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.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

2nd Runner Up

The 2nd most asked question is not really a question but more of a statement, "You must be feeling so much better!" (the exclamation point included).

To which I reply as if it was a question, "Not yet." (no exclamation point included)

That is the short answer.  No.  I'm not feeling "so much better".  In fact, some days, I feel worse than ever.

Right now I'm going through a hyper-thyroid phase and it's wreaking havoc on my system.  Heart palpitations, extreme cold and intermittent sleep patterns.

The long answer is that there are a lot of positive changes happening and the program I'm on is working.

For instance:
  1. I'm losing weight.  This is a HUGE change.  If you haven't seen me in person for awhile, the difference is quite noticeable.  Maybe I'll post a recent picture.  You can really tell in my face.  When I look back at pictures from the last few months and years, my face is puffy.  Not just puffy as in the natural puffiness that occurs with a weight gain but puffy like the Stay-Puff marshmallow guy.  Looking back, you can see the effects inflammation had all over my body.
  2. There are more days between headaches.  As I've mentioned before, I'd gone years with some form of a headache every day.  The last time I remember having a headache was Monday.  Today is Thursday.  That is a big deal.
  3. There's really no delicate way of putting this...I don't poop as much as I did before.  I was under the impression that the more frequently you have a bowel movement, the healthier your system is.  Negative.  A healthy digestive system should eliminate waste 1 or 2 times every 24 hours.  I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that my system was not healthy.  It's getting there.
  4. My appetite is controlled.  I don't feel hunger and I rarely have cravings.  I learned this morning though that when I do, it's not my mind playing tricks on me.  It's a physiological reaction.  Yesterday I had the worst craving for a Diet Coke and some Cheez-it crackers.  I didn't give in to the craving and instead, ate a good serving of snap peas and drank some water.  I told Dr. Stadler about it and for that, I got a high-five.  I recognized that my blood sugar was low - my brain was actually producing a request for endorphins (I was a little stressed at work yesterday) and I replied with a hefty dose of protein and fiber.  I did exactly what I supposed to do.  Yay me!  Three months ago, I would have tried to feed that request with gluten and sugar laden foods and, as a result, was causing more damage than good.
  5. I feel stronger emotionally about the choices I'm making with regard to my health.  I'm getting excellent care and education about how to treat my body.  This makes all the difference.
Just as he does every week, my doctor makes it all better.  Dr. Stadler is extremely qualified in his practice but more than that, he helps me realize all of the good things that are happening.  He is a doctor, cheerleader, counselor and guru all rolled into one.  I'm grateful every day for him and Red River Health and Wellness.

I still have at least four months left on my program with him.  I really can't wait to see what happens.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I Get That Question a Lot

The number one question I get is, "What CAN you eat?".

I like to call myself a poultry and fish eating vegan.  There is no official classification for this - maybe I should make up my own name for it.  Popescaterian?  Fishpoultarian?  Fishtrytarian? No?  Those don't work for you?  I can't really call myself a semi-vegan because I eat poultry or fish with every main meal.  I need the protein.

What I eat in a typical day looks like this:

I'm combining the list of foods here because I pretty much eat the same types of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Grilled turkey burgers (I buy the pre-made patties from Costco) with black bean & mango salsa
  • Hummus (made with white beans and garbanzo beans and no tahini) with cut veggies
  • Salmon - usually pan fried in olive oil but sometimes broiled with balsamic vinegar
  • Canned Tuna packed in olive oil
  • Chicken 
  • Snap Peas - these are very high in protein and make a great entree fresh out of the bag
  • Green salad - made with a spring lettuce/spinach mix, radish, orange, red or yellow pepper, cucumber, celery, carrot and avocado.  I make my own salad dressing.  Usually an herb or lemon vinaigrette
  • Oven roasted sweet potato, drizzled with olive oil
  • Black Bean Soup
  • Chicken and White Bean Stew
  • Oven Roasted Cauliflower
  • Avocado drizzled with fresh lemon and olive oil or balsamic vinegar

I eat a snack mid-morning, mid-afternoon and before bed.
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Fruit - cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, tangelo, orange segments or banana
  • Honeycrisp apple slices or celery stalks with Almond Butter
I try to eat every 3 hours to maintain a stable blood sugar level but honestly, I'm not always hungry.  I end up eating something small to keep it stable.

