 the same thing happened again, another large cyst, given away by the extreme pain and accompanied by the irregular bleeding! Another round of multiple hospital visits and admissions, I was again put on really strong pain killers and we discussed treatment options. I was prepped for a procedure called an aspiration and drainage, but my bowel and bladder were collapsed over, and they couldn’t perform it.

Operation 4. On the 24th September 2015, I had another laparoscopy. Another large cyst and more endometriosis were removed. After surgery, I was placed on a different birth control pill, along with the Mirena IUD, as a treatment option for the reoccurring cysts and endometriosis.

By January 2016 my pain had once again come back, and I was admitted to hospital. The result showed that I had another cyst on my left ovary. (Seriously, WTF!!! So many more tears). They told me they didn’t want to do any more operations on me, and I sure as hell didn’t want anymore. I was now 22 and felt like I was failing as a mum and person because I was always so consumed in pain. There were days where I couldn’t even leave the house. I had the Mirena removed again and was once again on pain killers. I was put on a hormonal birth control pill; a much higher dose, and we all prayed this would give me relief.

I had started to build up a resistance to any sort of pain relief. It felt like I was constantly going to the emergency department and was always sent home with more pain killers. Most of the time, the same ones I already took daily. I was going because my pain was so out of control, everyone around me was telling me to go get help, including my GP because I could barely function. Why were they sending me home on the same pain killers that didn’t control my pain? This affected my emotional state further. Some nurses, doctors and people were really kind to me, and others were extremely nasty and made me feel guilty for being in so much pain. I really didn’t want to be sent home again with no solution. “We must figure something out, please stop doing this to me!!! It has happened too many times!”

By March 2016, I was still in chronic pain and on even more daily medications. I had another ultrasound which reveal that I still had another large cyst in my left ovary. It also showed that I had nephrocalcinoisis (calcium build-up) and a small cyst in one of my kidneys, I was told this could be from long term use of pain medication but not exclusively. My jaw dropped. I had to travel to see a kidney specialist who told me it was nothing much to worry about and if it gets worse then I will be referred back. The advice from him was to ease up on the pain medication if possible and find other ways to deal with my chronic pain.

Operation 5. By May 2016, we were once again going to re-insert a Mirena to try and help my issue, however, it didn’t want to go in, so I had my 5th Operation to have it inserted on the 2nd June 2016. (Even if it was only slightly effective for a couple months that gave us time to try figure out what we were going to do). I was using a lot pain medication still, and my bleeding was happening more than it wasn’t. Once again, I was anemic and needed to take supplements to help my iron. Luckily, I never needed a blood transfusion. I had honestly lost count of the amount of times I went to my doctor’s clinic and the emergency department. I couldn’t even tell you the names of all the different types of pain relief and contraception options I had tried. I was labelled as someone who just ‘wanted painkillers’ because the amount I was on would not fix my pain. I was anxious and depressed due to my declining health. I wanted to just stop taking everything, but the pain was so much I couldn’t even move. Still around 50 kilograms and I had now been on pain relief constantly for around 6 months.

Operation 6. At this stage I was feeling worse if anything, so I had my 6th operation to remove the Mirena once again, after failed attempts to remove it in the gynecologist unit.

Going in Circles: More Birth Control, More Pain and Problems and More Surgery

By September 2016, I had visited the hospital and doctors so many times I was known on a first name basis. By this time, I had begun to research treatment options extensively and spoke to multiple people, including my gynecologists and doctor which led to me to discussing a hysterectomy. By now, I was willing to try any option to rid me of this pain! After extensive discussion it was decided that I would just have my left ovary removed because that was the most troublesome. In September 2016, we scheduled a laparoscopic Left Salpingo- Oophorectomy (Left Ovary and Fallopian Tube Removal).

Operation 7. On the 12th of October (day after my 23rd birthday), I had my 7th Operation. During this operation they found another problem. This is when I was diagnosed with pelvic congestion syndrome/ Ovarian Vein reflux and was referred to another specialist- an Interventional Radiologist.

Pelvic Congestion Syndrome/Ovarian pain reflux

“Pelvic venous congestion syndrome is also known as ovarian vein reflux. It is a cause of chronic pelvic pain in approximately 13-40% of women. Chronic pelvic pain is pain in the lower abdomen which has been present for more than 6 months. Pelvic congestion syndrome is therefore a painful condition often caused by dilatation of the ovarian and/or pelvic veins (rather like varicose veins but in the pelvis) . Varicose veins are commonly seen in the legs when the veins become less elastic and the valves that stop the blood from flowing backwards stop working. This causes the blood to pool, due to gravity, causing enlarged, bulging and knotty veins. This is also what happens to the pelvic veins in pelvic venous congestion syndrome (PVCS). This pressure results in the pain of PVCS and may also cause visible varicose veins around the vulva, vagina, inner thigh, and sometimes, the buttock and down the leg (s).”

Things went well for a short while, but the pain just got worse again. Again, I was on a lot of pain killers. I was always forced to take Panadol first if I was admitted in the ED, before they prescribed anything else.

I was referred to another specialist – an Interventional radiologist.

I drove 5 hours to see an interventional radiologist as there were none locally who could take me in the public system. I was advised by him that I should have platinum coils inserted in my ovarian veins and a foam solution to kill off a bunch of other veins. They thought the PVCS could be the cause to my pain and this treatment could prevent me from getting anymore varicose veins. He told me I am lucky that my legs and vagina hadn’t been affected yet, and that I will need to keep an eye out for this in the future.

Operation 8. I had operation number 8 in March 2017. I wasn’t under general anesthetic this time. Just a “twilight sedation” where they used my main artery in my neck to insert the coils and other treatments. Thankfully, I was out of it for most of it!! I had multiple coils inserted and who knows how many other smaller veins were treated. They wanted me to stay admitted overnight but I couldn’t do it. I was actually a bit traumatized from the whole experience. I felt extremely alone and scared down in a “big city” hospital by myself.  At one stage, they were so busy that the head of my bed was in a utility closet to get me out of the way. Unfortunately, this operation did not help my pain as much as I prayed it would. pelvic congestion hormonal birth control

Chemical Menopause, Hysterectomy, and More Medications

I was at my wits end. I was breaking down emotionally, so I reconsidered a hysterectomy even though I was only 23 years old. The gynecologist I was seeing suggested that I go into chemical menopause before I had a hysterectomy so that I could see if it would benefit my pain. So, I did, I went on an injection called Zoladex. It causes chemical menopause and it’s actually used as a treatment for breast and prostate cancer. I was told not to research it but I couldn’t help myself.

I went to a regular GP appointment, but this time came out with more bad news. The results were that I have high cholesterol, which showed in a recent blood test. The doctor was a little confused because I didn’t have any of the major risk factors for high cholesterol. Turns out, that is what chemical (surgical or natural) menopause can do to one’s body. Now I had to add another specialist to the list of doctors and it meant another trip away. He told me if you have a hysterectomy and you take out your only remaining ovary, your cholesterol treatment will greatly differ”. He told me, “what would/could happen and that I must go back after my operation, but for now it was still untreated.  So, with that news I felt like I needed to keep my only remaining ovary.

I was now seeing multiple professionals and had been seeing a gynecologist who made me regain hope. We talked about this operation multiple times over a long period of time and I was still suffering “chemical menopause” symptoms at that time, with my pain coming back worse the chemical menopause pellet started to run out. I was excited when the day finally came where I signed the papers to have a total hysterectomy. The advice I received was that I should make serious lifestyle changes to help my body. I was advised to do weight bearing exercises, quit smoking, go on Hormone Replacement Therapy and pray it doesn’t bring my pain back.

One thing that is still stuck in my mind is the line “this could take up to 10 years of your life”. I was in so much pain and I was sick of taking so much medicine that was making me sick in other ways. I really wanted to stop having operation after operation.

Operation 9. On the 2nd of August 2017, I had a total hysterectomy. I had everything except my right ovary removed. I must admit I felt strange, my belly felt empty, but I immediately felt like I had less pain.

It was the best thing I did for my pain. I felt like I had recovered from this operation fast and everyone (including myself) was amazed at how well I was doing physically afterwards. Ten days post op, I was able to stop all the pain medication I had been on! This was massive for me!!! No more pain killers! Or so I thought. My right ovary didn’t “wake up” after my hysterectomy and I began experiencing stronger menopause symptoms. I knew the obvious symptoms after having chemical menopause. This led me to the journey of figuring out and starting my first lot of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). I also came to the realization that it takes up to one year to fully heal from a total hysterectomy.

