Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.
I was just 26 years old when my hormones first started going all over the place. Still a baby to some. Ready to have babies to others.
But my body was like, “Nope. Not doing any of that. Let’s dangle you around menopause instead.”
OK, so it wasn’t that drastic. I’m 36 now and technically still ovulating. But it was around the age of 26 that I was first diagnosed with endometriosis. And with that diagnosis came a hormone roller coaster I’m still not completely off yet.
If you’ve ever dealt with hormone issues, you know how frustrating they can be. One day, your skin looks amazing. The next, it looks inflamed and angry. You might wake up with whiskers growing under your chin, or find yourself suddenly sweating all the time. Weight packs on without your diet or exercise plan changing. You find yourself vacillating between bouts of tears and moments of rage on a dime.
The only thing you know for sure is, you no longer feel anything at all like yourself.
The root of my hormone issues always seems to come back to endometriosis. I’ve had five major abdominal surgeries, chipping away at my ovaries each time. The hormone bounce-back from those surgeries is often so much harder than the physical recovery itself.
And as a hormone-driven condition, endometriosis has a way of wreaking havoc on my hormones, even when it’s been years since my last surgery.
I’ve tried medical treatments to deal with this, but there’s always a delicate balance of trying to get my hormones under control without overstimulating my estrogen — because doing so would make the endometriosis worse.
Dancing that dance medically has never exactly worked out for me. I end up bouncing between extremes, dealing with harsh side effects and drugs that seem to cause me more harm than good.
It wasn’t that long after my initial diagnosis that I began seeking out more natural alternatives to the creams and prescriptions my doctor was prepared to provide. I started by visiting a naturopath, an acupuncturist, and a healer — in that order.
The naturopath wanted me to do a 24-hour urine test, claiming that would provide a more accurate look at my hormone panel than any blood test could ever produce.
I’m not entirely sure about the scientific accuracy of that claim, but I was willing to go along with anything that might offer up different answers and better solutions.
So, for 24 hours straight, every time I needed to pee, I peed into the same gallon bucket. It was red and was meant to live in my fridge when I wasn’t peeing into it. Because that was gross and I didn’t want little droplets of urine dripping onto my food, I took to peeing in a red Solo cup instead, carefully transferring that into the cold pee bucket after.
At the end of that little experiment, I had to gently shake the bucket (to ensure the contents were thoroughly mixed) and transfer just a little into a tube I then needed to pack, freeze, and ship for testing.
I did this test once a year for 3 years. And every time, the results came back the same: Not only were my estrogen levels extremely high, but my testosterone was also off the charts for a woman.
Which explained those little whiskers I’d been getting under my chin.
To combat this problem, the naturopath prescribed supplements and dietary changes — no dairy being chief among her suggestions.
But I’m a girl who loves cheese. Sticking to that forever just wasn’t going to work for me.
So, to the acupuncturist I turned. She stuck needles in my eyelids and cupped my back so frequently that I was constantly black and blue. She lit incense and played soothing music. It was always a relaxing visit.
But several years and two rounds of IVF later, I wasn’t exactly feeling a difference.
Which was why I sought out a healer, a woman who practiced deep tissue massage to rid my body of toxins and make life bearable again.
I have to admit, I found the greatest relief to my hormone woes in seeing her, but I’ve never been sure if that was because she was actually changing something within me with her hands, or just because our sessions relaxed me enough to reduce the cortisol (stress hormone) I typically pump at an exaggerated rate.
It was what she offered next that really taught me I’d maybe gone too far in my quest for natural healing. Right before my second round of IVF, she presented me with a squirrel poop tea.
The concoction she’d ordered was specifically designed to get my hormones in check. Now, I don’t know where she ordered this concoction from, nor do I know what all was in it (besides squirrel poop, that is).
She did inform me it was technically an illegal batch — you’re apparently not allowed to supply people with animal feces to ingest in the United States — but because she loved me so much as a client, she wanted to do what she could to help.
And she was sure this would do the trick.
She instructed me to brew the tea in big batches, up to a gallon at a time, and try to sweeten it with honey, “because it’s not going to taste great.” She also recommended I keep it in the fridge and drink it cold, thereby making it easier to chug down quickly and hopefully avoid some of the taste.
Two glasses a day, and she was sure I’d have relief in no time.
I did as instructed. I brewed and drank that squirrel poop tea like a girl up for anything that might promise relief. I kept up this routine for at least 3 weeks, and… nothing.
Nothing besides a constant bitter taste in my mouth, that is.
I’d like to say that was the last unusual thing I tried to get my hormones under control, but there have been other attempts over the years.
I still see a regular doctor, but I’m no longer a patient of the naturopath, acupuncturist, or healer. That’s mostly because I did eventually become a mom (through adoption), and I simply didn’t have time for that level of self-care anymore.
But I retained many of the lessons they taught me, and kept in mind what did and did not work over the years. The truth is, I’ve come to realize that for me personally, diet plays a bigger role in my hormones than just about anything else.
Eating clean (which, for me, looks a lot like keto) is often the best thing I can do for managing my hormones.
Sometimes I’m able to stick to that plan. Other times I falter. The key now is, when I start sweating uncontrollably and suffering from insomnia or unexplainable weight gain, I usually know what to do to kick my body back into some form of balance.
And I don’t have to drink a single sip of squirrel poop tea to achieve that.
Leah Campbell is a writer and editor living in Anchorage, Alaska. She’s a single mother by choice after a serendipitous series of events led to the adoption of her daughter. Leah is also the author of the book “Single Infertile Female” and has written extensively on the topics of infertility, adoption, and parenting. You can connect with Leah via Facebook, her website, and Twitter.