In today’s episode, we dive deep into the delicate dance of finding balance when it comes to managing endometriosis. We will take a look at insights and strategies for combining holistic healing vs Western medicine to achieve optimal health.
Join me as I discuss my belief in the transformative power of nutrition and lifestyle changes in managing endometriosis, and my experiences and lessons learned in navigating the medical world.
From birth control to surgery, from nutrition to supplements, to options for fertility treatments, to making the very best decision for your unique body…we will discuss it all.
Join me in exploring the importance of self-advocacy and finding the doctors and practitioners who are right for you. We’ll also discuss the benefits of functional testing, personalized protocols, and the never-ending process of learning and growing on this holistic journey.
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Disclaimer: This podcast is for educational purposes only. This may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here.
Full episode transcription:
Holistic Healing vs Western Medicine: Let’s get started!
Hello and welcome back to the Endo Belly Girl Podcast. So today’s episode is another listener request, which I so love. If you ever have any topics that you just would love to hear about. I do occasionally do Q A episodes, and so I can stick questions into that that I get submitted to me. Or sometimes like this, I’ll just end up doing a full episode on a question because I think there’s just such a great question and there’s so much to say about it. So today’s question that came in was about how to balance holistic healing vs western medicine when it comes to Endometriosis. And I thought this is a wonderful topic because I’m sure it’s a question that so many people are wondering about. And even though I am a holistic practitioner and that’s the work that I do, I also believe that it’s important to find a balance between the two approaches and really figure out how much of each thing that you need, what you want to take from each world.
Your journey is your own
And of course, I can’t, on this podcast episode, tell you exactly what to do or what’s going to be best for your body, because that’s going to be different for everybody. And of course, that will require you actually working with practitioners, be that Western medicine doctors or holistic health practitioners, to actually figure out what will work best for your unique body. But what I’m going to talk about is just some of what is available, what options you even have from the Western medicine and the holistic world. And also I’m going to talk about just what my approach has been, what has worked well for me, how I have found the balance between those two things. So I hope that you can, at the very least, gain some knowledge and ideas for yourself, so that when you go into making appointments with doctors or holistic practitioners, that you kind of have an idea of where you’re trying to go, what you want to do, what your goals are for your health, what feels best to your body. Because I think that’s really the most important thing here is, okay, what actually works for your body and what feels good to you. Because we’re just all different. We have different needs, we have different bodies, we have different physiologies.
And so pinpointing what actually works for your unique body is something that’s going to be really, really important. But at the end of the day, your journey is your journey. So take everything that I am going to say in this episode with a grain of salt and continue simply to take steps forward in your own health journey. And every action that you take, every step that you take is going to bring you more clarity on what’s actually going to work and what’s not going to work. So sometimes it’s hard to know just by sitting down and trying to write out a game plan. Sometimes you need to actually get out there and try different things and see what really works and what doesn’t, because the same approach just isn’t going to work for everybody. Now, I do fully believe that Western medicine and holistic practices can really complement each other. I don’t believe that it needs to be a one or the other, you have to decide kind of thing because we live in a world where you can absolutely access and work with both types of practitioners.
Holistic healing vs Western medicine: my personal journey begins
And I think that finding that balance can be really helpful for everybody. So I’m going to start out by rewinding a little bit and telling you all a little bit about my journey and how things have gone for me. What really has worked for me, what hasn’t worked for me, what I’ve tried along the way. What I wish I wouldn’t have tried what I wish I would have tried more of. So that hopefully that can help you along your journey. So for me. Although I did have symptoms of endometriosis, looking back in, probably starting in my late teen years, I didn’t really feel the full effects of it until I was in my late 20s when I went off. Birth control because I did kind of the typical American, I suppose, route where I went on birth control when I was about 20 years old and stayed on that until I was, I think, 27 when I went off birth control, give or take.
And that was because I had recently gotten married, or actually, I think I was about to get married at that point in time, and my husband and I wanted to start a family. And so logically, I went off birth control. And as soon as I did that, I started experiencing crazy pain with my periods. Like, it was life altering. Couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t function, could barely breathe sometimes. Certainly couldn’t stand up straight or even walk around the house or even perform simple daily tasks. Like, I remember going to the kitchen to get myself a snack was a huge chore during that time. And I just knew that something wasn’t right and I wanted to get help.
