Meals Today

Breakfast: Eggs

Snack: Chicken Salad

Lunch: Chili/ Salad

Snack: Apple

Dinner: Pork Roast with baked potatoes and roasted vegetables

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Is Food Really to Blame?

Today I am starting my journey toward good health. I have seen this for a while now, but my health is not only impacting me anymore. It is affecting my entire family. The migraines that leave me bed ridden for days, the racing heart that leaves me anxious and irritable, the bloated tummy, the daily headaches, trouble swallowing, blah blah blah. I am honestly so tired of talking about my health, that I am actually surprised to catch myself sitting here writing about these exact issues. I would love to wave a magic wand and just feel better!! I could wall up and feel sorry for myself, but I am choosing to count this as a blessing, learn as much as I can and move on proactively.

I am 29 years old, married with three young babies- and a now a puppy. I am telling you this to point out the obvious- there is NO time to be sick! 🙂

Today as I was waiting to get my labs drawn at the hospital, I was literally sitting between two men; both of which had undergone organ transplants. The first gentleman had a liver transplant two years ago. The other man to my left had a kidney transplant three weeks ago, which took him off three years of dialysis. He got the phone call that changed his life just a little over three weeks ago. Amazing!! I feel like God sat me between these two charming older men today, basically to give me a not so gentle nudge to get moving!

My body is very slowly shutting down. I have seen it coming for years, but I was misguided along the way. I am so blessed now to have a beginning of an understanding about what is plaguing me, and even more blessed to possibly have a chance to redirect or at least halt the damage. Of course, to be clear- I am only at the beginning of my journey, so I am still riding on a lot of faith right now; but I hope as this journal progresses my health will correspond.

I wish I had a copy of the list of things we discussed at my doctor appointment Friday (it would serve as a much better visual to illustrate the problems at hand). In fact, I may ask for a copy of their notes to share. I’m not sure my description of my four hour doctor appointment can do it justice! If you want to know my whole story (my health history) that led me to this point (and this blog) please read the entry creatively titled: My History. 🙂

What I do know is that I am ready to make the changes in my diet that my body needs to be healthy. To start, I am removing dairy and gluten (based on my doctor’s recommendations). Dr. Gundry’s book would tell you that we should all basically be eating this way (so at the very least I am on a path to better overall health, I hope)! I have experimented a bit over the past few weeks, and made a lot of great connections to people going through very similar experiences. I am ready to do this.

The purpose of my blog is to journal my experiences and diet as I go along (both for my own use with my doctors and to hopefully help/ inspire someone else who is just starting out on this path). A lot of my issues could have been avoided if I was pointed in the right direction a LONG time ago! I also feel it is my responsibility as a mother to provide the best dietary health for my children. Gluten issues are very much hereditary. I have also long suspected my children had issues with milk (I no longer need motivation to remove this from their diets along with mine). If I can save my children from any and all of the medical issues I have gone through, it will make all of this worth it a million times over!! I am well aware that my health issues could be far worse (I am also well aware that doing nothing will lead me down the path of very serious health issues)!

So here is the start to my journal of this journey to good health! Cheers!!

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My health history

My History

If you clicked on this entry, get comfortable before you start reading. 🙂 There’s a lot to talk about here!! 

If you are reading this blog, you are either a friend or family member of mine- OR- you may find yourself in a very similar situation. I am going to share as much as I can in this entry. This entry serves two purposes: 1) to keep me motivated on tough days, and 2) hopefully to help someone else going through something similar to my situation. It has been so comforting finding so many people willing to share their stories and talk with me along the way, and if I can bring comfort to any one person that’s reason enough right there.

I am going to do my best not to bore you, but bear with me.

Currently, I am beginning the process of removing certain foods from my diet (food sensitivities/ allergies). I am starting with removing all gluten and dairy. Sound extreme? Anything is worth trying at this point.

Let’s take a look at what got me to the point of removing two major food groups from my diet….

Rewind as far back as 20+ years to where this story begins. As a child I remember having a hard time eating food at times, and having to chew my food until it was basically the consistency of water before I could swallow (and even then it would be forced). This sensation would come and go, but it never really went away. I think I just got used to eating like that. I remember complaining a few times and my parents telling me it was no big deal (maybe even thought it was just ‘in my head’). Not faulting them, but looking back that may have been an indicator (knowing what I know now). I also remember being on antibiotics a LOT as a child for colds or “sinus” infections. In high school I started to get really bad migraines (I actually took my first prescription preventive medication for migraines my last year of high school- it was an anti-seizure medication– and it made me “puffy”) and a few experiences with “panic” attacks. I think now I was actually experiencing a form of aura before/ after my migraines and it would scare me. I was always really sensitive to heat. I literally do not remember a day where I wasn’t blowing my nose. In fact, one of my best friends Leah can share a funny story with you about my nose blowing. Seriously.

