One thing that I’m certain all athletes share is the craving for exercise and the feeling of health and success. Unfortunately injuries and illness are a common side effect of our hobbies. When you are forced to take some time off for some rest and recovery, it can be difficult. When your season is cut short for one of these reasons it’s even harder. When two seasons in a row are ended prematurely, I can hardly explain my emotions. When the third consecutive season was cut short, I realized something needed to change.
The doctor who had helped me through two seasons of EBV was shocked and sympathetic to my situation. Unfortunately, all of the well-wishes and sympathy weren’t improving my health! I reached out for a second opinion to another local sports medicine doctor. After listening to my story and looking over my previous blood work, he concluded that this type of re-lapse shouldn’t be happening and tested me for other auto-immune deficiencies that could be causing my annual melt down. Lupus runs in my family, so needless to say, I was on pins and needles waiting for results from some if his tests. The good news is… everything tested negative! The bad news…. he didn’t know what to do next.
So it was time for a third opinion. At this point I was getting frustrated with the doctor situation. Ironically I have a friend who practices Naturopathy. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry, neither did I. I assumed it was a type of witchcraft medicine that we see so frequently in Boulder. But what did I have to lose at this point? After speaking with my friend Alexis, I was shocked at how wrong I was. A Naturopath has the same education as an MD, only splitting towards the Naturopathy practice during their residency. All diagnostics and tests are done very scientifically with lab work… no magic wands or crystal balls! Unlike an MD, a Naturopath tends to search for the cause of the problem and treat it with natural methods rather than treating the symptoms with drugs.
Alexis has honestly been a life saver. Before I even met with her, she spent hours upon hours looking over all my past blood work, talking to labs about actual values not reported on my documents, and researching my history. Once she fully understood the data she had, she sat down with me for another three hours, pulling information out of me about everything that could even remotely be associated with my health. Then came the shocker… She told me she doesn’t think my symptoms were caused from the Epstein-Barr virus. Apparently after asking the lab what my actual values were (not just positive or negative) she found that I had been fluctuating between barely positive and barely negative. There was never any spike in the values that would been seen if the virus had become fully active in my body. She had a long list of things to test for that could have been weakening my system and allowing the values to creep into the ‘positive’ spectrum.
First was the food sensitivity test. I had been tested for allergies in the past, but I already knew I didn’t have any crazy type 1 food allergies. She tested for food sensitivities, a different, more delayed reaction to certain foods. She found out that I have a major intolerance to dairy products. My blood work was showing a bad deficiency in most vitamins and minerals, specifically iron. She believes my stomach had essentially guarded my body from the dairy I was eating, and in turn I wasn’t absorbing much of any nutrition. My adrenal and thyroid glands are extremely depleted as well. My gall bladder is also a concern and will be tested sometime soon.
The next step (and stage that I’m currently going through) is a lot harder than it sounds. I have essentially eliminated everything out of my diet that could be harming my gut. No dairy, caffeine, sugar, gluten, fruit, nuts and more. This is supposed to make me feel better eventually, but right now it’s basically detox. I’m working at this very aggressively and it’s a big change for my body. Alexis said it would get worse before it got better. She was right. I feel awful but I’m optimistic and very confident in the theory. When my digestive system begins to work properly and I start feeling better I’ll begin re-introducing foods into my diet and see the response.
I can’t wait to see what this approach brings. How long have I been racing with a depleted body? What other areas of my body have been weakened by malnourishment? I don’t know the time frame on my recovery, but it can only get better from here. I’m confident that I have a lot of awesome, healthy, successful, and really fun years of racing ahead of me! Until then, I’ll be keeping my head up and cheering on my awesome friends and teammates. Thank you to everyone for all the well wishes and kind words, I simply couldn’t do it without you!