I must admit this affected me mentally and emotionally more than I thought it would. Some days are so bad, they scare me, other days I’m on top of the world. I think this definitely contributed to my mental health. One of the hardest things about having mental illness is getting up and putting on ‘you’re okay face’ every day. This isn’t makeup. This is the face where you put on a smile and say, “I’m fine”, or “I’m good thanks”. Its where you hope no one sees past your bulls**t smile because the moment they do you know you’ll break down and cry, but at the same time you just want someone to help you and help you not feel the way you feel anymore. Who knew hormones can mess with your head so much? Who knew hormones play apart in so many different things in your body?

Operation 10. On the 28th of June 2018, surgery number 10 happened. I had my right ovary removed. I had another cyst that was complex in nature and which was making my pain worst, contributing to me being back on pain killers again full-time. They also saw that the coil that was cut during my hysterectomy was exposed at the tip, so they trimmed this up as well. hysterectomy at 23

Surgical Menopause: Medicine’s Only Other Solution

After this operation, I “officially” entered surgical menopause. I have learnt what surgical menopause really is, and how much it differs from natural menopause. I also learned how under-educated people are regarding this condition, including some doctors and specialist. I didn’t know this was the journey I was going to be on for the rest of my life, however, I have learned that I am my only and best advocate. I still suffer from chronic pain every day, and now I have an added stress of menopause. All I can do is stay strong and true to what I know and keep fighting for myself and women like me. I will continue to try and get better health care for myself and I will not give up until I am satisfied, I have achieved this. This is not how my story ends.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Kind Regards, Jessica Poland (Firth). Queensland, Australia.

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Treating Infertility with Specialized Pelvic Therapy: A Natural Approach That Works

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In a 10-year study of 1392 infertile women, manual physical therapy yielded high pregnancy rates for women in three categories of hormonal infertility. Subsets of participants showed success for women with endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and high FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone).
The therapy was originally designed to treat pain due to the adhesions that form when the body heals. Adhesions tend to remain in the body, acting like an internal glue after healing has occurred. Adhesions can act like tiny straitjackets, causing pain or dysfunction – including infertility.

Endometriosis adhesions

Endometriosis, Infertility and Adhesions

Endometriosis is considered both a mechanical and a hormonal condition, with adhesions frequently accompanying endometrial implants. The therapy is designed to decrease the cross-linking, the tiny but powerful white attachments shown in the drawing. In the 10-year study, 43% (128/299) of the women diagnosed infertile with endometriosis became pregnant after receiving the therapy. This rate compares well to surgical success rates, but without the costs or risks of surgery.

PCOS and Infertility

In the study, 54% (15/28) of women diagnosed infertile with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) achieved pregnancy after therapy. While this is a smaller subset, this rate is encouraging; it is much higher than the 22% to 33% pregnancy rates achieved after surgeries cited in the study. In surgery for PCOS, the physician will either drill holes in the ovary or remove a wedge-shaped portion of the organ. One reason for the low pregnancy rates after PCOS surgery may be the new adhesions that form as the body heals from the surgery.

High FSH Infertility

pregnancy rates for women with high FSHOne of the biggest surprises in the ten-year study was in women who were diagnosed hormonally infertile due to high FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone). As a woman approaches menopause, her ovaries demand more and more FSH to stimulate egg growth in older follicles. Measured early in the menstrual cycle, most physicians feel a woman’s FSH levels should be at or below 10 mIU/mL. When a woman’s FSH is above 10, she is considered unlikely to conceive. At FSH of 25, the woman is generally considered to be menopausal.

In the 10-year 2015 study, a surprising 39% (48/122) of women diagnosed subfertile or infertile due to high FSH became pregnant after receiving the therapy; 43 of the pregnancies were natural, and five were by follow-up IVF.

“The data with these women has been absolutely remarkable” said Belinda Wurn, director for Clear Passage Physical Therapy. “Before this study, nothing in medicine has been shown to improve FSH and fertility naturally. Until now, none of us imagined that a manual therapy could have such profound effects, without surgery or drugs.”

The therapy (Clear Passage Approach™) is available at a dozen locations in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Treatment consists of 20 hours of hands-on care described as “feeling like a deep, site-specific massage.” The therapy is often given 4 hours a day for 5 days. For more information, visit clearpassage.com.

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More people than ever are reading Hormones Matter, a testament to the need for independent voices in health and medicine. We are not funded and accept limited advertising. Unlike many health sites, we don’t force you to purchase a subscription. We believe health information should be open to all. If you read Hormones Matter, like it, please help support it. Contribute now.

Yes, I would like to support Hormones Matter.

This article was published originally on August 15, 2017. 

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Thiamine for Fibromyalgia, CFS/ME, Chronic Lyme, and SIBO-C

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The Road to Thiamine

In August 2020, I was at my wits end. I had developed gastroparesis in March 2020, after 10 days of metronidazole (Flagyl), for a H. Pylori infection and SIBO-C symptoms. After seven days, I developed the symptoms usually associated with the intake of this drug – nausea, confusion, anxiety, paranoid thinking and mild gastroparesis symptoms. I no longer had bowel movements initiated by my body and had to use enemas twice a week. This state continued and worsened until the end of July 2020, when I also had a surgery for stage 4 endometriosis.

I managed to stay alive those months by eating an elemental diet (90%) and a few bits of solid food such as white rice, goat cheese, or lean meat. After the surgery, however, my gastroparesis got worse. I contacted my family doctor at the end of August and told her that I could no longer eat any solid food without severe nausea and that I need to be in a hospital to be fed intravenously or with a gastric tube. She agreed that my situation demanded immediate attention and she wrote me the referral for an inpatient hospital admission.

I was lucky though that at that exact time, I stumbled upon the low oxalate diet mentioned by a member of a Facebook group. I joined the Trying Low Oxalate (TLO) group on Facebook and read what researcher Susan Owens wrote about oxalates. I started implementing it and realized that small portions of low oxalate food every 2-3 hours were accepted by my body. In a few weeks my gastroparesis symptoms were reduced and my belly pain diminished.

From the Low-Oxalate Diet to Discovering Beriberi Disease

At some point in September 2020, while researching oxalates, I found Elliot Overton’s videos on oxalates and I listened to them. I also read his articles on this website where he talks about allithiamine, a thiamine supplement that contains something called TTFD, as being something radically different in terms of its unparalleled effects on the human body. I was skeptical, because I had spent about 20,000 euro on supplements in the previous four years, each of them being promoted as health-inducing by big names in the field of chronic Lyme disease, MTHFR, CFS/ME, SIBO and so on, while their effects on my health were only partial and temporary at best.

I decided that this would be the last supplement I’d buy. The worse would be losing 40 euros and I had already spent too much on worthless treatments. I took 150 mg allithiamine + magnesium + B2 + B3 for 3 weeks and I was less tired, could move more around the house, and overall was feeling much better, even my extreme light sensitivity was subsiding. Then I stopped taking it, not sure it was doing anything. That’s when I knew that it had worked and that I needed it badly. I took the same dosage for another 2 weeks. The next three weeks I had to wait to receive it from the USA, and I was again completely bed ridden.

However, I used this time to read most of Dr. Derrick Lonsdale’s book on thiamine deficiency. I became convinced that I had dry beriberi and that most of my neurological symptoms were caused by thiamine deficiency. I also noticed that the dosage is highly individual and some individuals needed very high doses of thiamine per day in order to function.

I now understood, why 2015 was the year I became bedridden for most than 90% of the time: I spent 6 months in a very hot Asian country, as part of my master degree studies. The energy requirement to deal with the hot weather and the demanding job depleted my already low thiamine levels. At that time, I was on my way to diabetes as well. I had fasting blood sugar levels of 120 mg/dl. I could no longer assimilate/use carbs in the quantities my body required (70% of the daily caloric intake) and I was always hungry and always thirsty. Looking back on my childhood and my ever-declining health from 2008 onwards, it was clear to me that I had problems with thiamine.

The Astonishing Effects of Thiamine

In December 2020, I increased my thiamine dosage to 300 mg per day and I was astonished at the changes I experienced – an 80% reduction across all my symptoms and some even completely disappear.

Mid-January, I decided to increase my allithiamine dosage to 450-600 mg because I felt like my improvements were stagnating. I also noticed that during the days I was more physically active (meaning: I cooked food for longer that 10-15 minutes, my energy levels were higher when I was taking more allithiamine and I didn’t experience the typical post-exertional malaise I was used to in the past). I also noticed that taking allithiamine alone in high doses doesn’t work so well and that the active B complex capsules and the B3 I was taking did have an important part to play in how I felt.

In the beginning of February, I was craving sugars so badly, that I gave in and bought a cake for my birthday. I ate two slices and discovered that my mental confusion, the brain fog and generally poor cognitive skills improved “overnight”. I was astonished, since I had been led to believe that “carbs are bad”, “sugar is bad” and “gluten is bad” and that the problem was with the food itself rather than with my body missing some vital nutrients. I didn’t experience any side effects from the gluten either, even though my food intolerance test shows a mild reaction to gluten containing cereals.