Anyway, on to college. I got really sick my first year in college (spent some time in the hospital)- ended up getting my tonsils out that year just before Christmas (fun times)! My migraines were not as bad that year, but I was sick a lot with allergy/ sinus junk. I started to complain of a tightness/ pressure in my neck (in the area where your thyroid is located). My mom took me to our family doc, who told me it was nothing…must be anxiety…must need antidepressants (LOL)! Trust me, at this stage of life I was living the high life. I had not a care in the world. School came easily to me, as did meeting new people. I was having the most fun I have probably ever had. I didn’t have to worry about anything, really. I had it pretty darn good. Anxiety was not in the equation. Same pattern continued on for a while.

By my sophomore year in college I ended up going to an allergist (getting tested for environmental allergies)-and of course I was allergic to everything (from mold to cockroaches)!! You hear of seasonal allergies, I was more of annual allergies. Anyway, I started Zyrtec D and a few other meds off an on. I also started getting allergy shots at some point in that year. Still to this day, I think Dr. Hill may be the best doctor I have ever seen. He was very intuitive, and truly cared. If you live in Lexington and have allergies- look him up! 🙂 Dr. Hill is actually the doctor that made the recommendation that I see an endocrinologist. He actually made the comment to me after a while that I may have an autoimmune disease. Those words meant nothing to me at the time, but they most certainly do now!!!

Before Dr. Hill recommended the endocrinologist to me, my mom took me back to our family doctor at home because of the feeling in my neck (she herself had thyroid issues and always wondered about my thyroid). Of course our family doc said I was being a hypochondriac or something to that extent (which I have heard numerous times in my life by the way). My mom pressed the thyroid issue. She finally ordered an ultrasound on my thyroid. I think it just showed my thyroid being slightly enlarged (I can’t remember if they saw a nodule at that time or not- I currently have multiple nodules and one large and overactive). She told me there was nothing to do for it, and that it was no big deal. Knowing what I know now, I am not sure if the thyroid was bothering me or my esophagus.

It was my junior year in college when I saw the endocrinologist. She said my levels were “on the fence” and just to keep an eye on things. She did tell me I had a nodule at that time, but that it was so small that it was insignificant. She later told me I had Hashimoto’s Disease and that my thyroid would be overactive for a while, but eventually would shut down. I also had my first thyroid uptake at this time, and learned my nodule was “cold” (which typically means benign). I have since had labs to test for the Hashimoto’s antibodies (and I have been told I do not have that- I have no idea where I really stand on that. 🙂 During those years I tried a zillion different migraine meds and even a thyroid suppressing drug (which made me feel like I had sand bags on my legs and arms). During this time I also saw a gastroenterologist for the neck pressure/ trouble swallowing. He scoped me and said I had reflux (I think this was just before they starting checking for Eosinophilic Esophagitis). Sometime in college I started getting daily headaches along with my migraines. At this current date, I do not remember the last time I made it through an entire day without Tylenol and Aleve.

My first year after college, I added a new symptom to my list of weird symptoms: I started getting visual or ocular migraines. If you have ever experienced these, you can feel my pain as you read this sentence. If not, I would never wish them on my worst enemy. Not only are they terrifying, but they also lead to miserable debilitating pain and bizarre symptoms. As much as I am complaining about these (I am still in check enough to realize it could be far worse in the grand scheme of medical conditions). Migraines, though, are really tough. I get the type of migraine (now) where I get an aura, which consists of my vision going blurry and losing peripheral vision. Along with this I see crazy zig zag lines across my eyes that are bright yellow. I call them lightning bolts. My arms and hands go numb, sometimes my feet. Usually one side of my face goes numb and I feel pressure and tingling in my mouth and teeth. I then start to feel prickly sensations in my face and extremities. Believe it or not, this is all just the warning for my migraine (the pain part anyway). After about 30 minutes the lightning bolts stop and I can “see” again (but I usually can’t see normally for a good few hours. Then the intense pain kicks in that makes me want to curl in a ball and cry, only crying just makes the pain worse. It sucks! Shortest way to describe the feeling. Every time I get a visual migraine I have a panic attack. The first time it ever happened I was driving home from work. It scared me to death. I had no idea what was happening. The second time it happened I was in California working on a wedding. I ended up in the emergency room. That was the first time I heard the term ocular migraine. They gave me xanax & pain meds and sent me on my way. It at least knocked me out and made me sleep, which helped.

