Well, hey there! Hi! Hello! I must apologize for our absence. We’ve been quite the strangers lately. Not intentionally, of course. So what have we been up to? A lot! Why did we stop posting consistently? That’s something we’re just coming to understand ourselves. As a matter of fact, this is a post I have avoided writing. It’s not…
something I like to talk about something I like to admit It’s safe to say, I’m still coming to terms with the whole thing.
In June of this year, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. As I mentioned above, I generally avoid saying those words. It hurts to say them. It’s as if I’m admitting that I’m broken. I mean, the word disease alone seems so irreparable, like a sentence on one’s life. Nonetheless, it explains SO much of this past year.
Let’s start with a few facts:
- Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease, not a thyroid disease. It’s the immune system’s inability to recognize itself and the tissues / organs it’s sworn to protect.
- It affects up to 10% of the US population
- 90% of cases of hypothyroidism are a result of Hashimoto’s.
- 50% of those with Hashimoto’s will develop other autoimmune conditions in 5-7 years
- The women to men ratio of Hashimoto’s is 10:1
- There are no medications to lower the TPO antibodies
We started seeing a new doctor this year and as part of their new patient exam for adults, they do a full blood work up. My blood revealed that my thyroid peroxidase was at 236 (normal range is <9 IU/ML) and my thyroglobulin AB at was 26 (normal range <4 IU/ML). And that was it. Those two little lines on my labs resulted in, “You have Hashimoto’s disease.” My TSH, T4, and T3 (thyroid hormones) were all within the normal range, which means my thyroid is trying to go about its daily work while being relentlessly attacked by my immune system. (Thanks, buddy. I appreciate you.) Because my levels are normal at the moment, I don’t need and can’t use replacement thyroid hormones.
I’ve felt both unacceptance and relief. I felt relieved because I finally had a reason for why I felt like I was going crazy. I was 20 lbs overweight and nothing I did really changed that — although, I didn’t really exert too much energy trying to change it. (I’m about acceptance and desserts.) I was SO tired ALL the time. No matter what time I went to bed, how much sleep I got, it wasn’t enough. And that right there is the number one reason why we haven’t been blogging as consistently. I was drinking 3 cups of coffee a day just to have enough energy to make lunch for my kids and drive to pick up my husband. I kept telling myself and everyone else that I was just overloaded and stressed. Because that’s what I believed. I thought it was normal to feel that exhausted ALL THE TIME. After all, I had just started working a part time job, Michael went from working at home to working 15 minutes away. Not only was he leaving earlier and getting home later, but I was the one bringing him to and from work! I was also dropping children off at two different schools and picking them up at two different times. Not to mention my job, the housework, the grocery shopping, the bill paying, finishing house projects, meal planning… I was just stressed. Right? Aside from being exhausted, I had other things going on: bloating, the back of my neck broke out in pimples continuously, my memory was terrible, unexplained anxiety, and my cognitive functions were delayed. I would lose my train of thought in the middle of speaking, it would take me longer to process simple questions. I remember calling a friend crying because I had such slowed cognitive functions at a work event that I thought it probably seemed like I was drunk. I don’t even drink!!
It’s great to have an explanation for all of these things but there’s no medicine? (Only a hope for remission.) What the heck am I supposed to do?! (There’s the unacceptance, friends.) Then came the anvil. She told me that in addition to getting my antibodies checked every 6 months, I need to eat grain-free. What? We have already been eating gluten-free for the last 8 years because of an intolerance. We don’t cheat. Ever. Because I know that cheating can start a wildfire in your body that can lead to other autoimmune diseases — like Hashimoto’s. (Insert side-eye emoticon here.) I remember asking her, “So what exactly are you classifying as a grain?” I left the appointment and cried in my driveway for a few minutes before mustering the courage to walk into the house and say to Michael the words I didn’t want to say, to tell him what she told me.
It may seem silly, if you’ve never had to be on a restrictive diet, suddenly and without warning. Gluten-free was hard enough. It took eight years to develop an amazing muffin recipe. To find a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that are to die for. Weeks earlier, I had finally mastered gluten-free flour tortillas. And bread? FINALLY, we had a delicious, foolproof sandwich bread recipe. But now not only can I not have gluten or dairy but I also have to avoid all grains? Meaning the gluten-free grains that I’ve used to develop the recipes that make us feel like “normal” people?!
