I Was Tired, Bloated, & Stressed Out—Here's How I Regained My Health
Bam. Just like that, my car was hit by another as I was making a left turn. My car started spinning out of control. Then it finally hit the divider.
I pushed away the airbag and jumped out of the car. I was scared, upset, and physically shaking. And yet, the very first thing I did was pull out my phone and call the karate teacher to let him know I was going to be late picking up my kids.
Then, a list of other worries started rushing into my head: Oh my god, the car insurance will go up. I won't be able to study for my boards tonight. I can't be late tomorrow morning, I have an important meeting.
It wasn't until later that night, after I had called the insurance company and dealt with the totaled car, that I realized I was experiencing something much more than just the normal stress of being a working mom.
My husband and I had just moved to a new city, with two children under the age of 5. I had a brand-new private practice and looming medical certification exams. I was constantly worried about being home with the kids while at the same time stressing about my career that was just taking off.
And my health was seeing the effects. I felt completely imbalanced. I was no longer energetic, as I used to be. For the past two years, I had been moody and cranky. I was gaining fat, despite exercising like crazy. I couldn't sleep at night for unclear reasons. I was constantly stressed.
At first, I figured these symptoms were due to the fact that I was in my mid-30s. But inside, I knew something much deeper had been going wrong for years.
I wasn't sure what to do, so I consulted some of my doctor friends and told them my symptoms. They had no answers for me. My physical exam and blood tests were fine. They told me I was "normal" and that there was nothing to worry about.
But I just knew something was off.
If you listen to your body, you can be just as energetic, fit, and happy as you used to be.
So I started doing research and experimenting on my own. I read books and I looked into natural solutions. As I researched further, I discovered that my symptoms—fatigue, mental fog, weight gain, altered periods, and bloating—could all be signs of gut and hormone imbalances. It seemed that my cortisol, or stress, hormones were way too high and were "stealing" from the rest of my hormones.
Sometimes this shows up as food sensitivities. For example, I used to tolerate wheat just fine, but in that last two years I found I couldn't eat it without feeling very ill afterward.
I made slow changes, first with food.
I replaced my quick, processed choices with whole foods. No more sodas and lunches out—I started to pack my own. I did away with salad dressings and condiments that were hidden sources of sugar and salt. I replaced candy, my old afternoon snack, with whole fruit.
I took out food groups like wheat, soy, and dairy to test my response. In less than two weeks, I was already feeling better with just these changes.
I made lifestyle tweaks.
I started sleeping more—a lot more. Allowing myself more Zs and making sure I did a half-hour wind-down routine before bed completely changed my energy.
I also started a morning routine. Gone were the days where I jolted out of bed with my alarm and ran around frantically to get ready for the day. Now, I cushioned my morning with 10 to 15 minutes of downtime for stretching and mindful thinking.
Lastly, I added in mindset changes.
I practiced "abundance thinking." To me, having an abundance mindset means that you don’t treat others as competition; there's plenty to go around, and collaborating can make everyone more successful. I also practiced gratitude statements and made sure to check in with my daily goals in the morning and evening.
And slowly, over about 90 days, my symptoms disappeared. This was now more than two years ago, and I honestly feel 100 percent better. In fact, better than I ever have before.
I'm sharing my story now because so many women, especially those over 35, feel like this is simply part of life and aging. They don't realize that they can feel better. I want people to know that if you listen to your body, you can be just as energetic, fit, and happy as you used to be.
Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified MD with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard Universities. She was named one of mindbodygreen's Top 100 Women In Wellness to Watch in 2015 and has been a guest on many national and local media shows. She helps busy people transform their health by reducing inflammation and eating more plants, utalizing the power of the microbiome to help digestion, natural hormone balance and food sensitivities. She is an expert on intermittent fasting for women and has a 2 week guided group program.