logo
Food Advertising by

My Journey With Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Continues: Digestion and Traditional Chinese Medicine

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 Time Passes, Things Seem To Get More Complicated

 

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.

 

My Appointment with A Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor

 

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

 

Nutrition for Digestion and Hormone Health

 

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

Kombucha 

Sauerkraut 

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. 

 

Continuing Motivation for HA Recovery

 

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

And posts like this from Meg

I’ve found solace and motivation in articles like this and this

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.

 

And So The Journey Continues…

 

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

Tell me,

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? 

 

33 COMMENTS

  1. Yana | 17th Jul 17

    Cora- you are my favourite blogger ever & I have missed your posts. You remind me so much of myself & I never comment on blogs (kinda shy- especially on the Internet!) but this post struck home & I wanted to cheer you on from afar.

    I finally have a normal cycle again, but it took a lot of weight gain, & a hell of a lot of food consistently. Calorie reccomendations are total bs, particularly for people who are just naturally highly strung. Also undereating adds up, it’s as if the body intuitively remembers.

    All the steps you are taking & the TCM Doc are brilliant. I bloody love TCM. But my best recommendation is let go. Let go of any lingering fear & feel how much you body wants to eat. It may surprise you (6000 + calorie days etc.)

    If you feel like this is not the issue no worries, it’s just it took me a while to realise just how much I needed. It also totally helped digestion being less stressed & feeling at peace with fueling myself as much as I darn well wanted 🙂

    Go for it.

    Love & You Rock.

    • Cora | 18th Jul 17

      Oh Yana. This is everything. This is the support and motivation that I most deeply need. Thank you thank you thank you. Thank you for commenting and sharing your story. I hope I can have the strength to let go, as you have.

      “Also undereating adds up, it’s as if the body intuitively remembers.” —-> This this this!!! Oh my gosh. This is just starting to hit me now.

  2. Susie | 17th Jul 17

    You might want to check out the blog A Lady Goes West. She recently published as e-book on HA http://aladygoeswest.com/fitandfertile/

    • Cora | 18th Jul 17

      I’ve read a few things of hers…. she is wonderful. Thank you Susie!

  3. Sarah @ Bucket List Tummy | 17th Jul 17

    I have never gotten acupuncture but I’ve been curious about it. Please share it if it helps with your anxiety! Also, I’d recommend the book “No period, now what” about HA. I’ve been reading it to help some of my clients and it’s been so eye opening. There’s a FB support group for it too! Praying for you lady – I applaud you for being proactive and continuing to learn more about yourself. I wish I could help with digestion issues but those are things I’m still learning about myself.
    Sarah @ Bucket List Tummy recently posted…How To Simplify Meal PrepMy Profile

    • Cora | 18th Jul 17

      I’ve seen this book reviewed a number of times – I really should pick it up. I feel like I know what needs to be done though… but maybe it would have some new insights or motivation that would be good for me.

      Thank you Sarah. Just your support and understanding is all one can ask for <3

  4. kaci cheeseman | 17th Jul 17

    Your symptoms sound a lot like my SIBO symptoms, especially at the beginning before they got REALLY bad. I think the approach you are taking with seeking a more natural workup and treatment plan is wonderful. That being said, I just thought I’d share that it might be worth looking into testing for SIBO too, especially if things persist for you. I wish I had been aware to get tested sooner so that I would have found out sooner!

    • Cora | 17th Jul 17

      Kaci – I had JUST heard of SIBO the day before finishing this post. It was a huge – whoa – moment for me, as it was the first time I read something that actually linked with my symptoms. It’s actually what had me thinking maybe my issues could be related to digestion. I’m going to book a dr. appointment and ask about being tested. Thank you so much.

  5. Cindy | 17th Jul 17

    This is a wonderful post. I wish I could give some advice, but I am on this learning journey with you. You are amazing for taking the steps to understand your body by speaking with pros!
    Cindy recently posted…Summer Things (Quinoa Overload)My Profile

    • Cora | 18th Jul 17

      Just knowing you aren’t alone in a journey is better than any “advice” out there. Thank you Cindy!