Now, my first instinct, of course, was to call a local OBGYN, and I actually remember calling while I was on my period one time because I was in so much intense pain and I was like, I need to see somebody now. I don’t know what is happening in my body, but something is wrong. I need help. Can you get me in? And although the woman on the phone was very sympathetic, they couldn’t even get me an appointment for months. I felt super frustrated because you all probably know how it feels when you’re in a lot of pain. You don’t have a lot of patience. So basically, I just gave up. I was frustrated.
Exploring holistic healing and fertility options
I said, okay, forget it. That’s clearly not going to happen. I’m just going to suck it up, and then my period ended and life went back to semi normal, I suppose, and I just kind of moved on. So I didn’t actually end up going to see a regular OBGYN. Some time went by and we weren’t getting pregnant. So my husband and I did end up going to see a fertility specialist. And actually, sorry, let me rewind a little bit before that, because before we had seen a fertility specialist, I had actually been going to a local acupuncturist who specialized in women’s health and fertility and was going to weekly sessions with her, as well as starting to do a little work on just cleaning up my diet. I really didn’t know what I was doing at the time, but it was just trying to eat a little cleaner and it was helping some.
It certainly helped with the pain a little bit. I felt like my cycles were starting to normalize a little bit. We still weren’t getting pregnant after, I think by then it’d been maybe a year, year and a half into our fertility journey. And so we did end up going to see a fertility specialist in our area, and she was the first one who mentioned to me that I possibly had endometriosis at the time. She did a pelvic ultrasound and could see the beginnings of an endometrioma on my ovary, which ended up getting quite large later on. And I’ll get into that a little later and she recommended we should just go straight into IVF. You guys have already been trying to get pregnant. We could try to go through an IUI cycle, but honestly, I feel like those fail a lot.
Holistic healing vs western medicine: IVF journey begins
I feel like you guys could end up just wasting more time and money. Let’s just go straight into IVF. Well, I felt a lot of fear from that because she’s telling me I’ve got this thing going on in my body called endometriosis, which I really had no idea what that even was at the time. I had to go home and google it and kind of figure out what that was. And I also felt very afraid for my fertility, thinking like, if I don’t do IVF now, I might not ever be able to get pregnant. So we ended up deciding to go for that. We did end up doing two rounds of IVF. I’ll go into the full story of that in a future episode because I’ll end up talking about that the whole time.
I could definitely talk about fertility treatments and fertility the whole time, but we did go through two rounds of IVF. We ended up having one failed round. The second round was successful, and then we had a miscarriage. I was also told when we were going through all of this to not have any sort of surgery to help with the endometriosis because it could impact my fertility and my ovaries. So I chose not to. And after that second round of IVF after that devastating miscarriage, which I’m able to talk about it now, I think largely because so much time has gone by, but it rocked my entire world. It changed my entire perspective on life, really. It was a very life altering moment for me.
Anyone who’s experienced fertility struggles and pregnancy loss may know what I’m talking about, or most likely knows what I’m talking about. But I really had to take a big step back at that time, both emotionally and physically and mentally and spiritually, just all the things I really felt like I needed to take a big step back. So I did. And that’s when I started really diving deep into the holistic stuff. I already had been working a little bit with acupuncture and diet and had really enjoyed that approach. It felt good to me. It felt like a good fit for me, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know what else could help me.
Holistic healing vs western medicine part 2: time for a change
I wanted to know what else I could do. I’m a big fan of empowering myself and being able to help myself and kind of take control of my own health. And I just knew, even though my fertility doctor told me otherwise, that there was a lot that I could do with nutrition. Because, unfortunately, no fault to medical doctors. They just aren’t taught a lot of this in depth nutrition stuff that I and other practitioners like me have learned. They learn many, many other things. I think that they’re very highly qualified to do what they do, but there’s a piece of it that they just don’t receive the training for in school. And should they? Shouldn’t they? I don’t know.