Very rarely do I miss the foods that I used to eat.  When I do though, it's big time.  Today I'm missing the flavor of diet soda and crunchy crackers or pretzels.  I miss bread.  I miss cheese.  I miss Mexican food.   In case you didn't know this about me, I should have been born in Mexico.  At the tender age of five or six years old, I was begging my Mom to take us to Taco Bell.  Poor excuse for Mexican food, I know, but even then, I loved it.  When she said we didn't have the money, I said she should write a check because they had a little sign in the bell shaped walk-up window that said they took checks.  As far as I was concerned, she had checks - it was a no-brainer.

It seems like lately, Facebook has become a dumping ground for new recipes people want to try.  What's up with that?  If you post more than two recipes in a row on Facebook, I will hide you from my newsfeed.  It's just what I have to do to protect my sanity.  I've also un-followed all food related boards on Pinterest.  It was making me very sad.

I have created a Pinterest board called Anti-Inflammatory Diet.  I've been collecting recipes that fit the criteria that Red River Health and Wellness originally gave me for the Anti-Inflammatory diet.  Some of the recipes contain ingredients that I no longer include in my diet but I kept them on the board in case someone is out there looking.

Since overhauling my diet, it appears as though I have a ton of restrictions.  The reality is that I'm more free in my diet than I've ever been.  I eat when I'm hungry.  I don't count calories or points.  I'm very careful to eat just the things that I'm allowed and it's working for me.  Sure, I get cravings but I've learned that it's not really the actual food I'm craving.  I'm usually thirsty or in most cases, my brain reaches back in to the memory vault and tries to tell me that in the past, I've used food for reasons other than nourishment.  I'm trying to break that cycle and so far, so good.

So, when people ask me "What CAN you eat?", I simply say, "More than you think..".

Friday, April 12, 2013

My New Favorite

So, I continued to see Dr. Gage at Red River Health & Wellness on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Each visit, we'd review the plan, I'd have a list of questions, he'd give me answers and never fail, at each appointment I'd ask if I could start exercising again.

The answer was always no.

Because my adrenal system is so compromised, any amount of exertion puts me at risk for a number of concerning things including increased fatigue (as if I could be any more tired than I already am?), a heart attack and extreme difficulty in actually healing my adrenal system.

On March 7th, I met with a doctor in the practice I hadn't met with before. Dr. Stadler. By this time, the results from the stool sample test came back. I had a leaky gut - officially called intestinal permeability. My system wasn't absorbing the necessary nutrients or calories from the food I was eating. Combined with a low level of Vitamin D and the number of food sensitivities I had, my cells just kind of went haywire and instead of using the energy of the food I was consuming and eliminating what I didn't need, everything I was eating was just turning into stored fat.

Dr. Stadler felt that given the fact that I had so many things to "fix", he needed to take a day or two to regroup, meet with the other Doctors to review my case and decide where to start first. That was a Thursday. He said he'd call Friday afternoon or Monday at the latest.

He called Monday with a plan. We were going to start with healing the intestinal permeability. If we didn't start there, any other treatment would be pointless. An impermeable gut is needed to ensure the adrenal system could rebalance and heal properly. Can't fix the one without fixing the other first.

Dr. Stadler also expressed concern that my headaches weren't lessening. He felt that it was exoskeletal as much as it was internal. So, from then on, at every appointment, he wanted me to have at the very least, a 30-minute massage (tough requirement, I know), a program assessment, a chiropractic adjustment and an 8-12 minute turn on the cervical decompression machine.

He promised that if we didn't have positive results, he would take me out of the program and give me my money back. He had confidence though that that wouldn't happen. Working together, we would see results and I would have more good days than bad days.

The next day was a Tuesday and he and I met. From then on, Dr. Stadler has been the only doctor treating me in the practice.

Any doctor requiring me to get massages on a a weekly basis was my new favorite.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Like a Really Bad Breakup

With great trepidation, I went to my regularly scheduled appointment with Dr. Gage on February 26th.  By this time, I was going twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I had a feeling that the test results would be in by that appointment and I was hoping for good news.  GOOD GRAVY did I miss all of my beloved gluten-laden foods.  Especially chips - tortilla chips to be specific.

The testing I had done was by Cyrex Laboratories - the specific test was the Gluten-Associated Cross-Reactive Foods & Foods Sensitivity Test.  You can see from the results below, I had a sensitivity to every single thing tested.

Dr. Gage didn't want to give me the results.  In fact, he'd had them since the Friday before but waited to talk to me in person because the results were so shocking.  In short - dairy (including eggs), gluten and the widely used gluten substitutes were to be completely eliminated from my diet.  Even quinoa.  I had been careful  about not eating everything else on the list of foods to avoid but I had been eating quinoa practically every day.  When I didn't eat quinoa, I was eating hummus made with tahini.  In case you're not familiar with tahini, it's a sesame seed paste.  Yeah, also on the list.