By February 20th, this high-dose allithiamine ‘protocol’ and the ability to eat carbs again, eliminated all of my symptoms of SIBO-C/IBS-D/slow transit constipation, endometriosis, CFS/ME, fibromyalgia, constant complicated migraine with aura, severe food intolerances, including a reversal of my poor cognitive skills. I was able to discuss highly philosophical concepts again, for one hour, without suffering from headaches and insomnia.

Early Metabolic and Mitochondrial Myopathies

On February 21st, I decided to go for a walk. I walked in total that day 500 meters AND walked up four flights of stairs, because I live on the 4th floor without an elevator. By the end of that day, my disease returned and I became bedridden again. I could not believe it. This was the only thing I did differently. I just walked slowly.

And so I searched the internet for “genetic muscle disease”, because my sister shares the same pattern of symptoms. A new world opened before my eyes. I found out that in the medical literature, exercise intolerance, post-exertional malaise and chronic fatigue are well known facts and are described in conditions known as “myopathies”. That there are several causes for myopathy and that they can be acquired (vitamin D or B1 deficiency, toxic substances impacting the mitochondria, vaccines and so on) or inherited. It was also interesting to find out that while doctors manifestly despise and disbelieve CFS/ME symptoms, they are not utterly unknown and unheard of or the product of “sick” minds.

When I read this paper, although old and maybe not completely accurate in the diagnostics, I understood everything about my health issues.

I remembered my mother telling me that my pediatrician said he suspected muscular dystrophy when I was one years old, because I could not gain weight. I weighed only 7 kg at the age of one year, but he wasn’t convinced and so no tests were done in communist Romania. In addition to being overly thin, throughout my childhood, I always had this “limit” that I couldn’t go past when walking uphill or if I ran up a few flights of stairs, no matter how fit and in shape I was. Otherwise, I would develop muscle weakness such that my muscles felt like jelly. I would become completely out of breath, which I now know is air hunger. I couldn’t climb slightly steeper slopes without stopping 2/3 of the way up. My heart would beat very hard and very fast. I would feel like I was out of air and collapse. I first experienced this at the age of 5-6 and these symptoms have been the main feature of my physical distress since.

Because of these symptoms, I have led a predominantly sedentary lifestyle with occasional physical activity, never daily, apart from sitting in a chair at school. I didn’t play with classmates for more than 5 minutes. I couldn’t participate in physical education classes. Any prolonged daily physical activity led to general weakness, muscle cramps, prolonged muscle “fever”, and so I avoided them.

Now, I know why. Since reading this article, I was able to present my entire medical history to a neurologist and my symptoms were instantly recognized as those of an inherited mitochondrial or metabolic myopathy. I am currently waiting for the results of the genetic tests ordered by the neurologist, which will make it possible to get the right types of treatments when in a medical setting.

Before Thiamine: A Long History of Unexplained Health Issues

In addition to the problems with gaining weight and inability to be active, I had enuresis until 9 years old, along with frequent dental infections, and otitis. I had pain in my throat every winter, all winter and low blood pressure all the time. At 14 years of age, I weighed about 43-45 kg. I remained at that weight until age 27. I had a skeletal appearance. I also had, and continue to have, very flexible joints. For example, my right thumb is stuck at 90 degrees, which I have to press in the middle to release. I can feel the bone repositioning and going into the joint. This happens at least once a week.

My diet was ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet, with 70% of the calories coming from carbohydrates from when I was able to eat until 2015. In 2015, I could no longer process carbohydrate due to severe thiamine deficiency.

Since the age of 18, I have had quasi-constant back pain in the thoracic area. I have stretch marks on thighs, but have had no sudden weight gain/loss. Among the various diagnoses I had received before the age of 18 years old:

  • Idiopathic scoliosis – age 18. No treatment.
  • Iron deficiency anemia – at 18. Treatment with iron-containing supplements. No result.
  • Frequent treatments for infections (antibiotics)
  • Fasting hypoglycemia (until 2015).

The Fibromyalgia Pit

In 2008, my “fibromyalgia” symptoms began, although looking back at my history, many of these symptoms were there all along. I made a big change in my physical activity levels and this began my 12 year decline in health. In 2008, I started my philosophy studies at the university and decided to get more “in shape” by walking daily to and from the university. A total of 6 km per day.

  • Constant fatigue, no energy.
  • Worsened back pain.
  • Weak leg muscles at the end of the day.
  • Frequent nightmares from which I could never wake up. I felt like I couldn’t find my way out of sleep. After waking up, I would sit down and after 10 minutes I found that my head had fallen on my chest and I had fallen asleep involuntarily, suddenly.
  • Sensations of waves of vibrations passing through me from head to toe, followed by the sensation of violent “coming out” of the body and out-of-body experiences.
  • Heightened menstrual symptoms.
  • Fairly frequent headaches.

Over the summer, I recovered completely as I resumed my predominantly sedentary lifestyle. Then, in the fall, I began walking to and from university again, and my symptoms just got worse. This cycle continued for the next few years. My symptom list expanded to include:

  • Migrating joint pains.
  • Frequent knee tendinitis.
  • Pain in the heels.
  • Generalized pain, muscles, joints, bones.
  • Frequent headaches.
  • Sleep disturbance with insomnia beginning at 2-3am every night.
  • Frequent thirst, increased water intake (3-4 l/day).
  • Frequent urination, especially at night (woken 2-3 times).
  • Bumping my hands on doors/door frames.
  • Unstable ankles.
  • Painful “dry” rubbing sensation in hip/femur joint.
  • Prolonged angry spells.
  • Memory problems (gaps).
  • Difficulty learning new languages.

I underwent a number of tests including, blood tests, X-ray + MRI of the spine, and a neurological consultation. All that came back was high cholesterol (180 LDL, 60 HDL), low calcium, iron deficiency anemia, scoliosis, and hypoglycemia. No treatment was offered.

From February 2010-August 2010 I had a scholarship in Portugal. Philology studies interrupted. I was using public transport to go to classes, which were about only 3 hours a day. I required bed rest outside classes with only the occasional walk. I had a complete remission of all symptoms in July 2010 when I returned home and resumed my sedentary lifestyle. This was the last complete remission.

From August 2010 – December 2010, I resumed day courses at both universities and resumed the walking.

All of my symptoms were aggravated enough that by December I was bedridden. I stopped attending classes due to back pain in sitting position. I wrote two dissertations lying in bed. Once again, I sought medical advice and had a number of tests and consultations with specialists. I was diagnosed with peripheral polyneuropathy and “stress intolerance”, fibromyalgia. The treatment offered included:

  • Medical gymnastics: aerobics, yoga and meditation presumably to get me in shape and calm me down.
  • Calcium and iron supplementation, gabapentin, and low-dose mirtazapine.

The physical activity worsened symptoms, as it always does. The mirtazapine improved my sleep. I took it for 2 weeks and then stopped because I was gaining weight extremely fast.

From 2011 – October 2012, I was almost completely bedridden. I had to take a year off because I couldn’t learn anything, my head hurt if I tried.  The physical symptoms improved after about a year, as did the deep and total fatigue. I tried to get my driver’s license in 2012, but failed. I couldn’t remember the maneuvers and the order in which to perform them. I couldn’t concentrate consistently on what was happening on the road. There was too much information to process very quickly.

From 2012-2015, I was getting my master’s in France. This aggravated all of my symptoms of exertion, both physical and intellectual. In 2013, I underwent general anesthesia for a laparoscopic surgery due to endometriosis, after which something changed in my body and I never fully recovered to previous levels of health. I took another year break between the two years of master’s studies. I couldn’t learn anymore. Symptoms relieved a bit by this break. After three months in Thailand for a mandatory internship, in one of the most polluted cities in the world, I got sick and developed persistent headache, with very severe cognitive difficulties. At this point, 90% of my time was spent in bed.

A general anesthetic in the autumn of 2015 for a nose tumor biopsy was the “coup de grâce”. Since then, I only partially recovered a few hours after a fluid infusion in the emergency ward and a magnesium infusion during a hospital stay in Charites Berlin in 2016. Other improvements: daily infusions of 1-2 hours with vitamins or ceftriaxone.

How I Feel Since Discovering Thiamine

In order to recover from the crash I experienced in February, I increased my B1 (TTFD) intake mid-March and made sure I was eating carbs every three hours, including during the night. I need about 70% of my total caloric intake to come from carbs.

