Thursday, June 20, 2013

On Working Out and Working It Out

I'm not an athlete.  This is a fact that goes back to grade school when I was the very last person to be picked for a team.  It was painfully apparent back in my freshman year of high school.  I tried out for softball (became the scorekeeper), I played tennis (they let everyone on the team) and I tried out for cheerleading.  To this day, when I hear the theme song from "Beverly Hills Cop" my skin crawls.  If I try hard enough, I can still remember some of the moves.  I never want to try that hard.

I tried out for softball because my Dad played softball and I had fond memories of throwing the ball and playing catch with him.  He, in his lovely way, never let on that I wasn't good enough to play on a school team.  I thought I was good enough but I just wasn't.  My best friend's mom took pity on me and talked to the coach and I made the team as the scorekeeper.  I actually earned a letter for that.  Funny how that letterman's sweater was so important then.  The only reason I keep it now is it comes in handy every once in awhile as a costume piece.

I played tennis because I thought it was fun.  My neighbor loved to play tennis and she was my best friend.  I wanted to do it because she did it.  I used babysitting money to buy the cute skirt and court shoes.  I got better but I was not an ace.

I have no idea WHY IN THE WORLD I tried out to be a cheerleader.  I was an awkward girl with a bad perm, thick glasses and even thicker thighs.  I had very little coordination - my best dance moves were patterned after the Brady Bunch.  I wanted to be one of the cheerleader girls though.  I wanted to be accepted, I wanted to be popular.  I thought being a cheerleader would be the answer to making my sad life better.  Turns out that being on a science team that built an award winning robot was more satisfying than being a cheerleader could have ever been.

Fast forward to now, I'm still not an athlete.  I'm more likely to be chosen first to play on your Trivial Pursuit team than I am to play on your volleyball team.  I've never loved exercising.  In fact, I've always been able to  think of a hundred other things I'd rather do than exercise.

I started exercising again this week.  I've been wanting to since Dr. Gage asked me not to.  It was like longing for the forbidden fruit.  Dr. Stadler actually cleared me to resume a "light" workout last week or the week before but with traveling for work, pre-planned activities and life in general, yesterday was the first day I made it back to the gym.  The rule to a "light" workout was to keep my heart rate between 120-130 beats per minute and spend no more than 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week working out.  Seemed light enough, for me.

It was everything I expected it to be.  Somehow, something in my brain has reset and I like the idea of doing something good for myself like getting my heart rate up and breaking a sweat.  Most of all, I love the feeling of accomplishment.  Of spending 30 minutes doing something just for me.

Today I read this article written by a woman I've grown to admire in the blogging world.  I actually met her a couple of weeks ago and told her how much her writing means to me.  Our eyes glistened together as I told her that her words mean something to me (and many others) and that I know it's hard for her to be so honest sometimes, but that I'm truly grateful for her and her honesty.

I'm learning to exercise without expectations.  I'm not doing this for anyone but me and it feels right.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Catching Up

On one hand, May was a slow month for progress.  On the other hand, getting through May meant conquering some heavy issues that have been lingering for awhile.

In May, Dr. Stadler and I started addressing secondary issues - important issues that couldn't be tackled without complete assurance that my intestinal track was healed and absorbing nutrients properly.

On May 10th, Dr. S ordered a battery of lab tests to determine my progress. Here's a rundown of the tests he ordered:
  1. Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
  2. Lipid Panel
  3. Glycated Hemoglobin Test
  4. Assay Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Test
  5. Vitamin D
  6. C-Reactive Protein
  7. Free T-4
  8. T3
At my May 16th appointment, we discussed the results and since it's been several weeks since I actually discussed the results with him, I'll give you the bottom line.  I'M DOING AWESOME!!

In almost every test, I had met or exceeded his expectations for progress.  With the exception of my cholesterol test (the lipid panel), I made great strides.  My Vitamin D levels bottomed out a few years ago at 17.  When tested in January, the level was up to 22.  In May?  My Vitamin D level is at an all time high of 58!  Simply stated, what I've been doing is working.  The high level of Vitamin D is a strong indicator that my leaky gut is healed.

Also up to satisfactory levels is my C-Reactive Protein.  If you remember from an earlier post, the previous results from this test indicated I was at risk for diabetes, heart disease, heart attack and the possibility of other auto-immune disorders.  While the functional levels are not where Dr. S would like to see them, they are at the top of a "normal" range.  This is progress.