That’s a conversation for another day, but that’s where I think blending the two pieces can be really helpful. So I decided to take a step back from the medical world altogether for a while, and I started really digging into nutrition and lifestyle changes. And later on, I did a whole episode on this, which I’ll link to in the Show Notes. I talked about all the trainings that I’ve done and the certification programs and what I’ve learned. I also have a full episode. Episode one was all about nutrition for endometriosis. So I’ll link to both of those, episode one and episode three in the Show Notes, if you’d like to go back and listen to those and learn more. But I learned a whole lot of things.
I started applying it to my body, and I started seeing a lot of improvement. My pain levels started to improve. My energy levels started to improve. My digestion started to improve, which I had no idea was even related to endometriosis, because they didn’t tell me that in my doctor’s office. I had to find that out later on my own. I was seeing a lot of improvement. But I did find that where that endometrioma was located on my right ovary, I was still having pain there and that was getting to the point where it was pretty chronic. Like, it never really went away.
It was certainly flared up a lot when I was on my period. It flared up around ovulation, but it was kind of just chronically. There like this little pain on the lower right side of my abdomen where my right ovary is. So after, I want to say, I don’t know the exact timeline in this, but I think about a year later, I went back to see an endometriosis specialist and talked to him about the possibilities, what I could and should be doing. And he also recommended to me to not have surgery and wanted to put me back on birth control to help to manage the endometriosis. I have quotation marks around me. You can’t see me, but I do because that’s a whole story that I’m going to actually dig into that a little bit today. But I didn’t want to do that.
Finding what is right for your own unique body when thinking about holistic healing vs western medicine
I knew that I didn’t feel well on birth control. I didn’t want to have the synthetic hormones in my body. I had been pumped very full of medication when I was on IVF and didn’t love the way that it made me feel, so I opted out of that. I kind of just left that doctor’s office and didn’t really take any of his recommendations. Although I will say he was talking to me a little bit about nutrition, and I was telling him all the things I was doing, and he was actually very on board with that, which I thought that part was great, but it still just didn’t feel like it resonated with me. And that’s one thing that I really want to point out. When it comes to not even just the Western medicine world, I’m going to say with any practitioner that you’re working with, even if they’re the smartest, most competent individual in the world, in their field, in what they do, what they’re talking about and what they’re recommending to you and the way that they want to work with you, it still has to resonate with you. Whether that’s a medical approach or it’s a holistic sort of approach, like even the work that I do, I don’t know that it’s necessarily right for everybody.
Because if you don’t really fully believe in my process and what I do and this type of work, well, it may not be the best fit for you because you’re going to end up fighting it along the way and maybe not wanting to follow the protocols fully because it just doesn’t resonate with you in your core. And that’s okay. Right? I don’t need to try to help every single person in the world if they don’t feel like it’s a right fit for them. I do have many wonderful clients right now who I work with who love this type of work and feel great doing it and have seen huge improvements in their bodies. And that’s wonderful. And I feel like it really resonates with them, like it resonates with me. And that’s all I can really ask for. And I feel like it’s very much the same when you’re working with a Western medicine doctor, listen to what they’re saying.
And, yeah, we have to take into account the fact that that person may have more expertise, likely has more expertise than you do. I certainly don’t know much about performing surgery and the implications of that on your body. I’m not an expert on that. So, yeah, I’m going to listen to them, but I also want to feel out what really feels right to my body, what do I really want to do, because it’s my body at the end of the day, and I think that’s important to remember. So what I ended up doing was I went to a third doctor. I didn’t go back to the first doctor, the fertility doctor. I didn’t go back to the second doctor who recommended not having surgery and putting me back on birth control. I did my research and my homework, and I ended up finding another endometriosis specialist in my area, actually about 45 minutes away from me, and made an appointment, which, of course, was a few months out, because that’s kind of how it works, at least in where I live.
Time for surgery
That seems like it takes a few months to be able to get an appointment. And she seemed very in line with my thought process and my, I guess, instincts with my body of what I felt was right. And she actually specialized both infertility and endometriosis, which I thought was a great fit because those were both concerns for me. And she was telling me, yes, it is possible that removing that endometrioma can impact your ovary. But she told me, well, at the same time, your ovary is already compromised because you have a very large endometrioma growing on it. And I was like, well, that makes a lot of sense to me. And so I decided to go ahead and move forward with the excision surgery with her. So I did go in, and this was August of 2022 at this point in time, went in to have that excision surgery done, which was very successful.
