Could your medicine be making you Sick?

Allergy season is the worst.  Runny nose, scratchy throat, itchy and watery eyes are just a few symptoms those of us know all too well.  Then there is the exhaustion from allergies.  All I want to do is sleep some days.  The further into allergy season we get, the more I want to sleep.

Well, a few days ago, I had a light bulb turn on in my head, metaphorically, of course.  At the end of May, I had strep throat.  I took the antibiotic prescribed to me, Azithromycin (commonly known as Z-pack), and began to have stomach cramps and nausea.  I decided to read the non-active ingredient list.  There it was in black and white: lactose.  The doctor changed to the liquid form of the antibiotic and I was fine after that.

Fast forward to the other day.  My daughter was complaining of stomach pain, as is typical for her.  So we did our usual, “What have you eaten today?”chat.  Finally I said, “Did you take your allergy medicine today?”  Then it hit me.  Like a ton of bricks.  I grabbed the allergy medication bottle and sure enough, lactose.  Ugh!!  I had been making my daughter sick with something we thought would help her feel better!  Needless to say, we discontinued that medication immediately.  Then I read the labels to other allergy medications to find one without lactose.  Did you know that most of the pill form allergy medications have lactose?

Have you ever really examined the contents of your medication?  Preservatives, dyes, colors, soy, starch, gluten, lactose, and all kinds of fillers that one cannot pronounce!!  Now, medications certainly have their place in our lives.  Before antibiotics, people would die from curable infections more often than not.  Having Hashimoto’s, I would not be alive without my thyroid medications.  Diabetics need insulin and heart patients need the medications necessary to lower blood pressure, thin blood, lower cholesterol and help with arrhythmia.   HOWEVER, the pharmaceutical industry does not worry about our health in the long run.  They do not consider allergies, let alone a non life threatening intolerance.

What does this mean?  Your medications may be making you sick.  Read every label.  Prescriptions, over the counter medications, anything you will consume.  Oh, and learn a lesson from me and read the label BEFORE you buy, not after you take the medication!

Being your own best advocate

When it comes to advocating for our children or people who are on able to advocate for themselves, it often comes easily. We see people in need and want to make sure they get the best possible help and care. However, advocating for oneself is much more difficult.

I recently went to see my doctor and was told that all of my levels looked great. I was tired, dry skin, thinning hair, and just plain symptomatic. I did look at my own numbers, and noticed that my T3 ratio was only approximately half of the recommended number. I gathered up all of my courage, took a deep breath, and emailed my doctor. 

He wanted to start a new medication, A beta blocker, for my high blood pressure. After researching quite a bit, I saw that when the T3 is not supported it can cause high blood pressure. Also, beta blockers are considered contraindicated for people with thyroid disorders as it blocks absorption thyroid medication.  
So, I did what most patients will not do: I disagreed with my doctor. Amazingly, he listens to what I had to say, and was willing to here are my input for my treatment plan. Now, I did not go into the doctors office screaming, cursing, or disrespecting anybody. I simply stated my opinion and what I had researched, and allow to the doctor to decide what the best plan for me might be.  

I have quite a bit of respect for my doctor. I am grateful to have found someone who will listen to my concerns and take them seriously. If your doctor will not hear your side or take your symptoms and any research you have done into consideration, it is time to find a new doctor.  Good luck, and remember not to get discouraged!  Just as one must kiss and lots of frogs to find a prince, sometimes we have to visit lots of doctors to find one who will help us.

Self Preservation

This disease is so consuming.  I have not posted in quite some time because I have been overly exhausted without relief.  Stress wreaks havoc on the human body.  It can cause common ailments, like headache, stomach ache, exhaustion, irritability, bowel issues, high blood pressure, ulcers, and so forth.  However, it also causes the adrenal gland to work harder than ever.

When I fall into this pattern, my first instinct is self preservation.  I take more naps and try to avoid any additional stress whenever possible.  It is not always so easy in this fast paced society that focuses on money and profit.  Many occupations not only ask, but require overtime hours to be worked.  I will be honest with people and tell them that I am currently in “Survival Mode.”

I am so thankful I have found an understanding partner.  He does not get upset if only the minimum housework is done for a few weeks.  My daughter is 11, (going on 25) and is always willing to help when I am not at my best.  This support is my blessing.  For many years I was with a man who would degrade me when the house was not kept up to his standards.  He would tell me over and over how “lazy” he thought I was, but never lifted a finger to help.

These are some of the things I do for self preservation.  I also remind myself that I should not feel guilty when I say no to something.  I realize this is much easier said than done, but keep moving forward.

