Dr. Maggie Yu's Story
Finding my battlecry through the failure of factory medicine.
That day is forever burned into my mind.
I was 35, and I couldn’t believe what my doctor was telling me. How in the world could I already be going through menopause?
As a practicing physician myself, I’d had to deliver bad news to patients before, but now it was happening to me and my whole life turned upside down.
My problems started when I was getting more and more anxious, depressed, and exhausted. I was gaining weight, feeling hot and cold, sweating, having heart palpitations, and suffering from severe insomnia. I experienced irregular menstrual bleeding, and then it just stopped altogether.
Like what most people would do in that situation, I went to my primary care physician and OB/Gyn.
I was given the standard battery of blood tests which always were “normal.” They prescribed an antidepressant and a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), which made my libido plummet and weight go up.
The worst part was how resigned everyone seemed to feel. No one wanted to solve my problem. Doctors handed me pills and shrugged their shoulders or insinuated it was all in my head.
They said I was “getting older” and needed to accept the change.
I felt like a sheet of ice cracking under all the pressure. I was stressed at work, my health problems got worse… and in spite of dedicated therapy, my 14-year marriage disintegrated. It was like I’d lost the best of who I was, and I didn’t know how to get it back. No one did.
If I wanted to get better, it was going to be up to me.
I am a doctor, a scientist, and most importantly I am a woman. I knew my life was falling apart, and I knew that I could figure this out. I had to.
The First Breakthrough…
The solution began with an inkling. A patient of mine brought me a book about using bio-identical hormones to treat hormonal symptoms. In the early 2000s, fresh from the backlash of Premarin (a synthetic estrogen that had been overused and abused), combined with the Women’s Health Initiative study that showed that synthetic hormones increased health risks, nearly all doctors backed off the use of any hormones.
But the book my patient gave me included references to many European studies that had vastly different results than the WHI study. The conclusions about the WHI study really focused on the use of synthetic hormones, which do not belong in the human body.
The long standing use and safety of natural bio-identical hormones, which are identical to our own, had health benefits and definite merits. It made sense to me that if we actually tested women’s hormones, and learned about what balanced levels looked like at various ages, that women with symptoms could safely use low doses of natural hormones to help alleviate problems and promote health.
Once again, I ran into the unhelpful system of factory medicine. I could not get my physician to order hormone labs for me.
So I had my hormones checked by a naturopathic physician. And it turned out that my numbers showed I was near menopausal at age 35.
But unlike my other doctors – the so-called “experts” – she treated me with bio-identical hormones. And although the treatments began to work, I was still plagued with a bigger question.
WHY? Why was I, a 35-year-old woman, going through menopause?
Finding My Battle Cry
I combined my experiences with naturopathic physicians along with dedicated and personal research to create a whole new way of thinking about medicine. In spite of years of advanced medical training, I couldn’t believe how little most doctors know about how our bodies function.
Did you know that our ovaries work with our adrenals and thyroid gland in conjunction. I now call this the Golden Triangle of hormone balance. Our ovaries don’t exist in isolation, but factory medicine treats them that way. Yet the ovaries work with the thyroid and the adrenals to promote health.
The reason so many perimenopausal women have symptoms is because it’s also dragging down their thyroid and/or their adrenals. The affected thyroid will cause the weight gain and the fatigue. The tapped out adrenals can cause insomnia and exhaustion.
Instead of accepting that my thyroid was “normal” and that “adrenals can’t be tested,” I did more testing. Two of the labs checked to see if I had an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s.
They came back positive.
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that causes an underactive thyroid. This turned out to be a huge piece of the puzzle. Regular doctors do not check for this test because they only measure is the Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH). But all that does is wait for your brain to finally register that your thyroid is low.
However, years before TSH registers low, patients can have borderline low thyroid and a myriad of symptoms. Further, if you have the autoimmune form of low thyroid, it means that your immune system mistakes a part of your body as foreign and is actively trying to attack and kill it. So years before you may register low thyroid numbers, you can suffer a huge amount of high or low thyroid symptoms. And typically, if someone has autoimmune attack of the thyroid, the likelihood that her ovaries and adrenals are being attacked is nearly 100 percent.
I haven’t met a patient with Hashimoto’s that also didn’t experience other ovarian hormone or adrenal hormone symptoms. This is clearly a pattern. Many patients including myself had undiagnosed autoimmune disease and were under internal attack.
The myriad of symptoms involves many parts of the body, thus traditional physicians don’t know what to do with these patients.