Of course my family took me to the neurologist at home and had every brain scan done possible. I was tested for seizures and all kinds of things. They tried me on more migraine medications (I never found one that I tolerated long enough to help me). It was a tough time. I lived in fear and anxiety that it would happen at any moment. I was afraid to be alone. I still didn’t fully understand what was happening to me or why. I also got engaged around this time (poor guy- he had no idea at the time what he was committing to :)- lucky fellow!! I am saying that with humor in my voice.

Fast forward a couple years, after college when my husband and I moved and were settling down I established a new thyroid doctor. Same drill, same story. Only I was beginning to be more and more symptomatic. Racing heart, visual migraines, coarse hair, etc. She said it was anxiety and that my levels were barely off and the nodule wasn’t big enough to be causing problems. Anyway, on we go. I don’t think there was much if anything new to report for the time period of my engagement thru our wedding. It was just after our wedding (and I mean just after) when we found out we were pregnant with our first baby. Just before that I started experiencing really bad “reflux” and having a hard time eating. I was feeling like I was choking and suffocating (while eating). The gastro put me on Zegrid for a few months to help with reflux. I think this did help for a while? Then we found out we were expecting our first baby and I stopped all meds (or tried to at least). I was literally unable to stop my zyrtec because my skin would itch so badly and I would feel horrible. I was still on the zyrtec from sophomore year of college at this point, only they had to switch me to plain zyrtec because the D (sudafed) was not ideal for a pregnant woman. I am still on the zyrtec to this day (taken with a sudafed pe to offset the drowsiness and help with constant stuffy ears). I had a couple really bad migraines while I was pregnant, and I was extremely tired (all of which can come with the new hormones- so nothing to note here).

Now, after I had the baby my migraines went spiraling out of control. I was truly debilitated for a period of time. I couldn’t be alone because I had so much fear and anxiety of when another would strike me. It was an awful blur. On top of our precious newborn and his fierce case of colic (possible red flag for him inheriting my food intolerance). When our baby was 5 weeks old (and I was 5 weeks out from a c-section), we were packed up and moved all within a week for my husband’s job. It was stressful (obviously). Leaving my hometown, my family, a newborn (with colic), a c-section healing, new job- you get the picture. My migraines went from bad to worse and I had heart palpitations a lot. Of course it was logical to say it was postpartum or depression or anxiety- whatever. I knew it wasn’t (maybe 5% of it was that stuff, but I was excited for our new venture as a family). I just wanted the migraines to stop.

Somehow we ended up at the Cleveland Clinic (after I tried some voo doo doctor and every local doctor around). Nothing was helping. At Cleveland Clinic they told me I had a PFO (tiny hole in my heart that makes blood basically reflux the wrong direction and has been linked to my type of migraines). I was also told I had POTS (something tachycardia syndrome- where your blood pressure drops too quickly when you change positions). I was told I needed to get more sodium, avoid heat, take serotonin (not for depression, but because it helped with POTS?) and take a beta blocker to regulate my heart rate. Sounded great, but I couldn’t tolerate the beta blockers. They made me SO tired on top of a newborn who never EVER slept. 🙂 No time to be tired. After this our local pharmacist ordered a food allergy blood test on me- it showed me as being allergic to everything under the sun, but really allergic to casein and eggs- few other things. Needless to say, I lost a LOT of weight. I was rocking a bikini with a 5 month old baby and looking pretty good- but feeling like crap!!! I was starving all the time because I was afraid to eat anything. Looking back, I was probably on to something- close to the right track, but I didn’t have the right guidance to get me through it then.

I ended up at Mayo Clinic (as suggested by my local neurologist). I had my PFO looked at more closely and was told I had not only a PFO, but a tumor on my aortic valve? I was told I needed open heart surgery because it could break off and go to my brain at any time. If I wasn’t having panic attacks before, they started right there! I just looked at my precious newborn and cried. A LOT. I was so terrified. They quickly did more testing and did some sort of scope (forget the technical name now). When I woke up he told me it was benign and was something called a strand. I didn’t need open heart surgery. Yay!! But what the heck was happening to me? He said he wouldn’t close the hole just yet. He told me to keep an eye on it and stay in touch. He was wonderful. We still stay in touch!! I also met with a neurologist there who suggested several supplements (which I do think made a bit of a difference while I kept them up). They told me to wean off the beta blockers and try the supplements. They also said there was a lot of controversy surrounding the type of food allergy test I had and not to worry with eliminating foods. Ok, so fast forward a few years and two more babies (actually less than three years- and three babies total). I kept going….taking the same stuff and taking the clonazapem when my heart would race or get a migraine- or a beta blocker as needed. We kept monitoring my thyroid along the way. Managed ok for a while, then after baby number three (and a period of extreme stress- read entry Titled “Counting My Blessings” if you have interest in the stress I was going through at that time (I only mention this because for health reasons they say stress can speed up the onset of celiac symptoms, etc).

