“I was invited by Katia Martinho to tell about my journey to better health over the past year. While I enjoy writing, typing is NOT my best ability, but I do feel strongly about helping others through my experience, if it is possible. So please bear with me while I give a bit of background and try to process all the steps it took to meet Katia and get on a better path.
Until January 2015, I didn’t give my health much thought. Unless I was battling a sinus infection or suffering from a rare stomach bug, I tended to think of myself as a basically healthy adult who was overweight because I ate too much junk food and wasn’t active enough. While there is truth in the junk food eating and avoidance of exercise, I have come to realize there is so much more to the story…and that I really haven’t been that healthy after all.
Looking back at my childhood should have been a clue card. My parents have always told me what a nightmare my first two years were. Once my Mom stopped breastfeeding me, I was apprently sick all the time. I reacted negatively to every type of formula that was on the market. I cried constantly, and family members would take turns walking the floor with me. My skin was often covered in a rash, and I was bathed in Cetaphil, not in water. I never slept longer than 30 minutes at a time. My pediatricians put me on steroids, which made me bloated and lethargic, but didn’t help much. Finally, close to my second birthday, one of my doctors had my mom try a formula made from ground up beef hearts. She says it was disgusting in both smell and appearance–brown, gritty, and so thick she had to cut bigger holes in all the bottle nipples–but that nobody minded, since I finally was able to drink something that did not make me miserable. When I slept through the night for the first time, my parents kept running to check on me–they were sure something was wrong. I was finally able to enjoy playing, and started catching up to other kids my age. Because of feeling lousy for so long, I was delayed in most fine and gross motor skills, including walking and potty training.
As I grew up, I could notice some differences between myself and my peers, but of course I have no memories of the trials my family went through during my babyhood. What I DO remember is always having allergy issues. I remember going through several skin prick tests in elementary school and being on allergy shots one or two times a week for most of my childhood. I was allergic to various times of trees and grasses, pollen, dust, dogs, and cats. Even with the shots, I had a runny nose and scratchy throat much of the time. Most of my illnesses were diagnosed as sinus infections, but I did come down with strep throat a lot too. And eczema. Oh, the itching! It was especially bad behind my ears and in the creases of my arms. I think all the adults in my life were hopeful I would outgrow many of my allergies and illnesses after puberty.
On the contrary, my teen years were pretty tough. I was still getting sick more times a year than any of my classmates. Sometimes I would be given a shot in the hip of penicillin in addition to a 10 day round of antibiotics, because I had taken them so much they weren’t as effective. In addition to all the continued sinus issues, during my junior year I had such a massive outbreak of acne and skin rashes that my mom kept me out of school so we could do an emergency visit to a dermatologist. I’m not talking about a breakout of pimples across my nose, although I had that too. My whole face was tomato red and hot to the touch, I had oozing sores on my scalp that were visible at my hairline, the creases of my arms and legs were cracking open and bleeding when I moved…I looked like a creature out of a scifi movie. It was determined my eczema was out of control because of a recent overnight trip in a new environment that included pet dander I was allergic to. So I used new creams and medicated shampoo, and things slowly cleared up.
As an adult, I have expected 2.3 major sinus infections a year. I am a nanny who works with tiny germ factories every day, so I have always jokingly blamed any illnesses on my charges. Even being careful about washing my hands religiously, I expect to share some of their sickness because of the necessary proximity to it. The rest of the health issues I have experienced in the last twenty years or so, I have attributed to the allergies I still have. Any lack of energy or occasional indigestion problems, I have blamed my weight. Weight and body image have been issues for most of my adult years. I always had a problem with eating the right foods and exercising. I loved fast food. Loved the convenience of it as well as the taste. Happy meals were a special, rare treat when I was little, but in my teens, it was becoming a normal, few times a week occurrence to go through a drive through or stop by McD’s or Wendy’s between extracurricular activities. Plus, my high school actually served Pizza Hut and Taco Bell options in our cafeteria certain days of the week, and there were soda and candy vending machines on every hallway. Some of my first forays into being independent and spending my own money were junk food purchases to take into class–simply because I could. By my early 20’s, I was completely hooked on Coke, drinking at least two cans/glasses a day. Plus, on top of everything else, I have a raging sweet tooth and a specific weakness for chocolate. It was very common for me to eat donuts, Pop Tarts, or sugary cereals 4-5 mornings every week, as well as have at least a snack size candy bar or Hostess snack cake for dessert most other meals. As for exercise…I hate even the word! I have never been athletic. All of my hobbies and interests– reading, writing, scrapbooking, painting, other crafts–are sedentary. I have to force myself to walk more than just the necessary steps required for my job or housework. Soooo….