I cried.

I asked him if these were typical results. 

His reply was very diplomatic and sympathetic.  "No.", he said.  "We typically see one or two sensitivities but it's very rare to have a reaction to every item on this list."

"Have any of your patients had results to this extent?", I asked.

"Well...no.  You are the only one.", was his reply.

I still cried.  I couldn't help it.  It was as if I was being dumped by a beloved.  With no explanation and very little hope for the future.

Dr. Gage tried to console me by saying that maybe, someday, after a complete detoxification and healing of my adrenal and intestinal systems, I may be able to introduce one or two of them back in to my diet.  But more than likely, it would be for a special occasion or one or two times a year.  It wasn't very likely that I could introduce all of these things back into my diet without serious consequence.

As I've modified my diet and thought about the way my body was reacting to these things, I'm not sure I ever do want to eat them again.

Several weeks later, I was in a local specialty grocery store and in my desperation to eat something bagged, crispy and salty, I found a bag of falafel chips which I believed to be made completely from beans.  In the aisle of the store I stood, analyzing every label and much to my surprise, I had found something that I could eat!  I rushed to the checkout, headed to the car and broke open the bag.   They tasted good!  They crunched like regular corn tortillas chips!  I even called my sister and made her listen to me crunch those chips.  Elation doesn't even describe the happiness I felt.

I got home, put the groceries away, all the while munching on the chips.  Since these chips were so "safe" for me to eat, I browsed the maker's website to see what other tasty items of goodness they must have.  I clicked on the chips and the list of ingredients came up.  First thing on the list?  ORGANIC, NON-GMO WHOLE CORN.

I was heartbroken.  How did I miss this?  I missed it because I wanted to, I guess.  I wanted something that seemed normal.  I wanted a comfort food. 

About two hours later, I started to feel nauseated.  So much, that I wanted to throw-up.  I had to go to bed to overcome the desire to vomit.  My head was killing me.  I had a headache (as I usually do) before eating the chips but by the time I went to bed, my head throbbed.  

If this was how my body was going to react to reintroduction of these foods, I decided it wasn't worth it.  I was good learning to live without it.

Now, I'm very careful about what I eat.  With the exception of nuts, I've pretty much eliminated everything that has a label.  I've spent a great deal of time looking at recipes using nut flours and egg substitutes.  I think I've actually tried one of them and it was awful.  Maybe if I didn't know the difference, I would accept the way they tasted.  But, since I know the goodness of a homemade flour tortilla or homemade yeast rolls slathered with butter and jam, there's no substitute on this planet that can taste that good.

I mourn the loss of these things from my diet just about as much as I have mourned the loss of my Dad.  I, in no way, want to trivialize the loss of my Dad by comparing it to food but the loss is just as significant.

Last year I met a gal that claimed to have an egg sensitivity.  She was also gluten intolerant.  I gave very little credit to her claim - I didn't know another single person (I have since met several) that was allergic to egg.  I admit that I even told others I thought she was crazy.  If I knew how to get in touch with her, I'd tell her how sorry I am for thinking that.

This has been one of the more difficult things that I've ever gone through.  Saturday will mark eight weeks since I've had a single slice of bread, eaten anything with milk, cheese or egg or had anything with sugar or chocolate.  Since February 26th - with the exception of that time I accidentally ate corn - I've been faithful to the list of allowed foods.

Coincidentally, since February 26th, I've lost nearly 25 pounds. 

I'd never lost weight after a breakup before.

Until now.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

I completed the three tests in the three days following my visit with Dr. Redd.  I was fully prepared to begin the anti-inflammatory diet on Saturday, February 16th.  I had been researching recipes, made a grocery list and menu and thought I had it all figured out.  Both Dr. Redd and Dr. Gage told me it would only be for a couple of weeks or until the food sensitivity test results came back.

Below is the anti-inflammatory diet I was given.  The actual booklet given to me was 25 pages had a list of foods I could eat, as well as the foods I was to avoid and included recipes.

