It was a beautiful July day for a boat ride in Newport, RI, until Jeanne Driscoll, age 46, stepped off the boat and the rocking didn’t stop. Jeanne had two similar experiences several years earlier, the first after an airplane flight and another after a week on a cruise ship. In those previous experiences Jeanne gradually felt better after a few weeks and her life returned to normal.
This time was different. Jeanne not only experienced what she called a constant rocking sensation of “phantom motion” but also vision difficulty, migraine headaches, cognitive lapses and unrelenting fatigue.
Over a period of 21 months Jeanne was examined by her primary care doctor, an ENT, a vestibular specialist, two neurologists, and a gynecologist. Given that Jeanne’s symptoms began after a boat ride, she was given the diagnosis of Mal de Debarquement and told she should “learn to live with it.” Determined to find an answer, she explored alternative therapies including frequency-specific micro current therapy, acupuncture, and even a master intuitive. Despite her efforts, Jeanne spiraled into a deep depression and could barely function. Her doctors recommended that she apply for disability. Jean refused and instead tirelessly continued seeking the root cause of her vestibular symptoms.
In January 2011 Jean was examined by Dr. Charlotte Richards, a gynecologist. Dr. Richards tested Jeanne for hormonal deficiencies and started her on bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). Her medication was tweaked twice and within 3 months Jeanne’s vestibular symptoms completely resolved. She did not change anything else in her life (e.g. diet, exercise, other medications, nutritional supplements, etc.).
“I got my life back. I never gave up. I knew I just had to find the right doctor,” Jeanne remarked.
To complete the last piece of her “wellness puzzle” Jeanne replaced her synthetic thyroid prescription medication with Armour Thyroid, a natural thyroid prescription medication, which gave her health and energy level an even bigger boost. With new-found enthusiasm and a zest for life Jeanne turned her attention toward helping others.
With the help of an Internet support group Jeanne reached out to Kim B. of Jupiter, FL. Jeanne thought that Kim’s symptoms of constant rocking sounded much like hers. In 1999, at age 36, Kim started feeling a rocking sensation 5 weeks after her son was born. She was given antibiotics, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. Nothing took away the rocking, although some medications made it more tolerable. It was extremely challenging taking care of her baby while hardly being able to get out of bed.
In August 2011, Jeanne recommended BHRT to Kim (then age 48) and after 12 years with vestibular symptoms Kim saw the intensity of her symptoms decrease from a 9-10 to a 1-2 (10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest). Kim shared, “My quality of life is drastically improved and at times I feel symptom-free without any rocking.” Like Jeanne, Kim didn’t change anything else in her life other than taking BHRT medication.
More recently, Jeanne contacted Kristin M. of Hoover, Alabama. In 2010 at age 43, Kristin went on a cruise and like Jeanne, when she got off the boat her rocking did not stop. She wondered if her recent migraines and partial hysterectomy had anything to do with her symptoms. After 9 months her Mal de Debarquement went into remission, only to return in March 2012. With Jeanne’s help Kristin found a physician who works with bioidentical hormones. In short order Kristin felt much better. She is nearly symptom-free but sometimes has mild symptoms when she lies down at night. She added, “I don’t feel like I’m going up and down hills anymore when I walk across the floors in my house. I also have the concentration to read books again.”
To share her success with bioidentical hormones Jeanne created a Facebook page titled, “Searching for Stillness – Phantom Motion.” There she offers a wealth of resources on bioidentical hormones, thyroid and natural thyroid replacement medication, adrenal fatigue, migraine headaches, and other related topics. Jeanne also highlights environmental factors such as fluoridated water that she believes negatively influence the delicate hormonal system.
Jeanne is in the process of helping at least a dozen other people with vestibular symptoms explore bioidentical hormones. She says that “despite little scientific research on the subject hormone and thyroid deficiencies may play a role in a person’s vestibular disorder – men included. It’s worth investigating. A primary care doctor can order blood tests for a hormone and thyroid panel. A person might have to follow up with a gynecologist or alternative/naturopathic physician. However, not many doctors work with bioidentical hormones. I recommend Googling ‘functional medicine’ in a person’s local area. I realize that bioidentical hormones may not be the answer for everyone, and even if a person has a hormonal deficiency it can take a while to find the right balance of different bioidentical hormones. This is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.”
While Jeanne has successfully completed her search for stillness, she continues to help others overcome the phantom motion of their vestibular disorders.
- Jeanne Driscoll’s Community Facebook page: “Searching for Stillness – Phantom Motion”
- Women in Balance: www.womeninbalance.org
- “Health, Hormones, and Happiness: A Natural Medical Formula For Rediscovering Youth with Bioidentical Hormones” by Steven F. Hotze, MD
- Hotze Health & Wellness Center: www.hotzehwc.com; you can take a test on this website that can guide you to investigate a hormonal and/or thyroid deficiency.
- “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests are Normal” by Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MS
- List of naturopathic doctors in the United States: www.naturopathic.org
- List of Compounding Pharmacies in the United States: www.ecompoundingpharmacy.com
What are Bioidentical Hormones?
Bioidentical hormones can be used for both men and women. They are made from natural substances that are molecularly identical to the body’s naturally occurring hormones. They are not the synthetic hormones often associated with managing menopause. A health care provider can test a woman’s levels of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, and pregnenalone. For a man testosterone and DHEA are typically tested.
Bioidentical hormones require a prescription from a doctor. They come in different forms: creams, capsules, and liquids. Prescriptions can be filled at special pharmacies, known as compounding pharmacies.
By Claire Haddad Boston-Area Support Group Leader