With this level of progress, it was time to start really tackling my adrenal fatigue, fatigue in general, mental fog and problems sleeping.  He started me on a hormone cream called Adrenostim.  The primary purpose of this cream was to regulate my cortisol levels so I wouldn't wake up exhausted everyday and/or have my energy bottom out in the afternoon.  I started using it on a Thursday and noticed results within a few days.  

Since then, I've also started taking a mega dose of B-12, a cholesterol-lowering supplement called Cholestar, and two supplements to help regulate neurotransmitter activity (brain fog and sleep patterns) - Acetyl-CH and Gabatone.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was able to introduce beef back into my diet.  It was a welcome change but I'm careful to only eat it once or twice a week.  It tastes good and I did miss it but I noticed that it tends to clog up my digestive system just a bit and honestly, the ways I was used to eating it are not a part of my diet anymore.  

Now that I've pretty much mastered my diet, I've noticed subtle (or in some cases, not so subtle) changes that happen when I eat certain things.  Iodized salt seems to be a huge trigger for me.  It gives me a major headache, it makes me retain water and the bloating can last for days.  This is one of those ingredients that doesn't have to be specifically labeled on products - manufacturers only have to list "salt".  They don't have to tell you it's iodized.  So, unless the packaging says "sea salt", I try to avoid it.  Also, bananas for breakfast make me nauseated.  Although they are supposed to be a low-glycemic fruit and shouldn't spike my blood sugar, for some reason it feels like it does.  Or, maybe bananas and fish aren't meant to be eaten together for breakfast...

My weight loss stalled in May as well.  I lost and gained the same 3 pounds during the whole month.  June is looking good though.  As of this morning, I've lost a total of 34.8 pounds since February 16th.  I can't even remember the last time I was in this weight range.  It was at least two and half years ago.  It feels so good to put on clothes that used to strangle me and have them feel loose.  Even better getting a text a from a friend I hadn't seen in a few weeks telling me that I looked "radiant".  

Perhaps the most significant thing I did in the month of May for my health was go back to talk therapy.  In a tender-mercy moment, I reconnected with a therapist that helped me years ago.  Going back to her was like meeting up with an old friend and talking as if no time had passed at all.  I believe now, more than ever, that everything happens for a reason and I found her again at the exact right time.  Working with her has been just as imperative to my health as working with Dr. Stadler.  Both have become an integral part of my healing process - both emotionally and physically.

I realize, as I hope you do too, this is my version of Hashimoto's Disease.  I've met so many people that don't even have this disease but somehow, through our connection, they've been able to help me heal and I've been able to help them in some way.  Knowing that I am not taking this journey alone is so comforting.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Just came from the Doctor's office and HAD to share...I'm adding beef back into my diet!

This is huge for me!  I'm so excited and my mouth is watering at the thought of it!  Oh, the possibilities!

After three months of only eating chicken, turkey and fish, I had to keep myself from shedding tears of joy when he told me.

A lot of other good stuff is happening - like I'm now down 27 pounds.  I had a three-week plateau at 25 pounds but this week the weight loss started back up.

I started a post about some of the things I've discovered about myself so far in this journey.  I promise I'll get  it finished.  I just wanted to share this awesome news!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

World Traveler

From the time I was a baby until I was in my mid-twenties, I'd pretty much traveled to most of the edges of the United States.  From Alaska to Hawaii, from Idaho to Florida, from California to North Carolina, I think I had traveled more than half of the United States.

When I was twenty-one, I served a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  For eighteen months, I served the people of the Quetzaltenango, Guatemala region.

When I was 25, I went on a cruise from Miami to the Western Caribbean - that included Cozumel, Jamaica and the Grand Cayman Islands.

At 26, I went to the United Kingdom and spent nearly three weeks traveling through England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and we even took a weekend trip to Paris.

After being laid off from my job in 2001, I had the opportunity to spend three weeks in China with my bestest friend and her husband.  We went to China, Hong Kong and Macau.

In 2002, I took a job with a small company that produced trade shows around the world.  Yearly, I traveled to Las Vegas, Amsterdam and Singapore.  From those places, I traveled to even better places including France, Madagascar, Mauritius and Japan.  I left that company in 2005 but I didn't let that stop me from traveling.

My first trip to Italy was back in 2007.  I have such wonderful memories of that trip with my cousins.  We started in Rome and traveled up through Italy, into Switzerland and France and ended our trip in London.