She did a very thorough job. It ended up being about a four hour long surgery where they discovered extensive endometriosis. She wrote on my chart, extensive stage four endometriosis. There was a lot in there. I won’t go into the full details, but they did remove about an eight centimeter endometrioma on my right ovary, and they removed endometriosis lesions from everywhere. I mean, it was on my bowels, it was on my bladder, on my diaphragm, on pretty much every place that it could be within my abdomen. There was a bunch of things stuck together. A lot of those scar tissue, adhesions like my ovaries were stuck to my uterus, and my bowels were also stuck to my uterus, and I believe my bladder was also stuck to my uterus.
There was a lot that was stuck together. It was very angry and inflamed in there. And because of all of that, honestly, I’m very glad that I had the surgery because the cleanest diet in the world is not going to unstick my ovaries from my uterus or remove that endometrioma. I know there is some debate out there on whether or not diet and supplements can shrink endometriomas or endometriosis lesions in general. I don’t have enough research on that to have a full understanding of the full impact of whether or not that’s true. I know there are stories of that and if there’s a tipping point of there’s so much endometriosis already growing, or that endometrioma has already gotten so large that you just can’t do enough through diet and supplements and you need to have it removed, I feel like I made the right decision for my body. I did get a lot of relief from having that surgery, and I really feel like the blending of the two things has been very powerful for me. It has been at this point, it’s now November of 2023 when I’m recording this episode.
Post excision surgery: the balance of holistic healing vs western medicine continues
So it has been a little over a year since I had my surgery. We’ll see how things go with time, but as of yet, nothing has worsened since I had my surgery. In fact, things have continued to improve. I really don’t have any period pain right now. I still have some things that I’m working out as far as digestive health and things like that. There are definitely some sources of inflammation, I think possibly some liver function that needs some support. But that’s another story for another day. My journey still continues, really forevermore.
Right. Health is not a destination type journey, but it’s a journey. But I do feel like the work that I’m doing has made huge impacts on my body to where I’m very much hoping that that can be a one time surgery and I won’t need to go back to have a second 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th dozenth surgery like I’ve heard other people need to have. So that’s my thoughts on that. So, yeah, at this point in time, I am not doing anything in the medical world. I’m on zero medications. I would like to keep it that way. I still have been offered birth control several times since then.
I did actually end up having to go back and see a GI specialist after having my surgery, which my surgeon had recommended, because there was a spot where she wasn’t able to fully excise the endometriosis because it was wrapped around my ileocal valve and appendix area. And so I was supposed to go back and have a secondary surgery for that. It’s a possibility that I may need to do that in the future. But again, the doctor that I went to see, the surgeon actually the initial surgeon that she recommended didn’t take my insurance, which wasn’t going to work. So she recommended somebody else. And I went in to see him and he basically was like, why are you here? You should just be on birth control. And so I walked out of his office and never went back. It seems to be a theme for me, but I think that’s important.
The importance of advocating for yourself
Like, you’re your own best advocate when it comes to your health and finding the right doctors who resonate with you is important, especially in my humble opinion, when you are going to be put under. That was for me the first time that I’ve had a major surgery like that, where I was put under full general anesthesia, other than I’d been put under once or twice before. Like when I had my wisdom teeth taken out as a teenager and then when I had my egg retrieval for IVF, both of those were a twilight anesthesia. There were no incisions involved. So it’s a little bit different. This was my first big surgery, hopefully only if I’m lucky. And it’s scary when you’re sitting there in that hospital room getting ready, getting prepped to go into surgery and just knowing that you’re going to be put under and you don’t know what’s going to happen in there. You have to trust the people that are in that room.
And I knew when I met that general surgeon who was potentially going to work on removing that endometriosis around my appendix and ileoco valve, I was like, I do not want that man anywhere near me when I am unconscious and he has sharp objects. Like, it just did not feel comfortable to me and so I didn’t opt into that. So at this point in time, what I’m doing is continuing my holistic journey. I’m always and forever working on fine tuning my nutrition, balancing out, eating well with, also feeling good about it, and eating things that truly make me happy. Because feeling good is about more than what you just put in your body, but it’s about how we feel on all the levels, mentally and spiritually and all the things. So I’m always working on fine tuning that and balancing that out, working on my nutrient status, fine tuning my supplements, always working on that. I’m continuing also to dig deeper with more functional testing. I actually have at this point in time, hired a practitioner to work with me.