I am currently taking 1200 mg B1 as TTFD, divided in 4 doses, 600-1200 mg magnesium, 500 mg B2/riboflavin, 3 capsules of an active, methylated B vitamin complex, 80-200 mg Nicotinamide 3X per day and 1-2 capsules of a multi-mineral and a multi-vitamin. I make sure I eat enough proteins, especially from pork meat, because it contains high amounts of BCAAs and helps me rebuild muscles.

I walked again the last week of April 2021, 500m in one day, because of a doctor’s appointment. I did not experience a crash that day or the following days. I did not have to spend weeks recovering from very light physical activity.

I can now use my eye muscles again, and read or talk with people online. I can cook one hour every day without worsening my condition.

After 5 years of constant insomnia, only slightly and temporarily alleviated by supplements, I can finally sleep 7.5 hours every night again. I no longer wake up 4-5 times a night.

My wounds are healing and my skin is no longer extremely dry and cracked.

My endometriosis, SIBO-C, gastroparesis, food intolerances, “fibromyalgia” pain, muscle pain due to hypermobility, are all gone.

And to think that all of this was possible because of vitamin B1 or thiamine, in the form of TTFD and that I almost didn’t buy it, because I no longer believed in that ONE supplement that would help me!

I will always be grateful for the work Dr. Derrick Lonsdale, MD, researcher Chandler Marrs, PhD and Elliot Overton, Dip CNM CFMP, have done so far in understanding, treating and educating others about chronic illnesses. More than anything, more than any physical improvement I experienced so far thanks to their work, what I gained was truth. Truth about a missing link, multiple diseases being present at one time and about why I have been sick my entire life.

Physical Symptoms and Diagnoses Prior to Taking Thiamine

  • Fibromyalgia and polyneuropathy diagnostic and mild, intermittent IBS-C since 2010;
  • Endometriosis symptoms aggravating every year, two surgeries, stage 4 endometriosis in 2020;
  • Surgeries under general anesthesia severely worsened my illness and set my energy levels even lower than they were before;
  • CFS/ME symptoms, hyperglycemia/pre-diabetes, constant 2-3 hours of insomnia per night and constant 24/7 headache since 2015, following an infection and during my stay in a very hot climate;
  • POTS, Dysautonomia, Post Exertional Malaise Symptoms from minor activities, starting with 2016;
  • Increased food intolerances (gluten, dairy, sugar/sweets, histamine, FODMAPs, oxalates, Sulphur-rich foods), to the point of eating only 6 foods since 2018;
  • Chronic Lyme disease diagnostic based on positive ELISA and WB test for IgM, three months in a row, in 2017;
  • Weight gain and inability to lose weight after heavy antibiotic treatment, skin dryness, cracking, wounds not healing even for 1.5 years, intolerance to B vitamins and hormonal preparations, since 2017;
  • Complicated migraine symptoms and aura, light intolerance, SIBO-C and IBS-D, slow intestinal transit, following a 4 month period of intermittent fasting that made me lose 14 kg, living in bed with a sleep mask on my eyes 24/7, severe muscle weakness, since 2018;
  • Two weeks recovery time after taking a 10 minute shower;
  • Gastroparesis, living on an elemental diet, in 2020;
  • All my symptoms worsened monthly, before and during my period.

Treatments Tried Prior to Thiamine

Gluten, dairy, sugar/sweets, FODMAPs, histamine, oxalate, Sulphur-rich foods/supplements free diets; AIP, SCD, Wahl’s protocol, candida diets; high dose I.V. vitamins and antibiotics, oral vitamins and antibiotics, liver supplements and herbs, natural antibiotics (S. Buhner’s protocol), MTHFR supplements, alkalizing diet, essential oils, MCAS/MCAD treatment, SIBO/dysbiosis diets and protocols, insomnia supplements, and any other combination of supplements touted as helpful for such symptoms.

And this is just what I remember top of my head. Their effect was, at best: preventing further deterioration of my body, but healing was not present.

Additional Literature

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Endometriosis and Heavy Menstrual Bleeding: Two Sides of the Same Molecular Coin

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For as long as I have been studying endometriosis, I have suspected that endometriosis represented a protective cascade, one that has either gone awry or was incapable of fully eliminating or adapting to an internal stressor. To me, endometriosis behaves like cancer; not the cancer of aberrant oncogenes and tumor suppressors, though they are factors, but the cancer of metabolism, of Otto Warburg and others. I think aberrant metabolism is the key to understanding endometriosis and a myriad of other disease processes, including heavy menstrual bleeding. Until recently, however, I have not had much evidence to support this hypothesis. There is a troubling paucity of research on topics related to women’s health. Of the research that exists, much of it is focused on tried and mostly untrue conventional interpretations disease. Interpretations, I would argue, that do more to serve economic or political purposes than health, but I digress.

Over the last few years, however, mitochondrial metabolism has emerged as key determinant of health or disease. Central to this work is the role of cellular hypoxia. In order for cells to function, in order for our brains to think, our hearts to pump, muscles to contract, the mitochondria, organelles within the cells, must breathe. That is, they must consume oxygen and respire. Mitochondrial oxygen consumption results in the critically important production of ATP – cellular energy. Without oxygen, no ATP. Without ATP, nothing works. Cells die. Tissues die. Organs fail. Whether and how quickly injury or death ensues is determined by a number of factors, including the totality of the oxygen deprivation, but also, the metabolic flexibility to withstand insufficient oxygenation, even at low levels. Mitochondrial metabolism can be derailed quite easily by dietpharmaceutical and environmental chemicals, and even a sedentary lifestyle. Metabolic alterations may transpire across generations when exposures are coincident with critical periods of fetal development and even result in de novo or first generation mutations in either nDNA or mtDNA. Mitochondrial metabolism is a key determinant of health and may in fact determine whether and how oxygenation is maintained at the cellular level.

Hypoxia and the HIF Survival Cascades

Adequate oxygenation in the cell involves a system of molecular adaptations that kick into gear during periods of hypoxia and remit when oxygenation returns. These survival cascades are initiated by oxygen sensors that trigger a set of proteins called hypoxia inducible factors (HIF1α and its counterparts HIF1β, HIF2α, HIF3α). HIFs are the master regulators of oxygen homeostasis, ensuring cell survival during periods of low oxygen. So far, researchers have identified at least 100 other proteins controlled by HIFs and tasked with bringing more oxygen and fuel into the cells. HIFs activate angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels), erythropoiesis (production of new blood cells) and iron metabolism (oxygen carriers), glucose metabolism (substrate for ATP), growth factors, and other proteins. When all else fails, the HIF system signals apoptosis, cell death. In the short term, the hypoxia cascades are brilliant in their ability to forestall anoxia and death. In the long term, however, they wreak havoc.

If you have followed the endometriosis research, most if not all of the proteins involved in maintaining and spreading endometriotic lesions are controlled by HIF proteins. I suspect they were activated by disturbed mitochondrial metabolism, either causatively or consequently. Owing to the laws of reciprocity, once hypoxia sets in, it will disturb mitochondrial metabolism further, initiating a downward spiral that becomes difficult to unwind without full consideration of mitochondrial function. Of interest, these same cascades are active in preeclampsia and other diseases of modernity. In fact, I think many of the diseases we see in western cultures, are a result of long term, low level, cellular hypoxia mediated by mitochondrial dysfunction.

What precipitates the hypoxia and the mitochondrial dysfunction is not clear, but here again, I have some ideas. With endometriosis I suspect there are multiple factors that coalesce to generate cell level hypoxia.  Fetal and germ cell damage of our grandmothers and mothers mitigated by environmental (hereherehere) and/or pharmaceutical toxicants combined with our own exposures are key among them. For the heavy menstrual bleeding, however, I think the origins are almost entirely environmental, and by environmental, I mean the totality of the modern environment that includes diet, pharmaceuticals, and the ever-present industrial and environmental chemicals that pervade our existence.

With endometriosis, the hypoxia cascades are hyperactive. That is, HIF proteins are more prominent and seem not to be degraded effectively, suggesting a chronic or unremitting hypoxic threat. The ever-present HIF proteins then activate the compensatory cascades discussed above, promoting endometriotic lesion growth and the invasion into healthy cells. In contrast, with heavy menstrual bleeding researchers have found lower levels of HIF proteins. On the surface, this might suggest hypoxia is not involved, but I suspect it is. I just don’t know how exactly. There are hints to suggest I am correct. The question is why are the HIF proteins lower in women who bleed more heavily and higher in women with endometriosis?  Is the bleeding another mechanism to deal with an unresolved localized hypoxia; one mediated perhaps by a different hormonal milieu?

