Best Possible Health

Recently, after listening to a podcast about endocrine disruptors, I scoured the house to dispose of any culprits. Everything was clean except a protein powder containing the artificial sweetener, stevia.

I fell very ill in December of 2017 while adhering to a paleo diet, working out six days a week, and rocking an sub-18% body fat body. Seemingly overnight, I went from effortlessly flipping tires in the alley behind the gym to succumbing to extreme muscle fatigue after a handful of lunges.

It made no absolutely sense. And the year since has been a health nightmare, with one daunting diagnosis after another. I’m still young and I’ve always lived a healthy lifestyle–eating well, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and avoiding chemical-filled products. I should be in good health, I kept telling my doctors.

Since discontinuing my stevia-containing morning shake two weeks ago, I’ve felt like a new person. I’m more energized and enthused than I’ve been in years, with a new-found mental acuity. Oh, and my hair is no longer falling out. It sounds absurd, but I’m now seriously questioning whether my health struggles can be attributed to a minuscule amount of stevia in my diet.

Within the last week, I discovered that the electrolytes and BCAAs I was consuming during my twice-per-day workouts (just prior to falling ill) contained substantial amounts of stevia. Could I have been unknowingly poisoning my body each time I tried to nourish it?

In retrospect, all of the signs of endocrine disruption were there–pituitary tumor, cystic acne, fatigue, menstrual irregularities, abnormal hormone labs, etc–but, somehow, the doctors seemed to have overlooked the now-obvious signs.

Based on my own research, such hormonal imbalances can trigger an inflammatory response, which may explain why lab work suggested a tremendous immune response to a dormant fungal infection. I suppose the rarer markers of disease were a bit more exciting. And so, down the rabbit hole we went…

I realize now that body is designed to survive and maintain homeostasis. When you add some estrogen or cortisol here and strip away some testosterone there, the body struggles to draw the resources necessary to sustain the bare essential functions: movement, cognition,, and reproduction. Small imbalances can have an extreme and detrimental long-term effect.

My goal this year is to achieve perfect health. Now that we’re gaining insight into the root cause of numerous health challenges, I believe I’m within arms reach of my best possible health. I want to refine my nutrition to best nourish my body (while fending off inflammation), reintroduce exercise (LISS, HIIT, and resistance training), and achieve sub-18% body fat body again. I want to feel strong and capable, while fueling cognition and supporting longevity. It’s my hope to notice my body’s special requests and cries for help, and to honor whatever it may be telling me (what to eat, how to move, when to rest). Most of all, I want to relearn how to love, accept, and forgive my body for its beautiful imperfections, as well as work with its unique idiosyncrasies.

Would you chance $4,000 to improve your health? My answer: yes. This year, I’m investing in myself. My boyfriend and I have agreed to allocate $4,000 from our savings towards concierge integrative healthcare. Next week, I have my initial consult with a doctor who has supplemented her medical degree with holistic healthcare training. Unlike my existing medical team, she will closely examine my diet, exercise, stress level, hormone lab work, and more. With this information, we will work jointly to identify the root cause of my aliments and then develop a plan to resolve the issue at its root, and then prevent it from ever coming back.

If the first few appointments go well, we plan to save additional funds for my boyfriend to work with the integrative physician as well. There is so much more to wellness than popping pharmaceuticals and, in a world filled with newly-developed chemicals, sometimes clean eating and exercise isn’t enough to ensure continued health.

What lifestyle habits have had the most positive impact on your health and well-being? What are your health goals for the coming year?

5 thoughts on “Best Possible Health

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  1. I have Stevia growing in my garden – were there other sweeteners in the products apart from Stevia? Or is it the plant itself that may be the cause of problems? I know some people don’t like it (the aftertaste), but it’s not something I had on my ‘alert’ list for inflammation.

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    1. I’m not an MD, but from my research and conversation with doctor, occasional consumption of small amounts of stevia likely has little to no impact on general health. This wasn’t meant to set off alarms, but to bring awareness

      In a nutshell, steviol glycosides have a hormone structure and are biologically active. While this may provide health benefits (anti-diabetic, antioxidant, antimicrobial) in some, high levels increase the production of progesterone while blocking off its receptor (leading to high levels of progesterone and an overall imbalance between hormones).

      While the WHO has set daily intake limits, some people may be more sensitive or susceptible to the effects of stevia than the current limit suggest. And because it’s unregulated and over-the-counter, the limits are suggestions.

      To answer your question, the ingredients in my workout formula were: l-leucine (2.5g), l-isolaucine (1.25g), l-valine (1,25g), stevia leaf extract (304mg), caffeine (100mg) and sodium chloride (salt). Based on the WHO’s liberal guidelines, I should not exceed 230mg daily based on weight…at the time, I was consuming over 600mg daily while thinking I was helping my body. Yikes!

      I hope this helps!! Small amounts of stevia shouldn’t be problematic, but it’s a reminder to check food labels if you start feeling unwell–wish I would have thought to do so a year ago.

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  2. Hello, dear friend! Glad to see you’re back, and that things are looking up! After a lot of reflection, I realized I’m being called to do more and so I’ll soon be an Integrative Health Coach, so it makes me so so happy that this is the next step to your healing journey! Can’t wait to hear more about it! ❤️

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