Laura Ingalls is a certified holistic health coach, workplace wellness counselor and amateur marathoner who was plagued for years by health issues with no apparent answers. Physicians told her, "You're totally normal." But Laura knew something was off. She was always exhausted and foggy-headed, her bones were weak and her weight was totally beyond her control.
Laura refused to give up until she found the answers.
Her determination paid off. Thanks to testing multiple times with InsideTracker, she was able to uncover key biomarkers that were not optimal. Using them as clues, she brought them to the attention of her doctor, requesting additional investigation. Turns out, Laura has a benign tumor on her parathyroid.
While benign, it may be a source of havoc for her body. In this interview, Laura shares her amazing story with me. "I was just seeking answers... when something like this happens to you, you feel crazy and no one believes you... I think even our doctors say crazy things to us because maybe they don't have the answers right away," Laura says.
"The thing that has helped me advocate for my own health THE MOST from InsideTracker, is how you see an optimal zone—and that is different from the 'normal zone'."
We'll be sure to follow up with Laura post-surgery next month to see how her biomarkers have changed... In the meantime, check out the beginning of her journey in this blog post and her piece for Run Haven titled I Trained for a Marathon and Got Fat. You can find Laura Ingalls on Twitter at @forgetskinny and on her website www.fskinny.com
Watch the video to hear her amazing story!
00:15 - Laura's InsideTracker journey
04:00 - The power of measure biomarkers for women: be OPTIMAL, not normal
05:15 - Many biomarkers significantly improved by Laura's 2nd test
08:25 - What she learned after 3 tests
11:15 - A diagnosis: parathyroid tumor causing hypercalcemia
12:30 - the courage to self-advocate
Wondering what ALL of your biomarkers mean? We've created this handy biomarker guide for reference—it's FREE & it's yours to download!
Erin: So Laura, you are one of our best, most interesting bloggers, and you're a holistic health coach. And I understand that you're also a workplace wellness coach right now. So I think you're a great person to talk to about how you've used InsideTracker. You wrote this blog called "I Ran a Marathon, and I Got Fat." I was like, I've got to talk to this girl. So you've used InsideTracker in that context, tell us about it.
Laura's InsideTracker journey
Laura: Yeah, it was so funny when I wrote that blog, I just want to say, I would never personally self- describe myself as a fat person.
Laura: But, I definitely have a tendency to gain weight when things are not right in my body. And I can gain a lot of weight, I gain 20 lbs over the course of maybe 4 or 5 months. All while eating kale and training for a marathon. And it almost seems unfair. And that led me down that road of just seeking answers because I think when something like that happens to you, you feel crazy. And no one believes you. People are always like, "You're overeating, you're lying to yourself about how many calories you're eating. You don't want to take responsibility for yourself." People are saying all these crazy things and I think even our doctors say crazy things to us because they don't necessarily have an explanation right away. I actually had a lot of different symptoms going on so I talked to my doctor and it was so funny, she was like "I'm really hoping this is your thyroid because it would explain everything." And she ran all the basic blood work. And then when she gave me my blood work back she was like, "Oh, You're normal!" And I was like, "Oh my God, but I don't feel normal. I feel crazy. I feel the opposite of normal." And I needed more answers than that. In the article, I talked about the different reasons that you might gain weight while running a marathon. And really the only one that seems to fit my bill at that time was that there has to be biomarkers off inside my body. I must have been overtraining. I was physically the perfect storm of problems to cause me to gain weight. And certainly overtraining played a huge role on that, as I later discovered. So I decided, because my doctor had ran this blood work, that I needed to run better blood work. And I knew about InsideTracker because I had gone to an executive athletes' social networking event and InsideTracker was presenting there that day. And of course, as a health coach, while looking at this, I'm like, "Oh my God. Real data?"
Erin: It's your dream come true.
The power of biomarkers for women: be OPTIMAL, not normal
Laura: Dream come true. I want all of the data! And so I immediately signed up. As soon as I left the doctor's office and she was like, "You're fine." And I was like, "I need to go get real answers." And that's what led me to InsideTracker and immediately the thing that I think has been the most useful, that has helped me advocate for my own health the most from InsideTracker is how you see the optimal zone. And that optimal zone is different from the normal zone, which is different from the out of normal range. And I think that's such an important key thing that you'd very rarely ever get from your primary care physician's office. It's like they're comparing you to what's normal for all humans, including children, including 90 year old people of both genders, and it was such a relief to see where I was out of the normal ranges for a 35 year old athletic female.
