July 12, 2017

Go Harvey – Online Integrative Health Service

Go Harvey – Online Integrative Health Service

This post is not only about my experience working with Harvey (www.goharvey.com), an online integrative and functional medicine service, but about telling my own health story. You’ll find that when working with an integrative or functional medicine doctor, the symptoms that you’re experiencing have to be taken into account with your overall health, to see the holistic, bigger picture. Only then do all of these things only start to make sense. These doctors are detectives and heroes; they connect the dots.

For your own Harvey experience during the month of July, tell your doctor “Katie’s Discount” for $25 off your first appointment.

Harvey, as briefly mentioned above, is the leading telehealth provider of integrative medicine that emphasizes prevention and self-healing through evidence-based natural therapies. Each of their practitioners has a state medical license and went through a 4 year residential medical school program. They offer virtual consultations with functional and naturopathic doctors, in-home lab testing and natural therapies to help optimize your health and wellness. They help people around the world reach optimal levels of health, wellness and quality of life through a technology-enabled approach to primary care rooted in principles of prevention, holistic health, and integrative medicine.

The tests they provide vary widely, ranging from micronutrients to hormones, adrenals, thyroid/cortisol, cardiometabolic, CBC/CMP, toxic metals, toxic chemicals, food allergies, microbiome, and organic acids. For a list of the full descriptions, click here.

My first appointment phone call with Harvey came at a bit of tumultuous time: my mom and I were cleaning my new apartment, which I don’t think had been deep cleaned in years, I was trying to carve time to study for my Master’s program, keep up with blogging and Instagram, there was a death in the family, and a slew of other personal issues. So many things beginning, but also many reminders of the things that either had ended or were ending. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

So I had my call with Dr. Frick and explained some of my symptoms.

Let me begin by first saying I have always been a somewhat anxious human being. When I was a baby, I refused to be put down because I had such bad heartburn that being held was the only salve. These finicky tendencies manifested in different ways as I grew older. During the toddler stages, I was put on an SSRI (Prozac) for OCD tendencies – a hand washing thing and needing to feel hugged or secure often. I had a very heavy, weighted jacket that I was instructed to wear to help with some of these physical symptoms. The pressure of the jacket basically mimicked a human hug. My mom used to fill my Christmas stocking with books like “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”. And I have always felt I needed to work on patience. My moods, admittedly, can be volatile and I sometimes overthink things to the point of incredible frustration: analysis paralysis I like to call it (it’s why I focus so hard on good mood food and feeding your brain).

When I was in high school, I started having this very odd and unexplainable skin sensitivity. It felt like my whole skin and body was a giant bruise – very sensitive to the touch and extremely low energy. Kind of like having the flu without the congestion or nausea, just super achy and tired. At the time, it was difficult for me to discover a pattern and I wasn’t able to determine whether it was food related or some other sort of ailment. I went to rheumatologists (one of which diagnosed me with having arthritic markers, though this could have been due to having done intensive activity the night prior), while another simply said it was heartburn and prescribed over the counter Zantac. It would last for a day or two and then would subside, and seemed to attenuate when I was eating well (avoiding tons of sugar and processed foods).

Furthermore, when I went to college, I just flat out lost my period for the first semester. It wasn’t due to weight loss (in fact I immediately gained 15 pounds within the first semester) despite maintaining (relatively) healthy habits and continuing to exercise. I was on birth control for about a year (sophomore – junior year of college). The first, low dose I was put on made me feel like an absolute lunatic. As mentioned above, I’ve always run a bit anxious / emotional. But with this I’m talking spontaneously sobbing and literally zero sex drive. So I was then put on a higher dose and this seemed to level out the mood instability issues. Once I finished college (at this point had been off the pill for about two years), I had my hormones tested through saliva. I discovered then that I was very high in estrogen and very low in progesterone. My periods are always EXTREMELY painful and heavy (some of this is due to the fact that I have the copper IUD – a non-hormonal form of birth control that lasts for 10 years). But my most recent cycle was painful to the point of being bed ridden and un-subsiding nausea. After hearing so many women struggle with wanting to get their period back, I definitely don’t take having a cycle for granted. But man oh man, this one was particularly vindictive.

So given the opportunity to work with a naturopath, I was thrilled. I was instructed to fill out a variety of intake forms describing my symptoms, and then was scheduled with a phone call which was an hour long appointment with a naturopath. During this call, I was first given an explanation of what integrative medicine is, and also the difference between a medical doctor and a naturopath.

I then explained the history of symptoms above, in addition to extremely poor sleep quality, and was prompted to talk about what my stress levels were like.

I completely broke down. Like sobbing-hard-to-get-words-out-heavy-panting-odd-noises kind of break down. The most striking thing about this entire experience (beyond Dr. Frick’s sage wisdom) was the calm and clarity in which she then described to me the misfortune but also the light that was coming from all of this stress. “The hole that you feel just means you have room to fill that hole with better things.” Her voice was the equivalent of melodic ghee: smooth and kind and wonderful. Rather than making me feel embarrassed or guilty or self-conscious about my tear fest, I was comforted. I wasn’t asked if I should be on anti-anxiety medications; I was acknowledged, listened to, and provided advice and practical tips for some of my symptoms. She also asked me what my goals were before asserting any of her own on me. The entire experience was collaborative.

Because of my previous testings with hormones (though because they were done so long ago, it’s very likely they’re no longer valid), I was also instructed to adopt a few dietary changes to help get the excess estrogen out of my body. Symptoms of estrogen dominance include: decreased sex drive, irregular or otherwise abnormal menstrual periods, bloating (water retention), breast swelling and tenderness, fibrocystic breasts, headaches (especially premenstrually), mood swings (most often irritability and depression), weight and/or fat gain (particularly around the abdomen and hips), cold hands and feet (a symptom of thyroid dysfunction), hair loss, thyroid dysfunction, sluggish metabolism, foggy thinking, memory loss, fatigue, trouble sleeping/insomnia, and PMS. These included a box of broccoli sprouts a week, and adding rice bran to my smoothies in addition to a few supplements.