It is not surprising that the beginning of 2015, I found myself hovering in the range of 275 lbs., out of shape and with virtually no goals to get healthier. I had settled into the trap that so many of us do, playing the game of some day. Some day I will eat better. Some day I will actually use the gym membership I purchased two years ago. Someday I will take control of my health. I honestly wasn’t feeling any sense of urgency. Multiple family members, including my parents, have been taking medications for blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes for years, but I had never thought about that as having direct bearing on me. If anything, I would briefly consider the possibility that in another ten years or so, I might be facing one or two diagnoses like these myself, but quickly shove those thoughts to the back of my mind.
Then in December 2014 I was in a car accident that changed everything. In hindsight, it was probably one of the best things that could have happened. Because for the first time, I truly felt a respect for my mortality. I was shaken, bruised, and sore, but I was able to walk away from the wreck with minimal physical injuries; yet the experience haunted me and forced me to question quite a few things about the way I was living my life. It made for some restless nights and uncomfortable musings, but it provided the right state of mind to start making positive changes. Eventually. Before I got around to enlightenment, I had some pretty hellish moments. A few weeks after the wreck, when I believed I had mostly healed, I felt some weird tingling and cold sensations in my chest. I had never felt anything like it before, and it freaked me out pretty bad. I had my husband take me to the ER to be safe. Most of me was assured it was NOT related to a heart attack or anything serious, but there was a small part of me that was scared stupid that I was having a heart attack at almost 38 years old. I had the EKG done, which showed no signs of attack. I also had some Xrays done on my chest and neck. When he heard I had recently been in an accident, the doctor thought I could have a pinched nerve or other injury that wasn’t healing right. I was given muscle relaxers and sent home with instructions to follow up with an orthopedic doctor and/or my primary care doctor. I did not have a primary care doctor at that time– I really had not had a doctor of my own since phasing out of my pediatrician’s office at 22 years old. I had always used urgent care places when I felt an infection coming on.
It seemed like a good time to start a relationship with a new doctor, so I made a few calls and began the process of becoming a new patient. I didn’t call for an appointment with the ortho place until the following month, when the chest sensations came back the second time. I had hoped the pinched nerve or whatever else the cause was would resolve itself, but it did not. I went in to the ortho office and after ruling out the most obvious diagnoses through an interview, had an MRI scheduled to check my neck further for injury. That test was very difficult to endure, but also yielded nothing. Meanwhile, the chest sensations were happening more frequently and were starting to feel more like mild pain and not just cold sensations. I was also beginning to have headaches that made it feel like the skin on my scalp was being stretched uncomfortably tight, and I could feel my pulse at random times, more strongly than it should be felt in times of rest. One evening In Feb 2015, while driving home from work, these new symptoms scared me badly enough that I pulled off the road and called 911. I was mortified, even in the moment of such physical discomfort, to have EMS pick me up in the parking lot of a McDonalds. Another visit to the ER. Another EKG that showed nothing. I was embarrassed and worried and exhausted and confused as to what was going on. My husband gently suggested panic attacks. A few weeks later when meeting my new primary doctor the first time, she also suggested that possibility. Of course I could agree that my stress levels were higher than ever…I was scared all the time, hyper aware of everything my body felt. Was it normal? Had I felt it before? Was there an easy explanation for it? I was warned not to search Google for answers, but I did. That made my anxiety worse at times, better at others. I questioned if I was diabetic, anemic, or showing signs of cancer. Could the pain be caused by a hiatal hernia or blood clot? Fibromyalgia? Hypothyroidism? A blood disorder? I drove myself nuts with questions. On the doctor’s end of things, all I got was try this low dose anxiety pill up to four times a day, and let’s see what your blood work says. So I waited and worried and dreaded being alone. I have always loved my solo time to craft and read and just recharge, but I lost that last winter. I was terrified something bad would happen when I was by myself.
