After Years Of Unexplained Symptoms, I Took My Health Into My Own Hands
One of my most prominent memories from high school is missing so much of it. I would need to stay home from class constantly, because I was always getting sick. It seemed like I was always hyper-susceptible to whatever illness was going around.
I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but it felt like being sick became part of my identity.
My mysterious illness persisted for years.
I spent my high school years living in Bangladesh. Even though it’s on the Eastern side of the world, in my experience, there was a pretty strong emphasis on allopathic, Western medicine. So any time I would see a doctor, I was given a course of antibiotics—but they never investigated the root cause.
In addition to constantly getting sick, I also started developing skin conditions, like rosacea, which had never happened to me before. When I was going through skin issues, I actually traveled to Singapore and Thailand, to see a few more doctors, but they just gave me steroid cream for treatment.
None of the practitioners I saw suggested looking at my gut to see if it was having an impact on my skin or immune system.
Needless to say, my challenges continued into college. I even somehow got meningitis during my sophomore year, which is an incredibly rare infection. I also struggled with chronic UTIs during my entire college experience.
Through college, when something went wrong, I was either given antibiotics or pain medication. I actually became resistant to antibiotics while dealing with the UTIs. Ultimately, I never got any definitive answers, just bandaid solutions.
Right after starting my first job post-graduation, I was sent to the ER due to pain around my ribs. As it turned out, I’d actually fractured one of my ribs, as a result of a chronic cough that would not go away.
It was one thing after another, for such a long time.
The journey to unlocking my health issues.
After my rib incident, I started to get really invested in uncovering answers to my own health. I decided I could either continue living life feeling like I’m 96-years-old instead of 20, or I could figure out what’s really going on.
From there I began diving into my own research, while also keeping an open mind. I read anything I could get my hands on, and I was introduced to integrative medicine practitioners like Mark Hyman, MD, among others. I began to learn about concepts like antibiotic resistance, supplementation, the role of nutrition on overall health, and how certain lifestyle factors can impact well-being.
From there, I honestly started experimenting on myself, integrating different herbs, vitamins, and minerals recommended by leading integrative experts. I paid close attention to how each new thing I tried impacted how I felt.
During this process, I noticed a pretty big change with my immunity, and I wasn’t getting sick constantly. I began to realize that because my immune system had become so weak over the years, I needed to protect myself against getting sick year-round. I started taking all kinds of supplements for immune health specifically.
I also prioritized supporting my gut. For instance, I learned which supplements are positive for digestive health and the microbiome. On top of that, I discovered what kind of diet works best for me—which now includes a ton of leafy greens and high-quality animal products, among other important macro- and micronutrient-rich foods. After getting really diligent with this practice, I was actually able to start reintroducing some of the foods I’d previously cut out, without stomach irritation or skin flare-ups.
To this day, I can’t definitively pinpoint the trigger for all of my health issues. I think it was likely any number of factors, creating a perfect storm.
What I want to come out of my experience.
It was incredibly difficult to navigate the health challenges I was experiencing, especially at a young age. While I ultimately took charge of seeking my own solutions, I understand how daunting it can be. For anyone else coping with confusing symptoms or challenges with their health, know that seeking guidance from an integrative practitioner could be extremely helpful.
After going through my own experience, I wanted to do something that could help other women feel less alone and overwhelmed in their own health journeys. Ultimately, that mission was the driving force behind starting my company Arrae, which provides natural solutions to help women feel their best, so they can be their best. My goal is to offer support so people can show up optimally in every facet of life, whether that's in their career, as a mom, or as a friend.
Beyond the work I do through my company, I’ve learned how important it is to move through the world with kindness and compassion because you never know what someone is going through. People in your life may be experiencing something really difficult that you can’t see or understand—but just because it’s not visible, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Siffat Haider is an entrepreneur, host of Dear Media’s The Dream Bigger Podcast, and Co-Founder and CEO of Arrae. Prior to launching Arrae in March 2020, Siffat spent time in the publishing industry working for ELLE Canada, and then moved on to launch a successful blog titled Icing & Glitter in 2016. Originally from Bangladesh, but grew up in Toronto and Dhaka, Siffat graduated from the University of Toronto in 2013 and Conde Nast College in 2014. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband and Arrae co-founder Nish Samantray, where they spend their free time cooking, reading, and traveling the globe together.