That pretty much brings us up to current day.Over the next few years I continued down this road until my symptoms changed yet again. On top of the physical symptoms of tightness in my neck, heart racing, etc I was now having scary episodes in the middle of the night (this was after three children). My new internist had the hunch that my thyroid was to blame. He sent me to a different endocrinologist (one who was not as big a fan of sticking everyone on antidepressants for everything- in his words). The endo said my levels had gone down (lower means more hyper) since my last labs. I had already had my nodule biopsied at this point (benign thankfully), but from another thyroid uptake it was revealed that the nodule was producing extra thyroid hormone causing me to be hyperactive (in thyroid terms). I also have multiple nodules now (multi-nodular goiter).

Now the question was: do I remove my thyroid (which my internist wanted me to do- he was afraid to risk my high heart rate with PFO), try more thyroid suppressant (which would not be a long term fix anyway), or try radiation to kill the thyroid. None of these options sound ideal to me- which is what really led me to this point! While trying to make the right decision for my health regarding my thyroid, we ventured to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion (this was now my second trip to a Mayo Clinic due to all my freakish health issues). While there we discovered I also had Eosinophilic Esophagitis, low iron, and low Vitamin D (nothing else was new information). From research on Eosinophilic Esophagitis I knew that was an allergic response in the Esophagus. Some people think it is from airborne allergens, and some believe it is a food allergy to blame. I suspect if they would have been testing for this 10 years ago while I had my first upper endoscopy they would have found the same thing.

After much frustration and a stubborn self that does not want to get rid of my thyroid if I can avoid doing so, I ended up talking to Dr. Gundry (author of Diet Evolution). My uncle turned me on to Diet Evolution. I sent him all my records, did his lab tests and had a consultation with him. He said he would hang his hat on gluten with me, and that I should avoid dairy as well. I was still confused because my celiac biopsy from Mayo came back negative (I have since learned that is not the final answer).

I was also still feeling overwhelmed about this new lifestyle. Through my best friend I was connected with a new friend Tara who has way too similar of health issues that I have. It is almost creepy, actually. Tara turned me on to a new group of doctors that I am currently working with. Through 20 something pages of health questions and health history (and reviewing all my labs), he is convinced food intolerances/ allergies are to blame for most of my health problems. He believes it was there as a child for me, but no one picked up on it. It makes all too much sense! I definitely feel there is nothing to lose by trying what they say. From more lab testing, we know I should remove gluten (and by default combined with my history- remove dairy). My two favorite food groups- gone!!! 🙂 I also had some more allergy testing done, and I should get those results back in a couple weeks.

Wouldn’t it be great if all these problems are really the result of food allergies?? If I have the opportunity to heal myself and feel ‘normal’ again just by removing some foods from my diet, I would be a fool to miss this chance. I know that ignoring food allergies (gluten/ celiac specifically) can lead to serious health complications (the docs would say I am currently experiencing a lot of them, but there are far worse conditions that can develop from this if untreated). The only treatment is removing it from your diet. I may not be able to reverse all the damage that is already done, but there is a good chance. And even better, I have the knowledge to keep this from happening to my children. Food allergies/ intolerance (especially gluten/ casein) is very much hereditary. So here we go!

I know I just rambled on and on about all my weird health issues (and believe me I didn’t mention everything- I could go on for way too long), but I want this to serve as constant motivation for me to stay on the right track. I also hope that eventually I can start noticing less and less symptoms plaguing me. Also, I hope that I can get to a point where I can help someone else going through such a confusing experience. I know I am only at the front door- I still have a lot of exploring to do- but I am ready! I am ready to remember what it feels like to feel good again. So if you are reading this entry and you are my friend or family member– I give you complete permission to rip any food on the “NO” list right out of my hands shall I get tempted (at least until I know for sure what’s bothering me). I plan to use this blog as a journal to document my progress as well as my meals (this will be helpful for my docs and me of course; but also, anyone else who needs or wants to start on a diet like this- I have found getting started is the hardest part). Dr. Gundry would say we should all be eating this way if you read his book, so here’s to good health! Cheers!!

Fingers crossed that I have found the right path for my health. Best wishes to you & yours for health & happiness!!

🙂

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