Hypoxic Spirals and Mitochondrial Metabolism

In either case, aberrant HIF tells us that mitochondrial metabolism is altered. What it does not tell us is why or how. In many regards, however, the why and how may not matter? There are so many factors capable of affecting mitochondrial metabolism that determining THE factor is all but meaningless and perhaps a fool’s errand inasmuch as mitochondrial phenotypes even with the same genotypes are rarely consistent. More often than not, mitochondrial symptoms express with tremendous variability even in family members. This owes largely to the fact that mitochondria, as the cell danger sensors, are malleable by just about everything from nutritional status to genetics to environmental exposures and anything in between. In fact, something as simple as a nutrient deficiency, even a low-level one, can induce mitochondrial hypoxia. Carried out across time, the disease processes evoked appear identical to their genetic counterparts, and can induce de novo mutations generationally, effectively blurring the once hard and fast distinctions between genetic and environmental disease processes.

High calorie malnutrition, diets high in sugars and processed foods loaded in environmental chemicals but deficient in actual nutrients induce hypoxia. Many of agricultural, industrial and medical chemicals have been linked directly to endometriosis. Generationally, the effects are compounded. Consider DDTDioxinsPBCs, and DES. All are genotoxic, damage mitochondria and have been linked to endometriosis. Linkages to heavy menstrual bleeding are less well known, due to a complete lack of research. However, if we consider fibroids are one the most common causes of heavy menstrual bleeding, rodent research shows clear connections between long term, low level, food exposures to glyphosate, Bt toxin, and adjuvants, the chemical cocktail found in Roundup and used on genetically modified crops, to fibroid tumor growth. I suspect the accumulation of these and other toxins are keys to understanding the cell level hypoxia associated with heavy menstrual bleeding. The fibroid, like the endometriotic implant, may represent a mechanism to sequester toxicants or in the case of heritable damage, remediate a flaw in bioenergetics with the resulting hypoxia a side-effect that then initiates its own survival cascades – the hypoxic spiral.

Hypoxic spirals are quite easy to initiate but somewhat difficult to stop, especially when resource availability is limited because of either or both genetic or environmental liabilities. Consider the self-perpetuating cascades in iron deficiency or anemia, common in women. Anemia induces cell level hypoxia, which induces heavy bleeding. The heavy bleeding then induces or maintains the anemia. Similarly, Lupron, a medication used for both endometriosis and fibroids causes cell level hypoxia directly by damaging the mitochondria and reducing their metabolic flexibility. Hormonal contraceptives do as well. Indeed, one could argue that since all medications and vaccines damage the mitochondria by some mechanism or another, the ability to consume oxygen is necessarily impaired by modern therapeutics for all who use these chemicals. Reproductive ailments may simply be one set of manifestations among many. This begs the question, however, if cellular hypoxia can be induced so easily, in virtually anyone, why is it that some women develop endometriosis and/or heavy menstrual bleeding and others do not. In other words, why aren’t all women plagued with these disease processes? Increasingly, they are.

Damage to female reproductive function, colloquially referred to as ‘period problems’, has become almost commonplace in modern cultures affecting some 80% of the female population. Whether the issues present as endometriosis, adenomyosis, PCOS, fibroids, heavy bleeding or other menstrual or reproductive disease processes, may not matter. The nexus of each may be indicative of cell level hypoxia with the different phenotypes contingent on the individual’s cocktail of genetic, epigenetic, and environmental exposures and resources.

Treatment Possibilities

If hypoxia lay at the root of these disease processes, to the extent that the hypoxia can be resolved affords new treatment opportunities; ones that not only tackle root causes, rather than symptoms, but may also affect the totality of the individual’s health. Hypoxia, barring obstruction, is a metabolic disturbance. Whether the origins are genetic, epigenetic or environmental, metabolism resides in the mitochondria. If we support the mitochondria, provide the mitochondria with the resources, the fuel to perform the tasks they are proscribed to perform, rather than continually damaging or blocking innate signaling pathways needed for cell survival, we may just be able to, if not eliminate these disease processes, at least manage them and improve quality of life. I think this is worth looking into, don’t you?

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More people than ever are reading Hormones Matter, a testament to the need for independent voices in health and medicine. We are not funded and accept limited advertising. Unlike many health sites, we don’t force you to purchase a subscription. We believe health information should be open to all. If you read Hormones Matter, like it, please help support it. Contribute now.

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Graphic credits: Tony Grist (Photographer’s own files) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published on May 9, 2017. 

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Endometriosis, Lupron, and Fluoroquinolones: A Recipe for Autonomic Disintegration

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I am sharing my health story in the hopes that someone can offer assistance. I had stage 4 endometriosis for years before it was diagnosed. On top of that, I have had reactions in antibiotics, including fluoroquinolones and was given Lupron. Each drug destroyed more of my health. I am currently bedridden, in pain and unable to function. I have lost hearing in my right ear, have Sjögren’s syndrome, Hashimoto’s, adrenal insufficiency, hypokalemia, electrolyte imbalances, IBS, MCS, Ocular migraines and recently, have been diagnosed with dysautonomia. My body feels like it is disintegrating. We believe that everything is related, that I have mitochondrial issues at the root of these illnesses, but to date, no one has been able to put the pieces together. With the help of my husband, I have put together my health history. We are looking for input.

Early Warning Signs

1985: late summer, I was hit by car while riding bicycle. I was banged up really bad and definitely had head injury.

1998: started feeling off, not sure yet at this point still very young

2001: birth of my first daughter. I developed severe preeclampsia and had an emergency C-section three days later. My daughter was 6 weeks early and spent two weeks in the intensive care unit.

2002-2003: I felt off at times and did go to GP on several occasions. I had pain shot to my back. I am not sure what it was but it took the pain away. I also kept saying just didn’t feel well. I felt off but nothing was found.

2005: the birth of our son and second C-section. I was on bed rest last three months of the pregnancy. I was given an antibiotic for some reason. I do not remember. I had a reaction to it and turned orange. The doctor gave me something else to counter the effects of the antibiotic and my color returned to normal. It was a normal birth.

2006-2007: I was still in pain. The pain moved to the abdominal area. I developed bowel issues, had and ovarian cyst. I saw gastrointestinal physician who did scans and found a thickening of the lining of uterus. He referred us back to the gynecologist who did D&C in 2007 and said I had very minuscule amount of endometriosis.

2008- 2009: still seeing OB for pelvic pain, also seeing multiple other doctors including a neurologist, internist, and surgeon. Everyone kept saying same thing: ‘Your fine. It’s in your head.” They wanted to put me on mood enhancers. I tried lorazepam and felt terrible on it, so I stopped after two weeks.

The Lupron Disaster

September 2009: I started doing Lupron injections from gynecologist. She was very forceful with me and stated “if you don’t do these injections I can’t help you.” She said it was the only way they could know if the pain was below the belly or above. I agreed reluctantly, but at that time still thought my doctors had their best interests in me. After the first injection, my doctor called at home on a Saturday to see how I was feeling. I responded I was already in pain, but it has now quadrupled and I feel like an old person. Every bone in my body hurt.  I couldn’t believe the amount of pain I was in. She said I had to get all 6 injections if it were to be able to help me.

At that time, my husband because of work only went to a few of my appointments. I soon began to have him go with me because I felt I was getting the run around.

Hearing Loss Post-Lupron: Let’s Add Fluoroquinolones and Steroids to the Mix

2010: the last injection was in February. I began to lose my hair. I had memory loss, stabbing and taser sensations in head. I was still getting pains in abdomen area. In September, I went in for ear pain. The ENT said it looked like a scratch, so he gave me fluoroquinolone drops. I had also taken other fluoroquinolone antibiotics for yeast infections earlier in the year. In October, I had sudden sensorineural hearing loss in the right ear. Within an hour, I called my husband told him my hearing was acting weird. I went totally deaf in my right ear, 8 months after my last injection of Lupron. My local ENT immediately gave me a shot of cortisone (I was able to still walk and drive). It all went crazy when my ENT put me on a large dose of oral prednisone for 14 days. Everything in my body went nuts. I was rolling out of bed, holding on to the walls to help me walk. I totally lost my balance. The oral prednisone really did a number on my head.  I had done genetic testing through 23andMe and our doctor upload the report to a reader called Opus23. It said that I should never take prednisone.

I went to Stanford Medical and saw top ENT and received three cortisone injections into the right ear drum. Had a 50/50 chance for recovery and for me it didn’t work. I left Stanford with them telling me they still don’t have all the answers yet when it comes to sudden hearing loss. They thought it was some sort of viral infection that attacked the ear drum and deafened the ear. After the hearing loss. I had three ER visits. This is when I first started having low potassium. I felt like I was about to pass out. I was still driving at this time, I didn’t know what to think.