I learned to look at how the different parts of the body work together. I figured out that the depression, anxiety, insomnia, weight gain, lack of libido and periods were due to my adrenals, thyroid, and ovaries all shutting down due to an autoimmune disease attacking them all.
This was not a death sentence! This was a battle cry! Now that I knew the root cause of my problems – now that I’d discovered the WHY – I could plan my route to better health.
The Four Secrets That Cured My Menopause
1. Hormone testing
Most medical doctors receive zero training on hormone issues like adrenal fatigue. Since they don’t get the training, they don’t believe it really exists. Which, naturally, means they don’t test for it. This puts so many women at a huge health disadvantage because they never uncover the root cause of their problems.
Women are stuck with band-aid treatments that do little more than mask symptoms for a while, or they have to accept bogus conclusions like, “You’re getting older. Just deal with it.”
But I know it’s real. I figured out that my adrenals were pumping out adrenaline and burning out due to the autoimmune attack and the high stress. I didn’t just take a general adrenal supplement. I took one that specifically calmed my adrenals.
I got better, fast. Now, I consider adrenal testing a crucial piece for many of my patients.
I also tested my vitamin levels and learned I had catastrophically low vitamin D. Most doctors and insurances do not cover vitamin D testing. But here’s what most people (even doctors!) don’t know about vitamin D: it’s not just a vitamin, it is a hormone.
There is a vitamin D receptor on every cell of your body. Normal vitamin D should be 50-80, but you can calm autoimmune attacks by pushing levels up to 80. I’m of Asian descent, and we do not make much vitamin D at all, so I had to take 10,000 IU/day to get my levels closer to 80. My mood immediately improved, and I had so much more energy.
2. Food testing
Another key secret to calming an autoimmune disease is identifying food triggers. In my case, gluten was wreaking havoc on my body. The inflammatory response my body was having to gluten triggered my autoimmune disease.
Yes, I had to give up some of my favorite pasta dishes and delicious dinner rolls, but it was 100 percent worth it to feel better. People have different reactions to different foods, which is why food intolerance testing is such a big piece of your health puzzle.
3. Get active
Active Body: Because I was feeling so much better and had more energy, I started to exercise. And the more I moved my body, the better I felt. It was like an ascending spiral of goodness! One of the most motivating things anyone can experience is results, and incorporating daily movement into your lifestyle will help you get results.
Whether it’s walking, cycling, swimming, yoga… whatever you want. Move!
Active Mind: Along with exercise, I started to practice mindfulness and breathing exercises. I including reading and journaling in my daily habits, too. Stress is absolutely a trigger that causes your health to deteriorate. Between the stress of my job as a busy physician and the problems in my personal life, stress was causing me to burn out.
By focusing on activities that put me more in control of my mind and emotional reactions, I was able to reduce my stress levels and increase my health and happiness.
4. Hormone therapy
By harnessing the power of bio-identical hormones and specific supplements to help my adrenal and ovarian hormones, I began to feel dramatically better.
I won’t pretend like this all happened overnight. It took almost three years of a lot of effort and struggle and frustration, but… it worked!
My periods returned. My hormone levels were back to normal, and they stayed normal even when I went off hormones. That’s because when the attacks on my thyroid and ovaries calmed down through my treatment, they began to work in harmony again.
I was no longer in menopause!
That was 10 years ago. My hormone levels are still normal. I haven’t had to take hormones for years because I’ve worked with my body to get it functioning naturally.
I have such an amazing life now! I’m happy, healthy, and active. I feel so good. Reversing my menopausal symptoms was incredible, but the best part of all was getting “me” back. I truly feel like the best version of myself.
Oh, and my declining libido, which so many of us accept as “normal”? It’s alive and well. In fact, it’s better than ever!
I Said “No” To Factory Medicine… Again
This journey affected me deeply as both a patient and as a physician. I know that treating my symptoms with a band-aid made me worse, and I know that so many other women experience the same system that is failing them.
After I had discovered how to cure my problem I was faced with two choices.
1. I could stay on my current path as a physician. I could keep making good money billing patients for 15-minute visits and prescribing pills that only treated symptoms. After all, that’s how the system is designed to run.
But I’d feel like a hypocrite. How could I, after what I’d just experienced, choose to keep putting other women through that?
2. Or I could make a real change. I could dedicate myself wholly to functional medicine and treat patients as whole people made of complex systems that all work together. I could work for people instead of insurance and pharmaceutical companies. I could take what I’d learned and make a difference that created real wellness for other women.