  6. Evangeline | 17th Jul 17

    The digestion roller coaster has been one of the most frustrating aspects of recovery. Embracing my body is hard enough without feeling like I’m six months pregnant. I think the root cause for me is a mix of inflammatory foods, stress, and also the damage done to my gut flora after eating too much fiber and weird, low calorie preservative filled foods. Acupuncture and TCM is fascinating. The incorporation of a holistic perspective is something we could use more of in the west. And the connection between the gut and mental health is something that I want to learn more about. I’m reading a book right now called A Mind of Your Own, by Kelly Brogan, and although she’s a strong advocate of a paleo-esque diet (I’m still wary of such a restrictive, animal based diet) she still has a lot of good, science backed research to share.
    Evangeline recently posted…Feelin’ like an oregano fleck {Week in Review}My Profile

    • Cora | 18th Jul 17

      Huh. I hadn’t heard of that book. Sounds like something I’d enjoy looking into. Thank for mentioning it.

      Yeah, the connection between mind, stress, and gut/digestion is fascinating. Fasinctinat and also SUPER frustrating. We can feel like we have our eating, and maybe even our physical health under control, but if we are emotionally stressed or still causing ourselves stress due to the things we think…. we still may not have any issues solved. We really need to heal in all 15 ways. Ugh. Its so hard. I think maybe that’s why I am attracted to these health approaches that really do look at healing from all sides – mind body and soul.

  7. Emily Swanson | 17th Jul 17

    I have to be honest that I’m skeptical about TCM, but working with a dietitian for my digestion has been SOOO helpful Cora. I think I really did something to my digestion when I struggled with an ED and messed it up really really badly. Yet I’m really seeing the Lord’s mercy, because the help that my dietitian has offered has helped so much of my stomach discomfort.

    And she even worked with me on my period, and I’m so thankful to report that I’ve had 3 consecutive periods in the last 3 months!
    Emily Swanson recently posted…Week In Review: Week In the Life of An Over-ThinkerMy Profile

    • Cora | 18th Jul 17

      It baffles me that I’m only now realizing that I may have – also – screwed up my digestion based on all my years of under eating. Its like even though I had read about so many others going through this, I never thought it was something I’D deal with. Low and behold, I’m pretty sure I’m being proven wrong.

      I definitely see your skepticism with TCM, and I know that working with a dietician – specifically one that specializes in EDS – is the utmost most proactive way to heal. CONGRATULATIONS on these last three months!!! Your body is happy, Em!!

  8. Susie @ Suzlyfe | 17th Jul 17

    Hey darling, I love love love you for your perseverance and openness in dealing with this. I know firsthand how dealing with chronic issues can cause stagnation–you get to a point where you assume the plateau is just where you are meant to be. However, you are recognizing that dangerous territory and you are fighting back. Whatever you do, I hope it works!
    Susie @ Suzlyfe recently posted…Work Hard; Recharge (Weekend Recap)My Profile

    • Cora | 18th Jul 17

      It can be so so easy to just stay where you are and assume its the lot you have. And maybe I’ve been there for too long already. But it sucks. So it’s time to wake up and believe that this isn’t how it has to be.

  9. Jamie@TheMomGene | 17th Jul 17

    I LOVE acupuncture!!!! I haven’t had it in years. But I went regularly when we were going through infertility stuff. I have never felt so calm and zen-mommy like in my whole life. You just made me miss my acupuncturist. I think I’m going to call him up and visit. There’s nothing like lying in that dark room with nothing to do but rest and dream until the bell rings.

    • Cora | 18th Jul 17

      🙂 :). I hope you do call him up for a visit. My dude seems pretty cool so far…

  10. Ellie Pell | 17th Jul 17

    I’m fascinated by this Cora! What a cool experience. I am glad to hear you are continuing to work on yourself and have a new chance to get to a healthy place.
    P.S. We NEED A PHONE DATE!
    Ellie Pell recently posted…Back HomeMy Profile

  11. Audrey | 17th Jul 17

    I haven’t tried TCM, but I have gone to dietitians (NOT nutritionists) who have really helped me sort of the ED thoughts (e.g., maybe I’m allergic/intolerant to gluten, corn, nuts, insert other food to restrict) from reality. Often, bloating goes away in time and is part of the referring process. I know one friend had to lie down after every meal to prevent vomiting, but after a few months, her body stopped that response and started trusting her not to harm it. I just know a lot of ED “recovery” people find disorders to justify cutting foods out or having special diets, and I fear going to any other doctor might increase that for me, personally.