Moving into March, I learned from bloodwork I was anemic and was put on an iron supplement. I also went in for both a CT scan and an echocardiogram, both to ensure my heart was ok. My doctor was focusing on my chest pain as the main concern, and very rightly so–but my list of symptoms was growing, and I was concerned about all of it. The periodic episodes of intense tension headaches and chest discomfort continued. But I was also experiencing sporadic muscle cramps in my legs; tingling and numbness in my arms, hands, legs, and feet; pounding and pain in my left ear; muscle twitching or spasms all over my body, especially my eyelids; and my stomach was really starting to act up. It was the worst while I was taking an antibiotic, two rounds of which I had been put on during this time because of my usual sinus infections. On the medication, I lost my appetite or battled nausea after I ate. Even off the medicine, I was swinging between diarrhea and constipation, which had never been issues with me before. I sat in my doctor’s office listing all these things, watching her eyebrows rise higher and higher. I told her I didn’t believe the anxiety meds were helping. That I thought higher anxiety and stress were a part of what was going on, but not the problem itself. That I had a gut instinct that everything I was feeling, as weird as it seemed, was connected to the same problem and not multiple illnesses. I got a lot of “Hmmm”. I got a theory about thyroid issues. I had more blood drawn. I was sent home to wait some more.
I did more research. I had more sleepless nights. I feel like I shut out the rest of the world and clung tighter to my inner circle. I was afraid I was driving them all crazy too, because my health was the only thing I could think about. I couldn’t concentrate on TV or reading. No distraction worked for long, even when I was with the kids at work I love so much. I feared not being able to care for my charges and losing my job. Ironically, my work days were usually my best ones, since I had to focus so much on their needs instead of my own. I was irritable and overly sensitive and tired and needy.
During the times of waiting, I did find small pockets of relief in discussing matters with “alternative” caregivers. These would be my atlas orthogonal chiropractor, Dr. Brett, and Pam, a cranio sacral massage therapist I had befriended through my sister. Both Dr. Brett and Pam had been instrumental in helping my young niece Kat when she was battling issues with Sensory Processing Disorder. I had been cautious and questioning at first, but had become a regular patient of Dr. Brett’s seven years ago, and I had grown to trust Pam in observing my niece’s treatment. So when I was feeling so gross last winter, I began have chiropractic adjustments more frequently, and I set up a couple of sessions with Pam to concentrate on lowering my anxiety. I could write another novel-length story about the adjustments and cranio sacral treatments alone– but I won’t describe them here. I have loved the results of these treatments and what I have learned about stress management from massage, so I encourage anyone who is curious to research local therapists and doctors who are trained in atlas orthogonal methods of adjustment.
Talking with Dr. Brett and Pam opened up a new possibility for me as well. Both of them asked me if I had considered talking with a nutritionist to help me change my eating habits. By this point in my health journey, mid March, I had refrained from drinking soda for about a month and I was trying to stay away from sweets. I didn’t get complete relief from my headaches by doing so, but I had noticed that the headaches grew more intense when I ate caffeine or sugar. Cutting out sodas combined with the side effects of the antibiotics had led to a 30 lb weight loss in a very short amount of time. It took me off guard, since losing weight had not really been my goal– I was doing whatever I could think of to feel better. Anyway, I agreed that it would be beneficial to look into finding a nutritionist, but I didn’t start the search immediately. I continued to avoid sweets about 80% of the time and I made a concentrated effort to reduce the amount of other junk– fast food and processed food– I was eating.