2011 -2012: I began seeing a naturopathic physician. I also did a trip down to LA to the House Ear clinic to see some specialist regarding her hearing loss. They couldn’t help either. I left my current OB and started seeing the physician who was filling in. I ended up doing a partial hysterectomy with her after finding a growth at one of my numerous ER visits that year. I was still working and a full-time mommy, while dealing with massive pain in my lower abdomen and now starting to deal with multiple autoimmune diseases including: Sjögren’s syndrome, Hashimoto’s, adrenal insufficiency. In addition, a lot of my minerals and vitamins were off at that time. I suspect this was beginning of my dysautonomia. I also began seeing an endometriosis specialist at Stanford.

Was it Endometriosis All Along?

2013: On January 31st, I had laparoscopic surgery to clear the endometriosis. I had stage 4 endometriosis which took my appendix. The physician said my body was littered with endometriosis. He even checked up in my heart cavity to make sure no endometriosis had made its way up to the heart. Before the surgery, I was talking with the anesthesiologist and telling him about my hearing loss and my low potassium. That is when he stopped the surgery and I had to take a stress test. We left and went to Palo Alto heart center and did a stress test I fasted for 24 hours and then they had me go do a stress test on a treadmill on an empty stomach. I did it no problem and went back to the surgery center. That is when they did the laparoscopic surgery and found stage 4 endometriosis.

Also, I want to point out that we didn’t find out until much later that during the course of the endometriosis surgery, they had left surgical clips and suturing material in me. We discovered this at one of our many ER visits. The OR report from our doctor says nothing about these things being left inside of me. I believe this is an additional pain I have on top of the other complications in my abdomen area. Nothing like having a wad of surgical clips throughout my abdomen and suturing material left inside my already struggling body. We are trying to get these removed, but no surgeon will take my case.

Mitochondrial Damage and Autonomic Disintegration

April that year, I had another ER visit. I lost all bodily functions. My potassium was severely low. I would go to the ER in 2013 many more times.

2014: I had to stop working totally this year. I tried to come back and assist a friend of mine just being her loan officer assistant but the neurological pains and crazy foggy brain I was experiencing was just too much. Something that was so easy for me years earlier, I was now having trouble just doing basic loan officer task at this point. Strange neurological pains were becoming a normal. I stopped driving this year also. It was just getting to scary for me to continue. I continued to go to ER for multiple visits

2014- 2017: I went to the ER over 50 times for various reasons: heart pains, chest pains, shooting stabbing pains throughout my entire body. I almost always had low potassium. Over these years, we spent our life savings and pulled out a $100,000 from my husband’s 401k, which we spent on various treatment plans. We have traveled as far away to Philadelphia looking for answers. We even gutted our house when we were told at one time it must be mold that is killing me. We lived in a borrowed 5th wheel while my husband put our house back together. There have been numerous days where I felt I couldn’t go on one more minute. I felt like death was right around the corner.

In 2015 one of our doctors after reading my genetic report thought he found a breakthrough with a patient that had hypokalemia and Sjogren’s syndrome. He provided me a copy of the study they did on a girl with very similar symptoms to mine. He had our local compounding pharmacy mix a solution called Shohl’s. I took the solution after my doctor assured me I would be ok. Well, I tried it almost within in minutes I was convulsing and went into tachycardia. My husband called 911 ambulance took me to the ER. In route to hospital paramedic gave me nitroglycerin. I was monitored for several hours and eventually went home. During this time had been staying at my mother-in-law’s house for about 6 months because we weren’t sure at this point if something in our house was making me so sick. This was a very stressful time for me at this point we have no idea what’s going on and what’s causing this.

We did have some relief in 2017 when our local naturopathic doctor was able to get a new treatment called UBL or ultraviolet blood irradiation. I had about 6 months where I was feeling off, but having somewhat good days where I could semi-function. My viral count has been very high during these years, EBV, CMV, HHV6, etc., and possibly Lyme. If I push myself, I will crash for hours sometimes days until I start to get any strength back just to walk to the restroom.

Next, I went in for a completely different treatment called prolotherapy. I got one injection into my shoulder, and just like that my body reverted back to like I was before the UBL treatments. I was worse again. It was very strange my body reacted like that.

2016: I was diagnosed with dysautonomia by another specialist, an electrophysiologist cardiologist. I have several of the sub symptoms of dysautonomia including: postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), neurocardiogenic syncope (NCS), dizziness, vertigo, fainting, fast, slow or irregular heartbeat, chest pain, low blood pressure, problems with gastrointestinal system, nausea, disturbances in visual field, weakness, breathing difficulties, mood swings, anxiety, fatigue and intolerance to exercise, migraines, disrupted sleep patterns, temperature regulation problems, concentration and memory problem, poor appetite and overactive sense, especially when exposed to noise and light. We also met with a dozen or so other specialists. None were able to help.

I have multiple tears in both hips worse on right side. Multiple torn areas in the pelvic floor also.  Surgery is out of pocket and we have not been able to fly back and have surgery to repair those tears and hips yet as of 2019.

2018- 2019: I went to the ER only three times in 2018 and so far only three times in 2019. We try not to go because we know they never find much. I only go to be reassured that my vitals are still strong when I’m feeling at my worst. I have been denied disability. I had a neurocardiogenic seizure in the courtroom with judge and she still denied me. I have one last appeal that I am waiting on. I am not very hopeful that will go through. At this point, the dysautonomia, fibromyalgia/ chronic neurological pain and the low potassium are what are the hardest things for me to deal with. As of right now, we are concentrating on rebuilding my mitochondrial cells in hoping I can reverse some or most of the damage I think was a direct cause from the Lupron injections.

I was also on bio-identical progesterone creme from around 2012 to 2018. Then, in middle of 2018, my ND wanted me to try the bio-identical that went off the lunar moon cycle. It was a separate estrogen and progesterone creme in a plastic push-up type applicator. She said she was looking into it and thought it might help. Well, I tried it and had terrible side effects, I think most likely from the adding in the estrogen. After second month, I was having terrible stomach pains. I looked four months pregnant and was begging my husband to take me to the ER. The pain was worst at the part of the cycle where I took the estrogen only. I felt like she was going to die. In the past, I was always high in estrogen. I am not sure, but as soon as I introduced in that estrogen, it threw me out of whack terribly. I stopped that in November of 2018.

This is where I am now: in pain, unable to work or care for my children. My husband is my full-time caregiver. He takes care of our kids, shops cooks, does everything I used to do plus works his full-time job. I couldn’t do this without him. The doctors have run out answers. I believe it was the endometriosis all along, made infinitely worse by Lupron and the various rounds of antibiotics, including fluoroquinolones. The only way I can maintain my potassium levels is through huge daily doses. Otherwise, I slide into hypokalemia. We have a standing order at our local hospital to measure my potassium whenever I suspect it is low. We have sought treatment from dozens of specialists and spent our entire life savings and I am no better than I was 10 years ago. In fact, I am worse. Over the last 8 years, we have been supplementing with vitamins and minerals to try and repair the damage done to my mitochondria by the Lupron and the fluoroquinolones. Some things help and others do not. We are at wits end and do not know where to turn for help. Below is a list of supplements that I currently take.

Supplement List

Upon waking:

  • 600mg potassium,
  • 1 1/4 grain Naturethroid

Breakfast:

  • 3 200mg potassium. Daily total 1200mg
  • 1 Chewable Hydroxo B-12
  • 1 COQ10 100MG
  • 1 Biotin 10,000mcg chewable
  • 1 Chromium picolinate 200mcg chewable
  • 1 Desiccated adrenal from Standard process
  • 1 magnesium malate 100mg
  • 1 Thiamin 50mg
  • 1 Mitocore – it is like a multiple vitamin
  • 5 grams vitamin C, mixed with juice, plus I add Lugol’s iodine, colloidal silver, lymph drain and trace mineral mix.

Mid-morning:

  • 3 200mg potassium again – daily total 1800mg
  • B12 shot, a 100iu syringe

Lunch:

  • 3 200mg potassium, daily total 2400mg
  • 1 vitamin A 10.000iu
  • 1 vitamin K 90mcg
  • 1 Lugol’s iodine plus
  • 1 nettle leaf cap 400mg
  • 1 Monolaurin 600mg
  • 2 L-lysine 1000mg
  • 1 thiamin 50mg
  • 1 magnesium malate 100mg
  • 1 more Hydroxo B12

Diner:

  • 3 200mg potassium, daily total 3000mg
  • 1 thiamin 50mg
  • 1 milk thistle 150mg
  • 2 L-lysine 1000mg
  • 1 DHEA 25mg
  • 1 magnolia bark 450mg
  • 1 Digestive enzymes
  • 1 Dr. Berg Hair formula.
  • 1 L-carnitine 250mg

We Need Your Help

More people than ever are reading Hormones Matter, a testament to the need for independent voices in health and medicine. We are not funded and accept limited advertising. Unlike many health sites, we don’t force you to purchase a subscription. We believe health information should be open to all. If you read Hormones Matter, like it, please help support it. Contribute now.

