Transcript: How to Heal Yourself When Western Medicine Fails You

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called How to Heal Yourself When Western Medicine Fails You and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Helen Thompson: Hi, this is Helen Thompson. Thank you for being here today. If you are already subscribed to the show, thank you so much, I appreciate you mamas. You are always incredible and if you are here for the first time, make sure you subscribe to the show because today, like in every episode, I’m bringing you an amazing woman, who is going to talk about how she healed herself from debilitating autoimmune symptoms.

Imagine being pregnant and being sick up to 15 to 20 times per day at times, with what you thought was morning sickness! This was the day to day struggle that physiotherapist and holistic health practitioner Jess Reynolds endured for the first five months of her pregnancy.

During our chat, you’ll hear Jess talk about her frustrations with the medical system, feeling unsupported. Facing endless appointments with specialists who could offer nothing to help her, finding nothing wrong and telling her just to accept it and get on with life. In desperation, Jess took matters into her own hands and using her grit and determination worked out how to deal with the root cause of these stubborn symptoms.

Let’s hear what Jess has to say, I look forward to hearing her story.

Hi Jes and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m delighted to have you here today and I love how you empower your clients to become their own healers. So, can we start by just getting you to tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Jessica Reynolds: Yeah, sure. So I’m Jes. I own the company, The Wellness Element, and it’s a company based around just teaching people to be their own healers, healing from the root cause, and really taking a natural approach to managing most conditions and things like that. I’m a registered physiotherapist. I see patients in my in home clinic, and I also run an online part of my business under the Wellness Element and that’s doing health coaching.

I have a lot of new moms, a lot of families who tend to find themselves on the more holistic side, who want to take a root cause approach to healing and so I’ve kind of meshed the both of those together now and yeah, that’s kind of what I do.

Helen Thompson: Hmm, you sound as though you’ve got a lot of interesting things going on in your business and helping people, which is very empowering. So when you became a mum, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced?

Jessica Reynolds: Yeah, so I’m a first time mom now. I have a little boy who’s 18 months.

Helen Thompson: Ah.

Jessica Reynolds: I think two of the things that I found potentially the most challenging were breastfeeding and the journey of breastfeeding, once I had him here and just figuring it out and everything that comes along with that. Certainly I didn’t have an easy go. I had to syringe feed a little bit and he had a tongue tie. So there was lots of different things that I kind of had to work around.

The other thing I think, you know, before I was a mom. Just dealing with morning sickness or what I thought was morning sickness that ended up being something called Hyperemesis gravidarum, HG is the short form for that. That is a severe form of morning sickness that I encountered. So it was quite debilitating. I was sick, upwards of 15, 20 times day sometimes and losing weight, needing hospitalization for fluids and things like that. So not really exactly how you imagine pregnancy to be.

Fortunately I was able to use what I know to end up reversing that around the five month mark but up until then, those were the two most challenging things. Not knowing what qualifies as simply morning sickness versus veering into that HG category and then just the establishing and working through the breastfeeding challenges that our society doesn’t seem to be super encouraging of. It’s very quick to say, here’s an alternative or feed them formula or do something different.

So those are my 2 biggest challenges, I would have said.

Helen Thompson: Now that’s interesting you say that because I’ve spoken to a lot of mums on my podcast about lactation who have shared exactly what you’ve said. That in hospitals, they’re not encouraging them to breastfeed. If they have any problems or any issues, they just said, Oh, I take the bottle. I think it’s a really interesting topic because I think the lactation consultants out there are really trying to support mums in order to help them to breastfeed and try and work out what the issues are and tongue tie I know is one of them but that can be resolved in a holistic way as well as medically. I’ve heard that from the lactation consultants I’ve spoken with.

Jessica Reynolds: Yeah, I think it starts early, right? If anyone out there has tried to have a natural birth, I was fortunate enough to really prepare mentally and physically and I had a home birth for first and only baby, but definitely there’s a lot of things set up in the system, kind of working against you and I found the same happened with breastfeeding.

Like I said, I was fortunate to not have many of the medications or things that might start to interfere with that process of breastfeeding, but even that initial first little bit of time, if your baby, say if you were on IV fluids, if you did have a hospital birth and you’re on IV fluids and there’s more fluid in you, therefore there’s also kind of an increased level in the baby, their weight is going to drop more drastically and that’s simply because you don’t have that IV fluid pumping through the both of you. Then they say, Oh, your baby’s lost this certain amount, you’re not producing enough milk, you must jump to formula. It seems like the rhetoric is always something is not right with you or with your baby and formula is going to be the solution, which was not something I felt comfortable with. Even with my struggles, I was fortunate enough to have somebody in the family who was really like minded and quite holistic as well. So she had some donor milk that she shared with me. She had a son that’s just a little less than a year older than mine.

