Something to Celebrate

Since April, I have gone for plenty of lab tests. Since the summer, it’s been every 4 weeks. And every time, I eagerly check the online lab results page to watch like a scientist working on an n=1 experiment.

In the past, seeing the online lab results has been a source of confusion, relief, frustration or even concern. Close friends have encouraged me to ease off logging in or even not log in at all. I explain that I understand their suggestion, but that no, I know myself well enough to know that if the results are available to me, I’m going to look. The alternative might cause more stress.

Since my first test in the Spring, I have always been able to tell when the results are in since they are marked with a red exclamation point. Like this one:

labresults

As one might suspect, this is not a good thing. It means one or more results are out of range.

And, every single test, I see the little red exclamation point and know my results are in. So when I checked in last night and didn’t see the red exclamation point, I figured it was too soon. And not surprisingly, only the Haematology results were back, and there were no red flags. This good since I need to watch my white blood cells.

Fast forward to this morning when I check in again. No red flag. Still too early for the Chemistry and Thyroid results. But wait, I’m wrong. Most of the results are back – everything except my thyroid antibodies. And no red flags yet. For the first time since starting these tests, my Thyroid Stimulating Hormone levels are back in range. Excellent news.

A few hours pass and I log in again, expecting to see a red flag telling me my thyroid antibody results are back. No red flag, but I look anyway. And to my surprise, the result is not only in but also in range.

So for the first time during this process, all my lab results are completely normal. In other words, the elusive euthyroid state has been achieved.

Definitely something worth celebrating.

 

Advertisements

Thyroid Update

Those of you familiar with my more recent blog posts will be aware that I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease in the summer. This has been both incentive for me to explore the relationship between diet and autoimmune disorders and, at times, a source of frustration.

I started on medication at the end of August with the knowledge that I would get monthly lab tests done to see how the meds are working and make decisions about appropriate doses. My late-September results had concerned me (liver and white blood cells counts were off, which can be a side effect of the medication), so I sat down with my doctor to discuss whether I should make changes.

Being the nerd that I am, I had read some scientific journals prior to meeting with her. This sounds extreme to some, but I wanted to be familiar with the clinical applications of the medication and understand the process. This may also sound like I am a doctor’s worst nightmare, but the intention was to be prepared to have a discussion with my doctor about my treatment plan. The research was useful as it did calm me down – I found out my liver and white blood cell numbers, though off, were not a cause of concern.

My doctor’s visit was positive, and I was pleased with the treatment plan: I would stay the course with my current dose for another 4 weeks, and if the October thyroid results were the same or improved, I could half my dose – no need to call for approval.

My results came in this week and are significantly better. Liver enzymes and blood cell counts are all in range (including one that had always been ever-so-slightly out of range since the Spring), and my Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is finally improving after being suppressed and non-existent for 6 months. I still have thyroid antibodies (the autoimmune aspect of the disease) higher than desired, but not a concerning amount.

All in all, I am very pleased with my lab results. And, I’m eager to see how I fare on a reduced dose. Eventually, the goal is to reduce to a very low level then come off the meds and the thyroid levels stay normal, achieving what’s called a Euthyroid state. 

 

 

Change of Plans

When I started my latest “plan” of doing the Whole45, I envisioned a similar process to past experiences – rough first week or so then feeling pretty good afterwards with plenty of energy. However, my medical complications, well, complicated things.

I really haven’t felt my best these past few weeks, and I decided to make the conscious decision to start reintroducing some foods after 34 days instead of 45. Though a small part of me was disappointed to not follow-through on the original idea, I made a choice that I felt was best for me given the circumstances. I haven’t reintroduced much – I’m basically eating paleo but not getting bent out of shape about products with some added sugar (e.g. ketchup or a marinade), and I’ve had some rice and a corn tortilla. I also had some wine on the weekend.

The thing I’ve been thinking about the most over the past week or so is what’s next. I pointed out in an earlier post that I don’t want to treat this process like an accidental diet where there is some kind of end date. I truly want to learn what makes me feel best inside and figure out a personalized template to do so.