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Image: Maximum Speed of Raphael’s Madonna, Salvador Dali, 1954.

Posted originally on Aug 20, 2019.

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Undiagnosable or Sustained Ignorance?

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Over the last several years, I have born witness to immense human suffering; young women wracked by pain, with organs diseased, struggling to survive; some have seizures, brain infections are common, many have nerve damage, some develop cancer, and others die; sometimes by their own hands, so desperate for relief that suicide seems like a legitimate option, and other times by the cumulative effects of bad medicine.

These women are poked and prodded by physicians, hospitalized for extended periods, surgery after surgery, failed treatment after failed treatment, with no hope in sight. Their pain grows. Their symptoms worsen. Their suffering continues. In many cases, they are dropped by their physicians because their conditions are too complex to understand and too difficult to manage. They are undiagnosable, often untreatable, and their struggles are mostly invisible to the public.

They are your sisters, your mothers, your wives, your daughters, your girlfriends and colleagues. They are the 50% of the population that medical science ignores and the pharmaceutical industry preys upon. They are women. This is their story. And as a woman, a mom, a scientist and an advocate for women’s health– this is my story too. As a human being, how can it not be your story too?

Let me point you to the personal stories of the women I work with. Many were healthy once, prior to a medication or vaccine adverse reaction or ill-conceived surgery or surgical device. Some were not so healthy, suffering from one of the many undiagnosable women’s health conditions. But all of the women I work with have one thing in common – they fell victim to the promise of medical science. They believed that their doctors understood the effects of the drugs they were prescribed. They believed in the surgical treatment their doctor suggested. They believed that their doctors could find the source of their pain and treat it. They were wrong.

Meet Alisa, Alexis, Nicole, Britt, Nina, Ashley, Tracie, Susan, Danielle, Michelle, Kerri, Rosemary, Jordan, Philippa, Lisa, Angela, Kelsey, Rachel, Roxie, Rosalie, Heather, Jill, Louise, Sydney, Suki, Destini, Lisa, Emily, Debra, Patti, BJS, Joan, HollyMAK, DES Daughter, Lisbeth, Robin, WS, Sarah, Zoe, Gabriella, Erika, Janet, Yuka, Sharne, SWC, Stacey, Bette, Amber, Momoka, Yumi, Dorothy, Samantha, Kristin, Katelyn, Jean, Sarah M., ErikaCharlotte, Kerry, Sharon, Taylor, Brandi, Alisen, Jess, J.H., Alex, Sandra, Theresa, Ann, Connie, Jessica, Kristyn, Bernadette, MJ, Marit, Alyson, Detrease, Claudia, Kristen G., Annie, Rebecca, Grace, JuliaBrooke, Anna-Karin, BrittanyKristen S., CS, Asha, Anne, Leslie, Sharida, Lisa P., Daniel’s wife, AnnieJMR, June, Lisa MH, Casey, Margaret, Nicole, Stacey R., Stephanie, Karen, and all the men and women who shared their stories anonymously and the millions of others suffering in silence.

I have come to realize that their suffering is not uncommon. It is not a fluke. They are not the outliers of modern medicine; rather, they are the norm. Perhaps, the details of a particular story change somewhat, but every woman (and more and more men) has a health story; one that is marked by unending medical confusion and half-witted diagnoses based, not on a deep understanding, but on wild-assed guesses levied by pharmaceutical marketing. Indeed, if the illness does not have a medication then, in the eyes of all but the most progressive physicians, it does not exist. That may explain why the prevalence of medically unexplained symptoms ranges from 25-75% in outpatient settings, with pain being the most common.

Worse yet, when a medication elicits an adverse reaction, especially one that is chronic and complex, the patient is left to fend for themselves. It takes decades for recognition that a medication or vaccine might evoke complex reactions beyond those associated with anaphylaxis. The statistics for women’s healthcare back this up.

Did you know that it takes 5-10 years to diagnose common women’s health conditions and that once diagnosed there are often no medications or effective treatment options? You’d think that that since the development of modern medicine, someone, somewhere, would figure out how to diagnose and effectively treat some of these conditions? You’d be wrong.

Did you know that only 30% of Ob/Gyn Clinical Practice Guidelines are based on actual data – 70% are based on consensus? Sit with that one for a minute. You’d have a better chance of getting an accurate diagnosis with a dartboard.

Did you know that before the mid-1990s, women were prohibited from being in clinical trials – meaning that no medications developed before then were ever tested on women? Hundreds of medications currently on the market were developed before women were permitted into clinical trials.

Did you know that even today women represent only about 30% of early clinical trial participants? It is in the early trials that safety and efficacy data are established. Not even female rodents were used in testing drugs that would be used in the female population until 2014.

Did you know that even when women are included in clinical trials, there is no mandate to analyze the safety or efficacy data by sex – to see if a particular medication causes more adverse reactions in women, or even works in women? It took 20 years to realize Ambien dosing for women was different than for men. And by different, I mean, it should have been half. For the twenty years this drug was on the market women were over-dosing because no one bothered to consider sex as a variable in pharmacokinetic research.

Did you know that women account for disproportionately more serious and more frequent adverse reactions and that most of the major drug recalls in recent history were due to the adverse events experienced by women?

Nope, you probably didn’t know that because it’s not common knowledge. Unless, you are one of the millions of individuals suffering from an undiagnosable, untreatable, unknowable disease or adverse reaction, then it is all too real.

And though I focus of women’s health, men are not completely risk free. The British Medical Journal reports that when 3000 commonly used medications were reviewed, less than 50% had the appropriate data to suggest any efficacy whatsoever. Worse yet, because of publication bias, fraud, and the closed clinical trials system allows pharmaceutical companies hide their negative results behind the walls of intellectual property, when already approved medications are re-evaluated using the previously closed trial data, the recommendations for use changed for 93% of the medications – 93%. For cancer drugs, efficacy could be confirmed in only 11% of the studies reanalyzed. That’s just wrong. We can do better. We must do better.

As I rattle off these stats, you might be thinking to yourself, ‘but Chandler, those adverse reactions, those drug side effects are rare, they wouldn’t, they couldn’t, happen to me or my family, we’re healthy.’  Think again.

According to the Mayo Clinic, 70% of all Americans take at least one pharmaceutical chronically, 50% take two, and 20% take five or more medications, even during pregnancy where 80% of women take at least one medications and 30% take four or more, an increase of more than 60% over the last 15 years. And don’t get me started about administering vaccines to pregnant women under the auspices of protecting the fetus. There are no data suggesting that a vaccine during pregnancy is anything more than a toxic cocktail that both mom and fetus have to survive, and many do not. None of these medications or vaccinations have ever been tested for safety or efficacy during pregnancy, read the package inserts. Similarly, infants, children and adolescents represent key demographics for pharmaceutical marketing and once again, only 10-20% of pediatric medications were tested on children. We have no idea what illnesses we are initiating by our overuse of medications and vaccines. None. And therein lies the problem.

We Need Your Help

More people than ever are reading Hormones Matter, a testament to the need for independent voices in health and medicine. We are not funded and accept limited advertising. Unlike many health sites, we don’t force you to purchase a subscription. We believe health information should be open to all. If you read Hormones Matter, like it, please help support it. Contribute now.

Yes, I would like to support Hormones Matter.

This article was published originally on October 31, 2017, and as one might expect, the list of women who have suffered at the hands of sustained ignorance has grown considerably. 

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Infertility Faux Pas: 5 Things Not to Say to Someone Struggling to Conceive

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Infertility is really, really hard. It’s harder than I’ve ever even admitted to myself. It’s also deeply personal. Reminders of your infertility are everywhere. I’m not just talking about all of the babies at the employee picnic or the pregnant women at the grocery store or the mailbox full of baby announcements and shower invitations. I’m talking about insidious little reminders like this ad that Aldi posted on Twitter.

Aldi Tweet

“Dear Aldi, you are opening a giant, fluorescently lit discount grocery store. You are not having a baby,” is what I was thinking when I read this tweet. (After clicking the link, it turns out that Aldi is starting to carry a line of baby products so I can see how the people in charge of marketing would think this advertisement is clever. Even so, it still feels a little like- “oh, even a grocery store can have a baby… but not me!”)

Infertility affects millions of women— over 6 million in the United States alone. It is so common that I’m sure you know at least one person affected by it. Yet as common as it is, people still say the strangest things when they find out you are struggling to conceive. So if you would like to be a more sensitive person to those you know (or may not even realize you know) that are dealing with fertility issues, here are some things not to say.

“You just need to relax and then it will happen.”