I started rationalizing. What’s the big deal? A lot of people take thyroid medicine and go about their lives. If this destroys my thyroid, I’ll just take medicine and still be able to eat my cookies. Then I started reading. My doctor also told me to read the Root Cause by Izabella Wentz. I might as well be studying for my final exam in endocrinology or the thyroid. I also started reading the Autoimmune Solution by Amy Myers. I’m not done with either book at the moment because it’s just so much to digest. (Pun!) But the first thing I learned is that having an autoimmune disease makes me three times more likely to develop another one. More serious, more debilitating autoimmune diseases like MS, lupus, type 1 diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis just to name a few.
So after navigating through a very confusing maze of information and in an effort to find my root cause, I started the Autoimmune Protocol elimination diet (AIP). It’s basically Paleo to the extreme. In addition to being gluten-free, grain-free, and dairy-free this diet also has me avoiding nightshades, nuts, seeds, eggs, coffee, and legumes. Did you know that certain spices like paprika and even black pepper are considered nightshades? That’s right, I can’t even have black pepper! I find that more unbelievable than I am angry about it. I won’t get into how food is such a big factor in autoimmune conditions, you’ll have to look that up for yourself, but this elimination diet is supposed to hit the reset button on my gut and immune system. It’s done it for a minimum of 30 days, with absolutely no cheating. After the 30 days, you start to add things back in one by one and see if you have a reaction to them. This will help me hone in one what is actually affecting me negatively and what is not. In case you’re wondering, I will never be able to add gluten or dairy back in, and I’ll probably have to avoid most grains, as they can be cross-reactive with gluten. (You can look that up, too.) I did make one exception. I’m foregoing my anti-cheating nature, to make an exception for rice. I will have rice in gumbo, not all the time, but maybe once a year. I told Michael, “Because I’d rather die happy eating gumbo than live without it.” (You can’t take the cajun out of the girl…)
I’m 26 days into the AIP diet, and generally, I haven’t felt deprived. I’ve bought and cooked things I’ve never seen before. Turnips and Yucca root, for example. And they’re good! I’ve lost 14 lbs, I have no breakouts, rarely any bloating, and I’m NOT EXHAUSTED! What?! You people have been holding out on me. This is what normal feels like? Holy cow! I could take over the world, salsa dance, and climb a mountain all in one day feeling like this! I really didn’t know how bad things were until they weren’t anymore. But knowing has also made me somewhat paranoid. Now if I feel tired, I go into mini-panic mode trying to recount any and every reason why I might be tired. As I type this, I’m noticing that the left side of my face feels bumpy. Why? WHY?! Is this a symptom of Hashimoto’s?! Is all of this stuff really not helping? Therein lies the hurdle. Aside from the way I’m feeling, I don’t really know if all of this is helping. I won’t know until I have more blood work done. I could request that it be done sooner, and I might, but labs can be expensive. I don’t want to go too soon and waste it. Maybe? I’m not sure that that even makes sense.
So, that is the very personal and very long explanation of why we’ve gone months at a time without blogging. I do want to share the updates we’ve made to the house with you soon, though! Everything for landscaping to exterior paint.
*As a side note: I know that gluten-free and Paleo and all those other crazy “diets” seem to just be the latest fad. I just want to take this opportunity to tell you that no one who has to be on a restrictive diet actually wants to be. The first year that we went gluten-free was spent mostly in tears. Tears because I could never have my great-grandmother’s fig tarts again. Tears because pizza, lasagna, and queso were no longer something I could enjoy. Tears because gluten-free dough didn’t act the same and I had to completely relearn how to cook. I mourned for an entire year. And occasionally I still get sad about what I can’t have. Food can be a very social thing or it can be a very isolating thing. It is incredibly isolating when you have to say no to dinner with friends or go to that picnic/bbq/wedding/funeral where there is nothing for you to eat and you just sit and watch everyone eating the food you wish you could eat. You don’t stop being hungry just because there is nothing for you to eat. You don’t stop desiring your favorite foods just because they make you sick. The kindest thing you could ever do for someone on a restrictive diet is to go out of your way and learn about what they can and can not have and make them something. Make sure they have not just options but good options to eat at that birthday party/bbq/funeral/family reunion. Let them know you see them. That they’re not forgotten. That they’re not going to have to put on a smile and act normal while they feel so isolated and like a burden. It’s a small thing that is a big deal.