In an ideal world, I would find a nice 80/20 style approach, eating this way most of the time and having some room for exceptions. The tricky part is that I’m not sure that is my nature. When reading Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before, she talks about knowing yourself and goes on to detail some different types, including moderators and abstainers. Moderators would be the type of person who can, say, have one square of chocolate a day, or only a few chips. Abstainers would be the type of person who cannot compute how one can eat only one square of chocolate or who can polish off a bag of chips in one sitting. In other words, abstainers would do well to never bring the bag of chips or bar of chocolate into the house in the first place.

I think the reason I do so well when I’m “on a program” is because I am an abstainer. It’s why two years ago, I described how I love not having a grey area. And, I think it’s because I find it easier to follow clear guidelines. Because I’m not naturally a moderator.

But, life is long, and food will always be a part of life. I do not think it’s realistic to live the rest of my life (hopefully many more decades) adhering to extremely rigid rules. So, I’m trying to spend some time thinking about how I can work on changing my mindset and making some room in my life for moderation in a way that still helps me feel my best.

Hating Graves’ Right Now

When I started to post about my Whole45, I imagined sharing details about the experience, like dealing with dining out, trying new foods and recipes, and how I’m feeling overall. Having done two prior Whole30’s, I knew what to expect, and after the initial week or two, the positive benefits.

This time around has been so completely different because of my recent diagnosis. Graves’ disease is really cramping my style.

Earlier this week was a struggle with dropping energy levels. On Thursday, I finally had a good day without feeling an energy crash. I was pleased. Then Friday, my energy levels still doing alright, my heart decided it wanted to try something different. Around 3:30pm, I started noticing brief intervals of heart palpitations.

My Samsung phone has a heart rate monitor on the back and allows me to track measure my heart rate on demand. So, I checked, and yes, it was high (~150). Within a minute, it was back down (~50). This has happened before, so I wasn’t all that thrown off. However, this continued on and off for a couple of hours. This was all while working at my desk. I wasn’t moving, walking, or getting up and down. Just working on my computer.

The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful, and I had enough energy to go for a walk later. I know heart palpitations are a symptom of Graves’, so I’m not worried. I’m mostly just irritated. I know the medication I’m taking takes a few weeks to make changes, so I’m trying to be patient. I get my blood work done in a few weeks and that will inform how I’m reacting.

I’ve been pretty positive since being diagnosed in June, and as much as I want to continue that sentiment and keep perspective, it would be insincere to pretend I’m not frustrated. So, I’ve decided to let myself feel frustrated and express this frustration. In the meantime, I am trying to treat myself with grace. I won’t beat myself up if I’m not as productive as I would like. If I need to nap, I’ll nap. However, I am still choosing to make good food decisions. Something I can say with confidence is that my insides have not been angry for the past few weeks. And that is something I can feel good about.

My Thyroid and I are Fighting

Over the past few days, I have been feeling pretty bad.

It started with the sensation I feel in my throat before I’m going to throw up. Except I knew my body wasn’t actually going to throw up. Just the sensation. How fun.

Then it was followed by a general feeling of malaise. Very similar to what brought me to the doctor in the first place and ended with a diagnosis of Graves’ disease. This is extremely frustrating as I had been feeling pretty good over the past few months.

I do consider myself fortunate because I have not really experienced the typical symptoms – sweating, palpitations and racing heart, shaking, rapid and unexplained weight loss, etc. I had experienced some heart rate spikes in July, but that was during exercise. Aside from that, my only symptoms have been throat discomfort and feeling car-sick occasionally (regardless of the car).

But, the past few days have been quite uncomfortable.

On Wednesday, I seriously considered stopping my Whole45. I was feeling awful, tired, and stressed out. I hated the idea of stopping but if ever there was a valid reason, autoimmune disorder complications would be one.

After some considerable thought, I decided to stick with it. Here’s why:

  1. The foods that I would have wanted to add would be those that are convenient and quick, which means probably lower in nutritional value. And let’s be honest, when I’m sick or feeling frustrated, the food I  want is comfort food aka emotional eating. I knew this would not improve my health.
  2. A few months ago, I watched a talk online about how our body responds to stress. The speaker noted that typical advice for dealing with stress includes: do yoga, meditate, breathing exercises, etc. And while there is nothing wrong with those things, when you are stressed, these tasks can feel daunting and almost more stress-inducing. But, you can take charge of what you eat and choose foods that are in your best interest. And during this stressful time, it’s helpful to have clear guidelines that simplify decision-making.