So even that, trying to say I have this extra milk and hearing that it’s not that much superior. Just do the formula or we can give them some kind of thing. So there’s definitely that piece to go up against and you do have to be quite determined. Then obviously not knowing exactly how to breastfeed, what will encourage breastfeeding, what are kind of the hindrances of it.

For me, it took me a long time to figure out that undereating was a big thing. Not that I was attempting to under eat, but you’re busy as a new mom and you don’t always eat as much as you would have before or should because you’re just learning the routine of the baby and then you actually aren’t counting that you need an extra 600 – 700 calories sometimes to help produce your breast milk.

So under eating, being tired, obviously, again, that’s a hard thing to control for new moms because you’re up in the middle of the night. Then for me, it took a while to realize, but cell phones, I mean, it was really good for the first two or three months of not being on my phone or on the computer too much, but as it goes on, the baby’s napping more and you kind of get used to it. It took me a little while to realize that that was something that was affecting my breast milk supply, to.

So those three things were definitely challenges for me that took me a while, but thankfully, 18 months out, we’re still breastfeeding.

Helen Thompson: Oh, well, congratulations on that. That’s really good that you got through it and that’s very encouraging to other mums.

Jessica Reynolds: Yeah, it took donor milk, it took syringe feeding, lots of things.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, you mentioned morning sickness and I’m aware how mums do suffer a lot from morning sickness. I was interested that you said the difference between knowing whether it’s morning sickness or knowing whether it’s something else. How did you work that one out and what would you say to other mums going through that?

Jessica Reynolds: Okay, so I think the challenging part is in the beginning, you’re not really sure if it’s morning sickness or if it’s more, especially as a first time mom, you have no experience. So you’ve seen some of the television shows or the way movies portray pregnancy and morning sickness. In Canada, you’re not really seen until around the 12 week mark. So there is sometimes that you might have an early ultrasound but aside from that, midwives tend to pick you up around the 12 week mark. The same with OB’s. So if you’re in those peak weeks from 6 to 12 ahead of that, you might not know, is this morning sickness, is this normal? There’s no one giving you something to compare or baseline from.

So for me throwing up five, six, seven, eight times a day, I thought, okay, no big deal. It was some of those days that got so severe that I wasn’t even able to take a sip of water and you know, definitely wasn’t keeping anything down and was really debilitated. That feeling of you’re almost gonna be sick and you don’t want to move because then you know, you’re for sure gonna get sick but you can’t do anything else that’s kind of the feeling.

So, when I went into the hospital the first time and had IV fluids, that’s when I first heard the term HG and I actually had heard it one other time, but it never clicked for me. So one other person that I knew on social media, she was local to me and she had it, but I hadn’t heard anything in my experience with my pregnancy up until this point. Then the doctor mentioned it when I was getting IV fluids and when I looked it up, I definitely hit all the criteria. So the criteria are not well established, but they’re getting there. So it is sometimes throwing up more than three or five times. People have this vague criteria around that. It is losing between 5 to percent of your body weight and for me that happened. I was about 13 percent of my body weight loss. It’s a need for hospitalization, and that is for IV fluids or nourishment, depending on how severe it is. Some women end up needing to stay in hospital their entire pregnancy just because they need that constant medication. The only thing that I got told was come in for IV fluids if it gets really bad, and here’s some medications that you can take, neither of which were safety tested, so I didn’t feel great about that. So it was really left to me to try to figure it out, and I know that many moms don’t actually figure it out because it just kind of seems like one of those things that’s you know, you pulled the short straw.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, so you did a bit of research and found holistic approaches to that, so what did you find helped from the holistic side?

Jessica Reynolds: Yeah, so I think just with my background knowledge and in physiotherapy, we’re always taught to kind of create a problem list and then what can we use to rule in or out some of those problems so we can whittle that list down. So for me, I realized that the medication that they gave me when I was in hospital did provide relief and it was a combination of vitamin B6 and an antihistamine. So those were two pieces of the puzzle for me. I knew that if that was working for me, then one of those two things was potentially what my body needed. Paired that with doing a bit more research online and I came across a doctor who’s in the field of epigenetics. I have a nutritional therapy diploma in the field of epigenetics as well, so it was information that I was able to kind of take on board and his comment was about how HG is a severe histamine intolerance in pregnancy and that kind of just paired with that antihistamine medication and lit a light bulb in my head.

