I started my holistic journey in late October 2010. If you've been reading since the start, you may remember the condition I was in. If you are new to this blog, you will probably want to go back and read my 1st blog post titled In The Beginning. It will give you insight to where I started, and what my history had been up to that point. In short, I was a mess.
What I Ate
During my 6 months, I ate a Paleo Diet. I actually began eating paleo in August 2010, so I had a few months head start on that. Dr. Matthews, the chiropractor who was in charge of my thyroid treatment, did not enforce this diet, but didn't discount it either. Some of the recipes he gave me included legumes and rice. Essentially he just wanted me to be 100% gluten-free with very limited dairy. I decided to stick with what I learned from my husband Anthony, Robb Wolf, and Chris Kresser. Diane Sanfilippo's website is in my "favorites" list. She posts some awesome recipes the whole house loves...and it was from her site I got my way-cool "Bacon is rad, gluten is bad" t-shirt.
To clarify my eating choices, I had rare (once every month or 2) "no rules" meals. During them I might consume something with dairy, beans, or rice- like a Naked Burrito Bowl at Chipotle, some ice cream made from milk, or even something very processed like Snap Pea Crisps from TJ's.
Sidebar- Butter from grass-fed cows is still included pretty much in my everyday life, even though it's "dairy." The Butter Manifesto from the Whole 9 explains this well. However, I still have yet to clarify my Kerrygold butter. Maybe this summer. -End sidebar.
Unfortunately, on a more frequent occasion (every couple or few weeks), I would succumb to the calling of the blasted sugar in Hershey Kisses, M&Ms, or the like. I know, I know...that's dairy too. *sigh* My binges would last a few days- and it consisted of me grabbing a sweet treat I may have hid in the pantry when no children (or husbands) were looking. But, because I can never do anything in secret, the chocolate left over in the corner of my mouth or on my cheek would cause my husband to laugh, point, and say "busted!!" *double sigh* We'd get a good laugh because he knows I'm human. And he knows how yummy delicious milk chocolate is. We DO have dark chocolate in the house many days (72% or greater) but sometimes it just didn't meet my craving- and my craving won out over the willpower.
Note to self- If it wasn't IN my pantry in the 1st place, my willpower would've won.
We bought most of our meat from a fantastic local farm called T & D Farms in China Grove, NC. In fact, we just bought our first 100% grass fed 1/4 cow from them a few weeks ago. Most of our veggies and fruit have come from the produce section in the grocery store, but this spring we've joined a local organic CSA- I'm excited to see how that goes. It started yesterday!
I NEVER knowingly ate gluten. I may have consumed it unknowingly in very small amounts- like when I was eating the Rotisserie Chicken from Harris Teeter (they use modified food starch in their recipe). Whoops.
I thought going essentially grain-free would be tough. "I want buttered bread with my bean-free chili!! Waaa!" - But, what I learned was that what I truly wanted was the butter. Really, it was just a learning curve. I don't recall ever craving a bowl of PLAIN pasta with zero toppings...I wanted the butter or the sauce! Now- it's hard to look at cereal grains as consumable...unless I'm under some wacky tempting spell -which does happen. I mean, I used to have 14 boxes of cereal in my pantry...all for me. Now, I haven't even had gluten-free cereal since my "Come to Jesus" moment with a skyrocketed (for me) blood sugar level after binging on a bowl of gluten-free sugar-enhanced corn balls back in February. I wrote about that dive-bomb in a post called Old Favorites Die Hard. Yeah. That was a fun lesson. Good times.