Erin: Yeah, and part of the reason I love your story so much is because it's not too dissimilar from mine but also it's not too dissimilar from a lot of young women, or actually women of all ages. How often does a female friend or family member of you say, "You know my doctor says I'm normal, but I'm not normal. I feel terrible. I look terrible. I'm not sleeping. I'm stressed. I'm gaining weight. I don't know why. I promise I'm doing everything everyone has ever told me." And it's such a common theme, and as women, obviously our systems are delicate hormonally, it has a much more delicate balance. Right? And so the fact that it's not taken into consideration half the time to me is just insane. That's what I was so attracted to InsideTracker is because someone finally told me you can be optimal. I don't want to be normal, who wants to be normal? Not me. I want to be great.
Laura: Yeah, I want to feel great. I want to feel strong. I want to feel like my legs are not like I'm dragging two bricks along with me.
Many biomarkers significantly improved by Laura's 2nd test
Erin: I'm sure it didn't look as bad as you thought but believe me when I tell you that I've gone through the same thing and so I really empathize with you. Then the takeaway is you had one InsideTracker test. You got your data. Then, the best part was that you had another one and you actually ended up writing another piece about what you had learned from all of that. So tell us what stuck out to you, what really helped .
Laura: I actually have a bigger follow up for all of this. I've actually used InsideTracker three times. So the first time I used the DIY, where I took all the data from my doctor, and I put it in to the InsideTracker system and where my doctor had said "Oh, you're fine", with the same numbers, the same data, that same blood test, just plugging it into the DIY module there, I immediately could see that no that was not at all true.
Erin: That's awesome. Amazing.
What she learned after 3 tests
Laura: There were things that were out of line. So I immediately got to work on the nutrition recommendations based on the DIY. And then about a month later, just one month of making changes, I saw a bunch of numbers improve. I know that my hormones improved immediately. I was watching some really interesting things happening with my Vitamin D which I had been supplementing and then I could clearly see it was way too much. So I stopped taking the supplement. I was watching my Vitamin D come back down which is the continuation of the story. While I was seeing that come back down, I stopped taking my Vitamin B12 because I could clearly see over two tests that I didn't need it. And that has continued to remain through all of the tests that I've had since then. I was like, "I feel bad and people who feel bad should take B12." Then through looking at my blood work, I was like, "No, actually that's not contributing at all to why I feel like that." That was really eye opening. I've watched my white blood cell count improve. I had been able to track my blood sugar, which again contributes to furthering up this tale. So I've watched my glucose changed and definitely, I was able to be reminded of all these other foods that you get away from because you're panicking about weight gain. "Oh my God. I need to cut down all the carbs." And then you realize nope that's actually not true. As soon as I put all these whole grains back to diet, as soon as I put the brown rice and the quinoa and all of that back into my diet, all the other biomarkers improved. The C-Reactive Protein improved; as I said white blood cell count improved. I'm getting better with my iron, still not perfect.
Erin: A lot of women struggle with that. I do too.
Laura: It's hard, it's so hard. Especially, I'm one of these women who has a really intense menstrual cycle. I just feel like I'm fighting a losing battle.
Laura: So that was the end of first test.
Erin: We want to hear the end of the tale, Laura. Come on.
Laura: You want to hear the end of the tale? Okay. Let's go. So this is really interesting and it's another thing that I really like about InsideTracker. I'm a person who I think my story is fairly typical of people today in their 30s who have had lots of different jobs, whereas like once upon time people had a career, and they stayed in that job and that was that. And you had your insurance through your employer and you've had the same doctor for 40 years. I've bounced around so many times, I've had so many different doctors that all of my blood work - I have no idea where it is.
Erin: Yeah. Yeah, me too. Same thing.