In 2009, I went back to work for the trade show company.  With them, I added Brazil to the list of places I'd been.  In 2009 I was able to take my Dad with me to Amsterdam and from there we spent 10 days in Florence and the Tuscany region of Italy.  We also spent a night or two in Brussels, Belgium.  

2010 was the epitome of traveling memories for my family.  I was able to bring my Dad AND my sister with me to Amsterdam.  We went directly from there to Florence and spent 10 days (could have been 7, my brain is fuzzy) together making the best memories.  We even took a cooking class.  Best thing ever.

It was before that trip, my Dad had business cards made - his official title?  "World Traveler".  He handed those cards out like candy.  My dad traveled to Europe both times while in the throes of cancer treatment.  Going to Italy was on his "bucket list", and for sure, that trip did not disappoint.  He didn't let anything stop him from making memories with us.

Since changing jobs in the Fall of 2010, I've mostly traveled between Utah and Missouri. Last year though, we went on our last great adventure together.  We went on a cruise to the Bahamas.  With Donny and Marie.  I loved that so much, I don't even remember the food!

No matter where I've been over the years, I've never worried about what I was going to eat.  I've never been afraid to try local cuisine - even when that meant eating fresh lamb's brain - cooked to our satisfaction, of course.  For the record, I did try a bite and from there went directly to McDonald's for a quarter-pounder with cheese.  Some of the best things I've ever done in foreign countries is eat.  In fact, many of the memories I have while traveling revolve around food.  

Things have changed though and the transition is hard.

Last week, my sister and I met up at the Salt Lake City airport and from there, spent five days in Northern California.  We grew up in the Bay Area so it wasn't exactly an exotic locale as far as food goes.  

I brought my own supply of food I knew I could eat.  I brought cans of tuna packed in olive oil, cut up veggies and hummus, apples and tangelos.   I also brought a couple of packages of chicken sausage with sweet potato hash that I had made and frozen a couple of weeks before.  

We ate at a sit-down restaurant twice.  I'm fairly confident that I ate "safe" food but I'm not 100% sure.  Especially considering the fact that I did pretty well until Sunday.  By Sunday, my fatigue totally caught up with me - to the point that I'm still trying to recover.  Also?  My body got puffy again.  I drank enough water, I took my supplements.  I slept well.  I'm sure it has to do with my adrenal fatigue but at this point, I don't know 100%.  My ankles just barely went back to normal.

We went to our cousin's wedding in Clear Lake and while the food served was beautiful, I forget to mention my food requirements far enough in advance before the chicken was marinated in sugar and grilled and so I ended up eating veggies, mango and lettuce with lime juice for dinner that night.  But hey, let's be honest.  I wasn't there for the food.  I was there to see happiness in motion.  I also caught the bouquet. Who cares about eating wedding cake when you have the bride's bouquet in your possession?  Not me.  Not last week, anyway. 

Lucky for me, my Mom, sister and Auntie were super conscientious of my food requirements and helped me make sure I kept in line.

I found out last week that the two owners of my company qualified for an all-expense paid trip to Barcelona.  Instead of them taking the trip with their wives, they pulled strings arranged for me and a guest to take the trip.  BARCELONA!!!  FOR SIX DAYS!!!  I'm going somewhere I've never been!!!  I'm taking my Auntie Dana and we're taking a little side trip to Italy after.

I'm excited but I'm also worried.  What am I going to eat there?  How am I going to manage my fatigue?  Will I have enough stamina to take day trips and do a bunch of walking?  

Today I have an appointment with Dr. Stadler.  You betcha I'm going to be talking to him at length about the trip I just took as well as my upcoming adventure.  My goal has always been to feel better but now there's a little more to it than that.  I want to be healthy.  I want to eat delicious food without worrying about the type of oil they're using.  I want to eat gelato.  I want to eat fresh Italian tomatoes.  I'm pretty sure I'll be able to, but need to make a plan just in case.

This trip to Spain may be different from other trips I've taken - I may have to take more naps, I may have to slow my walking down and I may have to pack my own cans of tuna.  It will all be okay.

I'm the daughter of Mike Harms.  I'm a World Traveler.  And like my Dad, I'm not going to let anything get in the way of making memories that will last forever.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

50 Shades of Gluten

This article is everything I could say but have no authority.  Interestingly enough, the Cyrex test recommended is the same test I had to determine my gluten sensitivities.  Just click on the picture or the link below to read the entire article.

