This may be a tad rambling as I bring all the components together, but bear with me. You probably don’t know, as I’ve never had cause to mention it, but I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is basically an autoimmune version of hypothyroidism. Majorly simplified, my immune system has a tendency to attack my thyroid, impairing it’s ability to produce thyroid hormone, causing a deficit. I’ve had it for years and years, take a small does of artificial thyroid hormone and all is well with the world. Usually.
The thyroid controls metabolism, among other things, so when my hormones get out of whack I can usually tell because I turn into a sloth, gain weight, am cold al the time, itch (OMG the itching!), etc. And my case has always been relatively mild, but does seem to need more attention as I age.
So, seemingly unrelated, about two years ago I was feeling down and have a number of irritating, but not life altering symptoms. I self-diagnosed myself from the internet as having an over-growth of candida in my gut. The thing is that the solution to this is a very strick and very healthy diet. So, I figured if I was wrong the worst case scenerio was that I ate really well for a couple months. What did I have to lose, right?
Thus, I went on the Candida Diet. That’s diet as a noun, not a verb. In other words, I was seeking to improve the foods I ate, not go on a diet. If that makes sense. It’s semantics, yes, but it is a distinction I feel important to make because I’m also modeling for my daughters. I don’t want them to see their mother dieting all the time, but rather eating a healthy diet.
I went cold turkey on everything. In one day I gave up alcohol, caffeine, dairy, gluten, grains, sugar, anything my body might convert to sugar and all processed foods! I basically lived on kale, chicken and almond butter. Be thankful you didn’t know me during this time. I was not pleasant. (I love you family for putting up with me.)
Just like I’d been warned, about two weeks in I crashed hard. I mean like I found myself having to lay on the floor in the shower hard. I got sick. But I’d been warned, so I didn’t worry too much. Just stuck it out. This is apparently the result of something called die-off, in which the candida dies in mass and, in doing so, releases toxins into the body. I imagine my blood sugar was also doing some major readjusting too.
But when that cleared up I felt amazing. A lot of my background aches and pains went away. I had more energy. I lost 30 pounds, totally without trying. I got in shape, because I had the energy to get to the gym. My sex life improved, as I had more of a libido, more energy and endurance for it and was simply stronger. (Should I be embarrassed to admit that? I don’t know.) My brain fog, that I hadn’t even noticed until it was gone, cleared up. My hair and skin tones improved. My nails grew stronger. (I’m a nail biter, so this is a big deal for me.) Really, I was in awe. Suddenly that restrictive diet totally felt worth it. And honestly, after the cravings (which were hell at first) cleared it wasn’t that hard to stick to under normal circumstance.
But like all good things it unfortunately came to an end. For me that came in the form of Summer guests and all the inevitable going out that comes with vacationers. We went out to eat, for ice cream, to bakeries, etc and little by little I fell off my wagon. And despite my best efforts, I have not yet been able to get past those very difficult first weeks to establish the eating routine I need in order to feel as good as I did. This despite knowing how great it is. Man, it’s amazing how the body can trick you into compromising itself.
So, I’ve felt guilty about this. I’ve felt physically crappy. I’ve gained weight. I’ve chastised myself again and again for not being mentally stronger, which is hell on my self-esteem. My energy levels are bottoming out. I’m barely making it to yoga and only going to Tae Kwon Do because I do it with my children, so I have to. Simultaneously, my husband, who is an amazing support is also a terrible food shamer*, now that he knows what a difference it makes. He’s perfectly willing to do all my prep work to make the diet possible, but if I don’t eat right he’s also willing to snub me for it. (I have very torn feels about it. I once threw a brownie at him.)
So, this is where I have been for several months now. It’s not a great place. On top of that I keep putting off getting my thyroid levels checked. Because, you know, I have so little gumption to do anything. This is a maintenance thing. A couple times a year I should get them checked to ensure I’m still on the right does of Armour, which is the type of artificial hormone I’m on. But also, I can kind of just feel my levels aren’t right.
Cut to a couple weeks ago, and what do I win from Goodreads? Amy Myer’s The Thyroid Connection. And I’ve been reading it. I haven’t finished it, but I am slowly reading it. (Come on, a medical diet book is dry material, no matter how evangelical the writing style.)
Now, to bring these seemingly disparate point back together, it turns out that Myers’ diet to balance the thyroid very closely mirrors the Candida Diet I was following when I felt such an amazing change in my body. As I understand it, both focus on cutting inflammation and balancing the gut. So, I’m left wondering if part of what caused that almost miraculous improvement in myself wasn’t entirely down to killing off yeast in my intestines, but maybe also in inadvertently balancing out my thyroid levels.
This instantly intrigues me, gives me a little added impetus to get over the initial challenges of eating right. (Because when I don’t, I really don’t. I’m not a middle of the road kind of person. When I don’t pay attention to what I eat, I will subsist on popcorn, pretzels and angel food cake. Really.) And in conversation about it Hubs, supportive as always, simply said, “OK, well, lets order some cookbooks so we can learn some new recipes and broaden our eating options.”
Thus we ordered two: The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, which is very highly rated (4.5 stars, with 500+ rating on Amazon), and Against All Grain, which was recommended to us by someone we know and who’s knowledge we trust. Plus, it has shopping lists. Both are technically Paleo cookbooks, which is not the diet I’m looking to follow but there is enough overlap not to matter and because of its popularity it’s easier to find Paleo books than niche diet books.
But here’s the thing, the universe wasn’t done with me. I won another book. This time it was Nourishing Meals: 365 Whole Foods, Allergy-Free Recipes for Healing Your Family One Meal at a Time. What are the chances? Are you seeing a theme? ‘Cause I am.
Meanwhile, Myers’ book has convinced me to seek out a Functional Medicine doctor next time I get my blood work done, which should have been about four months ago. I’ve always just had my GP do it, but I think this time I want to look at my whole system. I don’t think I was wrong about candida. I don’t think my hormone levels are unaffected by the foods I eat or the allergens I encounter. I’ve just never thought to have anyone test me in any fashion.
So, “Hey Universe! I got the message. I’ll be better. I’ll make the appointments. I’ll use the cookbooks. I’ll trash the last of the Cool Ranch Doritos. (They make my stomach hurt anyway.) I’ll drink my water and do my yoga. I will. But if you want to send me another book, I’m totally cool with that too.”
Edit: My mother wrote a comment regarding this post on Facebook. (You guys are getting all the family drama.) And believe me when I say I never thought she read these posts. But I suppose this is a subject that would interest her, as she is herself into Functional Medicine. She doesn’t live near me though, so I can’t take advantage of that. (Wouldn’t it be nice.) But interestingly she said, “And to think your mother is a certified functional medicine practitioner who has been telling your for three years to get your hormones checked, not just the TSH. I would like to read Amy Myer’s book when you are done. I have met her at the functional medicine conferences. Odds are pretty good if you got off all grains and exercised and de-stressed your thyroid it would regulate itself. I have decided that tubers are ok. So I have been eating potatoes and sweet potatoes and hard squash…. I eat rice, too. But I need to eliminate all the grains and dairy but that is so hard.” Don’t I know it, Mom. Don’t I know. [Note: I edited some capitalization in here, to make it easier to read, as she tends to drop them in social media comments.]
*After reading this (apparently he pays attention to my tweets, who knew) he said to me, “It’s not shame. It’s that every time I see you eat something we know you shouldn’t I have to watch a little of the woman I love die.” But I don’t know how to internalize that as anything but shame, so I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that.