May rolled around, as well as the opportunity to go to Disney World with the family I worked for. This was a huge turning point for me. I am a Disney fanatic and love visiting Disney World more than any other place. I should have had a blast showing my 4 and 2 year old charges around the parks. And I truly hoped that being in my happy place would be the biggest distraction yet, and that I wouldn’t experience any symptoms during the trip. The truth was, I felt worse than ever. I had not done any exercising at all, not even walking more than was necessary, the six months leading up to the trip. So not only was I still feeling all the familiar strangeness and blah I did at home, now I had to be out in crowds, chasing the kids in the FL humidity, doing nothing BUT walking. Walking, walking, walking. I was miserable. I had a hard time finding any enjoyment in the incredible food and the joyful reactions the kids had to the characters and parades and rides. On my off time, I didn’t feel like doing anything. I was exhausted, but still wasn’t getting any good rest at night. I sat up and scrolled through Google articles for hours on end.
This time, Google proved to be extremely helpful. I started reading more articles about stomach issues, the importance of gut health, and a disorder called leaky gut syndrome. I had heard it mentioned once or twice, in passing, but never paid attention. Until all of a sudden, reading through the list of symptoms that mirrored so many of the things I was fighting through every day, it was like a light bulb went on in my head. For the first time, I started to see for myself the connection between the food I ate, the OTC and prescription medications I had taken, the state of my gut, inflammation, autoimmune disease…it all made sense. And it all sounded like it could explain at least some of what I was going through. Getting back home from the trip, I was pretty excited. I had a new direction to look in! I went back to my primary doctor and asked her about leaky gut. I also inquired about probiotics. I wanted to start taking them immediately, even if other tests needed to be done to see about leaky gut. Well, I can’t say that the doctor laughed at me, but she certainly wasn’t very helpful, either. She admitted she did not know much about probiotics, and became the third person to recommend seeking help from a nutritionist. That visit marked the last time I sought answers from a conventional doctor. I just came to the realization that the kind of help I wanted and the answers I was starting to expect I needed were going to come from some other source.
I had never known anyone in the Columbus area who went to a nutritionist themselves, so I went back to Google. That is how I found Katia Martinho. The homeopathy linked to her name and practice gave me pause, but only for a second. The definition I founf of homeopathy online is “the treatment of disease by minute doses of natural substances that in a healthy person would produce symptoms of disease”. Okayyy… I had not planned on seeking homeopathic treatment, but I found the idea fascinating. Especially since ancient practices of well being that were based on natural substances and not Western medicines were becoming more and more appealing. I had gone down the road of steroids, antibiotics, anti anxiety meds, Tylenol, and Immodium AD. I wasn’t getting better. If anything, I was slowly getting worse. It was time to try something different.
Where I had been a nervous wreck going in to my first appointment with my doctor, I was almost giddy meeting Katia for the first time. We had spoken briefly on the phone when I set up my appointment, and I got such a positive vibe from her. More importantly, I believed in my heart of hearts that I was going to receive help; that whatever specific things Katia asked me to do would lead to me feeling better. I will give Katia herself some credit for that first awesome impression, and putting my mind at ease right from the start…but I will take some credit for myself. As Katia and others around me have stated numerous times in the past few months: it takes courage to help yourself. It takes courage and determination and a lot of backbone to face the things that are wrong in your life and change them. The first step is always acknowledging there is a problem. For me, I look at those first few months of 2015 as staying in my comfort zone. I was not at all comfortable in my comfort zone, but I was following my instincts to run to the doctor and get a pill to make it better, which is what I had always done, and what I watched most people around me do. I believe that when I started looking into alternative health practices, especially setting up the meeting with Katia, I was taking more responsibility for my health and not just expecting a miracle prescription to fix it. It was an amazing and empowering feeling. Another reason I was happy to be going to this appointment was because the very description of it sounded more appealing than a regular doctor visit. It sounded as if I would have a chance to describe, in detail, my past AND present health, as well as other aspects of my life. All areas, all things that add up to ME would be considered in treatment. It is an approach I greatly appreciate, just because it makes so much sense.
