Hi, I’m Sonya, Founder of Hormone Soup. I’ve learned how to thrive and achieve optimal health in spite of a lifetime of hormone health conditions but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve faced and eventually overcome infertility, miscarriages, severe PMS, postpartum mood disorder, hypothyroidism and insulin resistance thanks to advocating for myself in my healthcare. There were lots of ups and downs along the way and I usually felt alone in my journey. I chose to share my story with you in the hopes that you won’t feel so alone. My dear late friend Ava taught me how to advocate for myself and now I’m paying it forward. So welcome!
I’ve had hormone health issues my entire life, in fact, I’ve had almost every hormone health problem you can imagine! It all began when I became a teenager – my body started whispering to me that something was wrong and by the time I was in my twenties it was screaming at the top of its lungs. Unfortunately, my doctors weren’t listening and instead of getting to the root cause I was offered band-aid solutions. The problem with these solutions is that they didn’t fit with what I thought was wrong with me but I had never been taught to ‘trust my intuition’, to advocate for myself or to even participate in my own care. I accepted these band-aid solutions either out of ignorance, out of sheer frustration or due to feeling like I had no other options. I can honestly say that none of the solutions offered helped me get to the bottom of my health concerns.
The problem with Band-aids
The problem with a band-aid solution is that it hides what is really going on even when it seems to be helping at first. Eventually, though the band-aid isn’t enough or other problems pop up, seemingly out of nowhere and then more and more band-aids are applied. Soon you’re a matrix of band-aids and you still have the underlying condition which is unaddressed.
I suffered for two decades before I was ready to rip the bandage off and start peeling back the layers to get closer to the underlying cause of my health issues. As it turned out everything pointed to a hormone imbalance but I suffered because ‘hormone imbalance’ or ‘estrogen dominance’ isn’t a medical diagnosis.
My story starts out similar to many young girls’ with menstrual irregularities such as heavy uterine bleeding and oligomenorrhea (infrequent periods), as well as painful menstruation and acne. Birth control pills, antibiotics, and naproxen failed to get to the root cause of these hormonal health concerns and led to infertility and recurrent miscarriages in my twenties. The good news is that after learning how to advocate for myself, I was able to successfully conceive and had two beautiful daughters! Sadly, my understanding of my hormone health didn’t spill over into areas other than my miscarriage and fertility so the still under-addressed hormone imbalance I had opened the door for a host of postpartum wonders. I developed postpartum mood disorder, low-libido, vaginal dryness and severe PMS. Prescriptions for more birth control pills and an SSRI failed to help and now it wasn’t just me suffering, it was my entire family.
Two Decades and Two Lost Babies Later
I eventually sought out an integrative health doctor who was a naturopath specializing in women’s health. She instantly suspected a hormone imbalance – low progesterone – something I had believed contributed to my miscarriages and irregular cycles. I was flabbergasted – was this woman an angel? A witch? A magician? How could she know in the blink of an eye what other doctors had failed to see for two decades? I was 37 years old and had already suffered for 20+ years. Needless to say, it was an emotional time for me. Within the first month of seeing her, I began to feel like a new woman and had an awesome side effect – I got pregnant! I hadn’t been going to her for fertility issues and yet here I was balancing my hormones and without even trying I conceived. What a gift! My body worked after all – the beauty of it was as incredible to me then as it is today.
5 pregnancies and 3 bundles-of-joy later…
So now that I’ve managed to figure out solutions to all of these problems, you’d think I’ve won the fight right? Well…pregnancy does funny and sometimes unexpected things to a woman’s hormones. I thought I was all set with my plan to avoid postpartum mood disorder (PPMD), also called Postpartum Depression (PPD) and Perinatal Mood Disorder (PND) with this third baby. I had an Ob/Gyn who understood hormones and postpartum mood disorder and I knew what to watch out for since I’d realized I’d suffered in the past. In fact, this time it hit so hard and fast and in a way that I wasn’t ready for I didn’t recognize it for what it was. Sadly neither did anyone else.This time around my PPMD showed up as debilitating anxiety and OCD. My anxiety was off the charts, thanks to pulmonary ventricular contractions (PVC’s) and a triggering event (someone warning me about mastitis and undetected breast cancer). So instead of seeking treatment for postpartum anxiety from my Ob/Gyn, I sought medical help for heart problems (PVC’s) and recurring mastitis. After months of suffering the lightbulb went on! It was my hormones! I was being undertreated! I called my Ob/Gyn but he was away on holidays and I couldn’t get in to see him for 3 weeks.When you have anxiety you count time by minutes or seconds so 3 weeks might as well be 30 years. I called my pharmacist who, as a compounding pharmacist, is an expert on hormones. She confirmed my suspicions and assured me that it wouldn’t hurt to double the low dose I was on. It was almost instant relief, my anxiety began to subside. Three weeks later when I see my Ob/Gyn he tripled my dose of progesterone and I was back to my new old self. Anxiety gone, OCD gone, PVC’s gone.
Hypothyroidism – Just to keep things interesting…
My story continues with turning 40 and learning I have what is officially referred to as “subclinical hypothyroidism” which means it’s in the same category of my other hormone health issues – not usually considered a problem by most traditional medical doctors. How long I lived with undetected hypothyroidism is a question that will never be answered. Sex hormone issues and thyroid issues are often complicatedly intertwined with overlapping symptoms. Did it contribute to my other hormone problems? Possibly, in fact probably. I will never really know to what extent. But I try not to dwell on the past. What I do know is that women (and men) with ‘subclinical hypothyroidism’ are often told “your thyroid is normal” or “your TSH is in the normal range” and symptoms are often not even included in the conversation.
With all these bumps and bruises behind me now, I’ve become a staunch advocate for my health and educated about my body and my health. Now, whenever I encounter a new health issue I am more armed with knowledge than ever and each time I face it head on. Last year, in fact, I discovered I was insulin resistant and with personalized nutritional guidance, was able to turn that pre-diabetes condition around within mere weeks. I know there are probably more bumps in the road for me as I face peri-menopause and menopause and goodness knows what else but I’ll do it with eyes and ears wide open, always educating and advocating for myself and surrounding myself with positive people and doctors who take an integrative and functional medicine approach.
Why ‘Hormone Soup’
Even though there is information out there about each of these separate health topics I’ve experienced, the problem is…one hormone problem begets another hormone problem and so on until pretty soon you can’t remember life without layer after layer of health problems. Unaddressed problems with our endocrine systems tend to create a snowball effect. First, it affects you and then your husband and then your kids and who knows what other relationships may be at risk. I know I’m not alone and many other women are experiencing similar problems because I’ve heard thousands of stories from women all over the world. My personal experiences and years of research have led me to the knowledge that I wish I’d had the benefit of many years ago. One of the most impactful things that took me time to learn is that having one of these hormone health issues increases the likelihood you’ll experience other hormone health problems and you may also carry a risk for other health conditions that you don’t associate with hormones.