So I started to research, I started to look at some books, some intro books. One of the books that I read was called Dirty Genes, and kind of goes over your 10 or 11 most common genes that might not be working as optimally as you’d like and what that presents as and I found the one that worked on Histamine, looking over the list of symptoms and reading about that gene really seemed to be prevalent for me for many years of my life. Allergies, food issues, sensitive skin, rashes, things like that.

All things that would be related potentially to problems with histamine. So I began to take a B6 vitamin. I began to read and research. I ended up getting two different supplements that would help with histamine. I took a probiotic from the same doctor who wrote the same book and I also took beef kidney because I know that kidney is responsible for metabolizing it and when we take animal based supplements, a like organ heals a like organ.

So I started to do that. I went on an antihistamine diet again, just trying to reduce how much histamine my body had to cope with and within three days I only threw up one more time and then by a week later I was 95 percent better. I went on to feel energetic and get the pregnancy glow that everyone had been raving about and I had not seen and It was just a complete 180.

Helen Thompson: How many months pregnant were you when you did that?

Jessica Reynolds: I was right around five months, so definitely there’s many people that say, after your first trimester, it’s going to go away. With HG moms, it typically doesn’t, it typically stays around sometimes until like the hour after they give birth and then it’s just lifted.

Helen Thompson: Wow. That must be a tough time for mums who are going through that because it’s a tough time being pregnant anyway, but having five months of morning sickness must be pretty tough.

Jessica Reynolds: Yeah, yeah, there were days when I would sit still for four, five, six hours straight just because I knew if I moved, I would throw up and I had tried to get just a little bit of food or water in so it was trying to just retain that nutrition for the baby. So definitely a mental battle.

It’s interesting. There’s a documentary of the UK on HG. I can’t quite remember the name right now. I don’t know what the percentage was, I don’t know if it’s 40 or 50 percent of moms who have HG have suicidal thoughts. It’s a really high number for terminating the pregnancy as well, just because it’s so debilitating. I don’t know how I would have dealt with having any other children that I had to take care of at the same time. My husband did every household duty, cooked every meal, brought me food to where I was sitting, it was just literally survive another day. I remember thinking I’m at 18, 19, 20 weeks, how am I going to do this for another 20 kind of thing?

Helen Thompson: Yeah, you said you had an antihistamine diet. That’s interesting. What did that involve?

Jessica Reynolds: Yeah. So I started to look up what foods were highest in histamine and it tended to be foods that were fermented or pickled and funny looking back is a lot of these foods are actually very healthy foods and they were foods that I was eating to try to nourish my body through the pregnancy. So things like kombucha, fermented like sauerkraut, cabbage, pickled items, things like that. Dairy is quite high in it and then leftovers. The more that your leftovers stay in the fridge, the more they develop histamine in them. Obviously there’s other foods like wine and alcohol and things, but those weren’t relevant during pregnancy. That being said, I did have really poor tolerance to alcohol beforehand. So that was another piece of that clue that histamine was an issue for me.

So when I looked back on the days that I was sickest throughout my pregnancy, it all occurred on days where I had went out or done something social or had people over the day before and I chalked it up to just being tired at the time, but when I look back it was things like meats and cheese and crackers. I was sick over the holidays and over Christmas. So it was a lot of cheese plates and appetizers and things that you would have. So I might go out and only stay out for an hour or two, if I could manage it on a day and then the next day I would be so sick that I’d be in bed for four days recovering. So yeah, that was another piece to the puzzle for me is realizing that the foods that were highest were also correlated in time to when my symptoms were the worst.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, it’s interesting because the foods that are highest are the foods that we like. We’re all told that dairy is very good for you, which in some cases it is. I don’t want to put out there that dairy is not good because it has its benefits.

Jessica Reynolds: This is a different conversation potentially, but it has to do with a lot of our processing of foods that our bodies are struggling with and certainly, you know, pasteurization and taking some of the key enzymes that would help us digest it out, certainly doesn’t do us any favors and dairy does have a lot of benefit, it is really nutrient dense. I now follow a more animal based diet. I kind of like to describe histamine as a bucket and there are certain things filling that bucket. So whether that’s dietary, whether that’s different stresses in the body, there’s lots of different things that can fill your histamine bucket and that bucket has a little drain on the bottom and if the drain is draining properly, then the bucket never overflows, but if there’s too much going into the bucket, or if the drain is blocked, then that bucket is going to start to overflow, and that’s when you get sick.