Foods to Avoid:
Any food that you know you are allergic to
DAIRY:  including milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, margarine & shortening
GLUTEN:  including wheat, oats, rye & barley that are typically found in breads, pasta and cereals
TOMATOES, tomato sauces and anything containing tomatoes
COFFEE, BLACK TEA AND SODA:  caffeine and caffeine free
SUGAR and NATURAL & ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: including agave and honey
SOY or products containing soy: including soy milk & tofu
PEANUTS:  including peanut butter & peanut oil

Foods to Eat:
QUINOA AND BUCKWHEAT (NOT with wheat or gluten additives)
SEA SALT and Spices *Individual Spices are less likely to have intolerable additives
PEAS (split, fresh & snap)
BEANS:  including navy, white, kidney, garbanzo, black, etc.
FISH:  except shellfish
THESE NUTS (RAW):  cashews, almonds, macadamias, pecans, walnuts and sunflower seeds

Being something of a "foodie", I was a bit reluctant to try some of the recipes.  They just didn't sound good to me.  Looking at the list of foods and recipes, I kept telling myself that it wasn't forever, it would only be a couple of weeks.

Now that you've seen the list, you're probably wondering, "What CAN she eat?".  Well, that's a really good question.

For the first two weeks, I ate a lot of quinoa.  It was the closest thing to a grain that was on the list of foods I could eat.  I made pizza crust out of quinoa, salads, side dishes and even attempted a breakfast version made with almond milk and cinnamon.  I ate vegetables with hummus, I starting incorporating fish into my diet on a more regular basis, and I found a gluten-free chicken sausage that was quite tasty on my quinoa pizza crust.  I ate leftovers for breakfast.  I was getting pretty good at it.

I tried making some crackers from Buckwheat flour.  They were not good.  That's all I can say about that.

I wasn't noticing any huge improvements in the way I felt, my energy levels or the lessening of my headaches.  I don't think I mentioned in my earlier post but my head hurts every day.  Some days I wake up with a headache, some days it comes on late in the afternoon but I go to bed with a headache every single night.  Sometimes, the headaches last for days and cause nausea.

In addition to the anti-inflammatory diet, I was taking three supplements, drinking a detoxifying shake and using a hormone cream daily.

My doctors use the Apex Energetics brand of supplements.  Here's the list of what I took for the first two weeks:

ClearVite (powdered, mixed with almond milk or water) 3x per day before meals - detoxifies the liver
Methyl-SP (pill) 3x per day - methylates and detoxifies the liver
Metacrin-DX (pill) 3x per day - hepatic detoxifier
Bilemin (pill) 3x per day - supports healthy bile synthesis
Oxicell (cream) applied 2x per day on the throat over the thyroid area - antioxidant cream

The shake mix tasted terribly organic.  Like dirt.  The first time I drank it, it just about came back up and made me shudder to finish it. The second time I drank it, I tried adding cinnamon but it did nothing to help the flavor.  Eventually, I got used to the taste and by the time I finished it, I didn't mind it at all.

The pills weren't a problem whatsoever.  I didn't experience any side effects or notice any outward difference in taking them.

I lasted about 5 days on the cream.  Its primary ingredients were flower-based and I had a histamine reaction to them.  The skin on my neck became welted with hives.  After talking to the clinic about it, they suggested trying it on my feet and/or the inside of my arm but the hives on my neck didn't go down after doing that.  I went off the cream completely and got my money back.

During the first two weeks, I had a long-awaited trip to Las Vegas planned.  I didn't think too much about the food issues until we were actually in Las Vegas.  Cross-contamination was a concern.  I was sure I could ask for a grilled chicken breast and steamed veggies or have a salad with olive oil and vinegar just about anywhere I went.   That was not the case.  Applebee's seemed to be the most helpful and accommodating.  I'm still not convinced that there wasn't some cross-contamination - now that' I've researched more and read other people's experiences.  The buffet was a nightmare.  There was no salad dressing that I could eat on my salad (which consisted of lettuce, cucumber and carrot).  I was grateful that we had gone to the store early on in the trip and I picked up a few things there I knew I could eat.  We also went to the Whole Foods while we were there.  That was quite the experience - one I'm actually going to save for it's own post.  I did the best I could and for the restrictions I had, I did PDG (that's pretty darn good in case you didn't know).

Despite the diet and whatever else I was feeling at the time, I just kept telling myself that it was short-term.

Right before leaving for Las Vegas, on February 26th, I got the food sensitivity test results back.  It seemed as though the anti-inflammatory diet would be a bit more permanent than originally planned.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I Digress

I know you're all on pins and needles to know what happens next in the story of my life with Hashimoto's Disease but it'll just have to wait for a bit.  I've got get something off my chest.