Holistic healing vs western medicine: even the healer needs healing
So it’s actually a practitioner who has she’s also a nutritional therapy practitioner and restorative wellness practitioner like I am. So I know that sounds maybe a little silly to some of you to go out and hire somebody when I already do this type of work myself, but it’s one of those things where I feel like even the what is that phrase? Or something like even the helpers need help. I feel like I’m saying that wrong, but there’s some kind of phrase like that and what it really came down to for me was I needed a third set of eyes. I needed somebody who is not personally connected to the situation like I am. Like, how can I not be emotionally invested and feel frustrations along the way? I’m human like everybody else. And I just felt like I needed A, an accountability partner, and B, just somebody to bounce ideas off of and kind of get a third opinion. And just to be able to have an outsider’s perspective on my health, I think is super helpful. And I know the reason this really came to me was because I know that that is super beneficial for my clients.
I see that all the time where, okay, I have so many people come to me who are like, alyssa, I am the healthiest eater in the world. I eat all organic food. I eat a paleo diet. I don’t drink alcohol. I exercise regularly. Like, they’re doing all the right things, but they’re just still not feeling well. And I resonate with that so hard because I feel like that’s been me so many times, and so many of my clients end up coming back to me and saying, oh, my gosh, I’m so glad I started to work with you. Because even though I was doing all the things, maybe I needed more of a process to follow.
Or maybe I just needed to learn the things that came out of those functional tests that you were doing and be able to use those results to create that protocol to help to heal what’s going on in your body. And do things like rebalance my gut and rebalance the hormones and all the things. So I decided that, you know what? I want that for myself. I want somebody else to look at my lab results. I want somebody else to tell me what to do so that I can just follow a protocol and do it and just make it so much simpler. So that’s what I did. I am actually working with a practitioner myself. I’m very happy about that decision.
I feel like it was 1000% worth the investment. And I’m hoping to continue to work on my hormone balance and fertility and things like that. Toxicity levels. There’s a lot of layers to this that I feel like we can always dig deeper and deeper and deeper. Even some of the practitioners I talked to who have been doing this for years and years and years and years and years are telling me how there’s still oh, you know what? Now I need to fine tune this. Now I think I need to go back and work on this. Like, there’s just there’s always something we can dig into. And that’s why I find I actually end up having a lot of clients that join into my maintenance plan after they finish our initial time together, because they just want to be able to continue to keep on this pathway and do the work together and fine tune things.
My personal conclusions around holistic healing vs western medicine approaches
And I think that’s a wonderful thing. So anyway, my personal conclusions from everything that I have done and again, these are completely my thoughts, my decisions, my personal conclusions that have come out of everything that I just told you. Kind of that full journey, that full story so far. And here are my conclusions that I’ve come to one, like I just said, I will continue to pursue holistic solutions forever. I will always be continually working on bringing my body back into balance. I know that this stuff works. I’ve seen the difference in my body and in my clients and I know that it is effective and powerful work. So I will continue to do that forever.
I will also be continuing to learn forever. I love learning. I’m just finishing up right now a course on hormone health and deeper hormone testing and things like that just been super fun and I’m learning to use that on my own body with my clients as well. And I will always be working on digging deeper in that side of things. It really resonates with me. I really enjoy it. For me personally, I plan on never going back on any sort of synthetic hormone type medications. So that includes things like birth control of any kind, especially the hormonal birth control.
Clearly I don’t need it anyway, so why bother? Lupron and other GnRH inhibitors and things like that. Those are all types of medications that I have been on before. I’ve seen the impacts of my body, I have experienced it, I haven’t enjoyed it. There are a lot of side effects that go with those things. I plan on doing a full episode coming up in the not too far away future where I’m going to really dig into the full impact of those types of medications on your body, the side effects and the nutrient depletions and all of those things. But for now, just know that they have a lot of impacts on your body. And stay tuned for a future episode where we will dig deeper into all of that. But for myself, I’m really working on balancing out my hormones naturally in a holistic supportive way, rather than blocking all the hormone receptors in my body, which is basically what those do.