    • Cora | 18th Jul 17

      That is crazy about your friend. Wow. The more I am putting my story – and my questions – out there, the more I am learning how much a part of the process digestive issues are. I 100% understand your fear of seeing other doctors, and I think that is absolutely smart. Some professionals may put you on some form of new restrictive, or eliminating diet, and coming from a disordered or regimented mindset this can be NO NO NO good. The opposite of what we want. So yes, when it comes down to it, working with someone with a very good knowledge of EDs is the most crucial. I’m very happy you are aware and looking out for this. What I liked about the nutritional advice this TCM game me was that it was all, and only, about adding in things that could help strengthen. There was zero mention of stopping eating something or taking out anything.

  12. Joyce @ The Hungry Caterpillar | 17th Jul 17

    Bleh. Digestive stuff is so hard. You know how I feel about it. One thing I really struggle with in terms of my digestive issues is being mindful about what I eat/how what I eat impacts digestion without *blaming* those foods or feeling like I have to be hyper-vigilant about what I’m eating.
    As for the HA. It’s just not fair. You work so hard to establish a normal relationship with food and your cycle just refuses to come back. It certainly doesn’t seem to be like you’re restrictive with your diet. I’m also still struggling with that. I thought my cycle had come back, but it’s not been as regular as I’ve been expecting. It’s amazing how hard it is to get that thing back. I really hope the TCM works and that you get that cycle back soon!
    Joyce @ The Hungry Caterpillar recently posted…IBS & Restrictive Eating: First Things FirstMy Profile

    • Cora | 20th Jul 17

      Ugh. I’m sorry. I have heard many many women talk about even once their cycle returned, it remains extremely sensitive and up and down for the next while yet. It’s like there is just no end to the healing.

      I’m not necessarily expecting the TCM to “work,” but it has already opened my eyes to new things and given me new ideas for all over health and motivation. Still going to go see my GP to ask about some digestive stuff that I’m now just realizing could be a possible.

  13. chasetheredgrape | 17th Jul 17

    I really do believe that I needed to heal my gut before my body even hinted at gaining weight. For me yoghurt, lots of bone broth, Kombucha and liver at least once a week was gold for me. I’m lucky, I love liver on its own! But a lot of folk, like my mum, make homemade burgers (or a meat loaf) in the food processor that are half beef, half liver. You don’t really taste it but get all the goodies from it!
    And I know I (we) took the hard road by gaining weight eating real whole foods instead of junk – but when that weight comes, and it will, it will be so much more rewarding and you will feel great. I promise. 🙂

    • Cora | 20th Jul 17

      Wow. This was so great, and validating, to hear Jen. That you had to heal your gut before your body would put on weight. I’m getting a stronger and stronger belief that this may be my issue as well… though I never used to even think about it!
      I’m looking forward to really gearing my diet towards things to strengthen my organs and digestive system. I’m actually really excited to pick up some good quality liver (I actually remember really liking it as a kid, too) and to make my own bone broth.

  14. danielle | 18th Jul 17

    ohhh my stars, yes. i read your words and yes, you are not alone. not in any way at all.
    i think anyone that has had an ED has digestive issues, this is just something that happens when you don’t treat your digestive system properly. i had every ED including bulimia so my stomach felt far from OK at any point during my life since age 13. putting food in my tummy feels strange, but it’s getting better.
    so yes, it’s normal to feel this abnormal feeling. can it be fixed? yes. it can. there are many ways to not only heal your mind but also heal your tummy. it’s very important. i love TCM, i went to an acupuncturist during my teen years, i was 16, and i wish i had your person much more. mine was an old chinese man who was very blunt with me and harsh, and i felt lke i wanted someone a little more sensitive. however i know at the time i full of hot air, and attracted someone more like myself: harsh and aggressive. just like i used to be. and sometimes still am. like attracts like. so that says quite a lot you attracted such a wonderfully loving practitioner!!! and the recommendations sound quite lovely actually! my practitioner just told me to eat 3 meals a day and stop snacking. then again i was not being honest about my ED at the time so i guess that’s why i didn’t get the best advice that i might have needed but didn’t want.
    gosh we could talk for days, Cora.