Reflecting on a blog post written by my cousin Tricia (whom I like to call Joyful because her middle name is Joy and she wears that name like a badge of honor), I've been thinking about all of the things people have said to me or about me that have hurt.  They may have not meant to hurt my feelings but they did.

"Wow, there's A LOT of skin in that picture" - referring to a picture of me in a bathing suit on my first cruise and first time snorkeling.  Not "how awesome you got to feed fish from your hand" or "I can't believe you got to go to the Grand Cayman Islands".  Nope, not that at all.  Just a commentary on the size of my body.

"You are inherently beautiful." - from a boy that I loved with all my heart who didn't love me back.  He also told me that he could see the skinny person inside of me.  As a side note, I was 80 lbs. lighter then than I am now.  I try not to worry about what he must think when he sees current pictures of me on Facebook.

"I know you probably don't feel this way but I'm really glad you're single - you're a great role model for my daughters in case they never get married." - a well-meaning friend from church.  Wow.  I'm glad I could be a role model for your daughters but I'd still rather be married.  Please don't be glad that I'm single.  I'm not.

Then there's the years of loving someone that could never love me the way I loved him.  Or should I say, he didn't love himself enough to believe that I could love him that much.  He did love me - loved me enough to spare me the hurt of telling me he wasn't attracted to me, but I knew.  We clicked on so many other levels that I can only guess that's why we weren't together.  Sadly, he passed away suddenly a few years ago and left a lot of words unsaid. 

I was at Costco the other day and browsing through the clothing section.  I was across the aisle from a couple of younger women and one of them held up a pair of shorts that were a large or extra-large size.  I heard her say laughingly, "look at these big Bertha shorts".   I tried to make eye contact with her but didn't.  What she said hurt my feelings.  The size I am now, I wouldn't be able to comfortably wear the extra-large size.  Yet I try my very, very hardest to not label myself as a "big Bertha".

Labels.  Most of them are lies we allow others to tell us or perhaps we even tell ourselves.  Everyone does it but we should try our very hardest to stop.  They are hurtful and damaging.  If we don't stop doing it, the next generation of little girls will believe them too and that makes me so sad.

I love what my cousin told her daughter - that "she is a beautiful, smart, funny, talented girl and that she shouldn't listen to anyone who says any differently". 

I once heard a quote that made me stop in my tracks.  It went something like this - "The things you think about yourself when you look in the mirror - would you say them to your daughter?"  IF I had a daughter, I wouldn't.

Please be mindful of the things you say to yourself, your children and to people you think aren't listening.  We don't know each other's stories.  We assume that larger women are overweight because they are lazy, eat too much or don't care enough about themselves to be thin.  We assume that thin women are strong and have the easy life because they can eat whatever they want.   All or none of that could be truth.  Every one of us has our own story.  As the old saying goes, we cannot judge a book by its cover.

I want you to know that if you've said these things to me or others, it's not the end of the world.  You're not some terrible person that needs to apologize for saying what you thought (at the time) was the right thing to say.  Just don't do it anymore.  Think before you speak.  You could be changing the way someone thinks about themselves forever.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Day Before the Day Before Valentine's Day

February 12th - it was a Tuesday.  I was anxious to know the results of my blood work analysis.

I thought I was going to meet with Dr. Gage again but I met with Dr. Redd.  Dr. Redd is the one that was in the commercial I saw.  When he walked in, I wasn't sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing.  Were my results so bad that only he could explain them?

For the record, and because I forgot that they ordered additional blood tests after my first visit, here's a list of the blood tests that they analyzed:

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
Anti-Thyroid Antibodies
CBC, Differential
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
Free T-4 (Free Thyroxine)
Hemoglobin A1c
Insulin, Fasting
Lipid Profile

I was a little worried that I didn't really have Hashimoto's Disease.  I'd been told so many different things over the years, I was starting to question every test result.

Turns out I did, in fact have Hashimoto's Disease and a number of other things to be concerned about.

I want to start out by saying that having a functional physician analyze lab work is a bit different from having a practical physician analyze it.  Did you know (because I didn't) that when you are given lab results, you're given results specific to that lab and the set of people from whom blood is drawn at that lab?  I'm not sure why that's not general knowledge but it should be.  For a really good explanation, click here.

Based on the test results, I was pre-diabetic, at risk for heart disease and a heart attack, had adrenal fatigue, blood sugar problems and alarmingly low vitamin D levels.  Without treatment, I was also at great risk for other autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Type-1 Diabetes and Crohn's Disease.