In my 6 month program, I took some supplements as recommended to me by Dr. Matthews, who studied under Dr. Kharrazian. If you remember, my supplements varied a little at different times. I occasionally struggled mentally through taking all of them, and blogged about that too, in a post called Sugar Struggles and the Supplement Saga. But, to save time, here's the view when it was at it's peak, minus the Levothyroxine:
So... March 3rd was about 6 weeks from the end of my treatment plan, and I had a set of labs drawn. I didn't know it then, but they would be my last. I thought I may get one more set, but turns out the costs of my supplements, lab tests, office visits and such had way surpassed my original payment by "thousands." Seems as though the spending on my account wasn't watched closely enough. I didn't need to pay extra, but he just wasn't going to run anything else for me. That makes me even more thankful for my results.
Ready for my Labs?
The 1st column is when I found out I was hypothyroid. I've had yearly labs since then, but chose to add the 2nd column because it is 3 months pre-paleo. The 3rd column marks my 1st set of labs in my program. 5th- my last. This is not all encompassing of all the labs I have obtained, just what I have considered pertinent for this blog post.
Labs in red are too high, labs in blue are too low.
Looks like all those sugar binges have caught up to me with my Hgb A1c now minorly elevated at 5.8. Some people find it assuring that my fasting glucoses are normal. But fasting glucoses don't show you what a roller coaster ride your levels go through all throughout the day. Since Hashi's patients are warned about the potential development of diabetes, this concerns me. I am now attempting to add a bit more control to my cravings. A short-term goal is to decrease those sugar craving episodes to a more healthy scenario, like once every couple months or so. (You know though, since it's like crack to me, I'm unsure if this is even an option. Once I taste it, I need more and more- and then I'm completely off the wagon.) Nonetheless, right now I am careful to eat meat with my chocolate. Sounds AWESOME, right? Seriously, though. If I must have some sweet treat, it would have to be right after a meal full of protein and fat. I will continue to be a work in progress, for sure. But I am working! I'd like to see the day when I can say I've been "clean" for months. I wonder how much better I would feel?
Total Cholesterol is still low. I just ordered more Omega-3 Fish Oil from Stronger, Faster, Healthier. Someone told me it may help raise my total number. Funny, though. I eat essentially NO "Heart Healthy grains," I eat butter by the bite, pork chops, bacon, whole eggs, coconut oil, beef, etc... All the things they tell you not to eat if you don't want to be put on some statin drug or die of heart disease. As Whole 9 Life says, "Question Authority."
Autoimmune hypothyroid is essentially dormant in my body
Yes! Thank you Lord! All the hours spent cooking (and watching my husband cook), the strength to not eat foods I sometimes craved, and even the short-falls got me to this point. What's next? Well, I'm left with a thyroid that has been under attack for a prolonged time. We shall see if this wonderful gland that God gave me will gather it's strength for me and start to perform it's duties again. According to my TSH level now, I've been giving my body a bit too much thyroid supplement lately. That's a good sign. So, as instructed by Dr. Matthews, I tried to cut back on my natural thyroid supplement, GTA, to once per day. This lasted about a week or two. I felt so tired and foggy, I had to change something. So, I did what any typical hard-headed nurse would do that was trying to rid herself of synthetic medicine: I self-experimented. I cut my Levothyroxine dose in half to 50 mcg and went back to my 3 times/day GTA. Boom. I felt much better. And as I write this, my nails are stronger and not peeling anymore. Apparently, you can have brittle nails when your TSH is too low too. At least that's what Dr. Matthews said. He also said that since Levo is synthetic, the body may essentially come to become immune to it, but since GTA is natural, the body can utilize it better. Who knew?
To be fair, I also started taking my Ferrous Fumerate again around this same time, give or take a few days. I saw my iron had dropped again, this time to 47. I got real winded in my workouts for what seems like a long time- probably a few months. I was dragging somewhat even though an Iron level of 47 is "within normal limits." I figured it wouldn't hurt to start taking an iron supplement to see if maybe my body likes it's iron level closer to the 90s. I take it now about once every 3-4 days, as I think taking it daily was constipating me.
Feeling an improvement so far. Whether it's from the added iron, less levothyroxine, or the continued maintenance on the GTA will remain to be seen.
