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An avid gardener and professional illustrator, Staci Brown has faced her share of health challenges over the last decade, including a Crohn’s disease diagnosis at age 26. But more recently, she was hit with a new set of symptoms that seemed to come out of nowhere.
“I suddenly became extremely fatigued, along with having muscle aches and trouble sleeping,” Brown recalled. “Not even a chronic illness like Crohn’s made me feel so completely exhausted all the time.”Treating the Whole PatientNever one to ignore a health concern, the 40-year-old from Prospect Heights knew it was time to reach out to her longtime NorthShore-affiliated Primary Care Physician, Meena Malhotra, MD. Dr. Malhotra describes her practice as “functional medicine”— focused on finding the underlying causes of disease and identifying therapies to optimize body and organ function. “Dr. Malhotra is phenomenal. She listens carefully and makes sure she gets the right diagnosis to resolve the root cause,” Brown added. “Since Staci’s Crohn’s disease was well controlled, it was crucial to look ‘outside the box’ for other possible underlying conditions in evaluating her symptoms,” explained Dr. Malhotra, who specializes in using functional medicine to care for the whole patient—not just one specific symptom—before determining the most appropriate treatment option.“Her range of symptoms suggested a hormonal imbalance, so we performed a series of blood tests,” Dr. Malhotra noted. “Sure enough, the results indicated that Staci had extremely low testosterone levels—in fact, almost none at all.”Balancing ActHormones are substances produced in the body to regulate a wide variety of functions. They must be optimally balanced to maintain good health. Over time, hormone levels can get out of sync because of demands on the body, such as stress, poor nutrition and age.“Self-medicating for a hormonal imbalance by taking sleeping pills, antidepressants or synthetic hormones doesn’t address the underlying imbalance and can actually harm the body. It must be carefully evaluated to manage their personalized dosage,” cautioned Dr. Malhotra. “In Staci’s case, it was crucial to supplement her body with testosterone, as well as progesterone, to restore her hormones within a normal range,” said Dr. Malhotra. “Restoring hormonal balance has a direct impact on quality of life.”“It may seem like such a small intervention to make such a big difference in my life, but now I feel better than when I was 25 years old and have my energy back,” said Brown, who is grateful for the care she received. “In fact, all my NorthShore physicians, including the team of specialists who diagnosed and now treat my Crohn’s, are unbelievable. They treat each patient holistically and as an individual.”