Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Me n' My Liver
Tonight I had a phone consultation with Dr. Cowan in the Bay Area. He's a holistic family medicine doctor recommended to me by my holistic health counselor, Hannah Springer (to learn more about her, read the "comments" section from my last post, where she responds to concerns about the safety of raw milk).
Tonight I explained to Dr. Cowan how I had been a healthy weight and ovulating more or less normally (not exactly regular, but cycles ranging from 26-35 days... I charted my fertility as a form of birth control, so I know I was ovulating), and then... I went on birth control. And watched my weight steadily climb. Only to see it continue to slowly climb after stopping birth control. Every diet failed, immediately. I could never lose more than 2-3 pounds. Despite willpower. Despite exercise. And moreover, post-birth control... I never ovulated again.
Medical providers seem to vaguely agree that I "probably" had PCOS, despite lab results that were entirely normal, based on my clinical symptoms (weight gain, a little bit of acne, a little bit of hair growth, anovulatory cycles, cystic ovaries). Since there are no agreed upon criteria for PCOS (there's at least three different sets of criteria I know of, and these are just the well publicized ones), who could say for sure if I had PCOS or not?
Well, Dr. Cowan said I do not.
And he said that my symptoms were caused by the birth control.
Because, finally, a medical practitioner believes my story. That it doesn't make sense that I suddenly developed PCOS, out of the blue, rather than the birth control causing it... given that it coincides with when I started birth control.
It feels good to know that I am not crazy. At least in the eyes of one person.
He explained to me that Chinese medicine practitioners (of which he is not one) believe that hormones, though created by other glands, are regulated by the liver. And so, he feels that I have liver damage as a result of the birth control, and worsened by the high doses of hormones I had during IVF. (Indeed, my liver enzymes were quite elevated during my Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome.)
And so, he recommends an herbal liver detoxification program for three weeks (herbs and a very specific diet), followed by continuing the diet I am on (a traditional diet, rather like Paleo, but emphasizing lactofermented foods, bone broths, and healthy fats (butter, lard, smaltz).
I can't do this while I'm breastfeeding. Because the body doesn't want to lose weight while breastfeeding (at least for me it doesn't... apparently if your systems are more robust, it may well be able to.)
And... if I take hormones again in the future, for example, to transfer another frozen embryo or two... I will most likely incur the damage all over again.
I would be willing to risk doing it all over... and who knows... maybe I could time a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) with my natural cycle so that I wouldn't have to take all those hormones. Unorthodox nowadays, but not impossible?
Frankly, I'm afraid to believe that this liver program he recommends could work, given how many times I've been disappointed in the past. So I'm certainly not going to rush to wean Calliope in hopes that it will work.
But it is a nice fantasy to keep in the back of my mind.
In the meantime, I will continue my traditional "diet," because I feel strong and healthy on it. As the doctor pointed out, I'm only a little bit overweight. I'm more than a little bit over my ideal weight, but as far as my baby and my breastfeeding are concerned... so what?
And I will feel relief to know that I am not crazy.