I don't like to share medical issues here before I know what's going on and how I'm going to fix them. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight for what I've been dealing with and I feel like pouring my heart out to you all now. This has been a tough one for me to write so please be gentle with me. Before I get into my current issues I need to give a bit of medical background. Over the last 10 years I have been diagnosed with the following:
TMJ Disorder. I've had episodes of pain that would last a few days over the course of the last few years but I've been on full TMJ lock-down since mid-summer. It's been brought on by stress (I hold stress in my upper back which impacts the jaw muscles), grinding my teeth at night, and this summers 12 hour dental ordeal. Self-massage with trigger point that I talked about before has helped, but I've been in pretty excruciating pain for months now and even the chiropractor & massage isn't helping anymore.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I've been virtually symptom-free for years since eliminating most daily/gluten products.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. I was diagnosed with this in April and my extreme fatigue improved significantly after finding my perfect dose of medication (currently on 100 mg of Synthroid.)
That brings us to today.
I couldn't think of a coherent way to even began to explain what's been going on. So I drew a picture.
Basically, I'm now dealing with three main issues: Ischemic Colitis, Hormone Imbalance, and TMJ. All of which may be worsened by running.
Doctor One. I went to a gastroenterologist a few weeks ago who said she suspected I was suffering from Ischemic Colitis. Basically, when you run your circulatory system stops sending blood to internal organs, particularly your digestive track. Approximately 30% of runners struggle with this disorder and it ain't pretty (google it for a list of symptoms.) She wanted to do a colonoscopy, blood work and take an X-ray of my abdomen just to rule out irritable bowel disorder. Well - that all cost over 2k and I don't have that kind of money to 'just rule out' things she was already pretty confident I didn't have so I'm not doing them anytime soon. She told me to cut the advil (I was taking 10-12 a day on really, really bad days) and switch to tylenol.
Doctor Two. My other doctor (who's been treating me for my Hashimotos) was concerned that I hadn't regained a regular menstrual cycle since my thyroid levels have been normal for months now. I told her I was dealing with excessive fatigue, weight gain/water retention & panic attacks and she checked my estrogen levels. Sure enough - I have none. Literally, none. I've seen other female runners struggle with this so I wasn't totally shocked. She asked that I get an ultrasound done of my lady parts asap so I did, and A WEEK LATER I finally got the results. Totally normal looking! So, she consulted with some other physicians and they wanted to do more blood work and a CT scan of my brain to check for a tumor on my pituitary gland.
Are you effing kidding me?! Not only did I have the lyric "I have a headache but it's not a tumor" stuck in my head for weeks, but I was so frustrated that no one wanted to listen to me when I said it's because of running!
Doctor Three. Chiropractor has said my back is screwed. Even with regular adjustments it's going to take a while for the tension in my upper back/shoulders to get better since I've been letting my stress build up there for years. I also tend to run with my shoulders pulled forward so doing that for 10-15 hours a week has compounded the situation further. Over the last 2 months I think I've gone a total of 3 days without taking either advil, tylenol or a muscle relaxant (or a combination of them.) They make my fatigue even worse and I hate feeling like a zombie. I'm trying cut way back (down to 2-3 tylenol a day!) I'm sleeping on my back now, meditating more, trying to remain calm (which is hard with all the panic attacks I've been having with no estrogen), using a heating pad constantly on my back/jaw and drinking kava tea nightly to help relax.
I don't think running has caused any of this. As you can see with my medical history I was kind of a hot mess in the making. All of these symptoms got dramatically worse over the last year, and I started training for my first half a year ago. I don't think that's a coincidence.
My goal is to find a way to keep running while re-balancing my hormones. Thankfully, my ischemic colitis symptoms have improved significantly since I cut out the advil and eat in smaller portions on long runs (50 calories at a time versus 100.) I've looked into natural ways to boost estrogen (eating more soy and flax!) but I'm afraid it's not going to be enough. I've become a mini-expert on the endocrine system over the last few months and I've read a lot of scary things about hormone replacement therapy.
I'm so tired of tests, and not knowing. I took a few weeks off after the last round because I'm just so over it all. I'm tired of waking up feeling more tired then I did when I went to sleep. I'm tired of jaw pain so distracting I can't think straight at work. I'm tired of having a panic attack over the craziest things that I can't rationalize my way out of (like when my tofu crumbled when I cut it on Sunday.)
I just want to feel normal again. Whatever that feels like.
The Mayo Clinic's Guide to Ischemic Colitis
Great article from Runners World that discusses estrogen deficiency in female runners
WebMD's basics on Estrogen and Testosterone