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Jessica is our 2016 Olympic Hopeful and Sarah is our 2012 Olympian in Weightlifting. We're setting out to be "Pretty Strong" and we encourage you to do the same.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

The hormone balancing act and sports performance

As an Olympic athlete, I want to be the best. I need to be the best. I can only do this is I am healthy in all facets of my life. I cannot take banned substances (nor do I want to) so I need to become healthy in the most natural ways possible.

When I was in Alabama, during a physical the Dr. asked me about my menstrual cycle and asked me when the last time I had one was. I looked in the files in my brain and could not even remember the last time I had a period. It had to have been at least a year and a half. Maybe more. We ran some tests and according to the ultra sound and the very fun women's annual exam, I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. It's both a hormonal and physiological problem many women encounter.

When I was at Arizona State I went in for a physical. I told them about my PCOS and an unusual period of weight gain I had experienced and I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism I was medicated, lost some weight and started to feel a lot better.

I was not ordered to receive more testing or any further investigations on either of my hormonal issues. I went to Northern Michigan for a year and then Colorado Springs for a year and can't remember how dedicated I was to taking my medications or if I was receiving proper treatment.

I moved back to Arizona and was again experiencing weight gain and extreme fatigue. All I wanted to do was sleep. Sleeping a lot and excessive weight gain are not fun experiences.

One of my team mate's Grandfather and Uncle are doctors that work on hormone balancing and therapy and I thought I'd give them a try. I was ordered very extensive blood work, body fat percentage tests, physical tests, and when we got the results, I was both surprised and not surprised.

I was surprised that my lipids and cholesterol were on the higher ends. My vitamin D, DHEA, and thyroid were low and on top of that, my estrogen and progesterone levels were completely thrown off. All of this contributed to big weight fluctuations, thinning hair, extreme fatigue, and irregular menstrual cycles.

If you have ever taken an anatomy and physiology class and you start to learn about the endocrine system or have had detailed blood panels done you may have felt like this: 

After discussing our options and following proper USAD protocol, we started a program of a new diet, supplementation, and medication. 

Right now, regulating my menstrual cycle isn't number one on my priority list but, it will be something we address after the Games. Tweaking that seemed like too big of a risk before the biggest competitions of my life. 

Since having a new and more appropriate RX for thyroid medication, I have noticed a dramatic increase in my energy and recovery. Because I don't sleep all the time, I can sleep at more appropriate times and make sure my diet and supplementation is done correctly. 

After doing follow up blood work, we found that all of my cholesterol, dhea, lipids, thyroid levels (everything but female hormones) were back within a normal range. All of this was solved by having my thyroid work properly and changing my diet slightly.

Because I am healthier I am able to recover better and have more energy resulting in performance gains. The difference between my performance at Pan Ams/Worlds and how I performed at Olympic Trials was an astronomical difference. 

I highly recommend having some blood work done to see where your hormonal imbalances or deficiencies are. Primarily for your health and secondarily for performance. 

If you're around the Mesa, Az area and would like work on getting healthy on the inside visit Deseret Aesthetic and Lifestyle Institute. Click on their image at the bottom of the page for more information


Emma Lowrey said...

Hi Sarah! This is the first time I'm reading your blog and I want to say, you go girl!
Also, I have a thyroid condition called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis that causes hypothyroidism. I had a lot of difficulty getting the proper diagnosis and medication, and it sounds like you have too! Hashimoto's isn't generally tested for, even though it is an autoimmune condition and my new treatment based on that fact has made me feel better than I have in many years. Anywho, just wanted to drop by and make sure that you had gotten tested for that, in case that could be the difference for you between feeling good and feeling great!
All the best, Emma

patita said...

PCOS is a bear to deal with! It complicates everything else. Thanks for being so open about your body and health on this blog, it means a lot to see how you deal with challenges that a lot of other women face. You have a new fan :)

Stacy Whitman said...

OH MY GOODNESS, your TSH was through the roof! No wonder your other numbers were so high! I also have hypothyroidism, and I feel like crap when my TSH is a 4 or 5, so kudos to you for being able to train at that level while dealing w/ it. It makes such a huge difference in your metabolism and in general everyday feelings of wellbeing when your thyroid is working right, not to mention all those other things like cholesterol.