Hormones & Mushrooms

I had soy poisoning about five years ago when I was living in Indonesia.
Whenever this comes up, most people’s first reaction is usually:
“What does that even mean? What’s wrong with soy?”
So, if you’re in that same boat, I don’t blame you.
Hell, I was in that same boat myself, which is how I got myself into such an unhealthy state in the first place.

Long story short, I’d moved to Indonesia after living in Kenya for awhile.
During my time in Kenya, I’d had multiple nearly fatal allergic reactions to various insects there.
These instances landed me in the hospital on a monthly basis, to the point that I was actually told to leave the country unless I wanted this to kill me.
Each time I was hospitalized, the treatment was the same- heavy doses of anti-histamines, steroids, and antibiotics.

A concoction that definitely helped reduce symptoms of the reaction.
But, also one that was pretty damn strong- especially considering just how regularly I was essentially forced to take them.
Due to the high medication intake, my liver function began to crash.
Not to mention the fact that my immune system was also incredibly weak, as well.
Meaning, something that might’ve just made me slightly sick before- now suddenly had the ability to completely knock me on my ass for days at a time.
And then the cycle would continue.
Because I was sick, I’d “need” to take more meds in order to get back to “full health.”
This was, without a doubt, the unhealthiest stage of my life

So, I left Kenya to move to Indonesia.
Although there were certainly some benefits of settling someplace new- there was also a big adjustment period for my body, as well.
I thought it was so great to live in a place that had a plethora of vegetarian options within the local cuisine.
But, I was also still living with that fearful mindset of “not getting enough protein,” as so many vegetarians and vegans are conditioned to believe.
So, I was thrilled that there were not only a lot of vegetables, but also a lot of soy products (mostly tofu and tempeh) to choose from.
I thought this would be the BEST way to bounce back from nearly a year of suffering health.
Little did I know that having soy with nearly every meal would soon be the source of another difficult year ahead. 

The changes happened pretty gradually.
But still noticeable.
My boobs grew almost two cup sizes, and they were rock hard.
No joke, I felt like they were packed full on concrete- and incredibly sore to touch.
It got to the point where I had to wear two sports bras when I went for a run, because the movement was too painful to bear with just one bra (which is something I know tons of women have dealt with their entire lives).
I gained weight.

Nothing crazy, but again- enough to notice.
I’ve never been one to weigh myself regularly, so I can’t say exactly how much it was.
But if I had to guess I’d say about 10 pounds.
Keep in mind, I’m only 5’3”.
So, even 10 pounds is actually quite a bit considering my size.
Then there was the emotional stuff.
I felt like I was permanently PMS’ing.
You know when you’re about to start your period (or when you’re on it), and you’re just sort of being a bitch for no reason?

There’s this part of you that recognizes the snarky comments, and generally more fiery attitude- but it feels SO GOOD to be an assole that you just keep doing it anyways?
Yeah, well that was me on a regular basis.
I had cramps almost all the time.