  • Take naps
  • Meditate
  • Read
  • Listen to music
  • Say “No” to the extras in life
  • Go out to eat
  • Order in
  • Watch movies
  • Work on a hobby
  • Sip coffee/tea in the sunshine (vitamin D helps tremendously with low energy)
  • Surf the internet
  • Exercise (I LOVE Zumba!)

This is a small list, but these are what help me.  As you slow the pace of your own life, you can add more specific items that help to relieve your stress and aid in your own personal self preservation.

Gluten Free Vegan Biscuits

Ingredients:

1 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Flour (or GF flour blend of choice)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax seed and 2 Tbsp water)
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup of vegan shortening or cold butter

Instructions:  

  1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Mix non-dairy milk and apple cider vinegar together in small bowl.  Allow to sit for 3-5 minutes to make “buttermilk”
  3. Combine all dry ingredients
  4. Add flax egg and shortening (or butter) and cut into dry ingredients until well mixed.
  5. Add wet mixture to dry and fold or mix with hands until just combined.  (IF it is still very sticky, add small amounts of flour until it no longer sticks to your hand)
  6. Flour table and place dough on flour.  Spread by hand (do NOT use rolling pin)
  7. Use biscuit cutter to cut biscuits approximately 1″ thick.
  8. Place on greased baking sheet.
  9.  Repeat 6 and 7 until no more dough remains.
  10. Bake biscuits for 12-15 minutes.

Allow to cool and Enjoy!

Gluten Free Flours

One thing I missed most at first after going gluten free, was the lack of good tasting breakfast items.  Most store bought breads were either dry or had eggs (which I cannot tolerate in any form without breaking out in hives).  Baking with regular flour, eggs and milk is a science in and of itself.  This was an art I never excelled at when I could bake with these ingredients.  Now I have had to re-learn this science so I can create baked goods that taste good, stick together and look appetizing.  Talk about pressure!  My daughter was almost 9 when we went gluten free.  The pressures of being a child and trying to fit in at school, this was my challenge.  Well, challenge accepted.

There are lots of pre-mixed gluten free flours available on the market now.  When we started on this journey, I had to make my own flour blend.  If you are looking for good gluten free flours, I would recommend Bob’s Red Mill, as they have a wide variety.  They have a 1 to 1 flour which already contains a xanthan gum binder to hold the flour together.  I personally do not prefer this flour because of the use of rice flour.  I do not tolerate rice well, as it causes inflammation for me.

Bob’s Red Mill also has an All Purpose Flour which has a blend of flours, but no xanthan gum.  This is my preferred go-to.  I always have xanthan gum on hand and use some in just about every baking recipe.

Pillsbury has a fairly inexpensive flour on the market.  However, this one also has a rice flour base.  This is great for those who do not need to avoid rice.

Sorghum flour is probably my favorite flour to use.  It has a flavor and consistency that I personally find to be the most similar to wheat flour.  It is one that will also need xanthan gum or another binder to keep your baked goods from crumbling.

Almond and coconut flours are the only two flours approved in the Paleo diet.  I have found these to be the most difficult with which to create baked goods.  They both absorb a large amount of liquid and typically need a good number of eggs.  For someone who breaks out in hives with eggs, this is not ideal.  I have been experimenting with recipes and as I find recipes that I can make (and that taste good) with these flours, I will certainly share them here!

Don’t be afraid to experiment.  This is the best advice I can give.  If you use a protein rich flour like Garbanzo Flour or Fava Bean Flour, mix it at a 1:2 ratio with a lighter flour such as tapioca or potato starch. Once you find a flour or blend of flours you like, keep a container of that flour blend to add to recipes as needed.

Happy baking!

When exhaustion takes over

Hashi tired is VERY different from being tired. I have not posted in a few weeks because the day to day life is zapping all of my energy lately.

I work with 2 year old kiddos all day long. When I’m home it’s time to start dinner. Living with Hashimoto’s limits my diet. I have noticed that even though my daughter does not yet have the for Hashi’s, she does have the food intolerances. So, we avoid gluten, dairy and soy as a family. My personal intolerance to eggs is so severe, we do not even have them in our house! So dinner is rarely what others consider go-to meals. We eat more fresh meats and vegetables than most families, and with fresh food, comes food prep.

Some days I am so tired the last thing I feel like doing is cooking. I have learned, however, that the old saying, “You are what you eat” is especially true with invisible illness. Eating the “wrong” foods can cause inflammation for days!