50 Shades of Gluten

Monday, April 22, 2013

So Gradual I Didn't Even Realize It

I told you last week that I would post a current picture.  I took a picture over the weekend, modeling my cute Grey's Anatomy Intern t-shirt that my adorable sister and handsome brother-in-law sent me for Easter.

My sister wanted me to see the significance of the pictures so she did a couple of side-by-side comparisons.
The picture on the left was taken Memorial Day weekend 2012.

The picture on the left was taken in August 2012.

I showed these pictures to some dear friends over the weekend and they said the "before" pictures were taken at a bad angle and that I didn't really look that big.  But I did.  I've only lost 24 pounds so far but mostly, I've lost a whole lot of inflammation.  The difference is shocking.

For me, the knowledge that my system does not react kindly to grains, refined sugar and dairy has made the difference.  See the difference between what I looked like eating that kind of diet and now is enough to keep me going.  Well, that and the fact that I'm down TWO pant sizes and I plan on wearing a dress this weekend to my Aunt's wedding that I haven't worn in almost two years.

I'm so grateful that I'm on the road to health.  The road is definitely long and has ups and downs and I'm really not even half-way to my final destination of complete health AND wellness.  

Now, if I could just get the fatigue under control...

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Sunshine Vitamin

Sunshine.  That was one of the terms of endearment my Dad used when talking to me.  It was also part of my CB (remember CB radios?) moniker - "California Sunshine Girl".  Over the years, the sunshine part just stuck.  I'm not exactly sure how that name came about...I believe it came from a "groovy" t-shirt I had when I was seven or eight years old and it said "California Sunshine Girl" on it with a rainbow, an outline of the State of California, flowers and a VW bus.  I think.  Either way, now that my Dad died, no one really calls me that anymore.  Even if someone did, it wouldn't be the same.

Anyway, I want to talk today about Vitamin D.  Commonly known as the "Sunshine Vitamin", Vitamin D is important for our overall good health and keeps our bones strong and healthy.  What most people don't realize is that Vitamin D is also important in making sure our heart, lungs and brain function properly and helps fight infection. 

We are unique in that our bodies can create our own Vitamin D just from exposure to sunlight.  Unfortunately, most of us don't produce adequate amounts of it and Vitamin D deficiency is a growing epidemic in the United States.  

At my yearly physical in 2009, my doctor and I were discussing at great length, my symptoms of fatigue, feelings of depression, heart palpitations and weight gain.  She had read a recent study regarding the correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and the symptoms I described.  She ordered a blood test to measure my levels - the acceptable level of Vitamin D in the blood varies depending on which report you read (between 30 and 70 is ideal) but my doctor wanted to see mine over 50 nanograms per milliliter.  When the test results came back, my level was 17.  

I started on a prescription-strength dose of Vitamin D and took 50,000 IUs a week.  The recommended daily dose is 400 IUs/day.  I took that prescription for more than a year.  The highest my levels ever reached was 26 and that was back in 2010.  When my level was tested back in January, I was at 23.

My sister and I share many of the same symptoms - fatigue, feelings of depression, being overweight.  When I found out that low levels of Vitamin D could be the cause for this, I immediately told her to get her level checked.  She was at a 13.  I told my doctor and she said that was the lowest she'd ever heard of. 

I also found out that my Mom had really low levels of Vitamin D and was taking a weekly supplement.  Hi.  Why didn't I know this? 

If you are feeling symptoms of fatigue, depression, hazy thoughts - basically the same symptoms as Seasonal Affective Disorder, you could be Vitamin D deficient.  It can be fixed with as little as 10 minutes a day of exposure to sunlight and a supplement.  400 IUs a day is really all you need and you will feel better.  Unless you have extreme symptoms of deficiency - then you should talk to your doctor.

Now, for me, Vitamin D is more important than ever.  There is evidence to support the important role Vitamin D plays in promoting - both directly and indirectly - regulatory and suppressor T-cell populations.  Controlling these is essential in managing autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto's Disease.

I'm taking a super emulsified Vitamin D supplement in liquid form - 10,000 IUs daily. Despite it's bright yellow color, it tastes like fish oil.  When I take it, I tell myself it's like drinking sunshine.

Maybe I am the Sunshine Girl after all.