I left big box medicine and started my own practice in 2008. And I have never looked back. I continued to get more and more training in functional medicine. I incorporated naturopathic physicians into my practice, integrating traditional medicine with naturopathic and systems-oriented care.
As much as I wanted to leave the system, the system did not want to leave me.
I tried desperately to do the thorough evaluations and education I needed to help my patients, but there were severe restrictions due to the poor model of compensation in healthcare. Pay is based on volume, and the more 15-minute visits you bill, the more money you make. That’s why so many doctors are forced to see four or five patients in an hour instead of one.
The key to functional medicine is spending time with patients so that we can look at a patient as a system. You’re not just a symptom or a body part, but insurance companies don’t want to pay for in-depth treatment. Fifteen minutes and a bottle of pills wasn’t going to work for me. Or my patients.
Once again, I had to find a better way.
Concierge Medicine: Giving Women Real Wellness
Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. I wanted to get rid of a system that, honestly, is insane. I wanted a different – a better – result for my patients.
What if I created a practice that could achieve everything I wanted for my patients? Longer visits that let us get to the real cause of your health problems, thorough treatment that actually made you well, a nutritional therapist meeting with every patient…
In short, what if I created a truly beneficial clinic that fully embraced functional medicine?
First, let’s define what functional medicine is:
“Functional medicine is a personalized, systems-oriented model that empowers patients and practitioners to achieve the highest expression of health by working in collaboration to address the underlying causes of disease.” – FuctionalMedicine.org
That is the kind of practice I run. Because without advocating and creating that in my own care, I would not be living in health or practicing medicine today.
The fact is, that tired middle aged woman other doctors pass off as “just getting older” needs and has hope. She requires plenty of time with her doctor, one who trains and thinks outside the box and says no to factory medicine. She needs a doctor who will order the tests she needs, not just the cursory ones. She needs to understand all the triggers to know why her system is not functioning together optimally.
Not only do we practice functional medicine, be we are also a concierge facility. Our patients are members. This model allows us to deliver exceptional medicine with a myriad of benefits.
- Office visits usually last 45 minutes to an hour.
- A holistic nutritional therapist/health coach works as part of your team to provide a truly integrated approach to your health. She actively coaches you during most if not all of your visits.
- Limited-size practice to make sure you get the time, quality testing and effective communication you need to reclaim your wellness.
- After the visits, 24-hour access through our patient portal. Dr. Yu and your nutritionist responds directly to you via the portal to continue the collaboration.
- Personalized and customized care tailored to your real needs.
- We provide the latest in functional medicine testing including hormones, thyroid, adrenal, genetic, and nutritional testing to get to the underlying causes of your health problems.
- Web Visits: Got a busy schedule or living out of state? We work with patients and many insurances to allow for face-to-face visits via the web on your computer or smartphone. We work with you while you travel or cannot come in physically to the office.
And it works.
“I am a cancer patient with complications from chemotherapy and thyroid problems. Dr. Yu knew exactly what was wrong and how to treat me. What five doctors and an emergency hospital stay could not do, she diagnosed in one visit. I have been getting better and she has helped me understand what is happening in my body. She even gave me back my sex life!” - Jennifer
“I have been a patient of Dr. Yu's for many years. I am healthier than I have ever been. I have been able to get off almost all medications and I feel I owe my health to finding Dr. Yu. I had a lot of hard work to do, but she was 100 percent supportive of me on my wellness journey. I always recommend this practice.” -Kathryn
“I've been a patient of Dr. Yu for several years. She has been very helpful in unraveling and deepening my understanding of my complex chronic conditions. My increased quality of life is worth the investment.” - Christine
For about $5 a day, our members are escaping factory medicine just like I did. They are experiencing real wellness through our functional, concierge model of practice. The monthly fee pays for the many beneficial services that insurance companies don’t want to pay for. (We still accept and bill insurance for the services that your insurance does cover and pay for.)
For example, insurance won’t cover for you to work with your doctor and with a holistic nutritional therapist on your lifestyle changes. Yet that is a crucial component of care required to bring you full health. So I employ a holistic nutritionist that isn’t paid for by insurance.
We also offer a much higher staff-to-patient ratio to make sure your needs are met as quickly as possible.
Working with a mission and a purpose like this has been amazing. I’ve been able to partner with so many patients and bring them to a place of true wellness.
If you’d like lots of personalized attention along with an open minded physician and staff to create your incredible health outcome, then please call or email us for more information.
Enrollment is currently open, and we still have about 20 spots left.
You don’t have to settle for factory medicine any longer.
To your wellness,
Dr. Maggie Yu