Mostly, I had a great deal of inflammation.  Inflammation is not uncommon for Hashimoto's patients.  Inflammation manifests itself in joint and muscle pain, acne, digestion issues and a number of other physiological imbalances.  Hashimoto's was causing the overproduction of antibodies and destruction of good tissue which resulted in systemic inflammation.

Another thing Dr. Redd was very clear about - this was my version of Hashimoto's Disease.  Autoimmune diseases are very complex and highly individualized.  Hashimoto's in one person is not the same as Hashimoto's in another.  If you're reading this because you've been newly diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease or suspect you have it, please know that this is my version.  Yours will be different.

For me, we needed to figure out a couple of things - what was causing the inflammation and overproduction of antibodies.  More than likely, I had a gluten intolerance.  A simple blood test would determine that for sure.  We also needed to figure out if and how imbalanced my hormones were.  A saliva test would give us that information.  And finally, we needed to know if my gut was actually absorbing as it should.  Dr. Redd suspected it wasn't.  A stool sample was needed for that.

Dr. Redd believed my liver and pancreas were also dysfunctional.  The liver is a natural detoxifier.  If it's not functioning properly, it can't get rid of the stuff that you don't need.  In case you're wondering, it's called methylation.  Methlylation is what occurs when your body takes one substance and turns it into another, so it is detoxified and can be excreted from the body.  In my case, my body didn't know what to do so it was just holding on to everything.

After the testing was complete, I was to start on an anti-inflammatory diet and several supplements to begin the systemic re-balancing process.

While we were reviewing the diet and supplements, Dr. Redd asked me how I heard about their clinic.  I told him the story about watching SNL late one Saturday night (for obvious reasons, I left out the part about Adam Levine) and seeing their commercial.

He laughed.  He said that he absolutely believed that I saw the commercial but that to his knowledge, they didn't run their commercials at night.  Or on that channel.

Meanwhile, I Started Working Out

Meanwhile, the same afternoon that I met with Dr. Gage, Leah from Gold's Gym Express called...

It had been awhile since I'd been to the gym and they were wondering if I still lived in the area...

Ummmmm.   Yeah, it had been awhile.  Since May 2012.  In my embarrassment, I made an appointment to meet with her the next afternoon.  It was just the push I needed to get my rear back into a regular exercise routine.

I've been no stranger to exercise.  I don't love it but I also don't love my hips.  I've always had to work out to keep my legs and rear trim(mer).  Well, for the last several years, no amount of exercise helped with my weight loss.  I'd tried everything - yoga, Pilates, Zumba, Cross-Fit, walking, strength training - you name it, I've tried it.  But all in vain.  In fact, I did a cross-fit program for nine months at a local gym and gained 13 pounds!  And don't go thinking it was all muscle - it was pure weight gain. (BTW, I really hate when people would tell me that.  You don't gain 13 lbs. of muscle burning 500-700 calories per workout session)

Anyway, the next morning, I gathered my workout clothes and shoes and packed my gym bag in anticipation of my training session that afternoon.  I met with the trainer and in my excitement, I bought and paid for 48 training sessions.  Yes.  48 sessions.

From that day forward (for the next two weeks, anyway) I went to the gym everyday except for Sundays.  Austin (my trainer), was just as determined as I was to get me slim and trim.  I caught the workout bug.  I met a new friend and we exercised together.  I lost two pounds.  I was feeling stronger.  I didn't feel guilty about laying on the couch when I got home.

In addition to my renewed resolve to get fit, I had a glimmer of hope from Dr. Gage that I could feel better too.  Little did I know how that appointment on February 12th would change everything.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Part Two

I left Dr. Gage's office with a lot of information.  One of the things he emphasized was the fact that Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disease, NOT a thyroid disease.  Often times practical physicians treat it as a thyroid disease because there is no treatment for Hashimoto's itself.  There is only the management of the "triggers" which increase the overproduction of anti-thyroid antibodies.  Dr. Gage's mission is to help people like me determine the "triggers" and manage them.

The primary way to manage the triggers is through diet and nutrition.  Go figure.  What we eat can affect the way we feel.  Huh.  I wanted to be shocked but the truth is, I wasn't.  Not one bit.

Later that week I was scheduled to meet with my regular Doctor, Dr. Sutton.  It was my four week follow-up and anti-depressant check.  I had stopped taking the Wellbutrin the previous Sunday after a MAJOR panic attack.  I woke up that Sunday morning feeling a bit off.  I showered and started to get ready for church and my heart started racing and I felt so shaky.  After a frustrating episode with two pair of pantyhose, by the time I got to church, I was in tears.  I texted my sister (my personal webMD) and described how I was feeling and she said it sounded like an anxiety or panic attack.  I'd never really had one before and didn't know that's how terrible it felt.  I left church early and came home and cried my eyes out, took a warm bath with lavender oil and spent the rest of the day in bed.