I will most likely be heading to the doctor one day this week. I started having heart palpations and some other not so fun side effects from a low functioning thyroid. I do feel like I should have argued the fact that my TSH level was at 2.65 three months ago when they decided to lower my medications. I know this is not an “optimal level.” I know better than to not advocate when I know my numbers are off. Don’t make my mistake, always advocate for yourself!

The Pain of Hashi’s

Thursday, according to my Fitbit, I did not sleep much during the last 90 minutes before getting up for work.  I was in pain.  The pain with Hashimoto’s is not your typical pain.  It is a deep pain that resonates from the bones, through the muscles and on the skin.  This particular morning, I had difficulty moving.  My significant other (SO) was surprised when I immediately reached for the ibuprofen, just to be able to get out of bed.  As I lay in a hot bath with Epsom Salts, I seriously considered calling my job and stating that I would not be able to work.  I was in tears because it hurt so badly.

I have learned that when I feel well, I often do too much and overexert myself.  Later that week, I will suffer from intense pain throughout my body, reminding me that, physically at least, it cannot keep up with me.  Some days it is overwhelming because I know I should be able to do more in a day than I do, but then my body rises up in mutiny.

I wanted to write this post Thursday, but I was so overly exhausted, I could not.  My loving SO tried to make my evening easier and treated my daughter and me to dinner out so I did not have to cook.  I love him for this.  He may not completely understand why my body revolts or why I’m extra irritable one day and a sobbing mess another, but he tries.  When he sees me extra anxious, he does what he can to make life a little easier for me.  Believe me when I say that this is a rare quality and often difficult to find.

From listening to others in my support groups, I have learned that not only are spouses and SOs not often supportive, some people do not even have family members who are supportive.  Hashimoto’s can be a very isolating disease.

Eating Like a Caveman

Going gluten-free was difficult.  Going Paleo?  Now that was hard!

The choice to try eating an Autoimmune Paleo diet was not easy.  This would eliminate all grains, nightshades, potatoes, corn, sugar, artificial sweeteners, coffee, alcohol, and all kinds of other foods.  I was basically going back to the basics…meat, fruits, non-starchy vegetables, and some healthy fats.  I had to learn how to make new meals, and find new comfort foods.  No more mashed potatoes and gravy for me.  *sigh*  My plan was to go paleo for one month and see if there was a significant difference for me.

I did not see a significant difference for myself in that amount of time, however, we did learn to eat fewer starches and grains.  Baking was not easy with only coconut flour and tapioca starch as a base.  I did learn that rice was a food that really affected my body so I try to avoid it still.  Cookies, cakes and other baked goods are a rare treat in our house now.

My meals are simple.  Breakfast is a protein and a fruit (sometimes I’ll sneak some sweet potatoes or zucchini in as well).  Lunches are a protein, vegetable and fruit.  Dinner typically consists of a protein with a vegetable and occasionally a fruit.

I will be starting to post some recipes of my favorite Paleo meals and also of the recipes I have found and tweaked to be vegan or gluten free, or whatever my diet needed at the time.  These recipes are usually dishes that can be substituted according to allergies and/or diet restrictions.  Enjoy!!

How Hashi’s FEELS…..

“How are you?”

This seems like a very simple question, and for most people it is.  Great, good, fine, sad, angry, frustrated, hurt, excited, scared, anxious, and my usual go to:  tired.

However, this is not a typical tired.  It’s Hashi’s tired.  My body feels like it weighs about 1 ton.  When my alarm goes off in the morning, it takes a lot of motivation to get out of bed.  My arms and legs feel like they weigh 100 pounds each.  My hands are usually numb and tingling.  Have you ever had the flu?  Imagine body aches like that every day!  My skin is so dry and itchy.  I go in for a shower and handfuls of hair falls out during a typical shampooing.

Mentally, I have brain fog.  I feel like I’m walking the streets of London with the fog and darkness, unable to see 2 feet in front of me.  All I can do is think about sleep.  I’m sometimes afraid I will fall asleep on a long drive or even in my classroom.  I mean really, if toddlers can’t keep you awake, there is something wrong, right?  Some days I muddle through just wondering when I will get a nap.

Some of the symptoms for Hashimoto’s are:

  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Fatigue and sluggishness
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • A puffy face
  • Hoarse voice
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain and stiffness in your joints
  • Muscle weakness
  • Heavy and/or longer menstrual bleeding
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Brittle fingernails
  • Excessive hair loss
  • Memory issues
  • Slower heart rate
  • Lower body temperature
  • Irritability
  • Decreased libido (sorry guys!)

This is not an exhaustive list as each person can have some of these, all of these, and even some of his or her own added symptoms.  These are all of the symptoms I have personally experienced.