Our future fertility journey
And I feel like for me that will give me more long term support and relief. I personally will also most likely not go back to any sort of fertility treatments. Who knows what the future holds, you just never know. I haven’t completely negated that idea, but it just doesn’t feel good to me. Actually. My husband and I had consulted with a different fertility specialist a few months ago just to kind of have a conversation. They offered a free consultation for people who have been through IVF before and so I took that offer and just had a free consultation just to hear his thoughts. And see what his thinking was.
And of course, he recommended going back to IVF. He wanted us to go back to actually doing another full egg retrieval and then going into doing another transfer. And honestly, it’s just a lot doing that. Yes, it’s a lot financially, so there’s certainly that aspect of it, but it’s a lot on your body. There’s so many synthetic hormones that are pumped through your body and medications and just the mental stress of it all because there’s a lot of having to run back and forth for tests all the time. I know when I was getting ready for my egg retrieval, I had to go into the office, like, every other day to get a blood draw and an ultrasound to kind of see how things were progressing. And then they call you and, okay, we’re going to do the egg retrieval in 72 hours, and you have to do this shot at exactly this time. It’s very stressful.
And would I be willing to go through that process if that was my only pathway towards having a family? Maybe. But I fully believe that that is not my only pathway. I believe that there is more to uncover in my body, which is why I’ve hired a restorative wellness practitioner like myself to help me. And we’re just going to see how that goes. I have full faith in my body, and I think that’s a big part of it, too. I believe in my body, even though a lot of time has gone by. Yeah, that pathway just isn’t resonating with me. I am not feeling it at the present moment in time.
That’s where I stand. And I’m just going to continue to pursue things from more of this holistic perspective and that may in the future include things like going back into Acupuncture. I did enjoy my experience with that. I may end up going back towards, like, pelvic floor, physical therapy, and other avenues, but for the moment, I am enjoying the pathway that I’m on. It feels good to me. It resonates with me and my body. It feels good to my core, and that’s really the most important part. So I don’t believe that my exact pathway is going to be right for everybody.
Do you need more holistic healing vs western medicine support?
Some people may need more medical support. Some people may, in fact, be better off or feel better off being on medications in the long term. And if that’s the pathway that’s right for you, awesome. I’m not here to judge you. I’m not here to tell you what to do. I’m not here to tell you what pathway you should or shouldn’t take. I want you to feel supported in your decisions for your own unique body, whatever that may be. So my biggest piece of advice is to figure out what resonates with you.
Again, taking action is the best way to do that. Sitting there in your living room and debating over and over, going through in your head what all the options are is not going to really bring you more clarity. What’s going to bring you more clarity is trying things. I know what works for my body because I have tried a lot of things over the years, and I have figured out what resonates with me and what doesn’t. If you’ve already tried a lot of things and you already have an idea, great. If you’re brand new to this and you just got diagnosed last week and you’re just figuring things out, just take a step forward and see what happens, and then you can go from there and have more clarity on your pathway moving forward. And my last piece of advice for today is to just let your own voice be the loudest. Whoever’s talking to you again, whether it is a medical doctor or it’s a holistic practitioner, including myself, by the way, and including your friends and your family and your spouse, it’s your body.
You are the biggest expert in your unique body
At the end of the day, the most important decision maker for your own body is you. I’m not saying don’t listen to anybody. I’m not saying ignore everybody’s advice, but I am saying let your voice be the loudest. Let your experience and your feelings and your mental state and how your body feels physically. Let that speak, and don’t be afraid to really advocate for yourself. There’s so much advice out there. If you just Google endometriosis or what to do for Endometriosis, there are so many results that come up, it’s overwhelming. So do yourself a favor and follow your own intuition.
You’ve got this. Nobody is a bigger expert in your body than you are. All right, my friend. Well, that’s all I have for you guys today. I hope that this episode really helped you in your journey. If it did, please take a moment to leave me a review. I really love reading those reviews and seeing what you all think and how these episodes are helping you. It means the world to me to read those.
It really, truly makes my day when I get a new review. So I hope you guys have the most wonderful week. I hope that you have more clarity and can gain more peace of mind moving forward as you make these decisions for your body. Sending you so much love, and we will talk soon. Bye.