Now that my 6 months is complete, here's what I'm prescribed:
4 pills: 1) GTA 3x/day 2) Glutathione Recycler 3x/day 3) Levothyroxine 50 mcg daily 4) Ferrous Fumerate 1 tab 2x/week
2 creams: 1) Oxicell 3x/day 2) AdrenaCalm 1x/day
2 liquids: 1) Vitamin D 4000 IU/day 2) Vitamin B-12 5 drops 2x/day 3) Nitric Balance 1 tsp 1-3 x/day
I still sometimes miss the middle of the day stuff. Morning/night stuff is a cake walk.
The things I will remain on long term are the Vitamins D and B12, Oxicell and Glutathione Recycler, and the Nitric Balance. Lord knows I'd like to only be on the GTA for my thyroid supplementation- and no mo Levo. Hopefully, if I can get some more dayshift hours and reduce some stress, I will be able to say see-ya to the AdrenaCalm too.
Future lab testing on May 26th 2011 with my PMD will show if my self-adjusting technique of my thyroid meds was a smart bet. Never know till you try! I can always go back on it. I really don't know what my PMD is gonna say after I tell him about this program. He may or may not have supported my desire to attempt to decrease my dose to test the waters. Now is my chance. Dr. Matthews says he has several patients that only take 1 or 2 GTA capsules a day. How nice would that be?!
Since I didn't get the last set of labs I thought I was going to get as a grand finale to the 6 month program, I will ask my PMD to run a similar panel and post those to this blog.
The Greatest Reward
Back in March I told you all of a success I had, but it was quite unexpected. I had some doubt that it would last, so I kept it to myself, and didn't go into detail. Well, I'm about to spill.
Something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember is dysmenorrhea, or painful periods. I know many of us chickas have a miserable time with the dreaded cycle, and I don't personally know anyone who enjoys the month in and month out experience. It just took so much out of me, my OB/GYN prescribed me a few different medications. They didn't work. Well, that is, until he tried Tramadol in June of 2003. Back then, looking into this new med, I learned it's quite like a narcotic, but not one. It messes with your brain. It helps the pain by helping you to "not care" that you're hurting- for the most part. I remember taking it the 1st few times. Weird, man. I felt weird. For a long time, I didn't like the brain excitement it gave me- almost a hyperactive state, but I kept taking it during my periods trying to get some relief, which I did get. After what was probably less than a year, at the end of a cycle, I couldn't stop taking it. I tried, and I had awful withdrawal symptoms like nervousness and anxiety. So, I just took another. Everyday. Period or not. Time went on, and I was continuing to take 1 or 2 a day. At one point I enlisted the help of a doctor who prescribed me Clonidine, a blood pressure medicine, to reduce or eliminate the withdrawal symptoms as I took myself off the medicine. It worked! No nervousness, anxiety, or insomnia. But, after what feels like a month or two...maybe three, I started to ache and hurt, and not want to get out of bed. More days than not. Periods were unbearable, even mentally, again. I felt depressed alot. So, I did what most people in my shoes would've done. I asked my OB/GYN for a refill of the Tramadol. He obliged. I mean, it DID help, and I was thankful to be able to get up and move around again- to feel like I had some sort of energy along with less pain. It was prescribed as always: 50 mg tabs, 1-2 tabs every 4-6 hours as needed. I wasted no time getting back on track with my 1 or 2 a day schedule. It was much less than I was allowed... so no harm no foul? I would be laying on the couch, so tired, blah, and worn down, pop one of those babies and I'd be zipping around cleaning or running errands in no time. It was HELPING me. Right?
Looking back, I had no idea what was wrong in my body in the 1st place. Why was I hurting? Why couldn't I cope with life? Why was I miserable? I suppose I didn't have time for that. I just wanted relief. Just give me my pill. I remember asking Anthony to bring me one to work because I left the bottle at home. He understood how I would feel without it, so he'd pack up the kids, drive to my job, and help me out.