She also recommended I have my Vitamin D level tested. I had this done while I was at the gynecologist, and low and behold: 36 (which is low).

I also ordered a test for nutrient deficiencies, their Micronutrient panel. Statistics show that over 90% of people are deficient in some nutrient or another!  They shipped me everything I needed to take the tests, and it looked like a fun, friendly package for health.

Next, the phlebotomist showed up to my apartment to draw blood. Like I didn’t have to do anything. Concierge phlebotomy!! The wave of the future!!! All I had to do was literally sit there and move my arm towards her direction. Harvey provided shipping labels and I handed those over to her once we were finished, and she took care of the shipping and handling.

I was enacting the dietary changes during this time, as well as the supplemental protocol to address for high stress, difficulty falling and staying asleep, mood irregularity, estrogen dominance, and terrible emotional and physical PMS symptoms.

In terms of diet, these included: adding in broccoli sprouts (to assist with clearing estrogens and estrogen mimicking toxins), adding in rice bran powder to my smoothies (one of the most potent foods for clearing estrogen byproducts), and eliminating caffeine (ties up the pathways of detoxification needed for estrogen byproducts).

I was also given a few supplements, including vitamin D (Pure encapsulations drops), an active B complex (Integrative Therapeutics), and a few others for estrogen clearance (DIM – Pure Encapsulations) and stress management (called HPA adapt – Integrative Therapeutics). What made me trust this whole experience most was the fact that they recommended Pure Encapsulations and Integrative Therapeutics as their supplement brand of choice for my conditions, and they provided me easy online access to order. This is what my mom and other functional medicine practitioners use, is pharmaceutical grade, and just trusted. It’s much higher quality than the supplements you find in stores, purity tested and allergen-free!

Quite honestly just doing this for a month made me feel amazing. This appointment / series of appointments came at the perfect time, because I was going through a maelstrom of stress: a dance show, finals, and moving. And I handled each with relative ease. It was an entirely different finals experience than that of college, with no intense and drastic changes in mood, energy, sleep, and stress. I felt totally in control and like my body was functioning as it was designed.

AND I had almost no cramps during my next cycle. I added in a few more supplements around this time like ginger and turmeric, but other than that it was the most manageable period I’ve had in years. Didn’t need advil or tylenol once.

When I received my micronutrient test back, I discovered I’m deficient in a few B vitamins, manganese, biotin, choline, and vitamin D, so I had a second appointment with Dr. Frick to discuss how I could amend these lapses through diet and supplements.

I found that during our phone call, I was jotting down just little nuggets of wisdom.

I learned that that nutrients I’m depleted in should be the first I use when I start to feel sick (like vitamin C, zinc, and biotin). I learned to switch up some of the nuts I eat to optimize manganese sufficiency, like hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts, instead of my usual cashews and almonds. I learned that I could be deficient in B vitamins because stress and toxins hack away at B vitamins quickly because of their water solubility. I learned that an easy way to get out of an uncomfortable situation, all I have to say is “I’m sorry, my B vitamins can’t handle the stress you’re putting on me, so I must leave” (this is a Dr. Frick original joke). I learned that if I want to take a B vitamin, I should take methylcobalamin, as those with the MTHFR gene can’t easily absorb the other form of B vitamin (cyanocobalamin). I learned that phytoestrogenic compounds like flax seed and maca powder don’t activate more estrogen sites, but rather bump off extra estrogen and prevent it from binding and storing.

And I learned all of this in an easily digestible way from a chipper and comforting voice over the phone in the convenience of my own home.

The best part about this whole experience was Dr. Frick. I joked that just her voice alone was enough to decrease my cortisol levels. We laughed that on the next date I go on, I should brag about my high glutathione levels as a pick up line, emphasizing my good antioxidant status. Not only did she walk me through what each of my micronutrient deficiencies means, but she answered all of my questions without hesitation in a kind, funny, and caring manner. AND made jokes that since B vitamins are easily oxidized, that I should avoid annoying individuals in my life by calmly saying my B vitamin levels couldn’t tolerate them. So random, so bright, so unexpectedly refreshing and funny.

I cannot express how grateful I am for this opportunity, and how excited it makes me to enter into a similar field. If I can be half the practitioner that Dr. Frick is, then I will have achieved my goals.

Overall, I recommend the entire process wholeheartedly. Many of the questions I receive from readers are far too specific for me to answer with justice. Harvey is a service that does justice to personalized and thoughtful integrative wellness, all within the comfort of your own home.

For your own Harvey experience during the month of July, tell your doctor “Katie’s Discount” for $25 off your first appointment.

Estrogen clearing smoothie:

  • 1/2 cup frozen spinach
  • 1/2 cup frozen cauliflower
  • 1 zucchini, chopped (if you have issues with digestion, steam the cauliflower and zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup fresh figs
  • 1 tbsp flax seed (competes with estrogen and prevents estrogen from binding)
  • 1 tbsp rice bran (helps clear estrogen – though causes bloating in some, so pay attention to how you feel and omit if it induces bloating, nausea, or heart burn)
  • 1 tbsp broccoli sprouts (one of the most effective nutrients to assist with estrogen clearance)
  • 1 scoop chocolate plant based protein
  • 1 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • cinnamon
  • almond milk
  • optional toppings: almond butter, blueberries, figs, bee pollen

 

Thank you to Harvey for sponsoring this post. I am honored to represent such a progressive healthcare service. If anyone has any additional questions regarding my experience, please feel free to comment below or email me!

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