Women are affected by Hashimoto’s much more often than men, however, men are able to develop this disease.  I’ve learned that it is quite hereditary in females.  For this reason, I have already had my daughter tested for antibodies and monitored for symptoms.  Her diet is already gluten, dairy and soy free in the hopes that early diet changes will help delay onset of the disease for her or maybe she can avoid it altogether.

Activities that some people are able to do everyday take more energy from me.  For example, this past weekend, I cleaned my closet.  I mean put stuff in storage, threw away lots of things and just cleared out junk.  Monday was open house for my daughter’s new school.  Tuesday I stayed up to make muffins for breakfast and brownies as a surprise for my kiddo for after her first day of school Wednesday.  Thursday, well, let’s just say the anxiety and depression part of the Hashi’s took over.  I cried.  All. Day.  Over….honestly, nothing.  Today is Friday and I’m much better after an hour nap earlier and slowing life down a bit.

Hashi’s is difficult to manage, especially at first.  It feels like your body is just quitting on you.  I lost many friends during the first few years because I could not keep up socially.  Now that I have learned to listen to my body, I am able to go to seek medical attention and have my medications adjusted to how I am feeling.  Listen to your body, it will not misguide you.

When Medicine is Just Not Enough!

Being diagnosed 17 years ago, I have had plenty of time to adjust to the way the doctors thought I should feel: tired, irritable, aching all of the time. This was no way to live. I joined a few online support groups (and left a few) until I found some that met my needs. I also learned how important the term “Optimal” was when drawing labs. I learned to have every lab drawn, every time. These include not only the infamous TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) but also T3, reverse T3, free T4 and TPO. What does all of this jargon mean? Sometimes I’m not even sure to be honest.

I was always prescribed the synthetic T4 hormone most commonly known as Synthroid or some generic brand of the same. I didn’t feel as sick, but I was still dragging and achy, and not happy. I learned from my online support groups that T3 therapy is just as important, so I asked my doctor about it and after labs were drawn and interpreted, I started Cytomel. I felt much better.

I still had issues with numbness in my hands, still felt quite tired most days, and it was still almost impossible to lose weight. Then we tested vitamin D levels. They were quite low (the ideal number is around 70, mine was 19), so the doctor started me out on 3,000 units/day. Yikes!

So, I had more energy and less brain fog after now being on 3 medications, but I still had numbness issues and could not lose weight. My doctor was out one day, so I saw another doctor in the practice who had read a book called The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried, MD.  In this book, I learned that Hashimoto’s is NOT a thyroid problem, but an autoimmune issue.  The TPO that the doctor measures is antibodies focused on attacking the thyroid.  Therefore, the higher the antibodies, the more “inflammation” there would be in the entire body.

Dr. Gottfried also discusses that Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity is common in people who have Hashimoto’s disease.  She states that the estimation of non-Celiac gluten sensitivity could be as high as 6 out of every 100 Americans.  The theory is that the gluten protein “looks” very similar to the thyroid protein to the immune system.  Therefore, the theory is that if one lowers the gluten proteins in the body the immune system will calm down, too.

After reading this and talking with the doctor, he suggested that I try a gluten-free diet for a minimum of 4 weeks, then reintroduce the gluten to see if I have any reaction.

AND BOY WERE THERE EVER!!  I thought my intestines might explode!  My heart raced, my blood pressure was higher, I wanted to vomit (but couldn’t), I wanted to run to the bathroom every 10 minutes (but couldn’t).  My hands were numb and tingled, too.  That was all the proof I needed.  I have not touched gluten in over 2 years now.  Whenever I suspect I am not tolerating a food now, I remove it for a few weeks, then see if I react.  Foolproof.

By recommendation of the same doctor I also removed dairy, soy, and rice after reacting in a similar fashion to those.  I finally lost 5 pounds.  Then I lost another 5!  Within about 1 year I lost over 30 pounds and dropped over 40 inches all over my body!  I went from a size 22 to a size 16.  I am still not at my ideal weight or size, but I keep at it.  Doing a diet overhaul was not easy by any means, but it was worth it.  My new favorite friend is activated charcoal for those times when I consume something contaminated with gluten, dairy, soy or rice.  It helps absorb the contaminants and make the reaction slightly less severe.

All in all, my health and happiness greatly improved after diet change, and adding a synthetic T3 and vitamin D.  Just keep telling yourself you don’t have to feel bad even if the doctor says it’s “normal” to feel that way. Read.  Educate yourself.  Question your doctors.  You are your own best advocate.  Don’t settle for less.