So learning about that gene, the DAO gene (D-Amino Acid) which, you know, we don’t have to go into, but that gene that would really help you metabolize and get rid of any excess histamine and realizing that mine probably wasn’t working great based on what I read and my symptoms, even prior to pregnancy. So I had to be more mindful of how much histamine I was tacking on. The other thing that makes it really interesting is that Histamine is a byproduct of estrogen and when pregnant estrogen rises. So if you had a little bit of a histamine issue before, it might be that that becomes a big histamine issue because you have so much extra estrogen during pregnancy that now that bucket is just getting really, really full, really fast.

It can increase the amount of histamine by 500 percent, especially in those peak weeks of 6, 8, 12, 15 weeks pregnant where your estrogen is the highest and then it starts tapering down. So that was something else that was really compounding, just obviously the hormones of pregnancy and then the fact that they cause your histamine levels to rise.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, that’s interesting, because I think a lot of people don’t think of morning sickness as that. They just think, oh yeah, I’ve just got morning sickness. You can just have morning sickness for six weeks or something, can’t you? is that accurate?

Jessica Reynolds: Certainly you can. I think the most prevalent time would be around week six or seven and peaking around week 12. If you look at how estrogen is behaving in the body, it’s pretty much the same and estrogen then kind of tapers back down and plateaus to until late in the third trimester. So I think that what we’re really experiencing is potentially those hormones rising and our body kind of trying to cope with that. Like I said, if someone’s body is really well equipped and they’re really handling histamine and hormones and everything is working optimally, they might not have any morning sickness.

They might be reading any excess hormones, any excess estrogen and their body’s really just optimized. Whereas for me and having previous autoimmune issues and things like that, I learned it later in hindsight’s 2020, but realizing that I’ve had histamine issues for probably a decade, my body was definitely not equipped for that rise in hormones. Then again, I was compounding it with eating foods that I thought were very healthy, fermented foods, pickled cabbage, lots of different probiotic rich foods but they ended up increasing or filling that bucket too much for me.

Helen Thompson: That’s interesting, I know some people do have morning sickness, but it goes away. Having it for five months is something where you really need to think, right, what’s going on here. How can I support my baby and myself, and my sanity. Your sanity is the most important one.

Jessica Reynolds: Yeah, it’s a really complex thing because you’ve got that piece, right? You’ve got your own mental health and you’ve got the health of the baby and certainly you’re trying to juggle both of those. I think, this is something that in the HG community is potentially not well addressed. Having looked at it again later, there’s a lot of moms that would be encouraging just eat anything you can, get anything you can in. I don’t know why, but Coca Cola seems to be one of the big things that HG moms say they can tolerate. Soda crackers and Coca Cola and if you have to eat those all day, every day, then that’s great. So depending on how conscious and health minded you are, there’s that weight of, I really need to be getting nutrient dense foods and I really need to be optimizing my nutrition, my own health, for the health of my baby and then that survival piece, right?

There’s not a lot of good quality education around what HG is or why it happens, so it’s easy to just fall into, I don’t want to say a victim category because certainly that’s not the intention of these moms and it wasn’t the intention of myself, but there’s no answers, right? So you’re kind of just in this lost hole of, I guess I’ll just do what anybody else has done or whatever advice I can get. Where that’s not necessarily the best thing for you and the best thing for the baby.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I understand that and you had an experience of what you could do because of your knowledge and your background. A mom who doesn’t have that, I think you’d be a great person for them to go to because you’ve experienced it yourself.

Jessica Reynolds: Yeah, and the medical system really doesn’t give us a whole lot of help. When I was in the hospital every time, they just kept offering medication. They were giving me that one medication that I felt okay because it was an antihistamine and a B6, but some of the other medications that they would push were chemotherapy medications and stuff so that you could deal with the sickness that would come with chemotherapy and radiation and things like that. Again, none of these are safety tested. They like to get 10, 15, 20 years of data and look back and say, do we see any excess deaths, do we see any excess birth defects and if not, then we assume safety. I didn’t really feel comfortable using my baby as one of those pieces of study kind of thing.

It was definitely up to me to take control and certainly if it was a different mom who maybe didn’t have that same grit and determination to figure out the why, then I can certainly see why they’re left with no answers and kind of just go through this. I’m seeing some moms who have had four or five, six HG pregnancies and they’ve never been told that there’s a solution or that there’s help or that there’s any nutritional or lifestyle strategies that will help them.