Now, it crossed my mind that maybe this process is causing my increased symptoms. I did some reading and there is a section of the book explaining that those with autoimmune disorders may feel a bit worse before feeling better.

And, because I am working with my doctor, I went for blood work yesterday and will see her in a few days, so I’ll discuss it with her. However, I got my lab results and my thyroid hormones  (T3 and T4) are actually now both in range. Which begs the question, why do I feel so bad?

One Week In

I’m currently 7 days into this thing. Or, 15.6%, but who’s counting…

The first week is the hardest. Albeit not as difficult as the first time.

Last year I experienced headaches for a few days as I transitioned off sugar. I was also tired and a bit grouchy. It really wasn’t until after a week or two that I started to feel really good.

This time around, I’m noticing it’s similar but milder. A few headaches, though not too bad, and some days I don’t have much energy. I think the worst of it was on day 4 when I could barely muster the energy to walk home from a trip to the grocery store near my house.

I can tell that my thyroid is acting up a bit, and I’m hopeful that it’s temporary as my body adjusts. I’ll know for sure next week when I go for my next round of bloodwork. It’s not enough to cause concern, just enough to be annoying.

In the meantime, I am finding myself missing sugar. I may have spent some time sniffing the delicious-smelling Hubba Bubba gum in a nearby office at work this morning. Probably not the best idea I’ve ever had.

The Whole45 (aka. Whole30 + 15)

It’s been over a year since my last post. I was feeling pretty good after my spring cleanse, but still could not figure out why I couldn’t calm my insides. For the most part, things were improved, but discomfort was still a regular occurrence.

A couple of months later, I met someone who recommended the Whole30 program. As she described it, it sounded like an elimination diet, similar to what I did in the fall but cutting out legumes and all grains (not just wheat and corn). I learned it was essentially a paleo diet, though a bit more strict.

I had learned about the paleo diet during my 100 days of real food – a couple of friends even told me how they tried it and felt amazing – but I really struggled to imagine cutting out some staples, like oats and chickpeas. But, the Whole30 seemed manageable because: a) I knew I could do an elimination diet for 4 weeks, and b) I had nothing to lose. I still wanted answers.

I bought the book, did my research over the next couple of weeks, and then started the program in late July 2015.

I followed the program as prescribed, focusing on eating eggs, meat, fish, veggies, fruit, healthy fats, nuts and seeds while eliminating grains, legumes, sugar, alcohol and dairy. Additionally, there were some other rules: no weighing yourself and no recreating baked goods with approved ingredients (e.g. paleo pancakes, muffins, bread, etc). Following 30 days, you reintroduce the food groups one at a time to learn how your body reacts – as with any elimination diet. And that’s where I messed up.

The program itself went really well. Halfway through, I noticed differences, like longer, stronger nails, clearer skin, no more bloating, and my energy was sky high. I no longer felt the mid-afternoon slump, and most shocking to me, I didn’t feel the need to snack in between meals. The icing on the cake was that I lost 15 pounds and never once felt deprived or hungry.

However, the program ended during the busiest time of year for me, and I didn’t reintroduce the food groups properly. I kept many of the good habits from the program but slowly found myself eating some of the same old foods and, as would be expected, feeling the same discomforts.

I decided to do another round of the Whole30 in January, and again experienced the same benefits but still couldn’t seem to get the reintroduction right. However, I now know that legumes and some veggies are the main culprit of my GI distress. I’ve managed to keep my insides calm for most of the year. I follow a predominantly paleo diet now but sometimes fall into traps – then experience the consequences.

I’ve decided to do another round, but longer.

Why?

  1. I recently found out I have a thyroid autoimmune disorder, and over the past couple of months, have noticed my symptoms seem worse when I’m not eating properly. I want to test this theory further.
  2. The Whole30 community is running a big September program, and I like the idea of following along with others; however, I didn’t really want to wait until September to start. So, I’m stretching mine out to a Whole45.

I also decided I wanted to start writing again. Partly because I enjoyed the experience while doing my 100 days of real food. Partly because some people are curious about the program – what it entails, what it’s like, and why on earth I would be willing to give up alcohol and sugar for so long.

So, here we go!