I cannot count how many well-meaning people have told me this. I also cannot count the ways I tried to “relax” in order to get pregnant. I got massages and acupuncture and did so many yoga classes I became a yoga teacher. I meditated. I feng shui-ed my house. I talked to my belly. I went on vacation. I thought about getting pregnant. I stopped thinking about getting pregnant. And guess what? None of those things make you pregnant. You cannot relax your way into pregnancy any more than you can relax your way into making it rain. If it’s not going to rain, it’s not going to rain.

Why this is unhelpful: You are essentially blaming me for my infertility when you say this. Infertile women (and most women for that matter) are already blaming ourselves for so many things that are really out of our control. Please stop blaming us for this, too. Also, studies show that moderate stress does not affect fertility.

What to say instead: Wow, that must be really hard. I’m here to listen if you ever want to talk about it.

“I know so many people who started the adoption process and then got pregnant.”

Good for you! Good for them! Do I really need to explain why this is so ridiculous? Okay, I will. Adoption is not a cure for pregnancy. I could see how this would be confusing to some people because it can be an alternate way to grow your family when you can’t grow them in your body. However, it is not a magic pill that tricks your body into getting pregnant. Most people who say this think that you are just too focused on getting pregnant and that starting the adoption process will distract you and therefore make you pregnant. This false logic is closely tied to the “relax and it will happen” (see above). It is akin to telling Michael Phelps that his body will swim faster if he just takes up knitting.

Why this is unhelpful: The only people that should start the adoption process are the people who are ready and excited to adopt. Adoption is not a placebo for pregnancy.

What to say instead: Wow, that must be really hard. I’m here to listen if you ever want to talk about it.

“Why don’t you just adopt a (twelve-year-old/ handicapped kid/ kid with cancer)? I would totally do that.”

The people who have said these things to me are invariably the people who had zero problems conceiving their 2-5 perfectly healthy children. Let me tell you something about coming to the decision to adopt a child. It is a very hard thing for many people. Especially when you have dreamed of having a child that looks like you and your partner. Especially when you have imagined what it must be like to feel your baby move inside you, a very part of you.

When you don’t actually have to make that decision, you can imagine you are the type of person that would adopt any and every desperate child in the world no matter the circumstance. Your heart is just that big. You can imagine that you would be the Mother Teresa of adoptive parents. And you can sit with your perfectly healthy, instantly conceived child in your lap while having fantasies about what kind of person you are. BUT when you actually start the adoption process, the fantasy stops. Because you literally have to write down what you are willing to deal with and what you would rather not deal with. Which means you have to say, “hey, you know what, I don’t really want to adopt a kid with cancer because going through the adoption process and becoming a parent is already hard enough.” Remember above where I said we infertile women are already blaming ourselves enough? Cue the crashing waves of guilt for wanting a healthy baby when there are so many other children that need homes. Does anyone ever blame a pregnant woman for wanting a healthy baby?

Why this is unhelpful: The adoption process is challenging, exhausting, and often extremely expensive. Judging anyone’s decision about when and how they proceed with this process (especially if you have no experience with adoption) isn’t just ridiculous. It’s cruel.

What to say instead: Wow, that must be really hard. I’m here to listen if you ever want to talk about it.

“I’m pregnant! April Fools!”

Since the United States treats pregnancy like a disability anyway, this could be a little like saying “I’m in a wheelchair! Just kidding!” Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but it’s a weird thing to joke about. And it’s a thoughtless thing to joke about.

Also, according to the CDC, nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended. I would imagine an unintended pregnancy is very stressful, too.

Why this is unhelpful: Not only are you poking those of us who are infertile but you’re likely causing anxiety for half of your pregnant friends as well.

What to say instead: Nothing. Have you ever heard a good April fool’s joke?

“Happy Mother’s Day.”

I don’t think I am one to take things personally when it’s not warranted. Maybe I used to but as I mentioned above, I’m very relaxed now (lots of yoga classes… seriously, tons). However, this one stings. It just does. For the past couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough to spend Mother’s Day with two of the best mothers out there, my mom and my sister. During the course of the day, sales clerks, servers, and other people we encountered would say to each of us, “Happy Mother’s Day!” Sure, these lovely folks got it right for two out of three. Yet for me, each time felt sort of like a tiny little dagger into my infertile little heart.

Why this is unhelpful: It’s not really unhelpful. It’s well-meaning. But it still hurts those who aren’t mothers yet desperately want to be.

What to say instead: I don’t know. Keep being nice to people for sure. The world is too hard not to. Maybe try a genuine, “I hope you’re having a really nice day” rather than a robotic “Happy Mother’s Day!” to every woman that comes through your check-out line.

I did leave one thing off the list. Never, ever, ever comment when a woman is buying a pregnancy test. There is no right thing to say here. Not “oooh how exciting!” Not “uh-oh, good news or bad news?” Not “you must be celebrating tonight!” Remember when I said above how many people were dealing with fertility issues and also how half of all pregnancies are unplanned? More times than not, pregnancy tests are bringing tough news. Don’t comment on these at all.

I’m sure if you have dealt with fertility issues you could add others to this list. What have people said to you that made things harder? Was there anything anyone told you that was helpful?

We Need Your Help

More people than ever are reading Hormones Matter, a testament to the need for independent voices in health and medicine. We are not funded and accept limited advertising. Unlike many health sites, we don’t force you to purchase a subscription. We believe health information should be open to all. If you read Hormones Matter, like it, please help support it. Contribute now.

Yes, I would like to support Hormones Matter. 

This article was published originally in June 2016.

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The Reality of Endometriosis in the ER

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I’m lying on an emergency room bed, writhing in agony, screaming in pain, as though my insides are being torn to shreds. I curl up my body, protecting myself from the evil inner force that resides within me, stabbing me, shocking my organs. My mind is frantic, confused, manic. Lights and sounds mix together around me and I close my eyes to minimize the sensory overload. The white sheets under me feel scratchy and irksome, I can’t deal with any added discomfort. Searing pain bubbles within me, threatening to boil over, and when it does, I let out a scream from the very depths of my soul.

I hear a voice and attempt agonizingly to open my eyes. A women in a white coat stands in front of me, arms crossed in a stance that conveys a mixture of disdain and apathy.

“Rachel,” she demands, her voice both indifferent and annoyed, “want to tell me why you’re here?”

Is she joking? I wonder to myself while trying to gather my coherent thoughts, does she not see I’m in excruciating pain?

“Pain…” I manage to say, the word more a miserable moan than an answer. “I need meds…”

“I’ll decide what you need,” she replies nastily. “You’ve been here way too many times, asking for medicine each time. You don’t need meds, Rachel, you need to go to rehab. You’re an addict.”

I can’t control my tears any longer and I let them flow freely as I sob uncontrollably. Didn’t she see my chart? Doesn’t she see that I have endometriosis? Does she know how painful it is?

“I have endometriosis,” I muster, “I take normal pain meds everyday but they are not working today. The pain is worse than usual!”

And then my senses can’t take the pain any longer, and I scream out desperately once more. All thoughts abscond from my brain, all I can think of is dying to get rid of the pain.  The doctor looks at me like I am a dirty piece of clothing on the floor. She purses her lips and then spits out, “I suppose I can give you some Motrin or Tylenol.”

I am so desperate at this point I agree to her pointless suggestion. My head knows the meds will not help, but my body is starving for relief. Needless to say, thirty minutes later the Motrin has left me right where I was before I took it: in paralyzing pain.

A nurse comes into my cubicle a throws a glance at my miserable form. “You’re being discharged!” she sings, as though she is freeing me from jail. Her smile is grotesquely wide as she hands me a pen to sign my name on the discharge papers. I want to explode at her, to hurl words in her face that describe my agony and wipe that inane grin right off her face. But I don’t. Instead, I meekly take the pen, wait for a moment in which my body is able to stop shaking, and then sign the papers.

“Wheelchair will be here in a minute!” she croons, then leaves me alone with my emotions.

I fold my beaten up body into the wheelchair feeling completely empty and numb despite the pain. I am so shocked at the experience I just had. I left my heart, soul and voice in that emergency room, trying my hardest to explain the agony I was in.  I laid in front of a doctor trembling with pain, and she in turn called me an addict and sent me away. She didn’t bother to understand what I was going through, didn’t test me to see what drugs I had in my body. Instead, she took my trust, ruthlessly pummeled it, and carelessly threw it away. I leave feeling nothing more than a desire to give up and let it all go. Tonight, I have become one more casualty in the fight for us with endometriosis to be heard.

We Need Your Help

More people than ever are reading Hormones Matter, a testament to the need for independent voices in health and medicine. We are not funded and accept limited advertising. Unlike many health sites, we don’t force you to purchase a subscription. We believe health information should be open to all. If you read Hormones Matter, like it, please help support it. Contribute now.

Yes, I would like to support Hormones Matter. 

This article was posted originally in February 2014. 

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