My uterus also felt like it, too, was full on concrete- rock hard, heavy, and generally leaving me feeling lethargic.
All of the symptoms reminded me of how I felt during my brief pregnancy.
Which is why I must’ve taken at least 20 pregnancy tests during this time.
Oh, and let’s not forget how the pharmacists who sold me the tests would look at my naked ring finger with judging eyes each time I went back for more.
That was the icing on the cake during my nearly recklessly emotional state.
My boyfriend at the time was as understanding as someone from the outside could be.
I mean, of course there was no way for him to fully relate to the symptoms I’d do my best to describe- but he did his best.
Which was pretty kind considering that whole bitchy thing I mentioned earlier.
Even still, I felt unsupported and incredibly alone.
I saw a few doctors in Bali, but they all just kept trying to prescribe me antibiotics or other strong medications.
My body felt like it had been pumped with chemicals for a year straight, and just wanted a break.
So, I said no.
Time and time again.
I started thinking about all the other factors in my life that had changed, and then researching them to see if they could at all be linked to how I was feeling.
Although my diet was pretty healthy- this was still before I saw food as an actual medicine (the way I do today).
However, this was also the catalyst that instigated that change of mindset.
I started reading about soy, and how consuming it could increase your estrogen levels.
The more I read, the more I was convinced that this was the culprit- so I cut it out of my diet completely.
However, I wasn’t vegan just yet- so I was still eating eggs.
Back to the whole “I need to make sure I get enough protein” mindset- I started eating eggs with almost every meal, instead.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, I was never even a big fan of eggs.
In fact, the smell and taste kind of grossed me out then (and utterly repulses me now).
But, I ate them in excess because I thought this was the “healthy” thing to do.
Nothing got better.
The symptoms persisted, and my frustrations grew.
When my boyfriend and I went to California for Christmas, I went to see a doctor there- and it was just the same thing.
More prescriptions.
More unnecessary bullshit to consume.
I said no- leaving feel extremely disheartened, scared, and unheard.
Most of all, I felt a little crazy.
I started to wonder if I was imagining these things.
Or, perhaps just exaggerating something that wasn’t that big of a deal.
I doubted myself.
I doubted my body’s desperate attempts to communicate with me.
And I doubted that I was going to get back to a balanced state again.
I’d sort of accepted the fact that maybe this was just how I was going to feel from now on.
When I got home from the doctor- I told my mom about it (nearly in tears).
This is when she suggested that I go see her acupuncturist.
She told me how she’d been getting treatments with her for awhile now with her own hormonal shifts happening as she transitioned into menopause.
Although she assured me the doctor was incredibly knowledgeable, and that she’d felt noticeable results within her own body- I was still skeptical.
Again, my mindset was a lot different than it is now.
I was leery about alternative medicine, and holistic healing techniques mostly just from societal conditioning.
I’d never had a bad experience, nor even known anyone who had- it was just something that was ingrained in me simply from being an American citizen, I’m sure.
It’s sort of funny, because my mom has ALWAYS been into stuff like that.
I grew up watching her get needles stuck in her face, get cracked every which way by her chiropractor, and drink (what I perceived at the time to be) weird herbal concoctions and tonics.
Perhaps I still had that childlike resistance to be anything other than my mother still coursing through my veins when I said no to her offer.
Or, perhaps my mind was just too closed to consider outside truths.
Whatever it was, I said no to seeing the Chinese doctor (at first).
But, after seeing ANOTHER doctor in the States who tried to give my more pills while halfheartedly listening to me- I’d had enough.
I booked an appointment with the acupuncturist for the next day.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I can say with certainty that I went in with a sense of guardedness.
However, when I started talking to the doctor, I felt that guard begin to crumble.
She looked me in the eyes when I told her what had been going on.
She was completely there with me when I spoke, not thinking about the patient in the next room, nor the million of other things she had to do next.
Her attention alone made me feel a bit of relief.
She made me feel heard, and not so damn alone.
But when we started talking about diet and soy- there was that AH HAH moment that I’d been searching for.
I told her how I thought it might’ve been soy related, so I cut it out for a solid 8 weeks- but still didn’t notice anything change.
She asked me what else I was eating, so I began listing off my standard meals.
When I told her about the eggs, she asked me how often I was eating them.
I told her every day, sometimes multiple times a day.
And she laughed.
I was obviously confused.
Then she tell me,
“They usually feed their chickens soy beans there. So you were still getting plenty of soy the entire time you thought you were cleansing it from your system.”
I should also mention that she’d lived in Bali for awhile, so she was actually quite familiar with the culture and cuisine.
After our chat, she gave me a list of liver cleansers to add to my daily intake of food.
She’s the first person that told me about the health benefits of kombucha and apple cider vinegar- both of which were added to my diet.
She was also the first person who taught me about the importance of creating an alkalized diet.
And she was the first person who made it clear to me just how beneficial medicinal mushrooms and herbs can be during this time of repair.
She explained that soy, like anything, could affect everyone differently.
Her guess was that my body reacted severely for two reasons:

  1. I was eating it three times a day, which is A LOT.

  2. My liver function was already sub par, still hurting from my time in Kenya. Which meant it was having trouble with natural hormone production, as is. Adding that much soy was undoubtedly a shock to my already suffering system.

I started getting needle treatments from her about three times a week (luckily this was covered with my insurance, otherwise it would’ve been financially inaccessible).
I postponed my return to Indonesia for a few extra weeks so that I could try to get back to my healthiest self before I returned I drank the herbal teas, kombucha, and ACV religiously.
I also stocked up on the mushroom blends she prescribed so that I could still take them once I left.

