My journey with hypothalamic amenorrhea continues.
My journey recovering from an eating disorder… continues. Even though I can say with utmost certainty that my eating is in a good place, restriction is few and far between, and my mental space for self love is better than its ever been, I still struggle with low body weight and zero menstrual cycle.
You know, sometimes when you’ve been dealing with these things for so many years, you just kind of assume your journey has stopped. That this is just the way things are. You become stagnant and somewhat complacent.
But then, for whatever reason, you stumble upon a new hitch on the road. A new road sign that reminds you that you are, indeed, still on this journey. It never stopped.
…It never will.
As my eating gets better and better, it seems other challenges just keep popping up. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been struggling with a lot of stomach and abdominal discomfort. I experience almost chronic tightness in my upper abdomen, underneath the ribcage. I never used to think this could have anything to do with digestion. I always assumed digestive issues are felt only in the lower stomach area. I’ve tried to experiment and keep tabs on what may trigger it or make it worse, but when I think I have an answer, the next day I’m proven wrong. I still have no idea of its cause, but recently I’ve been asking more and more questions and becoming more adamant to find help. I’ve been noticing is does get worse after I eat, or drink, much of anything.
In addition to this chronic discomfort, I also began to experience a lot of very intense bloating in my lower stomach a few weeks ago. Was it bloating?? My stomach was distended out a supreme amount, and it was very hard.
Is it weight gain?
Is it my body’s attempt at weight gain while being effed from my history of disorderded eating?
Is it something I’m eating?
My new dietary intake from my new job? Too much salt or soy? Too late at night?
I do think I’ve pinpointed my increase in soy products (from working at a vegetarian restaurant) to be the culprit of this additional stomach distention and bloating. I’m needing to think of a game plan as I continue to eat at work.
This past week I saw a Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor (TCM) and got acupuncture for the first time. I had been wanting to try acupuncture for a number of years now. I knew it was often used to help treat anxiety, but honestly, I wasn’t sure what all it was “appropriate” to go in for.
After only a brief bit of research, it was very clear that stomach discomfort and bloating was something very commonly looked at by TCM and acupuncture. So, I found an incredible deal and booked my appointment.
My appointment was fascinating. I was as excited to just be learning about this health approach as I was at the possibility of it helping me. TCM works right along the lines of my own health beliefs. It looks at health from a whole body perspective. Physical, mental and emotional.
The doctor and I spoke for nearly an hour, about everything and anything to do with my history, my life, and my health journey. I spoke about my stomach discomfort. I shared about my struggles with extreme swings between anxiety and depression. And I spoke about my history of an eating disorder.
His validation felt exquisite.
He said, in TCM, discomfort in the area of the stomach and eating disorders are very linked.
TCM calls the area of the stomach – the central area of the body – the “earth.” They see this as the rooting of the body – physically, mentally and emotionally. It is, after all, the area of the root chakra which I have spoken about here.
The doctor said that, if the centre of the body is weak – and thus the digestive system is weak – you simply cannot gain weight. Or gain strength in any form. The digestive system does not have the strength to break down or absorb the nutrients entering your body.
Emotionally, he said that if the centre of the body is weak, it simply cannot hold your emotions in a grounded rooted place. It cannot take your anxiety down when it is flying high, and it can not bring your depression back up when it has sunk low. There is no centre for these emotions to hold onto. They will keep missing their centre landing station and swing from one high to one low.
I presume the needle points he chose for me were to try and balance out, or strengthen, my sense of “centre.”
Snackin: Yogurt, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, blueberries, cinnamon
TCM also takes a strong look at nutrition. Based on the strength of my digestive system and my lack or hormones, my doctor suggested I increase my intake of:
Good quality, healthy fats (which we already know is necessary for all womens’ health, but especially for recovering from HA). He suggested more:
Nuts, avocado and good quality salmon
Seeds – specifically sesame seeds. Even more specifically black sesame seeds.
Good quality butter, and even better, Ghee (to which I excitedly told him I had just made my own gee for the first time!!)
