Dana Wodtke was already checking all the boxes she knew of to be healthy: eating well, exercising and keeping her stress down.
Full of energy, she had been dancing, hiking, teaching yoga and working full time as a massage therapist.
So when even minimal activity started exhausting her and migraines began coming on for the first time, she wondered why her health had turned so rapidly.
The migraines began once a month, then progressed to three to four days per week, followed by one to two days of a still-debilitating “migraine hangover.” Besides extreme pain, they came with vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound.
The severity of the episodes forced Dana to cut her work back to no more than one session per day for massage and to stop teaching yoga.
“A lot of days I could not work at all,” she reflects.
The Hunt for Answers
Dana resisted medication for migraines because pharmaceuticals – and even many natural supplements for that matter – had often upset her sensitive system, causing side effects such as anxiety and vomiting.
Suspecting there was more going on, she looked for a practitioner with a root-cause approach to illness. She first turned to Nola McDonald in Fort Collins.
McDonald ran testing and found that Dana had no detectable testosterone, and thus started her on testosterone supplements.
Next, Dana turned to a practitioner closer to home, Donna Nikander, an integrative medicine nurse practitioner in Boulder, CO. Integrative medicine blends conventional medicine and natural approaches.
With Nikander, Dana found more pieces of her health puzzle. She diagnosed Dana with chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and adrenal fatigue.
“Many think of chronic fatigue and fibro on a spectrum with the two distinctive issues being fatigue to pain,” Dana says. “I was much more at the fatigue end versus the pain end.”
Nikander also suspected estrogen dominance, where there is excess estrogen relative to other hormones, particularly progesterone. Estrogen dominance can cause a wide range of symptoms, including headaches, fatigue and mood swings.
A Measure of Migraine Relief
To counter-balance the estrogen dominance, Dana added progesterone to the testosterone she was already taking – and got much-needed migraine relief.
“Testosterone and progesterone were really helpful with migraines,” she says.
Nikander also recommended that Dana remove the non-hormonal (copper) intrauterine device (IUD) that she’d gotten in 2009. While she’ll never know for sure, Dana suspects that may have been a trigger for her sudden health problems, given the timing.
The entire time she had the IUD, Dana had experienced severe cramping and bleeding, and her other health issues had started within a year of getting the IUD.
“I realized there was something hormonal going on because there was a correlation with parts of my monthly cycle,” she says.
Once the IUD was out, the cramping stopped and bleeding normalized. But unfortunately, her bigger health issues lingered.
“I always thought that the IUD symptoms were covering up my other symptoms when I first started getting sick, but then only a few years ago did I realize, maybe the IUD was the cause of my chronic fatigue and adrenal fatigue!” she says.
Beyond hormones, Dana experimented with various approaches to calm her nervous system, under Nikander’s care. She tried vitamin B-8, also known as inositol. It actually eased her anxiety, but it made her existing tinnitus worse.
The bioidentical progesterone worked well for years, but then she started having side effects. When she tried to ease off the hormone, it didn’t go well.
“I was titrating off it and had a reaction that sent me to the hospital with crazy high blood pressure and horrible anxiety,” she recalls.
On Nikander’s recommendation, she also tried traditional neurofeedback, but saw no change in her health. Neurofeedback assesses brainwave activity and then uses sound or visual signals to retrain brain signals.
No More Migraines or Anxiety
As Dana continued to struggle with regular migraines, anxiety and fatigue, she met up with a friend. The woman had recovered from a brain tumor a couple of decades before, but had suffered from depression and anxiety following that.
But now, she seemed fantastic. “She was so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” Dana says. “She had been on heavy antidepressants for years, but was off medications and had no more anxiety.”
She learned that her friend had recently started getting a therapy called LENS, short for Low Energy Neurofeedback.
Dr. Robert Ray, a master LENS practitioner in Lafayette, CO, used the therapy on Dana’s friend, and eventually, Dana. He describes it as an advanced form of neurofeedback that operates much more rapidly than traditional neurofeedback.
LENS uses a very low power electromagnetic field – about equivalent to a watch battery – to disrupt maladaptive or looping patterns that the brain has acquired in response to acute conditions such as trauma, stress, concussion, addiction, pain and other life events.
The therapy can be tailored to each individual’s unique needs and each session only lasts a few minutes.
Without much to lose, Dana decided to try it. She started seeing Dr. Ray twice a week, where she sat with sensors hooked to her scalp.
The results, she says, were nearly immediate.
“I’ve had no migraines since that first LENS session,” she says. “It’s such a relief. It pings the brain and nudges it back to homeostasis. It doesn’t take much to nudge me in any direction bad or good.”
After the fourth session, Dana’s anxiety was gone as well.
Over time, her chronic fatigue improved too. While she can’t know for sure, she believes that her exhaustion was actually caused by severe adrenal fatigue.
Additionally, Dana’s tinnitus went from a level of seven to 10 down to two or three.
“LENS just really calmed my whole nervous system down in a lot of ways,” she says.
Making Plans – Confidently and Pain-Free
These days, Dana lives a migraine- and anxiety-free lifestyle – two years after her first LENS treatment. She continues to get LENS therapy about every six weeks.
She’s also regained much of her energy and lives mostly pain-free due to LENS and rolfing. She can return to some of the exercises she loves, such as yoga.
“I don’t have any chronic fatigue issues anymore and only occasionally fibro pain,” she says.
She was also able to get off of bioidentical hormones. In fact, her hormone levels are better now than when she was on the medication.
All that progress has given her the energy and confidence to move ahead with new plans and dreams.
After a career transition, she’s now a leadership development coach. And being migraine-free means she can schedule meetings and calls without worry that a migraine will force her to cancel.
“LENS has truly given me my life back,” she says. “I’m so thankful I found it.”
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