It’s just the second you know you’re pregnant, start on every single medication and hope you can avoid it basically!

Helen Thompson: Yeah, that’s definitely not going to help your baby. I think it’s really interesting how doctors just use drugs to try and find out if they work or not, and I don’t want to go down that route because I come from a very holistic approach, which I know you do. The medical profession is good in a lot of respects, but I think It’s got to be more open minded to the holistic approach as well, and listen to mums and listen to what they’re telling you, and not just say, right, you’ve got to do this, A, B, C, D.

Jessica Reynolds: I think that that’s a really important piece and in the relationship that I have with my clients and when I try to coach, whether it’s through like an autoimmune or a lifestyle type thing, or it’s, a mom and they’re pregnant, they are the experts of their body, right? I’m just a tool, I’m a resource to give them information. How I work with HG moms now, what I try to do is I’m going to tell you about the general topics I’m going to talk about them and I want you to give me a sense of if intuitively this is, if it’s landing sort of thing, and then from there we follow that because we are the experts of our own bodies, we are the experts of our baby’s. It’s great that someone is a pediatrician and they see hundreds of children, but they haven’t seen your child hundreds of times or lived with your child and know all the little intricacies.

So you really are the expert and I think it’s important and I’m hoping that there’s a paradigm shift right now where moms are really starting to claim that again. We’re starting to realize that there’s alternative ways. We don’t have to fully rely on the medical system. Certainly there’s a lot of things that we could do away with or do less of, right? We see that so many kids are on antibiotics or over the counter medications like Tylenol and things like that. It’s all we’ve known for a long time, but I think that with the resources that have been become available on the internet and other moms being accessible through social media and podcasts like this, we’re really starting to see that there’s other information and we can share that amongst each other and we’re all becoming doctor moms in some way, and that’s exciting for me.

Helen Thompson: I agree and thank you for sharing all your experience on this podcast because that’s what First Time Mums is all about. It’s a chat to support mums who have gone through what you’ve gone through and giving them the opportunity and the village to support them in that.

Jessica Reynolds: Yeah, no problem. I think it’s important and like I said, moms really don’t have anyone in those first weeks. HG moms might not see a doctor until 12 weeks where they could already be into debilitating symptoms at that point. So understanding that morning sickness is feeling sick for an hour or two a day. Maybe you’re sick once or twice, but generally it’s not impacting your life all that much, whereas HG is really debilitating to your current lifestyle. You have to make changes. Your body is negatively impacted in terms of the severity of the symptoms and potentially dangerously impacted, depending on how far that HG extends.

Helen Thompson: Thank you, that’s very informative for mums. If anybody wants to get in touch with you or have a chat to you about what you’ve gone through, how would they go about doing that?

Jessica Reynolds: Yeah, so I’m most active on Instagram. My name on Instagram is the underscore wellness underscore element. My website is pretty much the same, because I’m in Canada and those two ways are the best to probably get in touch. Obviously I do have email as well and that’s Any one of those will get you right to me basically. I have some free resources on Instagram. I also have some paid resources all around HG. So what are the most common signs? I have a downloadable free guide of what are the most common reasons why you would have HG and kind of just an explanation and it talks about why your doctor might not have been able to identify this for you and really that it is in many cases a cocktail specific to you. So if there’s 10 potential reasons, there’s a different amount that each are contributing to your symptoms and understanding that becoming that own expert and becoming guided by your intuition is going to be what helps to solve it and obviously I’m there to share my knowledge in it. So I have those free resources. Any of those ways to contact me and mentioning this podcast or mentioning HG and I’ll certainly be able to help.

Helen Thompson: Thank you, Jes, for being on the podcast. I’ve actually learnt a lot from you, a lot more about morning sickness and how you can support yourself with it. So I’d like to say thank you so much for being here. It’s been a great pleasure talking to you.

Jessica Reynolds: Yeah. And thank you so much for having me and I hope that this is of benefit to your audience and that if they are experiencing HG, they’re not alone and there is definitely things that they can do to help even if they’ve been told otherwise, I am a testament to that. So I hope that they feel free to reach out.

Helen Thompson: Thanks mums, you’re amazing, and I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did, and I hope you learned some valuable tips. If you haven’t done so already, make sure you hit the subscribe button, because in the next episode I’m chatting with Kim Hawley. Kim is a holistic sleep coach and has a highly unique approach to sleep, which is all about helping both mum and little one in unison, so you both get a better sleep.

The other thing I want you to do after listening to this episode, is visit and that’s where you’ll find the show notes and links to Jess Reynolds website and social media.