He said he really encourages taking in things that use the entire specimen. The thinking behind that, as I perceive it, is that you are ingesting the animals’ entire organism, including the strength of their organs, digestion etc, and that no part of their life is cut out. For this he suggested more:
Seafood such as clams and muscles (and to a lesser extent – shrimp)
He strongly suggested good quality fish oil. Specifically, Krill or Cod Liver oil. Again, the thinking being this is that these are whole organisms and include the strength of the internal systems. Through my research, it is also clear that Krill oil, specifically, is much easier absorbed and digested by the body. For someone with a potentially weak digestive system, other forms of fish capsules may not even be doing the body much good.
“Krill oil is a superior source of EPA and DHA because the polyunsaturated fats are packaged as phospholipids, which can be used immediately by your body. The EPA and DHA in fish oil, on the other hand, are typically packaged as triglycerides and have to undergo additional processing in order to make them bioavailable. Krill oil is also more stable because it includes astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant, that protects the fragile fats from oxidizing.” Source
He suggested I start making good quality bone broth. Not that I need to drink it on its own, but to keep in the freezer to use as my cooking liquid (for rice, pasta etc.). Just be sure to use bones from animals that have been organically/ethically sourced, of course.
He also suggested more innards such as liver or kidney. He didn’t say to go crazy, but even a couple small pieces once every three weeks, popped into a recipe, is plenty. And again, to make sure they are from animals raised without hormones or toxins. After all, the liver IS the toxin cleaner of the body. So whatever an organism is taking in… will be EXTRA present in these areas.
He suggested more seaweeds. Any kind. Such as spirulina.
Lastly, he said to continue adding probiotics where I can to ensure proper gut health and help with digestion of nutrients. He suggested
And on days when I don’t think I got in any of these things, to maybe take a probiotic supplement.Traditional Chinese Medicine. Nutrition for hormone and digestive health. #tcm #acupuncture… Click To Tweet
Last bit of power lunch: brown rice, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, gogi berries, sunflower sprouts, red onion, tomato, tahini dressing
I was happy to feel that I was already on my way to making many of these things part of my daily regime. I make kombucha, I just made my own ghee, and I have my first sourdough starter ready to add some probiotics to all my baking. But I definitely need, and want, to take his suggestions to add more of the whole organism foods and reap the benefits of their strengthening properties for my own systems. Definitely more bone broth, more seaweeds, better quality fish oils, and hopefully even some seafood here and there.
I am interested to see if these suggestions do help strengthen my digestive system, so that then I am able to put on weight. Because let me tell you, it’s hard. I gain a few pounds and then it seems like I only have to think about eating less and I lose it again. To recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea, you simply need to eat more, and reduce stress. I know this. I know no acupuncture treatment or single nutritional change up is going to heal me. These are simply things I am adding to my journey to hopefully give me some form of relief, some form of grounding, or simply some assistance to help me to do the work that I know I need to do. My stomach discomfort affects me both mentally (it worries me and causes additional stress – which is what I am trying to eliminate) and physically (it makes eating more difficult).
In addition to my stomach discomfort, I am interested to see if accupcunture helps with my anxiety and depression swings. I am in a new place in my recovery. I am pushing myself past where I have been before, but to continue to do so I need to be able to hold onto an emotional grounding.
To keep on my journey…
I have been taking extra motivation and support from the ladies in the HA Sisterhood Facebook group
and the stories that P shares on her blog
I have been reading posts from Urban Jane
I continue to work on living – and eating – more intuitively, however I do realize this becomes a hugely confusing thing when you are a) recovering from a disordered eating b) physically need to gain weight to recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea and c) are experiencing digestive issues from, potentially, a weakened digestive system due to your years of restricting.
…Movement is a whole other topic and one I hope to write about soon.
The most important thing I can do as I continue to wade through this journey, is to keep my stress levels down, and self compassion up. I wish it was a bit easier. I wish it didn’t seem like when one problem improves, another rears its head. I wish I could eliminate all the worries I have about my body and that I could get a little help answering all these questions. But I can’t give up, nor can I fall complacent. I just have to keep truckin’.Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. My Experience with Traditional Chinese Medicine. #HArecovery… Click To Tweet
Have you ever experienced un-answered digestive/stomach discomfort? Where/who did you go to for help??
Have you ever had acupuncture or seen a TCM doctor?
Has acupuncture helped you? What was your experience?