Monday, July 23

Life As A... Hashimoto's Patient...

this is a joke, obvs

Some of you who follow me on twitter or facebook may already know this but I've had to make some really big changes to the way I eat. I've gotten some questions about it so I figured I'd come out with it and let the world know what's going on...

About 3 years ago I started to not feel so great. I was gaining weight and I couldn't figure out why. I was (and had been for years) a vegetarian and I ate fairly healthfully. I ran and did yoga and still, I couldn't stop from steadily gaining weight. It was frustrating to say the least. My moods were erratic and I was tired all the time, even if I slept for 8 hours.

When I got pregnant I had a lot of the same symptoms, and some even worse. I just assumed they were related to being with child so I tried to live with them. After Cadence came, though, the symptoms did not go away, in fact they got worse. I couldn't lose any weight, even while working out for 2 hours a day. I was beyond exhausted all the time. I was depressed. I couldn't remember simple things. I felt like I just couldn't access parts of my brain, like a fog was in the way. I couldn't wake up and my head would feel dreamy and slow for hours in the mornings. I couldn't think of words when I was talking and I'd stumble around in conversations sounding dumb. I was clumsy. I had headaches all the time. My skin felt like sandpaper. The symptoms were just all over the board. When I told people about them I was told it was just life. It was how having a baby was. It was me being lazy or scatterbrained and I needed to try harder. I felt a bit like I was going crazy.

After finally reaching  breaking point, I visited a special practice of integrative doctors and was quickly sent for blood work. I was terrified that they would tell me I was just crazy, that nothing was wrong in my blood panel. The doctor walked in and the first thing she said was, "By the looks of your results, I'm not sure how you've been doing half of the stuff you've been doing. You must feel HORRIBLE!" And I started to get teary eyed. It was so nice to have someone understand and tell me I wasn't crazy. I was diagnosed with two extreme vitamin deficiencies, and something called Hashimoto's which was responsible for more issues in my blood work and for my crazy symptoms.

For 2 weeks I was on the strictest diet known to man. I'm not even being dramatic. I was limited to a few lean meats, a few vegetables, a couple types of fruit, and olive or coconut oil. That's it. No dairy, no grains, no legumes, no beans, no potatoes, no nuts, no soy, no sugar, no sweeteners of any kind, no nightshade veggies, (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc.) no high glycemic fruits, no caffeine, no alcohol, no no no no...

After that I was put on a 3 week lighter detox involving a lot of vitamin shakes and a fair amount of limitations still.

Now I'm on a sustainable "diet". Which is more of a new lifestyle than diet because I'm not allowed to ever go off of it. I'm never allowed to have gluten, I'm also supposed to avoid soy and sweet dairy and I'm supposed to dramatically limit my sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. (This lifestyle is also known as an "anti-inflammatory" diet in case you're googling.) Hashimoto's is an auto immune disease where your body attacks your thyroid cells thinking that they are foreign invaders. The attack fills your body with inflammation and also makes it hard for your thyroid to do it's job. It causes hypothyroidism. But it's a specific type of hypothyroidism that is due to an allergic reaction in the body. And that allergic reaction is to gluten. Basically, when I eat gluten my body has an allergic reaction and it attacks the gluten. Strangely enough, thyroid cells are similar to the gluten ones so my body can't tell the difference and also attacks my thyroid causing all the issues and symptoms of both a gluten allergy (which has even more symptoms and issues of it's own) and hypothyroidism. It's a bit intense.

Hashimoto's is so strange because it's symptoms are so varied but it accounted for my brain fog, mood swings, memory issues, apparent ADD, weight gain, skin problems, irritability, unrelenting fatigue, my vitamin deficiencies, liver issues, headaches, my strange cholesterol results, tender joints, and more. Isn't that crazy? Luckily for me, I was just at the beginning of the problem. So for me, dietary changes were able to reverse the problem and I didn't have to go on any medicines. But, sadly for me, I have to live like this from now on or the issues will all come flooding back.

So... this is life now as a Hashimoto's patient. It's frustrating some time, especially when I'm out and hungry and have practically zero options. Gluten is in soooooo much stuff. Sometimes just as a filler. Even stuff you wouldn't expect like frozen yogurt, corn chips, and tomato soup. If it's processed or it's from a restaurant, odds are I can't eat it. I'm very lucky that Nate and I both like ethnic foods so much because eating out at ethnic restaurants is generally safer for me (rice and corn are both okay so my favorites, Thai, Indian, and Mexican are generally safe). Baked goods are all out the window unless I buy them from the specialty gluten free bakeries or make them myself.

Since dramatically changing my diet I've lost about 35 pounds so at least there's an upside right? ;) I've also gotten my brain back, the fog finally lifted and I have tons more energy now and much less moodiness and blues. My vitamin deficiencies have leveled too which means I feel better all around.

So that's that. If you read all that, thanks! And yes, I'm totally aware that being gluten free is the sexy new trend so it can seem obnoxious to some of you. I don't want to be a burden to my friends, but I did want to share in case others of you might be going through something similar. And if your'e dealing with some of those same symptoms and feeling like you're crazy, maybe you can look into getting tested. If you are gluten free, I'd love to hear your favorite places to eat or recipes! I also have a Gluten Free board on Pinterest now if you want to follow along.

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