Laura: Out in the ether somewhere, is all the tests I've had since I was a kid. Now, for the first time in 15 years, it doesn't matter who runs my blood work, which doctor I'm at, everything goes to one place, and it's all showing me the story over time. What I was able to identify in that 3 InsideTracker results was my calcium was too high. And not just out of normal too high, but in the red zone high. And my vitamin D by the 3rd InsideTracker test, which was 6 months after the second one, my vitamin D had plummeted down below normal. So, this was the first time that anyone had ever told me, "Hey you need to go see a doctor about this. You need to bring this to your doctor's attention." My doctor who ran the first blood test that showed the high calcium didn't even bring it to my attention.
Laura: And it took me having two more tests at InsideTracker to take a look at how those numbers were just going higher.
Erin: And of course there's a relationship between vitamin D and calcium which explains…
Laura: Yeah, there is really an important relationship between vitamin D and calcium which I knew as a nutrition council that there was a relationship between D and calcium. But I didn't understand calcium enough to understand why I would be so high out of normal when vitamin D was going lower and lower and lower. And so I immediately called my doctor, got a reference to the endocrinologist based on my InsideTracker results. That was back in August and now it will be November.
Erin: You'll due for another test.
A diagnosis: parathyroid tumor causing hypercalcemia
Laura: I'm due for another test but actually we're holding off on that. Because I've had so many blood tests since then because as it turns out, what was causing this is something called primary hyperparathyroidism.
Laura: And that is a benign tumor that's been growing slowly on one or maybe two of my parathyroid glands that's leeching the calcium out of my bones and into the rest of my body and lowering my vitamin D because my body is trying to protect itself from this hypercalcemia. And yeah so these two little tumors need to go.
Erin: And so all of that from tracking your blood, huh?
The courage to self-advocate
Laura: All from tracking my blood. And this might have went on for years before a doctor might have found it, because I'm really really young for this condition. Even though my calcium is high and above normal people high, its not high enough. What they keep saying to me is, "Well it's not that high. Your calcium is high but it's not that high." But when you compare that to what's right for a 35 year old, that's actually really high. It led me to advocate for myself to say no, I understand what you're telling me, and I can see on this chart what you're telling me. But I'm telling you, this explains everything. And it gave me the courage not to second guess myself, to self advocate and so now I'm meeting with the surgeon at the end of this month.
Erin: That is an amazing story with a very happy ending, it seems.
Laura: Happy ending.
Erin: Despite the fact that surgery is never good and I never want to hear that anyone has a tumor of any sort. But, I'm glad that it's benign and that you're going to be able to take care of it so that next blood test you get everything hopefully, will be going trending towards normal.
Laura: Yeah. And it was so interesting because when they're talking to you, and I understand that doctors need to be cautious, and they need to check all the boxes. But they kept saying, "Well it's not that high", and I understand thatome people in this condition get calcium even higher and they literally go crazy. And they have kidney stones and all these things. I've experienced some symptoms but nothing wild like that. Like some heart palpitations and big bones and early onset osteoporosis. For me, it's a big deal.
Erin: Of course, it's a huge deal. You need to catch it early. Can you imagine if you never knew and you waited until you were 45 and it was a massive problem. It is a cascade reaction for everything.
Laura: Right. And so now, I'm really excited for after surgery, is that, I'm gonna have my InsideTracker results done again.
Laura: I'm gonna have a new blood test done. And I'm so pumped to see if having my calcium levels for the first time probably in 10 years in the right zone will finally have an effect on some of the biomarkers that I just couldn't figure out why they were abnormal. And now I know why they are abnormal because they are related to calcium. So many things are related to calcium. And if I can get that in the optimal zone maybe everything else will be optimal. And I'm so excited. I'm waiting for after surgery and then...
Erin: Well, we'll have to send you a giant green InsideTracker "Get Well Soon" balloon. So let us know when it is and more importantly, I wish you all the best. Good luck with the surgery. Be safe.
Laura: Thank you.
Erin: We'll have to catch up on video when you've all recovered because I wanna hear the happy, happy, happy ending that I know is coming for this story.
Erin: Thank you so much.
Laura: Yeah, you're welcome.
Some other blog posts we think you'll love:
- Tired of Being Tired: How I Optimized My Iron Levels
- Getting Back on Track: Laura Ingalls' InsideTracker-Fueled Journey Back to Holistic Health
- Avoiding The Crash: How Monitoring Iron Levels Can Save Your Season
- Stress Fractures: The Relationship Between Biochemistry, Nutritional Screening and Biomechanics