I enjoyed my first session as much as I expected. Katia was very welcoming and I liked the way she talked about her work–it was obvious she was passionate about helping others. In completing the questionnaire for hormone level assessment, I felt like my eyes were truly opened to how poorly I had been feeling. Not just since the accident and weird symptoms that had overtaken me recently, but for years. Questions that were more detailed about sleep, mood, energy levels, libido, and focus made me see that I had been existing–alive, but not thriving. I was not getting as much out of my life as I could be, or as I wanted to. It was a shocking and sobering realization. Katia was not surprised by the results; she had predicted some of them based on the conversation we’d already had over the phone. She suggested a few ideas to help me manage my stress: dry brushing my skin before bathing and soaking in Epsom salt baths a couple times a week. She also started me on my first homeopathic remedies and suggested a 21 day detox food plan as the beginning of my treatment with her.
That 21 day detox was very difficult for me. Every 3 days I would eliminate a different food group or category: red meat, sugar, caffeine, fruit, grains, dairy, and toxins. I felt like I had already made huge strides in giving up soda and sweets– limiting so many other foods, especially the dairy and grains, was not fun at all. Not to mention I had some interesting mood swings at first. I don’t think I ever truly appreciated the definition of the word “hangry” until that detox! Katia had also asked me to track my calories, and the amounts of protein and carbs I was eating every day. It was tough to remember to do that for every meal, and discouraging to see how many times I got the numbers and portions wrong. It felt like every meal time was work, when eating meals used to be some of my favorite parts of the day. It was also disheartening to not feel any better physically. Slowly, over the few weeks following the introduction of the homeopathy, I was sleeping for longer periods of time, and I did see a decrease in my fear during the day. THOSE were positive changes I was happy to see. But while I didn’t feel as freaked out by my symptoms, they were still very much a part of daily life. I guess some small part of me hoped that I would feel like a millon bucks, better than I ever had before, once I survived the 21 days of cutting out food groups. The reality was I had a lot more work to do…but at least the knowledge I was getting help with it kept me going.
Working with Katia continues to be rewarding. It has been seven months since I did the detox and used homeopathic remedies to aid with hormone levels and allergy symptoms instead of OTC treatments. I have lost over 40 lbs. and 5.5 inches from my waist since I first met her. I have lost over 90 lbs since this time last year. That in and of itself is incredible, and makes me feel great about myself. I am receiving compliments not only on my weight loss, but on my personality and skin as well. After the 21 days of cutting stuff out, I slowly added most foods back in– but I continued to avoid toxins in soap and beauty care products. I changed just about every product I used in favor of paraben and phylate-free products. I even stopped wearing makeup every day– I only use lipstick and mascara on special occasions. Surprisingly, I LOVE the bare, natural look!
I am definitely proud of the work I am doing. What is even better is finally knowing the answer to why I have so many symptoms, what causes them and how to make them stop. This is due to Katia talking with me about leaky gut syndrome and the possibility I may have candida, or an overgrowth of yeast in my gut. She suggested I get a comprehensive stool sample test done to know for sure. I did do that test, and yes, it is about as unpleasant to take as it sounds– definitely not my favorite part of this journey!
When I decided to follow Katia’s advice, I also switched doctors. My primary care physician had left the practice and I was going to need a new doctor anyway…so I did more Google research and ended up at a holistic practice in Carmel, IN near where I work. I see a nurse practioner named Deanna at Health and Wellness of Carmel. I knew when I had the stool test done that I would want help reading the results and knowing what treatment may be needed. I have had a great experience with the practice so far. In addition to the stool sample test, I had a very thorough blood panel done that revealed a lot of information about vitamin defieciencies and food sensitivities I hadn’t know about. The results also showed Katia was right, about leaky gut, candida, and…hypothyroidism. Back at the first doctor’s office, after that possibility had come up in a visit, I had been told the bloodwork they ordered showed my thyroid levels were fine. The more complete blood panel at HWOC showed otherwise. Second opinions can be so helpful! Especially when they are given from a medical professional who automatically digs a little deeper in order to discover the CAUSE of the symptoms and doesn’t just try to treat the symptoms themselves. That is the major difference between conventional and holistic medicine.