After a few weeks, I started to feel a shift as I transitioned back to myself.
I’m not gonna lie, it took awhile.
That’s the thing with holistic approaches- it’s not like Western medicine that generally requires you just take a pill so that you feel the effect immediately.
I underwent MANY treatments, did a few cleanses, and practiced a lot of patience- but slowly, I started to FEEL the difference first and foremost.
My energy levels were back up to normal, I didn’t feel quite as heavy (although I don’t know if I’d actually lost weight at the point, it was more of an energetic feeling), and that bitchy alter ego had started to fade into more of whisper.

It probably took the entirety of that year to TRULY get back to a balanced state (it didn’t help that I got dengue for the first time a few months later).
But when it happened, it was so damn sweet- I don’t think I could even begin to describe it.
Although that time was challenging physically, emotionally, and mentally- it was also exactly what I needed to kick start my life onto a new track of holistic health.
Sure, I’d been practicing yoga (physically) since I was a child, but I didn’t really apply any of the practices beyond the asana to my daily life.
And sure, I’d had some previous knowledge of nutrition (mostly due to growing up with a very health conscious mom), but clearly I still had a lot to learn based on my mistakes.
It was at this time that I started to not only see plants as medicine- but to wholeheartedly BELIEVE this to be true, as well. 
After all, I’d experienced it myself.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not 100% holistic when it comes to medical care.
I’ve had my fair share of hospital incidents in the last five and half years since all this happened- most of which involved a lot of hardcore drugs being pumped into my system.
And, I still take IB Profen if I get a migraine or a fever. 
The different is that I use these substances more as a last resort, rather than a first reaction.
Plus, I couple herbal and/or other natural remedies with the not-so-natural stuff.
I’ve started to see my existence as a whole, rather than compartmentalizing each experiences and encounter.
I’ve realized how significantly emotional trauma can manifest itself physically in my body.
And how certain life changes aren’t separate from reactions my body might have.
In fact, I’ve become so interested in these practices that I’ve gone to India on two separate occasions to study Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
I now incorporate pieces of this knowledge into my own yoga practice, as well as the practice that I share/teach with others (in other words, no longer just using yoga as a way to work out).
All of this has become such an integral part of life that it almost feels like I just wrote about someone I used to know, rather than myself.

If you read my post about Women’s Health, than you’ll already know that I’m currently on another part of my journey towards hormonal and trauma-related healing. 
I’ve just had my IUD taken out, and I’m off of birth control for the first time in 15 years.
I’m doing my best to be as kind to my body through diet, gentle exercise, and compassionate inner dialogue coupled with meditation.

To be honest, other than a crippling migraine the day my IUD was removed- I haven’t noticed a huge shift in my hormones (yet?).
Trust me, I’m not complaining.
I hope things continue to stay as even-keeled as they have been the last 2 weeks.
However, in the meantime, I’m loading up on herbs and mushrooms that specifically support healthy liver function and hormonal balance (two of my weakest areas).
I’m sharing these mixes and brands with you not because I’m getting paid to do so, but because I’ve noticed how much the substances have contributed to positive changes within my own health.
Clearly I’m not a medical professional, nutritionist, nor herbalist.
But I am pretty in tune with my body, and the things that go in to it.
And- if anything- I’d like to just encourage you to build that relationship with your body, too. 
Current Favorites:
-Top of the list has to be water. I drink about 5 liters a day. Always have at least 1 liter on an empty stomach before consuming anything else.

-Since I’m living here in Australia at the moment, I get all my mushroom blends from an incredible brand called SuperFeast. They also have a kick ass podcast if you’re interested in learning more about the science behind what they do.

-Another great mushy brand is Four Sigmatic.
-Loving SCHIZANDRA (also get this from SuperFeast). Schizandra is known to be excellent at boosting liver function, and promoting balanced hormones

-I still take my daily dose of Apple Cider Vinegar, and try to get a daily dose of kombucha (with no added sugars!).

-Lemon water, or hot lemon water before eating.
-Also love Organic India products. I’ve been taking Tulsi, Spirulina, and Turmeric capsules from them for a few years- which are great for when you’re on the road without access to such nutrients.
-We just bought an awesome juicer, so cold-pressed juice has been a HUGE part of my diet. 
*Pro-tip: look on Craigslist or Gumtree. We found a commercial grade juicer for less than half retail price, still as good as new.
-Lastly, I’ve been practicing a variety of fasting techniques over the last year, which have made a TREMENDOUS difference in my energy levels and digestion. This practice will get its own blog post later this week.

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