This is a follow-up to my post entitled “HORROR-MONES”.
This week, I visited my general practitioner and a gynecologist to get some insight into whether or not hormone imbalances or deficiencies are the causes for my General Anxiety Disorder symptoms (self-diagnosed).
Before I get into the details of these visits, and their results, I thought I should mention in detail what my symptoms and “treatments” are, since I’ve only written about it in spurts as a way to vent.
+ S Y M P T O M S +
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty breathing, shallow breathing
- Trouble focusing on tasks
- “Blood swirling” sensations in calves (maybe this is equal to tingling?)
- Stomach ache or discomfort
- mild headache (lasts less than an hour)
- Easily surprised/ startled (nervous system on alert)
- Difficulty relaxing
- Dizziness and room spinning
- Blurred vision
- Eye flashes in settings with high contrast in lighting
- Intolerance to florescent lights
- Eye pain
- Seeing things that are not there (shadows, figures, etc.)
- Muscle spasms in legs, arms, neck, and back of the head
- Trouble sitting still, strong desire to move
- Heart palpitations
- Mild chest pain
- Severe headaches lasting two or more hours (typically four hours)
- Mood swings (especially PMS)
- Complete inability to focus
- Trouble falling asleep
- Trouble staying asleep
- Feeling like I am moving when I am not
- Surges of stress that travel through body
- Numbness in arms
- Brain skips: vibration in brain without losing thought (pretty sure this is NOT a petit mal seizure, but I could be wrong)
- Dark thoughts and intense emotion, usually morbid in nature (but not suicidal)
- Panic episodes, usually mild hyperventilation and tears that won’t quit
- Panic attacks — have only had one to date
MANIFESTATIONS OF ANXIETY
- Fear of having a seizure (I have had 5 within my lifetime)
- Fear of fainting (I have fainted more times than I can count)
- Reluctance to leave the house (mild agoraphobia)
- Reluctance to visit places that are or are near places of panic episodes or seizures.
- Temporarily fearful of driving
- Temporarily fearful of going through security and being stuck on airplane
- Stress during events I am nervous for, i.e., drawing blood
- Stress during events I am excited for, i.e., visiting with friends
- Stress increase during suspected ovulation
+ T R E A T M E N T S +
THINGS I’VE TRIED THAT DID NOT WORK
- Magnesium supplement
- Natural Calm plus Calcium Dietary Supplement
- Natrol 5-HTP 100 mg
- Pharma GABA 100 mg
- Jarrow Formulas Methylcobalamin B-12 1000 mcg
- Sea salt lamp (it’s still pretty!)
- Organic Sesame Skincare oil
- Yoga and exercise
THINGS I’VE TRIED THAT HELPED
- Gaia Ashwagandha: stopped due to intense headaches
- Life Seasons Anxie-T: very mild effect, but still helped sometimes
- Nature Made B-12 Cyancobalamin 1000mg: strongest effect, but now experience heart palpitations and chest pain so can no longer take this 😦
- Stopped drinking coffee completely
- Limited sugar in diet
- Drink filtered water from tap in glass bottles (vs. filtered water in plastic bottles)
- Challenging myself to do the scary things anyway: probably the best thing one can do
- Meditation (loving-kindness!), journaling, distraction, writing
THINGS I WILL TRY IN THE FUTURE
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
These were within a 9 month period, starting April 2016 to present (January 2017). Now, I would say I experience mild symptoms on occasion, always unwarranted. I am much better at coping and focusing on other things, so it’s not as excruciating, it’s just annoying. My symptoms started to improve the most at the end of November 2016 when I began taking the Nature Made B-12 supplement and drinking filtered water from home vs. in plastic bottles.
Okay, now that’s all out of the way. What were my results?
From the GP, I learned that it is highly unlikely that I have a B-12 deficiency given the numbers from my blood test in May. B-12 was in a normal range, magnesium was normal, and so was my thyroid. I am getting another blood test (ugh) soon just to be sure, and I love that my GP believes me enough to check again. The only thing my blood test told me was that I need more aerobic exercise and more vitamin D (which I have been taking since May).
The gynecologist was more tricky. For one, he answered my question about my periods. They are NOT irregular. He proceeded to explain how menstrual cycles worked, which for the most part I learned in Biology. He didn’t explain why the cycle lengths vary so much, implying that that’s just “how it is”…which is not a good enough answer for me. I almost sensed he thought I wouldn’t have the capacity to understand how all of this works, as there was some condescension when I was explaining my questions and symptoms. I don’t blame him though, as it’s not like he has the time to teach all these details to me. I just bought Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler, MPH. It’s this giant book that describes in detail myths and answers on female health. It seems very comprehensive so far, although it’s non-fiction which is always more of a chore to read.
As for the hormone imbalance, he looked at my saliva test results that I brought, initiated, and paid in full for, scanning them for one minute and said, no, I don’t have a hormone imbalance. The saliva test said that it’s likely I have a progesterone deficiency: 60 pg/mL (.06 ng/mL) about 3 days before my period (Luteal phase), when the normal amount would be around 120 pg/mL (1.20 ng/mL) for my age of 25. The general normal range for premenopausal women is 75-270 pg/mL. Progesterone drops to initiate menstruation, hence my progesterone should be low-ish, but there should be a fair amount given that your body does not produce progesterone at all during the Follicular phase (start of period to ovulation). I got the impression though that the test accounts for this, as they ask for information on your menstrual cycle, and you can only take the test 7 days after ovulation or before your menstrual cycle begins. Estradiol, testosterone, and DHEAs were in the normal range.
Here’s a chart displaying normal ranges of progesterone:
He offered to put me on low dose birth control to help with cramps and PMS, but I felt that would be pointless. I personally don’t believe that hormonal birth control is the right option for me and my body. Thanks to my neuroscience class, I learned how precious hormones are and I do not wish to mess with them when it’s not necessary. While I appreciate BC’s existence for the millions of women who rely on it, I do not wish to use it, especially with it’s role in inhibiting fertility (which is controversial and obviously not the case for everyone). My mom struggled with fertility, and it’d be nice to have kids one day without the added struggle.
It’s most likely that the gynecologist was correct about the hormone test, as he is an expert after all. But…I am still skeptical, or at least confused. I still feel like something is off. I accept that I could be completely wrong about this, as I do have a history of trauma and for all I know, that is enough to randomly send someone into a strong spell of anxiety symptoms. But my hunch tells me this is not the whole story, especially since something as minor as a vitamin and crappy tasting water have helped me the most significantly.
Within the next month or so, I’ll do another blood test, this time testing all the hormones, so it will be interesting to see if it’s consistent with the gynecologist’s verdict or the saliva test’s verdict. Another update ensues! Though I hate needles so don’t expect that one for a while, lol. I am planning to use this guide to make sure I get an accurate progesterone reading.