At my appointment in November 2015, when I heard all of the results from the stool test and blood work, I got pretty emotional. I expected the leaky gut and candida diagnosis, but having proof was overwhelming. I had so many thoughts running around in my head. I was blown away by how everything was connected. How the food I chose to eat and taking Ibuprofen for headaches and antiobiotics for infections all contributed to my gut getting out of whack. How I was the one making myself sick day after day by making poor choices and either not realizing at all what I was doing (I really had no clue that Tylenol and Ibuprofen can mess up your gut) or completely ignoring things I could be doing that were better for me (my little sister has been talking up the link between immune system and diet for years). It was also really hard to hear how many foods I had shown a sensitivity to and would need to give up. This was a more serious elimination than 21 days. For some food, such as broccoli, coconut, and black pepper, avoiding it for a month or so would be enough. For other foods such as green beans and peas, and for whole food groups, dairy and gluten, it would be at least 6 months before I could add them back in. Because of the candida, it is really recommended that I avoid gluten, dairy, most other grains, and all forms of sugar and sweeteners indefintely. Wow, that was harsh to hear. It felt like I was being sentenced to a life of rabbit food in order to feel better. I felt a little sorry for myself, in a brief state of mourning for all the food I used to love and will not be able to eat again any time soon, if ever.
The important thing for me to focus on is that I do have answers. For the first few months of 2015, I had nothing but questions and uncertainty–now I have a plan of action. I have new recipes. I have new goals, in the kitchen and in the gym. Thanks to Katia, Dr. Brett, Pam and Deanna, I know it helps me to eat better when I make a food plan in advance; that regular sessions of yoga keep my stress lower while making my body stronger; that coloring is a great way for me to unwind at the end of the day; that hugs can help heal. I have tools and resources to get me through the bad days. I have new friends to support me and guide me towards the treatments and practices that will help me. It feels amazing to have that support system. I love being part of a medical practice that examines people so closely, and really listens to them. I love trying new things like the cranio sacral massage and more recently, acupuncture treatments, and finding that they calm my soul and make me feel stronger. And I love having Katia as my nutritionist. She serves as the perfect balance between confidante and health professional. I trust her experience, knowledge, and advice, but it is also fun to talk with her and know she will commiserate with me when parts of this journey are unpleasant. I love knowing I can send a text and receive a prompt answer when I have questions or concerns about homeopathy. I can’t imagine how much longer or more trying this process of getting better would be if I didn’t have her help!
I have been wanting to tell my story for a few months now. I knew it would be a long one, that it would be necessary to tell about issues over the course of my life and not just the past year. Reading through what I have typed so far, it is amazing how much detail I have skipped over in an effort to keep readers awake and tell only the most pertinent information. I am very happy to take this time and share though, in case there are any readers out there who are searching for their own answers. Anyone who is considering trying homeopathy but not sure if it would help. Or wanting to make healthy changes for themselves but unsure of how to get started. We are all unique people; what works for me may not work for you. Your issues may be completely different than mine. However, I do believe that no matter what your story is, taking steps to get healthier will make it better, longer, and more peaceful. I believe nutrition and homeopathy combined is an excellent foundation for long lasting health. I believe it is a great supplement to any other healthcare regime that may already be in place; and potentially a future replacement for current medications. I believe, above all, that it is critically important to find a coach or mentor or therapist of some kind to serve as a guide through the process of getting better. Someone like Katia has been to me, to advise and answer and redirect and cheer your success. It has been a huge piece of my own puzzle, a missing piece I think others are looking for. Even when you have a plan and know how to implement it, it just makes all the difference to have a witness watching you succeed.
So there is my story. I have had a good life so far, in spite of the allergies and itching and acne and poor food choices. I am looking forward to an even better future, now that I understand how all of those issues have the same root, and I am working hard to correct it. I will continue to keep an open mind and search for more “unconventional” ways to heal and maintain. I will welcome chances to share what I have learned and seek to learn more from those around me. I may continue to have periods of mourning for Reese’s cups and Gouda cheese, but I will relish my new found love for avocado and eggplant. I am expecting 2016 to be an amazing year for me. I hope it is for all of you as well. Cheers!”