I called Dr. Sutton's office on Monday morning and the on-call doctor recommended I stop the Wellbutrin.  So when I met with Dr. Sutton on Thursday, I told her what happened.  She changed my meds and added Xanax.  Awesome.  More drugs.  Another 4-6 weeks before I'd feel "normal" again.

While I was there, I asked her about the Synthroid again and was she sure I should be taking it?  After my conversation with Dr. Gage, I wanted to get a feel for how she'd feel about me working with these non-traditional (alternative) physicians.  I also wondered if the panic/anxiety I was feeling was because I had too much thyroid - which can happen in surges with Hashimoto's.  Her response was what I expected based on what Dr. Gage had told me.  Dr. Sutton ordered a blood test to check my thyroid but she was sure that my levels were still in the "normal" range.

When I asked her if I could figure out what was triggering the overproduction of anti-thyroid antibodies, would I be able to go off the Synthroid?  Her response was that there was no way to control them.  My best and only treatment was to take the Synthroid.  I left her office sad and frustrated.  In my heart (and mind), I believed what Dr Gage told me.  I knew there had to be a way to manage this disease with something other than an drug I didn't need yet.

I looked forward to my next appointment with Dr. Gage.  February 12th couldn't come fast enough.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

How Adam Levine Changed My Life

So, a couple of weeks went by.  I was faithfully taking my medications.  If you've ever taken Synthroid or the generic equivalent, you know that you're supposed to take it an hour before eating.  I knew this from the get-go.  This medicine was a pain to take.  I found myself setting the alarm early, getting up, taking the medicine and then going back to sleep until it was time to actually get up and get ready.  It didn't take me an hour to get ready and I didn't want to wait an hour after getting up to eat.  I know it was mostly a mind game but hey, it's what I did.

One Saturday night (January 26th) I read on Twitter that Adam Levine was going to be hosting Saturday Night Live.  As any good girlfriend fan would do, I set the DVR to record the program.  I know he's a bad boy but I can't help it.  That voice.  That hair.  Those tattoos.  Ahem.  Anyway, it turned out that night I had a hard time falling asleep, so I turned on the TV to let the vision of Adam lull me to sleep (mmm...that face).  Somewhere in the middle of the program, a commercial for a local clinic specializing in Hashimoto's Disease came on.


The clinic had a website.  I spent an hour reading the articles and wishing it wasn't past midnight so I could call my sister and tell her what I'd found.

Let me emphasize something here.  If you know me at all, you know that I head for bed around 10:00 p.m. and most nights I'm asleep by 10:30, 10:45 at the latest.  From time to time I can't sleep (which will be explained in a future post) but it's not that usual.  For me to stay awake through Saturday Night Live is significant.  It was like I was meant to see that commercial.   Even if I had watched the recorded version on my DVR, I would have skipped through the commercials altogether.

Monday morning I called the Red River Health and Wellness clinic.  Turns out they offered free consultations and asked if I was interested.  "Is Adam Levine the lead singer of Maroon5?", I said (to myself).  Of course I was interested.  I scheduled an appointment for Wednesday, January 30th.

I went to the appointment on Wednesday.  Turns out the clinic is in the same office park that I work in.  THE SAME OFFICE PARK!!!  I drive by the clinic every.single.day on my way to work.

There was a bunch of paperwork to complete - health history, health questionnaire, etc.  Basically a dossier on everything wrong with me EVER in the history of me.  I met with Dr. Gage.  He and the other three doctors in the practice are Chiropractors.  [If you don't believe in the benefits of chiropractic health, then you probably won't enjoy reading anything else I have to say.  I do believe in the benefits of chiropractic health.  I also believe in trying to find natural ways to heal ourselves and our bodies.  Now, that doesn't mean I don't believe in practical medicine - I do.  I just always want chemically produced/manufactured drugs to be my last option.  Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I'll continue.]  Although they are chiropractors, they are also certified by the American Board of Functional Medicine - they are highly trained in immune and endocrine disorders.

We started talking - he was trying to assess how long I'd had Hashimoto's Disease.  I was trying to decide if they were legit or quacks looking to take my money.  Going through my history, we decided that it was possible that I'd had this disease for 8-10 years.  All of the symptoms and complaints I'd suffered meant something.  I wasn't crazy or hypochondriac.  Everything made sense and I didn't even know why.