    • Cora | 20th Jul 17

      Huh. Very interesting. Did you notice any improvement or help from acupuncture, even with harsh chinese man? I don’t exactly expect it to help me, but I really just wanted to experience what acupuncture was, and have already learned a lot just based on the nutritional guidelines he’s suggested. I like that he in no way told me to take things out, but just wants me to incorporate more. More things that I feel really good giving my body anyways. The whole lying down for 20 minutes with needles in me is interesting too, haha. I just want to be like, so……. whatcha putting in there for??

  15. Kat | 18th Jul 17

    Wow – what an exhausting road to recovery you’ve been on. Can I just say though, how proud I am of you for seeking help for the tummy issues? Instead of just disregarding it as nothing or brushing it off, I love that you saw the need to find out what’s going on with your health as an ESSENTIAL part of your well being. That’s such an important part of recovery in my book, something that I so often have struggled with.
    That being said, I’m glad you found someone who was able to provide you with some really solid tips and nutritional advice. I think that many of us could use some gut health improvement – even those who HAVEN’T suffered from an ED!
    Kat recently posted…Caramelized Banana Parfait with Coffee GranolaMy Profile

    • Cora | 20th Jul 17

      It’s been exhausting, and frustrating, and long Kat. And it’s no where near the end. I’m just realizing how long this has all been going, and how OLD I am getting, and becoming more and more desperate to just have it all go away and move on.

  16. Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday | 18th Jul 17

    Oh my goodness I could talk about all of this for DAYS (let me know if you ever want to!), but a super short version would be:
    I went mostly Paleo and added some collagen. That helped me tons and tons (but I totally understand not wanting to do a semi-restrictive diet with your past – that could be bad). Once *most* (but soooo not all) of my stomach issues were better, I started to put on weight. The more weight I put on, the better they got. Still definitely not perfect, but usually tolerable, you know? And probably six or more months after my weight hopped up and stabilized, my HA ended (or I think it’s over… small sample size haha). It’s a PAIN to solve all this, and I doubt I’m solved, but we’re all in this together, girl. Keep going ❤️
    Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday recently posted…Five Friday Favorites 07/07/17My Profile

    • Cora | 20th Jul 17

      I would so badly love to take you out for coffee and talk about this so much more. I’d love to hear everything you’ve experienced and have to say. I’m going to see how this next week goes (I see my doctor as well) and may shoot you an email.

      I’m so fascinated how now I’ve read countless people tell me that it wasn’t until their gut issues were better, THAT’s when they started gaining weight. I just never thought this was a possible issue for me. People also say the more I eat the better it will get. But that’s hard because eating feels like such a trigger and frustrating, so the thought of eating more just feels like it would get WORSE. But I totally see that like you say, the more weight I put on, the better it may get. GAH what a twisted recovery process.

  17. Kristy from Southern In Law | 19th Jul 17

    I’ve seen an acupuncturist for a few different issues – mainly to do with my circulation and then my digestive system (post coeliac diagnosis) and whilst I found it worked really well for circulation – it didn’t do much at all for my digestive system – but I think that could have been because my body was COMPLETELY wrecked!

    I’m hoping it works for you though!
    Kristy from Southern In Law recently posted…Recipe: Hearty and Healthy Brown Rice and Vegetable Soup (Gluten Free)My Profile

  18. Ankit Sarawgi | 20th Jul 17

    SUCH A GREAT ARTICLE, I READ YOUR WORD AND BELIEVE YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

logo
Food Advertising by