I would tell the tramadol saga to my PMD at my annual physicals, and last year he said, "Why don't you let me prescribe you your medicine?" (Instead of my OB/GYN since it wasn't just a GYN issue anymore) "How do you know you don't have Depression or Fibromyalgia?" He said. I believe I looked at him and scoffed, "Fibromyalgia is for drug seekers, the overweight, and the old. I am none of the above. I am invincible, and I will be fine. I don't have depression, I just am going through some stuff." I don't even think I believed in the diagnosis of Fibro itself. He however, was probably putting 2 and 2 together, since he had been planning my demise ever since he diagnosed me with Hashi's. He has been preparing himself for my potential diagnoses of depression, fibro, diabetes and the like. They all seem to run in the same circles, after all.
Let's fast forward to the beginning of this year, 2011. I have been on Tramadol for over 7 years. Daily. One or 2 a day average- up to the maximum of 5 in one day (That would've been a bad, bad day). In January, I started to think about this drug and how it didn't fit in with my current outlook on health, nutrition, and fitness. But at the same time, I never thought it would be possible to stop it without going back to a painful, miserable life, as well as an exhausting mental challenge because of the dependency on it. I hadn't once tried to go without it during my paleo eating/crossfitting lifestyle change, but in December/January, I decided to give it a go. I weaned myself from 2, to 1, to 1/2, to 1/4, to none over about 4-6 weeks. The larger doses were weaned slowly, then the smaller doses were weaned quite quickly. At the end, I just forgot to take the 1/4 tab one day. And since I went one day, I decided to forget again on the second day, and the third and so on.
The last week of January is the LAST time I have taken Tramadol after 7 years of daily requirement. I DON'T HURT ANYMORE. I am not depressed. I feel like I have my life back. I'm not in some variable hyper state like I used to be. Yes, my periods are still a bit on the miserable side (I've had 4 so far). But really, I can deal with that. It pales in comparison to the achiness I felt all over. Only once did my menstrual pain level get to a point that I wanted some tylenol. I am hoping that by tweaking my diet and nutrition a bit, I will find that my cycle will improve over time. In April, I cut off my pot a day coffee habit for a full 21 days cold-turkey. I now only plan on drinking a high octane cup on Mondays and maybe decaf on some Thursdays. I've recently read that eliminating it could help a woman's cycle a great deal. I shall see.
Be a Healthy Christian
I have encountered some Christians who have had a hard time "buying into" a Paleo nutrition plan. I can't say I understand the logic behind that as many of those same people choose to eat a box of something over a piece of meat or a vegetable. *scratches head* If God wanted me to eat Lucky Charms, He would've made a tree that grew marshmallow purple horseshoes. Maybe their hesitation is because many of it's promoters are evolutionists, or because Jesus ate bread. Maybe it's because change is hard. I dunno. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a perfect paleo eater either (darn chocolate!!). But what I do know, is that it works. I was being looked out for by my Heavenly Father, and whether paleo promoters believe it or not, they were a part His plan to introduce me to a life free from disease symptoms. I am so very thankful to Him for keeping me in His complete care, and I'm so very thankful to them for being such excellent resources, willing to help the masses, "6 listeners" at a time.
The End of the Line? ...Not so much.
As you probably have guessed, I am going to continue to be my own experiment. God brought me far, and I enjoy walking this out with Him. We are wonderfully made beings. I feel that it is important to sift through the junk out there in the mainstream media and mainstream medicine to determine how we should treat these temples of ours. My end of these 6 months, is really the beginning of another new life in nourishing health. I chose the road less traveled, as they say. I hope you do too.
Now, go be your own experiment, overcome the diagnosis of disease, and then spread the word about health and good nutrition. Make those pharmaceutical commercials irrelevant. And remember, no matter how much we search, scour, and dig through the info on the web, there is no perfect health apart from God. We are His childen and he wants the best health for us. It is possible.