I left my most recent blood work results with Dr. Gage - they would do an analysis for free.  I set up a follow-up appointment for the next week.  It gave them time to do the analysis and it gave me time to decide if I wanted them to help me manage my auto-immune disease.

Before I even walked out the door, I knew that I did.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Diagnosis: Hashimoto's Disease

Hashimoto's Disease.  I had heard of it before but not sure why or where.  As I mentioned in my first post, when I had my physical, I was mostly concerned about my mental health.  With the death of my dad, it was hanging in the balance.  Earlier in the week, she prescribed Wellbutrin for my depression - we both felt that if I could get the depression and anxiety under control, I would start to feel better and my overall health would improve.  With the revelation of Hashimoto's, she said that it was a thyroid disease and while it hadn't affected my thyroid yet, it was just a matter of time.  She also said that there wasn't a cure but the best way to manage it was with a synthetic thyroid medication.  Eventually, I may have to consider surgical intervention (meaning removal of the thyroid) but that would only be after the good thyroid tissue was completely destroyed.  The doctor said she was sending a prescription for synthetic thyroid to my favorite pharmacy.   I was to take it as directed and we would follow-up in 3-6 months with another blood test.  She wanted to see me in four weeks to evaluate the efficacy of the anti-depressant and we could talk then too.

I did what anyone in my situation would do - I called my sister Angie.  I told her what I knew (which wasn't much) and what the plan of attack was.  I looked up Hashimoto's on Google using very little energy.  I was happy I finally had a reason for feeling so puny and thought that following my doctor's advice was enough.  I had taken Synthroid in the past as one of the many "solutions" offered to kick-start my weight loss.  It didn't work for that but since I actually had a diagnosis this time, I hoped it would work.

A couple of days later, I finally picked up the prescription and started taking it.  I guess I expected to start feeling better right away.

You know how this turns out, right?

I didn't.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Fast Forward

I really don't even know how or where to start.  I want to keep this blog strictly related to my journey and experience living with Hashimoto's Disease but there is a lot of back story.

As far back as 1995, I've struggled with my weight, depression, fatigue and general malaise.  Granted, there always seemed to be a logical explanation for all of the symptoms and as I went from doctor to doctor, each had a different diagnosis or best guess as to why I was feeling the way I felt.  With each doctor came a different medicine, test or suggestion.

To make the story short, I'll tell you that my thyroid functioned "normally".  I exercised regularly. I watched every single thing that went into my mouth - I counted calories, points, fat, sugar, carbs, protein, etc.  You name the diet, I tried it.  Nothing worked.  I cried tears as big as my rear trying to understand what I was doing wrong and why I kept gaining weight.

Besides gaining weight, I was exhausted.  I battled with insomnia and oversleeping.  Nothing I did helped my fatigue.  I was tired to the point of it being painful.  I had other complaints but mostly kept them to myself because if I told the doctor EVERYTHING that I felt, she would have diagnosed me with hypochondria and closed the door behind me.

Fast forward to 2012.  After a battery of testing during my yearly physical, my doctor called and told me there was no logical explanation for my symptoms and inability to lose weight.  Basically, she gave up on me.  She invited me to her monthly "fat club" which was support group for her patients struggling to lose weight.  They talked nutrition and recipes.  Needless to say, I didn't go.  I tried not to be offended but I was. I didn't need a support group.  I needed answers.

That doctor left the practice and I was on the search for a new doctor.  I found one at a clinic nearer to my office.  I scheduled my physical with the new doctor for January 2, 2013.  I went to the appointment and my primary concern was getting on an anti-depressant.  You see, my dad died last November and my grief was overwhelming.  I had a lot of health concerns but my mental health had to be my number one priority if I was going to make it.  We chatted and she asked a lot of questions.  She was concerned about my weight (who wouldn't be?), blood pressure and overall health.  She ran the usual tests but added one I (surprisingly) hadn't had before - an Anti-Thyroid Antibodies test.

She called me on Friday, January 4th to tell me the test results.  My thyroid was still functioning in a normal range but I was creating an excess of antibodies.

Anti-Thyroid Antibodies

What is Anti-Thyroid Antibodies?
NameNormal Range01/03 1 2013
Thyroglobulin Ab0-14.4271.00Graph
Thyroid Peroxidase Ab0-3.9135.9Graph

I had Hashimoto's Disease.