How Integrative Medicine Solved My Medical Mystery & Saved My Life
by Courtney Stultz
Growing up, I was always a fairly healthy person, who rarely needed to see a doctor. I was in my early twenties when that all changed. Two years after my first child was born. I became sick with what I thought was a severe stomach bug. But as the weeks wore on, I wasn’t getting any better. I had lost nearly 30 pounds from my five-foot-frame. Every time I ate anything, I got sick. Because I was also juggling a toddler son, attending graduate school and working full-time, I kept putting off seeking medical advice until my concerned husband insisted I consult a doctor to see what was going on.
We then began a lengthy and frustrating three-year process of consulting multiple doctors in our area. We visited our primary care physician and other family physicians, as well as several area gastroenterologists (GI), who specialize in digestive issues.
No one could offer an explanation as to why I felt so awful and continued to lose weight. During this time, I also became pregnant with my second child. I gained a measly 16 pounds during the whole pregnancy and lost more than that before I left the hospital.
I kept searching for answers after my daughter was born, undergoing multiple tests and trying a variety of medications, including steroids, hormone meds (usually given to cancer patients to make them hungry), Xanax (often prescribed for anxiety), antacids, reflux medication and prescription-strength nausea/diarrhea meds. By the time my daughter reached her first birthday, my local GI doctor could offer no other recommendations. We were at a complete loss. I felt defeated and frightened.
At that point, I weighed just under 90 pounds and could barely keep food or drink down at all. I had no energy, slept poorly, struggled with horrible joint and muscle pain, and experienced terrible brain fog and confusion. Most nights, I would get home from work only to fall asleep on the couch, and my husband would pick me up to put me in bed. I missed out on my daughter’s first couple years of life and many events from my son’s preschool years. Aware of my health problems, my boss suggested we try Integrative Medicine as she was seeing results from her own husband’s health struggles.
Out of other options, I called KU Integrative Medicine in Kansas City, which was two hours away from home, and made an appointment. I had low expectations and really had no idea what an Integrative doctor was or did. My husband made the long drive with me to our first appointment. From the second we met my new doctor, we knew we were in the right place.
At my first appointment, I was surprised that my doctor had already thoroughly reviewed my file—not only my medical records, but also my personal history and lifestyle. She was aware of our drive, our family life and the struggles I had been going through. I had never been to an appointment where someone had done so much research on me. Not only did we feel welcome, but we also felt that this doctor was genuinely interested in helping me. For the first time in a long time, I felt completely at peace knowing that I’d found somebody who would be willing to put in the time to help me.
During the next few appointments, my doctor went through every aspect of my life. She not only asked about my GI issues, but also my sleep habits, my emotional state, our environment near our home—there wasn’t an area she didn’t cover. I completed an extensive set of labs to check my vitamin and nutrient levels and to look for any food allergies/sensitivities. It turns out, I was extremely malnourished and deficient in almost all essential vitamins and minerals. The tests also revealed several issues with wheat/gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and plenty of other foods. My doctor immediately paired me up with a nutritionist. Together, we worked closely to customize a plan that fit me and my lifestyle.
It took six years for me to find answers and begin to recover my health. I’ve tried a variety of treatments, supplements, and dietary and lifestyle changes. All together, these efforts saved my life. Without a doubt, the last few years were incredibly difficult for my family and me. But, to see how far I’ve come is simply amazing.
The Integrative team continues to stand by me, as they have throughout this entire ordeal. They are not only my doctors, but honestly, my friends. They care about me on a much deeper level than any other practitioner I’ve ever had. They stuck by me when I was ready to give up and literally kept me going. They explained everything I needed to know, and we felt incredibly comfortable with them.
The health issues I’ve experienced were not only physically challenging, but also mentally and emotionally draining. I went from being a happy person to spiraling into a deep depression. Now, I’m back to enjoying my life as a happy, healthy mom of three kids. Integrative Medicine gave me my life back, and it helped me realize how important it is to treat our bodies properly and fuel them with what they really need. My health condition will remain a lifelong issue for me, but thanks to what I’ve learned from my journey and with the support of my team of Integrative doctors, I’m confident I can easily manage it.